F2: Mazepin wins feature race as Ferrari junior Schumacher takes the championship lead

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In a dramatic finish to the Mugello F2 feature race, Hitech Grand Prix driver Nikita Mazepin scored his second Formula 2 victory ahead of his teammate Luca Ghiotto and Charouz Racing System’s Louis Delétraz.

At the start, pole sitter Christian Lungaard had a lightening getaway from the line while championship leader Callum Ilott lost four positions. His title rival Robert Shwartzman also dropped from 8th to 11th while Mick Schumacher gained a position to improve to 14th at the start. Luca Ghiotto meanwhile has launched from P7 to P3.

On lap 4, Ilott got past Jack Aitken with the help of the DRS to take P6. Two laps later, Juri Vips and Robert Shwartzman made a double pass on Jehan Daruvala into Turn 1, the San Donatio bend. In the meantime, Ilott was adamant to move up the order following his dismal start and passed Marcus Armstrong.

Suffering from tyre degradation on the soft compound, race leader Lungaard pitted for new tyres at the end of Lap 7. On the next lap, Ghiotto passed Dan Ticktum to take the lead. At the end of that lap, the pair dived into the pits to take fresh tyres.

Ilott stayed out and passed Felipe Drugovich which gave him the race lead. At the end of that lap, the pit lane got a busy place as Ilott, Drugovich, Daruvala, Yuki Tsunoda and Aitken all pitted.

At the end of Lap 17, Shwartzamn pitted. The early stop was surprising as he was on the alternative strategy. Just a lap later, it became evident that he was suffering from technical problems which forced him to pull over and retire from the race.

On lap 20, Guanyu Zhou and Schumacher pitted. Race leader Nikita Mazepin chose the following lap to take fresh boots. In the meantime, Lungaard was comfortably leading and controlling the race after most of the drivers completed their mandatory pit stop.

The virtual safety car was deployed when Giuliano Alesi pulled off through the gravel trap. As the marshals were unable to get Alesi’s car out of the way, the Ferrari-inspired red safety car rolled out on to the track. Armstrong used the opportunity to pit for the second time, taking fresh tyres for the final sprint of the race.

At the restart, Tsunoda tagged Ticktum which saw the Briton drop back. There was contact at Turn 2 between Zhou, Aitken and Schumacher. The German was able to continue, but the Chinese and the British drivers were out of the race. The safety car was deployed again. In the turmoil, Ilot’s car also picked up some damage and the championship leader needed to pit for a new front wing.

After the restart, the front three went three-wide at the restart as Mazepin made a stunning move for first place, clinching the position at the exit of Turn 1. The Russian managed to escape while Lungaard dropped down to P6 on his older tyres.

Following his low-key qualifying performance, Mazepin did not expect to be in contention for the victory. He said: “I am over the moon with the result. Starting P14, realistically, you need to be very careful setting your goals for the race. To win the Feature Race, the main race, with my teammate in second place, which makes it a double for Hitech, is a dream come true. We could not have even dreamed of this the night before.

“I had a very frustrating Friday and it makes it difficult to go to sleep when you are not satisfied with the job that you have done. I won the race from P14, and it was extremely fun inside of the car, but also tough at the same time. I am sure that it was also great to watch. Thankfully it happened, and thank you for the support.”

Schumacher now sits first in the drivers’ standings on 153 points, four ahead of Ilott. Shwartzman is third on 140 points, with Lundgaard fourth on 128. Mazepin is one point further back in fifth. In the Teams’ Championship, PREMA are first on 293 points, ahead of UNI-Virtuosi on 251. Hitech Grand Prix are third, with ART Grand Prix fourth and Carlin fifth.