Carlin’s Nobuharu Matsushita brilliantly took victory in a thrilling FIA Formula Two Feature Race at the Red Bull Ring, Austria this weekend. The Honda-backed Japanese driver lined up on the second row of the grid in sweltering temperatures and produced an epic fight to the front – executing a fantastic overtake on the current championship leader to sweep in to the lead of the race himself. Matsushita continued his astonishing tyre management while those around him faded and crossed the line in style to take his, and Carlin’s, first victory of the season. Team mate Louis Delétraz enjoyed a strong opening race of the weekend to take points for seventh place.
After a solid qualifying performance from the Carlin pair Matsushita lined up on the second row of the grid in fourth and Delétraz in eighth. Immediately as the lights went out Matsushita was able to take advantage of the softer tyres, get away quickly, and was soon making progress courtesy of Guanyu Zhou running a little wide and allowing the Japanese driver to slot in to third overall. Matsushita would gain one further position with a stunning move on Anthoine Hubert for second overall.
From there, it was a case of managing the tyres until the pit window opened a few laps later. When it did, Matshushita came straight in for a switch to the prime Pirelli tyre to last him until the end of the race – however those around him on track did the same and after a good pit stop from the Carlin mechanics Matsushita was released back in to the field behind those on the alternate tyre strategy.
Delétraz pitted just one lap later to rid himself of his tyres and as the first round of stops came to a close, Matshushita was eighth and Delétraz 11th. At this point Matsushita set his focus to overtaking those ahead on the different tyres and had soon passed Ryan Tveter, Pato O’Ward and Tatiana Calderon on his way to catching de facto race leader Nyck De Vries.
With ten laps to go the race started to intensify as Matsuhshita inched closer to victory. However, he was bringing third-placed Luca Ghiotto with him as a three-way battle for the lead of the race looked to be developing. De Vries, who was clearly struggling with his tyre management, was a sitting duck for the Carlin driver who had brilliantly managed his own tyre wear and swept past him to steal the lead of the race as his own. Matsushita set about pulling a gap however he was quite clearly the quickest man in the final stages and weaved across the line to take his first victory of the season.
Teammate Delétraz ensured it was a double points finish for the team and came home to take seventh place and a front row starting slot for the reverse grid Sprint Race on Sunday morning.
Matsushita said of victory, “I was thinking at the start of the weekend that we had good pace here and I was really aiming for this win today. I want to say thanks to the team – we have an amazing car and it was a really amazing day for me!”
Sunday morning saw fortunes reversed for the team as Delétraz crashed out with brake failure while running in a very strong second place. Delétraz had previously taken the lead of the race and was fighting hard to regain the position. While it was heartbreak for Delétraz, Matsushita again managed his tyres well with a late surge to carve his way through the field and take fifth place in the closing stages of the race.