The Prema Theodore duo took to the track for the final time this year in a spectacular fashion.
Antonio Fuoco claimed his best qualifying result ahead of the feature race, securing third with a lap time of 1:47.575. Fellow Ferrari Driver Academy graduate Charles Leclerc who brought home the driver’s championship a round early in Jerez, had to settle for sixth having scored eight poles this season.
A tough initial get away caused Fuoco to run the majority of the feature race in eighth, battling with his rivals to steal back a podium position. Leclerc showed his usual skills holding off the mandatory pit stop until lap 23 after leading the race by 22 seconds to Oliver Rowland. Coming metres away from the finishing line, Leclerc who was third allowed team mate Fuoco who had fought up to fourth to take advantage and score valuable points for his own championship campaign.
However, post-race scrutineering showed a tyre pressure infringement caused by an operational mistake, which unfortunately meant Antonio Fuoco was excluded from the race. Rowland who had won the race, was also excluded due to the thickness of the skid block being lower than required which meant Artem Markelov was handed the win, Charles Leclerc second and Luca Ghiotto third.
The final race of the season opened with Leclerc fighting his competitors to begin his climb up the field. Eleven laps passed until Nyck De Vries and Nobuharu Marsushita saw the Monegasque driver in their mirrors. Fuoco who started 19th had another tricky start but as time went on managed to cross the line just outside the top ten. The last lap emerged, as Leclerc closed the gap to Alex Albon who was in P1. The Champion launched into attack mode running side by side with Albon down to turn 8 until he squeaked through taking the inside line and into the lead. With no DRS zone active due to a yellow flag in sector three Albon had no way to fight back allowing the Prema Theodore driver to take his 7th win of the season.
Sadly the team narrowly missed out on the team championship to Russian Time by 15 points after an extremely close battle all year. With both drivers rookies this year the team scored a total of eight wins, thirteen podiums, plus Charles Leclerc took the FIA Formula 2 Championship, which overall was an extremely positive achievement. The team is already looking forward to the next season and will be on-track in collective testing with the new driver pairing for 2018.
Teddy Yip commented,
“Finishing the season with a win is the perfect way to round out an excellent season. What an amazing drive from Charles. It’s a shame that a small mistake put the brakes on our hopes for the team title. I couldn’t be more proud of Charles, Antonio and indeed this entire, astonishingly talented squad for their efforts this year. It’s been a pleasure as always to have been involved. I can’t wait to see what next year brings.”
# 1 – Charles Leclerc
“It feels great to win the race and to finish the season on an high. In terms of tire management we were very very good today. This was probably one of the most positive races I had since the beginning of the season and I’m even happier considering that Friday we were struggling. We made a massive step throughout the weekend. Regarding the end, for several laps there had been a pointless yellow flag there so we didn’t have the DRS. I knew that my tires were in a very good shape. People was going wide in turn seven so I committed in the last lap, Alex closed but it was late for me so we touched. It was a bit on the limit but I passed him before turn eight…”
# 2 – Antonio Fuoco
“We knew it would have been really difficult to recover on this track where there are not too many passing opportunities. Maybe in the first few laps I didn’t take enough risks but then the pace was really good and we fought until the end to make our way to the points zone. Unfortunately we lost the team championship which was our primary goal for this weekend. I think nothing really went our way in this event and I feel for the team as they really gave their 100 percent.”