Coming to the historical track of Spa-Francorchamps the Prema Theodore team had high hopes after having already scored five pole positions, which converted into five race wins before the summer break.
Continuing from a strong performance in free practice topping the session, Charles Leclerc went into a very wet qualifying taking everyone’s breath away. Immediately setting purple sectors 2 and 3, Leclerc was the first to break into the 2m21s barrier securing provisional pole. Antonio Fuoco quickly answered his teammate by originally following in P2 before taking the provisional pole from the Monegasque driver. As time went on rival Nicholas Latifi stole pole from the team for a brief period of time. Leclerc made the crucial lap of 2:20.842 with only a few minutes left in the session as a red flag was brought out due to Sergio Sette Camara touching the wall. Although the session was resumed no one could top the Ferrari Academy driver’s time, giving Leclerc his 7th Pole of the season. Fuoco took P5 after being held in traffic.
The famed Spa track with it’s unpredictable weather was set to put on a good show for the crowds as Charles Leclerc sat on pole position. After a brief virtual safety car Leclerc held onto the lead, Fuoco who made up two places to P3 lost a battle with rival Luca Ghiotto at the restart and fell to P4. Once the pit stops had taken place Leclerc was back in the P1 and cruised to the finish to take his seventh win of the season 26.6 seconds ahead of Oliver Rowland in P2! It was a truly remarkable drive from the young star of the future. Fuoco had a wheel to wheel battle with Nyck De Vries for P6 and quickly made a smart move to take the Dutchman’s place. To end the race on a high Fuoco passed Gustav Malja for P5 putting himself in a favourable position for the sprint race.
# 1 – Charles Leclerc
“We didn’t have an amazing start with too much wheelspin because we couldn’t practice starts. Afterwards we were really quick. On the option tires we were pretty good and we could stay on the for track quite long which helped us on the second stint with the prime tires. Going on the prime tires the pace was very very good. When we left the pits we were two seconds faster than everybody. The car was amazing all the race and I need to thank Prema again for that. We have to keep working for tomorrow and make the best out of the race.”
# 2 – Antonio Fuoco
“I had a good start and I was P3 after the first lap. We were on a completely different strategy compared to the cars in front. In the first part of the race we were fast, maybe even too much. With the soft tires I didn’t feel the grip that I was expecting and I struggled to manage the final part of the race. It was an okay race. We could have done so much better but we scored some really valuable points.”
After the hype of Saturday’s feature race the team were faced with bad news. Following the technical scrutineering operations carried out after race 1, the stewards decided to disqualify Leclerc, together with his closest series contender Rowland, due to an abnormal wear of his car’s underbody plank. In addition to being minimal (less than 0,2 millimetres on one of the seven holes of measurement) the damage was accidental and accentuated by the characteristics of the Belgian circuit. The team decided not to appeal the decision. On the positive side of the news it resulted in Fuoco claiming his second podium of the season, taking the last position on the podium.
Sunday morning at Spa- Francorchamps saw Antonio Fuoco start in P6 and Charles Leclerc P19. Within the opening lap Leclerc gained three positions passing Nobuharu Matsushita into Eau Rouge for P13. From then on Leclerc just showed time and time again just how impressive he can be passing Robert Visoiu and Louis Deletraz in one swoop for P9. As time ticked on with 6 laps left Fuoco and Leclerc were faster than anyone on track. Fuoco passed Artem Markelov on the outside of Les Combes for P6 but the Russian fought back and retook the position. However another lap past and both Prema Thedore drivers passed the Russian Time driver. Entering the last few laps Leclerc got by his teammate and Roberto Merhi after a short fight for P5. Fuoco was close behind the Spaniard, but due to an enormous crash by Matsushita the race finished under the safety car.
# 1 – Charles Leclerc
“I’m very happy about race 2 and overall it’s a very good weekend. We had an issue that cost us many push laps in practice and taking pole in qualifying was a great achievement. Race 1 was amazing as we finished first with a 26-second lead but then we got a penalty for damaging the floor on the kerbs that cost us the win. Coming back from last to fifth in the second race with no pitstops in 18 laps was also incredible. The pace was really good again this weekend and I look forward to Monza.”
# 2 – Antonio Fuoco
“The start hasn’t been great and I struggled a bit in that situation but then the car’s balance was great. In the first part of the race I tried to manage the tires a little bit, then when it was time to push I had Charles behind and I had to let him go. In general the car was really good and we could have got a better result especially in the final laps when I felt I had some margin but unfortunately I could not push as I wanted. We hope to do better at Monza.”
The team heads straight to Monza, Italy for the 9th round of the FIA Formula 2 Championship, 1-3 September as Charles Leclerc maintains his lead in the Driver Championship.