Tatiana Calderon has finished P18 the feature race at the Red Bull Ring, as the Colombian made the most out of the alternate strategy.
Racing in Austria a few days after a difficult weekend at the French Grand Prix, Calderon had another tough Friday, as she qualified last on the grid and kept struggling to switch her tyres on for single lap performance.
The BWT Arden racer, however, started off Saturday's feature race on the right foot, as she gained two positions at the green light, passing Ryan Tveter and the rookie Pato O'Ward, who had a slow getaway.
Mick Schumacher's Prema car switched off before lining up on the grid and had to take the start one lap later from the pits.
Hubert had a great start but poleman Nyck de Vries kept the first position after turn one, leading the Frenchman, Matsushita and Zhou, after a couple of frantic opening laps.
A brilliant move from Carlin's Matsushita on Hubert at turn 3 allowed the Japanese driver to overtake the Arden, as De Vries tried to open a gap on the rest of the field. Zhou and Hubert run side by side for several corners, just like Ghiotto and Latifi right behind them.
Calderon passed both Aitken and O'Ward, as the young lady started to find some proper pace. On lap 5, Tatiana overtook also the Trident of Giuliano Alesi.
Ghiotto dived on the inside of Hubert, with the Italian conquering P4. In the midfield, more drama unfolded, as championship contender Latifi was spun by his DAMS teammate Sette Camara, with the Brazilian getting a 5 seconds penalty soon after.
On the sixth lap the leaders stopped for their mandatory pitstops, with Hubert managing to come out in front of Zhou. UNI Virtuosi teammate Ghiotto pitted just one lap later and rejoined in front of both of his competitors.
With the whole field entering the pitlane, Calderon found herself 4th, as she once again opted for the alternate strategy that seemed to work well due to her good in-race tyre management. Gelael, Mazepin, Maini, O'Ward and Tveter also went on similar strategies.
Zhou slowed down on the main straight with possible gearbox issues, but was then able to continue.
Running in the top 5, Calderon kept lapping consistently throughout the first stint and signed a personal best of 1:19.911 on lap 13.
On fresher tyres, De Vries stormed his way past the drivers that still had to pit, overtaking Calderon at turn 3. The Colombian, wisely, didn't lose too much time in this battle as she raced for most of the race Red Bull protege Pato O'Ward.
Nikita Mazepin took the lead from Sean Gelael, as the Indonesian struggled for tyres and pitted on lap 25. He rejoined P19 after issues on the rear-left at the pitstop.
King passed Tveter, just as the American was trying to put pressure on Calderon. A few corners later, the Brit passed the BWT Arden #18 with an aggressive move at turn 1, forcing Calderon in the runoff area. Ryan Tveter cleared Tatiana as well, taking advantage from the battle.
She took the way of the pitlane on lap 30 for new tyres and rejoined P18.
Nobuharu Matsushita, now in clear air, posted a 1:18.735 and started chasing De Vries for the lead, after the Dutchman had flied by Mazepin. But the Japanese Carlin driver seemed unstoppable in his hunt and in a few laps got within DRS range. He attacked at turn 1 on the 34th lap of the race, making the move stick. De Vries tried to respond but had Ghiotto all over him, with the opportunistic Italian gaining second place after another dramatic fight.
Calderon posted a 1:19.8 and chased back Tveter and Gelael, but was ultimately not able to attempt a move.
In the very closing laps, Sette Camara passed Hubert and de Vries, taking third on track.
Matsushita took the chequered flag and won after a stunning drive, followed by Ghiotto, who finally had a clean race, and Sette Camara. After the penalty was applied to the Brazilian, it was De Vries to make it to the podium though, leading Hubert who took 4th away from Camara. Zhou, Deletraz, King, Latifi and Aitken completed the top 10.
With eight, King will start from tomorrow's reverse grid pole position.
Tatiana Calderon crossed the line in 18th; despite the final result, this is a better performance from the Colombian compared to Paul Ricard. In a race with no retirements, she fought well and was on pace for many laps, with consistent lap-times on very old tyres. Some positives to take into tomorrow's race.
Race 2 will start at 11:00 local time.
Ph credits:F2 Media