Sérgio Sette Câmara returned to the FIA Formula 2 Championship today on top form, having missed the last two races due to a hand injury sustained in qualifying in Monaco. The Brazilian was second by the first corner, a position he would maintain to the flag, despite putting up a late race challenge for the lead. Team mate Norris suffered his first pointless outing of the season, in an unlucky race for the McLaren reserve and test driver.
Following a strong qualifying yesterday, it was an all Carlin second row this afternoon as Norris lined up third and Sette Câmara fourth. The drama came thick and fast this afternoon though; light rain on the green flag lap made running tricky. Further bad luck lay ahead for the championship leader, with Norris one of a handful of drivers to stall on the grid as the rest of the field stormed past. Team mate Sette Câmara meanwhile already up to third, also passed Alexander Albon in the run to the first corner and was second behind pole man George Russell.
Over the first few laps, just staying on track was key, several cars pirouetted off track onto Paul Ricard’s highly abrasive run off areas as light rain continued to fall. Sette Câmara kept his Carlin machine on track as Norris, already at the back of the field, was one of a handful of drivers to stop for wet Pirelli tyres.
After the first of two Virtual Safety Car periods, green flag racing began again on lap ten, with Norris choosing to pit again for slicks. A second Virtual Safety Car period was required when Ralph Bosc hung stopped on the start/finish straight as Sette Câmara maintained second and Norris 19th on lap 13. After returning to green, Sette Câmara was called into the pits for his mandatory stop on lap 17, returning to the track with four new slick Pirelli tyres after a quick stop by the Carlin crew.
Responding to Sette Câmara’s stop, leader Russell made his stop a lap later and returned to the track ahead of the Carlin driver. With warmer tyres, Sette Câmara pushed hard to make up the gap, closing to 1.6 seconds on lap 19. From then on, the Brazilian didn’t let Russell get away, filling the mirrors of Russell’s ART as the gap back to third placed man Roberto Merhi stood at over 33 seconds.
Pushing hard to challenge for the lead, Sette Câmara briefly ran wide, but refused to give up and closed the gap to less than a second. Even in the final laps the Carlin driver kept the pressure on, just 0.5 seconds behind on the penultimate lap. A final lunge at the last corner proved unsuccessful, with Sette Câmara claiming a stunning second place after his Monaco absence. After his earlier stall and having made three pits stops in total, Norris crossed the line 17th. The British racer holds a seven-point championship lead and will be pushing hard to show his true pace tomorrow.
Sette Câmara said, “My race was about not making a mistake and trying to force George into a mistake, but it’s hard with a driver like him, but still I had to try. The team have given me a good car though after a difficult few races and the crash in Monaco so this is a good way to restart. Not only does it give me confidence for tomorrow but also for the next two weekends, with three races one after the other, this is a good feeling.”
The Carlin drivers will be back on track for the Sprint race tomorrow at 12.00 local time.