Tatiana Calderon was 16th after a strategy-driven last Formula 2 feature race of 2019 in Abu Dhabi, as BWT Arden gets ready for its last F2 appearance tomorrow.
FIA Formula 2 resumes its on track activity this weekend supporting the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, after a long break since the Russian round in Sochi.
Tatiana Calderon, the first woman in the series history, is looking forward to complete her first season in the category on a high: the Emirati round will also represent the last race in the second tier championship for her team, BWT Arden.
“After a two months long pause, I am obviously looking forward to get back into action in Formula 2. Abu Dhabi is the last event of the year, it is a circuit that I like very much and it will be a night race, where I will have to make the most out of what I learnt in the season to hopefully get the best result of the year. You have to take this opportunity, I am looking forward to do my best and I expect that best result of the whole season.” - said the young Colombian before the race event.
Calderon qualified 19th for the last feature race of the season, with a best lap of 1:52.412. Calderon best run was in fact stopped by a yellow flag at the end of the session:
"Shame about the yellow flag in the last lap but that’s racing. Looking forward to the race tomorrow night!" - she wrote on her social feeds on Saturday night.
At the race start, poleman Sette Camara had way too much wheelspin and was jumped by both Callum Ilott and Louis Deletraz. Ilott took the race lead in the first metres, but was left behind by Deletraz after the first corner, as the Swiss had a better run around the outside of turn one. Battles throughout the midfield defined the first couple of laps, with Artem Markelov and Mick Schumacher swapping positions in more than one occasion.
Calderon had a good clean start and held 19th despite briefly passing Lundgaard in the first lap, while Mahaveer Raghunathan took the start from the pitlane after receiving a penalty yesterday.
Champion Nyck De Vries came under increasing pressure from Zhou in the opening laps: the Chinese driver made a move stick at turn 21, as the super-soft tyres were already going down the cliff performance-wise.
Nobuharu Matsushita, together with the other drivers opting for an alternate strategy, suddenly turned out to be fastest on track and charged through the field with unstoppable pace. The Japanese Carlin driver overtook Sette Camara, Ilott and Deletraz and went into the lead of the race, while Zhou followed closely and took second.
On the sixth lap, most of the drivers starting on supersofts were desperate for new tyres and pitted, leaving the 8 drivers on softs out on track.
Calderon pitted as well and rejoined in P20. Her Arden teammate, Markelov, looked set for a competitive finish but received a 5" penalty for speeding in the pitlane and then saw his car starting to spill oil on track. He eventually lost power and had to retire.
Raghunathan went off at the last corner, probably on the oil left by the BWT Arden car of Markelov and retired, bringing out the Virtual Safety Car.
At the green flag, Ghiotto closed in on Giuliano Alesi and moved past the French driver for third, as both the UNI Virtuosi drivers went for the alternate strategy.
On fresher rubber, Deletraz and Sette Camara started to gain places and, by lap 15, they started to mix up with the top-5 again.
Calderon lapped consistently in the mid-1:58 and increasingly closed the gap with 17th-placed Sean Gelael, approximately 11 seconds ahead of her.
A struggling Nyck De Vries battled in the midfield and lost places to Nicholas Latifi and Jack Aitken, as the Ducth ART driver looked very uncomfortable with his car tyre degradation for the whole race.
Ahead, it was a chess game between the two Carlin drivers, with Matsushita and Deletraz opting for different strategies. With 10 laps to go, all the eyes were on them and on their laptimes. But, as Deletraz started to gain time on his teammate, Sergio Sette Camara made up position after position and laid the foundation for an exciting comeback in the final stages.
Both Lundgaard and Mazepin pitted after flatspotting their tyres in prolonged battles and were the first drivers on soft compound to pit, suggesting it was almost pit time for the drivers in the top 4.
Matsushita lost performance as well and pitted on lap 26, before coming under threat from a quick Zhou. Deletraz jumped ahead of his teammate, but soon came under pressure from the attacks of Sette Camara, who took the virtual lead at turn 9. After the UNI Virtuosi stops, the new standings were: Sette Camara, Deletraz, Ilott and Zhou.
Ghiotto rejoined in 7th and claimed the fastest lap of the race on new supersoft tyres, with Alesi also setting quick times and gaining places. Calderon lapped more than one second per lap faster than the drivers ahead of her and in the final stages, the Colombian managed to pass both Marino Sato and Sean Gelael.
Nobuharu Matsushita made the most out his fresher tyres and went past his teammate for second place. But, 5 seconds ahead, Sette Camara looked strong in control of his race lead and out of reach.
More battles animated the race in the final laps: Zhou caught Deletraz and, with much better traction, left no chance to Deletraz to defend his podium position.
After 31 laps, Sette Camara crossed the line to take the last feature race victory of the 2019 F2 season, followed by Matsushita and Zhou. Deletraz was fourth, ahead of Ilott, Ghiotto, Latifi and Alesi, who will start tomorrow's sprint race from reverse grid pole.
Mick Schumacher and Jack Aitken rounded out the top 10.
Tatiana Calderon completed a good drive in 16th and will have one more race tomorrow to try to become the first woman to score championship points in Formula 2.
The second race will go green at 13:30 local time.
Ph credits: F2 Media