Oliver Bearman made it a clean sweep in Baku, adding the Feature Race victory to his Sprint win from Saturday. The PREMA Racing driver put together a controlled race at the front, managing the gap to rivals behind him after losing the lead briefly early on.
Enzo Fittipaldi secured his first rostrum visit of 2023 for Rodin Carlin with second place, pulling off a move around the outside of Théo Pourchaire in the closing stages.
AS IT HAPPENED
Bearman got a great launch to retain the lead from pole with Fittipaldi and Pourchaire close behind. Victor Martins was the biggest mover, climbing three places from eighth to fifth by Turn 2.
Entering Lap 2 and with a nice tow, Pourchaire pressured the Rodin Carlin for second and sealed the move with DRS into Turn 3. One lap later and with more DRS, Pourchaire climbed up into the lead, easing past Bearman.
It was role reversal on Lap 4, this time the PREMA driver pulling off the move into Turn 1 to take the lead back. Further behind, two Red Bull Junior Team drivers fought hard, as Jak Crawford passed Dennis Hauger down the inside at Turn 3 for sixth position.
Martins’ charge continued as Frederik Vesti became the first driver to peel into the pits and swap the supersofts for mediums on Lap 7. He was followed in by Jehan Daruvala, Arthur Leclerc and Ralph Boschung, kicking off the first of the mandatory pitstops.
Fittipaldi and Martins were next to make their mandatory pitstop, responding immediately on the following lap. The trio came back out clear of the quartet led by Vesti on their mediums. Race leader Bearman and Pourchaire were in on Lap 8 for their stops, leaving in the same order they entered. Once more, they exited clear of those who made the earlier stops, promoting alternative strategy runners Isack Hadjar and Ayumu Iwasa to the front of the pack.
The Virtual Safety Car was deployed briefly after Brad Benavides found the barriers at Turn 4. His PHM Racing by Charouz car was quickly recovered and racing resumed on Lap 11. Vesti had been shuffled back during the pitstop phase but cleared Hauger and Kush Maini on consecutive laps, moving back up to P7 by Lap 14.
There were a few close calls for Bearman during the middle phase of the race, almost scraping the wall at Turn 15 on multiple laps as he began to drop Pourchaire to the tune of 2.3s by Lap 20.
A couple of fastest laps for Fittipaldi dragged the Brazilian ever closer to Pourchaire and on Lap 24, he pulled off the pass for fourth position on the road. With DRS into Turn 3, he swept around the outside of the ART to claim the inside at Turn 4 and the position with it.
Iwasa finally made his mandatory stop with four laps to go, handing the lead back to Bearman, dropping out of the points and Championship lead in the process.
With no pressure from behind, Bearman kept things safe and brought it home for win number two of 2023. Fittipaldi was able to resist brief pressure from Pourchaire to hold onto second, while the ART pair fought behind. Martins couldn’t quite get close enough with DRS to take the final podium spot, ending up in fourth position.
Vesti scored an important fifth position and more vital points in the Championship. Maini ended up sixth ahead of Hauger. Hadjar made up 10 places to secure eighth, alongside snagging the fastest lap point, whilst Richard Verschoor and Jak Crawford completed the top 10.
KEY QUOTE – Oliver Bearman, PREMA Racing
“It was an amazing race. To take a clean sweep of wins this weekend is a great feeling. I’ve got to say a huge thanks to the team, they gave me the fastest car this weekend so really good job from them. It was a tough race, it’s always close and I had a lot of pressure from behind, especially at the start but once I managed to pull a gap, I was just waiting for a Safety Car or something bad to happen but luckily, nothing did and we managed to take the win. Really happy with this result and let’s keep it up.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
With Ayumu Iwasa leaving Round 4 without a point, Théo Pourchaire’s P2 finish moves the Frenchman into the lead of the Drivers’ Championship on 65 points. Frederik Vesti is up to second, now sitting on 60 points. Despite a disappointing weekend, Iwasa remains in the hunt with 58, now third while Bearman’s double moves him up from 16th to fourth, now on 41 points, two points ahead of Kush Maini in fifth.
A great weekend for PREMA Racing means the Italian outfit takes the lead of the Teams’ Standings, becoming the first team into triple digits on 101 points. ART Grand Prix are now on 94 points while DAMS remain third on 91 despite the team’s scoreless weekend.
Formula 2 has a short in-season test at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya from May 10-12 before reconvening for Round 5 at Imola from May 19-21.