The newly-launched Formula Two championship is developing into a close affair, with no one driver seizing control of the standings after two meetings and four races.
Mirko Bortolotti of Italy and Spain’s Andy Soucek took the honours in the two races staged at Brno in the Czech Republic at the weekend.
After four rounds of the championship the points have been shared between 17 of the 25 drivers. The three Red Bull drivers – Bortolotti, Robert Wickens and Mikhail Aleshin – lead the championship despite all failing to finish the second race.
The top-placed British driver is Henry Surtees in 14th, courtesy of his seventh place in the first race of the season in Valencia.
Race One qualifying
A rain-soaked qualification for the first race of the weekend saw the Italian duo of Nicola De Marco and Bortolotti lay claim to the front row.
Aleshin and Edoardo Piscopo set the early pace but the last quarter of an hour featured rapid changes before Henry Surtees brought the session to an early close by spinning off with two minutes left.
With De Marco forced to start from the pitlane, Bortolotti was able to hold off an early challenge from Aleshin and build a winning lead. The Russian was an untroubled second, while Austria’s Philipp Eng won out in the battle for third.
“I’m very happy to be in front at the moment, but there are a lot of races to go.” said Bortolotti. “My mentality is that there are 24 other drivers who all want to win, so I will fight and we’ll see at the end.”
Surtees and Jack Clarke were both eliminated following a first corner clash, which also involved pre-race championship leader Wickens. The drivers were side-by-side on the run down to turn one, something that was never going to end well. Only Wickens was able to continue, and a safety car came out while Surtees’ and Clarke’s cars were removed.
Gibraltar’s Tom Gladdis was the highest British finisher in eighth, just ahead of Wickens who set the fastest lap at the end of the race. Jolyon Palmer and Alex Brundle took 10th and 11th, while Jason Moore was 13th.
Race Two qualifying
Surtees made amends for his first race troubles by taking pole for the second, ahead of Aleshin and Bortolotti, but the winner of race one was penalised five places for a sporting infringement and had to surrender the spot on row two to De Marco.
With his father, the former world champion John, watching, Surtees said: “After only doing about 200 metres in yesterday’s race I thought I had better get my act together quickly.
“It’s a bit daunting starting from pole, but I got a good start yesterday. I just need to do the same and get down to turn one in the lead.”
Any hope Surtees had of a first-corner lead in the second race evaporated when both he and Aleshin failed to get away from the line at the start – and they were joined in early retirement by five more drivers, including Alex Brundle, after a turn two pile-up.
De Marco grabbed the lead, with Soucek jumping from fifth on the grid to second. He tracked De Marco until the Italian spun on lap 10, handing him a winning lead. Julien Jousse of France took second and De Marco recovered to third.
Soucek said: “It was a great race. I got a good start and I was going to attack Nicola, but it was too risky. It was a good fight with Julien, but to get my first win was just amazing for us this weekend. The next round at Spa is my favourite track, so I hope to fight for podiums or even a victory there.”
Gladdis was again the top British finisher, in 10th place, with Jason Moore in 11th, Palmer in 14th and Clarke 15th.
After round four (points scorers only)
- Bortolotti, Mirko: 21pts
- Wickens, Robert: 20pts
- Aleshin, Mikhail: 16pts
- Jousse, Julien: 16pts
- Soucek, Andy: 15pts
- Eng, Philipp: 12pts
- De Marco, Nicola: 10pts
- Iaconelli, Carlos: 9pts
- Piscopo, Edoardo: 9pts
- Vasiliauskas, Kazim: 7pts
- Ebrahim, Armaan: 6pts
- Karjalainen, Henri: 5pts
- Pavlovic , Milos: 4pts
- Surtees, Henry: 2pts
- Hegewald, Tobias: 2pts
- Brundle, Alex: 1pts
- Gladdis, Tom: 1pts