FIA F2/LAT

Leclerc crowned F2 champion, Russell wins GP3 title at Jerez

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Ferrari junior Charles Leclerc wrapped up the 2017 FIA Formula 2 title in style by winning Saturday’s feature race at Jerez by just 0.2 seconds.

Leclerc moved up to F2 after winning the GP3 title last year, and had dominated the season ahead of the standalone round at Jerez that was announced to replace the scrapped event in support of the German Grand Prix.

Leclerc took pole position on Friday and entered Saturday’s race knowing victory would be enough to clinch the first F2 crown since GP2’s rebrand for 2017, with chief rival Oliver Rowland starting fourth.

Leclerc was able to retain his lead at the start and forge a healthy lead through the opening stages as Rowland worked his way up to second, only for a late safety car to bunch the field.

Struggling for grip, Leclerc came under heavy pressure from Rowland in the run to the flag, but was able to hang on and secure his sixth win of the season, wrapping up the title in the process.

Leclerc is widely expected to move up to Formula 1 next season with Sauber, which is set to enjoy an expanded technical partnership with Ferrari from 2018.

Supporting F2 at Jerez was GP3 where Mercedes-backed youngster George Russell secured the title with two races to spare, finishing fourth in Sunday’s event to forge a 40-point lead ahead of the double-header finale in Abu Dhabi next month.

Russell finished the race fifth on-track, but was promoted to fourth after Red Bull junior Niko Kari was given a post-race penalty for causing a collision with Dan Ticktum.

Both the F2 and GP3 seasons will come to a close in support of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix next month on November 25-26.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.