Bouncing back from a difficult start to the season, Ferrari junior Robert Shwartzman has finally kickstarted his championship challenge in Round 3 at Baku, to secure a dominant first win of the year in Sprint Race 1.
Robert Shwartzman produced a controlled performance around the streets of Baku for his first win of the year. The Russian bolted off the line and pulled off into the distance after the lights went out.
For the midfield, the start was less straightforward though with Jack Aitken spinning and Alessio Deledda running wide. Felipe Drugovich, Liam Lawson and Oscar Piastri came together at Turn 2 which resulted in a retirment for the latter two drivers.
The action triggered a safety car, stealing the eye-catching gap from Shwartzman which he built up ahead of the second-placed Jehan Daruvala during the opening lap. However, the Russian aced the retart and managed to pull off into the distance once again. Theo Pourchaire struggled to warm up his tyres after the re-start and lost his seventh position to Jüri Vips.
In the meantime, Dan Ticktum seemed to have a decent pace which he managed to use in the following laps. The London-born first threw his car ahead of Ralph Boschung for fifth before jumping to P4 by passing Marcus Armstrong at the first turn.
Championship leader Guanyu Zhou put immense pressure on Darvula and overtook the Indian for second. The Red Bull-backed man soon lost another position as the fast-charging Ticktum closed in on the Indian, eking ahead for third.
The British driver then started to harry down Zhou and he made an easy move on the Chinese driver, moving into P2. However, the 5s buffer that Shwartzman was able to build up proved to be a too big ask for Ticktum.
Despite his struggles in the qualifying session, Shwartzman was delighted with the handling of his Prema car in the race. He said: “My first time in Baku and I’ve taken the top step, so I’m really happy. The pace was really good so a big thanks to the team.
"With this sort of pace, we just need to improve our results in the other two races. Let’s keep pushing and we will see where we end up," the Russian concluded.
Thanks to his third-place finish in the opening F2 Baku race, Zhou retains his place at the top of the Drivers’ Championship, extending his points’ tally to 78 points, with Pourchaire behind him on 55. Despite his DNF, Piastri is in third on 52 points, ahead of Ticktum on 50. Shwartzman is up to fifth with 45 points.
UNI-Virtuosi lead the Teams’ Championship on 107 points, 10 ahead of PREMA and 20 ahead of Carlin. ART Grand Prix are fourth on 71 points and Hitech Grand Prix fifth with 63 points.