Leclerc takes the flag, Nato claims the victory

Norman Nato grabbed this afternoon’s FIA Formula 2 Championship Sprint Race victory at the Baku City Circuit despite following the championship leader Charles Leclerc across the line: the Monegasque driver had a 10 second penalty which sent the win back to the Frenchman, ahead of Leclerc and Nicholas Latifi.

The seeds of the victory came at the start, when a storming start by Nato from P4 saw him alongside front row starter Oliver Rowland when the pair were squeezed by poleman Ralph Boschung: the Briton slid inside and through into the lead at turn two while the Frenchman had to defend from a fast charging Latifi behind him, while further back Leclerc had shuffled back to 10th before starting his fightback on the very first lap.

Next time through Nato was desperate to dispatch Boschung, and the pair touched as the Frenchman dived down the inside into turn 2, losing part of his right front wing in the process before heading off after Rowland with Latifi in his wake. It was only 2 laps before fourth placed Nyck De Vries eased by Boschung, and then one more lap to move into the podium positions as he blasted past Latifi on the front straight.

It was all to change in short order though, when Rowland slowed from the lead and De Vries ran deep at turn 3 with the pair both out with mechanical gremlins, handing the lead to Nato from Latifi and Jordan King, with Leclerc already up to P4 and looking for more. The Monegasque was running a second faster than anyone as he strung a collection of qualifying laps together: he was past King on the front straight on lap 10, through Latifi there 2 laps later, and it was only a matter of time before he claimed the lead as he hunted down the first perfect weekend in championship history.

On lap 17 the bitter call came on the screens that Leclerc (and Sergio Canamasas) would receive 10 second time penalties for failing to slow sufficiently for yellow flags earlier in the race: Nato didn’t defend a lap later when the Monegasque grabbed the lead on the road, but as the laps rolled down there was insufficient time (or tyres) to build a big enough gap to hold the lead. Leclerc took the flag 1.3 seconds ahead of Nato, which because an 8.7 second win for Nato, with Latifi holding on for the podium ahead of a race long battle between King, Sergey Sirotkin, Artem Markelov and Nobuharu Matsushita, with Luca Ghiotto claiming the final point of the race.

Pole, two fastest laps, a win and a second means Leclerc leaves Baku with an extended lead in the drivers’ championship over Rowland, 122 points to 80, with Markelov on 76, Ghiotto on 57, Latifi on 53 and Matsushita on 50 points, while in the teams’ championship RUSSIAN TIME and DAMS lead the way on 133 points each ahead of PREMA Racing on 124, ART Grand Prix on 94 and Rapax on 61 points as the grid turns towards Spielberg for the 5th round of the 2017 championship.



Charles Leclerc showed his rivals a clean pair of heels in this morning’s FIA Formula 2 Championship feature race at the Baku City Circuit, easily controlling the race for a lights to flag victory, his second in a feature race and third overall, ahead of Nyck De Vries and Nicholas Latifi.

The win was set up at the start, with the Monegasque driver getting away easily as the lights went out to lead his rivals into turn one, with Latifi easily following him past a slow Nobuharu Matsushita in front of De Vries and Antonio Fuoco, with the Japanese driver just holding off Artem Markelov and Oliver Rowland into turn two. Unfortunately for Johnny Cecotto, who stalled before being restarted in the pitlane, his race lasted two corners before he found the wall, prompting the first safety car period.

Leclerc backed the pack up enormously before streaking away to hold the lead at the restart next time through, with De Vries running outside and through Latifi at turn one while behind the Canadian Matsushita and Markelov made short work of Fuoco, who now had Sergio Canamasas to contend with behind him until lap 7, when the Spaniard got past his Italian rival before he tried to regain the position at the next corner: the pair came together and Fuoco ran over Canamasas’ rear wheel and into the wall.

With almost all of the drivers starting on the supersofts it was time for their stops: Leclerc, Latifi, Matsushita and Rowland were straight in next time by, with De Vries claiming some clean air at the front for a lap before he also inevitably pitted. Discounting Luca Ghiotto, Ralph Boschung and Nabil Jeffri on the alternate strategy, the top five remained Leclerc from De Vries, Latifi, Markelov and Matsushita, with the Malaysian finding the wall next time round to prompt a brief VSC period to remove his car.

When the race went live again Leclerc wasted no time in moving forward, passing Boschung for P2 just before Louis Deletraz found the wall on lap 12, prompting a second safety car period and killing off any small hope race leader Ghiotto had of scoring any points, compounding his poor luck from qualifying. The Italian easily controlled the restart with Leclerc not needing to pass, and behind the pair De Vries running inside Boschung and Latifi going outside to slide in behind the virtual race leader and putting up an obstacle to those behind looking to snaffle their podium finishes.

Rowland was on a charge and made short work of Markelov, who was caught behind Boschung at turn one, and when Ghiotto pitted on lap 19 and Matsushita ran deep at turn one the race order was set at the front. 6 laps later Sean Gelael found the barrier at the tight turn 8, leaving Sergey Sirotkin nowhere to go but into him, blocking the circuit: the safety car re-emerged to lead the remainder of the drivers into the pitlane for a red flag finish.

Leclerc had easily controlled the late pace to hold De Vries, Latifi and a charging Rowland in check for another solid victory. Behind the Briton was Markelov and Norman Nato, who finished on top of Jordan King after a race-long battle, and although Sergio Sette Camara was next into the pits the classification rolled back a lap as usual, leaving Boschung delighted to finish in P8 despite a last lap incident, ahead of Canamasas and Sirotkin.

F1Weekly podcast # 729



FERNANDO ALONSO: “Baku is a great city, and after the success of last year’s inaugural grand prix I’m really looking forward to going racing again in Azerbaijan. As a Baku Ambassador, I’ve spent more time there than a lot of my peers and colleagues, and it’s a really cool location to host a Formula 1 race. We literally drive straight through the centre of the historical old town and the old city walls make the perfect setting for this race in a new territory for the sport.

“After getting so close to scoring our first point in Canada and suffering another retirement, we go to Baku with even more determination, but it’s no secret that we expect to find this weekend tricky. After the power unit issues it’s likely we’ll need to take penalties, and the nature of the narrow, fast straights and tight corners means overtaking is generally tough. However, it’s certainly not impossible, and we’ll keep fighting as we always do.

“Baku City Circuit is the fastest street track on the calendar, so from a driver’s perspective it’s really exciting to be racing at such high speeds with the walls closing in on you either side. As usual, the starts are always one of the most crucial points of the race for us, so getting the set-up just right on Friday in time for qualifying on Saturday will be the most important thing.”

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.



The Azerbaijan Grand Prix, formerly known as the European Grand Prix, at the Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan’s capital city of Baku remains on the Formula One calendar for 2017 after the inaugural race last year. The Baku City Circuit designed by Hermann Tilke, is a completely unique six kilometre, anticlockwise track that loops around the city’s historical centre; which provides a stunning backdrop to proceedings. In 2016 Williams reached top speeds of 373kph, and set the world record
For Baku, Pirelli has made available the supersoft, soft and medium tyres.
Paddy Lowe: It was an exciting first race in Azerbaijan last year and now we understand the circuit we can return more prepared for a second Grand Prix. Baku City Circuit is a 6km anticlockwise street circuit with some similarities to Canada in terms of set-up and characteristic, so we would hope to see a similar performance level for the FW40. It’s one of the hottest races of the year, with the record highest average temperature for this month being 39C, so it will require endurance from both the drivers and the team to stay at peak performance. Overall, it’s a great city which we all enjoyed exploring last year. Felipe is familiar with the track and is currently on top form, so will put the disappointment of the unfortunate accident in Canada out of his mind to aim for a result he deserves. We also look forward to a positive weekend for Lance, building on his first Formula One points finish in Canada two weeks ago.
Felipe Massa: I’m really looking forward to returning to such a nice country, and to a unique race track, which is in the heart of the city. There’s a lot of 90-degree corners and a flat out section from Turn 16 all the way down the long straight to Turn 1, where we reach some really high speeds. We had a double points finish there last year, and after my early retirement in Canada I hope we can come away with another strong result and some good points.
Lance Stroll: Going to Baku will be a totally new experience as not only have I never been there before, but last year when the race was on I missed it on TV as I was competing somewhere else. I don’t know what it is like yet as I haven’t done any simulator work and usually do this just before I fly to the race. The stories I have heard are of a really cool place and so I am really looking forward to seeing it for myself. It is yet another new experience and new country for me which is something else that I find exciting about Formula One. However, this will be my last ‘new’ experience for a while as I have already raced at the next handful of tracks.



Circuit de la Sarthe, Sunday 18 June 2017 – As the curtain falls on the 85th running of the world’s greatest endurance race, motor sport enthusiasts were treated to a sensational edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Following an action-packed race weekend, with raw emotion played out trackside, it was Timo Bernhard in the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid who took the chequered flag as Porsche secured its 19th victory and third successive triumph at Le Mans. Recognized as the ‘Grand Prix of Endurance’, the 24 Hours of Le Mans demands more from the teams and drivers than any other racing event in the world, testing the limits of man and machine to the extreme.

On Saturday 17 June at 15:00 CET, with soaring track temperatures and a fevered anticipation amongst the crowds at Circuit de la Sarthe, the sixty cars lined up on the grid – their one mission, to travel the furthest distance in 24 hours. Grand Marshal and Rolex Testimonee, Mark Webber drove the leading car on the formation lap, before pulling away from the field as the French Tricolore dropped to officially start the race. Remarkable scenes unfolded as last year’s rivalry between Toyota and Porsche was reignited in the Le Mans Prototype 1 (LMP1) class. It was also one of the closest races for the LM GTE Pro classification as only minutes separated the top five positions in the category for most of the race, keeping fans, teams and drivers on the edge of their seats from start to finish.

In the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) category, the #13 and #31 Oreca 07-Gibson cars fielded by Vaillante Rebellion soon dominated the class. The #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing was a force to be reckoned with as it overtook the #13 in the sixteenth hour. The misfortunes in the LMP1 class also played to their advantage with the three LMP2 cars topping the overall timetable in the final few hours of the race. The pace of the #38 car was never likely to be strong enough to resist the inexorable #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid, which finally claimed the lead in the penultimate hour of the race. It was a proud moment for the Oreca 07-Gibson #38 and #13 cars though as they took 2nd and 3rd place respectively on the podium – the first time for LMP2 cars at Le Mans.

It was the trio of Chevrolet, Aston Martin and Ford who battled for victory in the final laps of the LM GTE Pro class. The #97 Aston Martin Vantage driven by Jonathan Adam, Daniel Serra and Darren Turner claimed victory ahead of the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK driven by Luis-Felipe Derani, Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell in a dramatic finish. In Le Mans GTE Am, a well-balanced class soon turned into a tussle between the Ferrari 488 GTE, Aston Martin and Porsche 911 RSR. As the Rolex clock counted down the final minutes, it was the #84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari driven by Will Stevens, Dries Vanthoor and Robert Smith, which rose from seventh on the class grid to win the race.

This weekend’s extraordinary scenes proved once again that racing on the limit over the course of 24 hours not only requires a unique combination of precision, skill and awareness, but reliability and performance are also vital to success at the Circuit de la Sarthe. Le Mans is “one of the most demanding yet the most rewarding races in the world”, said nine-time Le Mans winner, Tom Kristensen, and continued, “it is always a balance between triumph and tragedy.” Forty-nine of the sixty race starters crossed the finish line after 24 hours, exemplifying the punishing nature of this 13.629km circuit and proving once more that crossing the finish line is a challenge in itself.



Callum Ilott (Prema Powerteam) was unbeatable in today’s eleventh race of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship season at the 4.381 kilometres long Hungaroring. The Brit started the race from pole position and won after 22 laps with a margin of 8.6 seconds from his closest rival Joel Eriksson (Motopark) from Sweden. In bright sunshine near the Hungarian capital of Budapest, third place went to Chinese Guanyu Zhou (Prema Powerteam). In the drivers’ standings, German Maximilian Günther (Prema Powerteam) remains on top, he finished the race in sixth place.

Because of its comparatively fluent characteristics, the Hungaroring is known for providing only few opportunities for overtaking. Well aware of this, Callum Ilott did everything to remain in front after the start. Joel Eriksson slotted into second place and initially put the leader under pressure. The latter, however, remained unfazed and held on to the lead.

Lando Norris started the race from third place on the grid, but the British rookie didn’t have a good getaway. He dropped back to 16th place and failed to make it back into the points during the race.

Out in front, Callum Ilott pulled away from his main rival Joel Eriksson more and more and eventually secured an undisputed victory. Eriksson and Zhou joined him on the podium. Classified in fourth place, Jake Hughes (Hitech Grand Prix) only just missed out on a podium finish while David Beckmann (Motopark) was able to score his first championship points by finishing fifth. Günther had to make do with sixth place, followed by the best rookie driver Joey Mawson (Van Amersfoort Racing), Jehan Daruvala (Carlin), Mick Schumacher (Prema Powerteam) and Ferdinand Habsburg (Carlin).

Callum Ilott (Prema Powerteam): “My start was okay. In the first corners, Joel tried to attack me, but from lap two onwards, I was able to pull a gap and then extend my advantage. Actually, I had expected my tyres to degrade more, but fortunately, this wasn’t the case. Thus, I was able to continuously extend my lead and then win the race.”

Joel Eriksson (Motopark): “My start wasn’t particularly good and as the start is one of the few possibilities to make up positions at this track, I stayed in second place behind Callum. Nevertheless, it is nice to be back on the podium after my weaker performance from yesterday.”

Guanyu Zhou (Prema Powerteam): “I am happy to have scored my first podium finish of the season. At the start, I managed to overtake Lando and then I tried briefly to attack Joel. Later on, I saved my tyres and particularly tried to ensure that the gap to Jake Hughes behind me wouldn’t get too small. I managed quite well, my third place was never under threat.”

The Premiere Motorsport Podcast