Leclerc Becomes F2 Champion in Crazy Ending
Luciano Bacheta held the honor of being known as Formula 2 champion for five years after winning the last series of the MotorSport Vision category in 2012, but his reign is now over after Saturday’s 39-lap F2 feature race at Jerez.
Pole sitter Charles Leclerc led the event to win his second title in two years, and become the first driver to take both the third and second-tier championships on the road to F1.
He built up a lead of up to 11 seconds on soft Pirelli rubber to rival Oliver Rowland early in the event before spectacularly holding him off in the second-half as his pace increased on the medium tires. Rowland was cutting his deficit to four seconds, setting the fastest lap, when a late safety car reset the contest after Turn 1 contact between Santino Ferrucci and Nobuharu Matsushita.
Somehow, he held on despite backmarkers being involved around the top-four on track at the restart on Lap 36, with no visible blue flags to get them out of the way. His Prema car received the checkered flag 0.2s faster than Rowland, and 0.9s quicker than team-mate Antonio Fuoco after being caught on track with Louis Deletraz and Sean Gelael.
The result – 25 points for the win and four for pole versus Rowland’s 18 and two for best time – put him 68 points ahead of his rival with 65 remaining from the final three events of 2017. His current total of 251 after the sprint is the third-highest ever in this F2/GP2 category.
After the race, Leclerc said the title was for his late father Herve after wearing a replica of his old race helmet for the weekend.
“We’ve had a great season overall, and on the performance side we have always been very, very quick, and the only low on the performance side was the qualifying in Monza [seventh, only time he has not finished fastest on Saturday] and that was my fault because I wasn’t good enough in that session,” he said. “But apart from that, we have always been on top and this feels really great. Obviously, I’ve had some lows during the season, a few on the racing side but most of all on the personal side obviously, after losing my father. Winning the championship is an amazing way for me to honor him, and actually, I would like to dedicate this title to him. Last year I dedicated to Jules [Bianchi, family friend], this year to my father, so hopefully next year, well next year maybe it might be a bit more difficult to win a title, but hopefully, I don’t need to dedicate any other titles.”
Leclerc added that he now needed to know what he’ll be doing in 2018. He has been linked to the Sauber F1 drive due to his Ferrari academy connections, and with taking part in four practices at the end of this year.
“Well actually now I will call my manager because they didn’t want to tell me anything before winning the championship, so I will call him just after to know a bit more now!”
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