Spa F2: Leclerc scores crushing win after Rowland clash

Ferrari Formula 1 junior driver Charles Leclerc put in a dominant display to win the Formula 2 feature race at Spa ahead of Russian Time’s Artem Markelov.

Spa F2: Leclerc scores crushing win after Rowland clash

Oliver Rowland had looked set to finish second but was overhauled by Markelov on the run to the finish line out of the final corner.

With Leclerc in control out in front, Markelov used an alternative strategy – starting on the medium tyres – to eat into Rowland’s advantage in the closing laps.

At the start, Rowland shot off the line to get his nose ahead of the slower-starting Leclerc on the run to La Source.

But Leclerc held the inside line and the title rivals came together at the exit of the corner, with Rowland’s right front wing endplate breaking off as he was run out of room.

Leclerc maintained his lead on the run up through Eau Rough and along the Kemmel Straight as Antonio Fuoco got close to Rowland after moving up from fifth on the medium tyres.

But the battles were suspended as debris littered the track after incidents that included Jordan King retiring with a right-rear puncture and Louis Deletraz breaking his front wing in a clash with Sergio Sette Camara. The latter pair then collided again when the virtual safety car was deployed to clean up the track.

When racing resumed, Leclerc and Rowland edged clear of the pack before the DAMS driver pitted at the end of lap six of 25 to switch to the mediums.

Rowland did initially start to lap quicker than the Monegasque driver but he quickly caught runners who were yet to pit.

Although Rowland managed to decisively dive by Santino Ferrucci at the Bus Stop chicane, Leclerc was able to stop for his own mediums and rejoin third – keeping the net lead.

Markelov, who had also moved up the order at the start, had become the lead driver on the contra-strategy with an bold around-the-outside move on Fuoco at Les Combes.

But Leclerc quickly ate into his lead, pulling away from Rowland at a scintillating rate as he did so.

The 19-year-old maintained his advantage to seal his sixth win of the 2017 by 26s at the chequered flag and increase his championship lead to 66 points over Rowland.

Markelov, who was lapping two seconds quicker than Rowland on his soft tyres at the end, attacked around the outside of the Bus Stop, but at the final turn went off the track as the Briton ran him out wide.

But the Russian Time driver had better traction and stole second place by less than 0.1s at the line.

Ghiotto, struggling for grip on his old softs at the end, just held on over the medium-shod Fuoco to keep fourth, with Gustav Malja prevailing in an all-Racing Engineering scrap to take sixth ahead of Nyck de Vries.

Sergio Sette Camara came home eighth, with former F1 driver Roberto Merhi and Norman Nato rounding out the top 10.

Rowland’s teammate Nicolas Latifi should have lined up alongside Leclerc on the grid but did not take the start.

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