Williams F1 test driver Felipe Nasr was untouchable on his way to an easy win in this morning’s sprint race at Spa-Francorchamps, easily taking the lead at the start of the race and pulling away at will, claiming his fourth victory of the season from Johnny Cecotto and title rival Jolyon Palmer.
The win was set up at the start when the Brazilian made a sharp getaway from fifth as the lights went out: ahead of him poleman Daniel Abt made a decent start but fellow front row starter Artem Markelov struggled on the damp side of the circuit, holding up the second row enough to give Nasr a clean run up the inside at La Source for the lead ahead of Abt, Palmer and a fast starting Cecotto.
Abt and Palmer were fighting hard along the Kemmel straight and entered Les Combes together: the Briton went straight while the German wobbled, losing positions to his rivals behind him and allowing Cecotto to get onto Palmer’s rear wing, with the inevitable overtake coming after taking advantage of the tow on Kemmel next time by to claim P2 and a clear view of Nasr up front.
Behind them André Negrao, who had made a strong start from P9 on the grid to put himself up to fifth in the race, soon had the Mitch Evans / Stoffel Vandoorne train on his tail looking for a way through: the Kiwi driver made a brave pass at Blanchimont on lap 7 to take the Brazilian’s position, with the McLaren test driver taking the inside line at Les Combes next time through to resume battle with Evans.
Back at the front Cecotto was pushing hard to challenge Nasr, but it was clear that the Brazilian was protecting his tyres for use at the end of the race: Nasr was able to push wherever he needed and was untroubled by the Venezuelan’s best efforts, easily claiming the win by 5 seconds over Cecotto, with Palmer another 2 seconds back but just holding off a hard charging Evans, who eased past a struggling Abt out of Eau Rouge on the final lap. The German had just enough left to hold off Vandoorne for fifth, with a spectacular drive by Stefano Coletti being rewarded with P7 from P24 on the grid, ahead of Negrao in the final points position.
Palmer’s weekend was tough by the standards of his year to date but he still maintains the lead in the drivers’ championship ahead of Nasr, with the gap reduced now to 210 points from the Brazilian’s 178, with Vandoorne’s third place under pressure from Cecotto, 135 points to 127, with Evans on 110 points and Coletti on 98. In the teams’ title DAMS are holding on in the lead ahead of Carlin, 251 points to 244, with ART Grand Prix in 3rd on 161 points from Racing Engineering on 155 and Trident on 149 ahead of the next round in Monza in two week’s time.