Liam Lawson claimed his second win of the 2022 season with a measured drive on the way to Sprint Race victory. The Carlin driver made two brilliant moves en route, making both passes into the chicane with a stand-out overtake on Marcus Armstrong the highlight.
Jehan Daruvala held onto second despite a fierce battle in the final laps between nine drivers. The entire top 10 were closely bunched up following a mid-race Safety Car.
Théo Pourchaire kept the home fans happy with an aggressive drive to third on the podium, battling and holding off title rival Felipe Drugovich for a spot on the rostrum.
AS IT HAPPENED
Daruvala got a great start from pole but Lawson lagged behind him. The Carlin driver fell down the order into Turn 1, losing second to Armstrong and third to Drugovich momentarily, but a wide moment on corner exit left the MP Motorsport driver in the hands of Pourchaire. The Frenchman made the opportunity count to jump his Championship rival for fourth place at Turn 3. Cem Bölükbasi was the biggest gainer on lap 1, rising to 13th position from his P21 grid slot.
Lawson kept in touch with Armstrong ahead and made a late lunge into Turn 1 on lap 4. The pair battled through the first sector and somehow avoided contact, just millimetres apart at Turn 4. Onto the Mistral Straight and with another helping of DRS, the Kiwi made an audacious dive at the chicane, turning the outside line into the inside line on corner exit to seal P2.
After making the move, the gap to race leader Daruvala stood at 2.2s but Lawson set about hunting him down immediately to cut it down to 1.6s by Lap 6. By Lap 8, the Carlin driver broke into DRS range, dragging a DRS train down to fifth-placed Drugovich along with him.
The Safety Car offered a brief pause in action, deployed on Lap 9 following contact between Roberto Merhi and the recovering Enzo Fittipaldi, after the Charouz Racing System driver stalled on the Formation Lap. The pair had been fighting for 15th position but a slide and spin in the North Chicane on the Mistral Straight left the Charouz in the middle of the track. Amaury Cordeel behind couldn’t avoid him and made contact, putting both out of the race.
Racing got back underway at the start of Lap 13 with Lawson hot on the heels of Daruvala and Drugovich harrying Pourchaire further back. The MP driver couldn’t quite slipstream his way past despite an impressive exit out of Turn 7.
DRS was re-enabled on Lap 15 and after opting to pit under the Safety Car, Calan Williams was very aggressive, fighting with Clément Novalak. The Australian got a great chance into Signes but couldn’t make it around the flat-out right-hander for P15. He was forced to wait further into the final sector to make his move on the Frenchman.
In the fight for first, Lawson stuck with the PREMA Racing car ahead of him and with DRS, repeated his move from earlier into the chicane to take the lead of the Sprint Race. The Carlin driver quickly dashed clear, making up over a second to escape the DRS range of his closest pursuer.
A very opportunistic move by Ayumu Iwasa paid off in his fight with Logan Sargeant. Hugging the inside of Turn 11, he cut ahead of the other Carlin and made the move stick on the exit of Le Beausset to take ninth.
Armstrong was next in the queue headed by Daruvala and tried a move up the inside at the Chicane on Lap 19, though it didn’t go quite as hoped. A big overspeed left Armstrong deep at the chicane, forcing Daruvala to take to the escape road. The PREMA kept P2 while the Hitech was in trouble defending from a crowd of drivers behind him. Pourchaire forced his way through at Le Beausset, the Kiwi running wide on exit which dropped him to sixth and allowed Drugovich and Doohan through.
Armstrong’s adventures weren’t over as teammate Jüri Vips made a lunge down the inside of the final corner on the penultimate lap, gaining sixth and dropping Armstrong to seventh. That quickly became ninth with Frederik Vesti and Iwasa taking advantage on the main straight and Turn 3 respectively.
Lawson was clear out in front and secured his second win of the season, his first since the Jeddah Sprint Race. Daruvala held onto second and Pourchaire kept his rival at bay for a home podium ahead of Drugovich.
Doohan collected another top five finish ahead of Vips, Vesti, Iwasa, Armstrong and Sargeant with the Carlins at the head and tail-end of the top 10.
KEY QUOTE – Liam Lawson, Carlin
“We were able to win from second, I had a bad start and dropped back to third. But the car was really really good the whole race, especially from mid-race onwards, it came on really strong and we were able to make some nice moves to take the win. I’m happy with that. Tomorrow is the main focus now and we need to try and move forward and make up as many positions as we can.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP VIEW
With victory, Lawson moves himself up to sixth in the Driver’s Championship on 71 points. Daruvala keeps his spot in the top five, now on 88 points in P4. Pourchaire takes second back from Sargeant with his podium finish, with his total now up to 120. Despite his DNF, Fittipaldi keeps P5 but is now just four points ahead of Lawson.
In the Team’s Standings, Carlin moves ahead of MP Motorsport, the British team now leading the way with 188 points to 181. ART Grand Prix is still well in the hunt, with a double score putting it on 178 following the Sprint Race.
The action resumes tomorrow morning at Le Castellet as the drivers have another chance for points in the Feature Race, set to begin at 09.35 local time.