As an ocean of rain flooded the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, it was Viktor Ostberg back to his best from 16th on the grid, scoring his first win in FV2 since his last visit to Spa in September 2016. The race was nothing short of chaotic as the rain got heavier as the race went on, causing some big names to retire.
Off the line it was a perfect start on an already damp circuit for polesitter Felix Perez on an already damp circuit with light rain falling. James Vasquez on the other hand could not manage the same getaway, falling to Hunter Ryan and Alexander McLaughlin, who overtook the pair of them through La Source, and out of Raidillon.
The only driver who couldn't quite get that far was Elnur Aliyev, losing control and beaching his car in the gravel trap at the bottom of the hill. Elsewhere on the first lap, Rodolfo de la Fuente got the better of Brittany Johnson at Le Combes, as did Oleksandr Zozulya on a sliding Sergio Alvarez. By the end of the first full lap however, Viktor Ostberg was already up to 10th position from 16th on the grid.
Whilst he charged forward, Ikram Aliyev began to go backwards as he cited engine issues. He eventually pulled over at the corner with no name, which seemed to trigger the heaviest rain of the day. Over the coming laps the drivers were lapping the circuit in over 2 minutes and 45 seconds as the deluge brought out the best of all driver's wet weather skills, as it was beginning to borderline with potential safety car and red flag. Ostberg's fastest lap on Lap 3 of a 2:39.8 was never to be beaten for the rest of the race, handing him a world champonship point right before the race track became a skating rink.
Whilst some drivers began complaining to race control, they had to remember they were still racing. Mike Fredrickson Jr was in the middle of a radio call to his team regarding conditions before he accidentally tilted his wheel in an attempt to make a setup change, resulting in him spinning his car out of the race exiting Blanchimont.
Conditions were certainly favouring the bravest, and Hunter Ryan was becoming the fastest driver on the circuit as the rain got heavier. His slightly unique line through the top of Eau Rouge allowed him to cut off a 1 second gap to McLauglin and take 2nd place away at Le Combes. Further back, Ostberg continued his charge as a mistake from 6th placed Brittany Johnson held up Sergio Alvarez at La Source, allowing the Swede to get past both and into 8th place. As halfway came and went, a tight race in the soaking wet Ardennes Forest was as follows:
The feeling was in the air, along with the rain, that drivers would begin to crack at any moment in the severe conditions. Viktor Ostberg was the first to remind everybody how difficult the circuit was becoming as he held a crucial save at the top of Raidillon, potentially save of the century as his car went partially airborne over the kerbs and threatened to give way upon landing.
Further ahead however things started to get messy at Rivage, where the downhill braking zone was beginning to be a nuisance for the race leaders. Perez had a 4 second lead going in, but it was barely 0.4 by the time he went through ahead of what should've been Hunter Ryan, but he also went well wide.
McLaughlin should've followed him through, but he had also run horrifically wide trying to defend James Vasquez. All of a sudden Rodolfo de la Fuente was on the tail of Perez, with Zozulya, Ostberg and Zander Brynildsen the new Top 5. Felix Perez's error however by the time they made the short dab on the accelerator to the next corner ensured behind him the drivers ran 3 wide. De la Fuente on the inside, Ostberg on the outside, sandwiching Zozulya in the middle.
In the wet weather it was Ostberg able to find the grip around the outside as he had been doing all race long. All of a sudden he went from airborne to 2nd in the space of 30 seconds. Zozulya and de la Fuente managed to hold up Brynildsen behind them in their antics, amazingly making no contact. Hunter Ryan was able to recover and pounce on Brynildsen to take 5th, whilst de la Fuente had to back out on his battle with Zozulya as they both went full lock through Pouhon at speed.
By the end of the middle sector, it was Perez, Ostberg, Zozulya, de la Fuente, Ryan, Brynildsen, Vasquez and McLaughlin in the Top 8. De la Fuente changed that when he ran wide at Blanchimont, allowing Hunter Ryan to just squeeze through, but with a fraction of contact between the front wing of the Spaniard, and the right rear of the Aussie.
Further back, as Ellenor Haugland began to report an issue with 2nd gear, she also ran wide at Blanchimont, causing a cosentino effect behind her, benefitting Otso Toivonen as he moved into 13th position, which if he could hold would give him reverse pole for the first time this season. Little did he know the drama that would go on to unfold ahead.
The contact between Ryan and de la Fuente earlier over time gave the Australian a slow puncture. He had to stop and retire after his tyre spectacularly exploded in Eau Rouge, leaving debris across the circuit. The drivers immediately behind him evaded the debris, but the same couldn't be said about Sergio Alvarez, as he lost control after running over a piece of Ryan's bodywork which had fallen off during the tyre failure.
Brittany Johnson stood no chance in avoiding Alvarez, as they made contact and spun up the hill. Brittany and Alvarez both hit the wall at speed causing some tyres to go very close to the circuit, but not in a position that could've been deemed unsafe, so racing continued with double waved yellows for the remainder of the race through Eau Rouge. James Thompson before the incidents was told to stop his car after the team noticed a drop in hydraulic pressure, and as a result he joined the carpark at the top of Eau Rouge where he parked it.
Andrey Kerzhakov even made the cheeky comment that the full track needed a yellow flag to help the drivers cope with the weather. Despite getting through the danger zone unscathed meanwhile, Ellenor Haugland was advised to park the car and retire due to her gearbox issue, which she did at Le Combes.
Despite the incidents, there was still racing going on elsewhere. Perez led Ostberg with de la Fuente holding onto 3rd by the hairs on his chest from Oleksandr Zozulya. They were well clear of Vasquez and McLaughlin who lost time behind Brynildsen over the previous handful of laps. Ostberg between the 4 of them looked the most comfortable in the conditions, and having started 16th on the grid there was still enough in the tank to get 1 more. Perez knew this as all the top 4 never seemed to take the same line at each corner in the quest to find something, anything resembling grip in order to gain an advantage on their immediate rival.
Zozulya was the first to do this in the Fagnes Chicane. In conditions where every corner was a viable overtaking opportunity, he tapped the picture of a broken porcelain in his cockpit and went all in. The Ukrainian good luck charm did it's job, and he was back onto the podium.
The end of the lap came by, and it was Ostberg's turn to make his move. Perez did not move from the left hand side of the road after exiting Blanchimont in an attempt to hold off Ostberg. It forced Viktor to go around the outside of the bus stop chicane if he wanted first place. As they came to the corner it seemd Ostberg ran it deep and almost missed the second apex altogether.
Somehow though he was able to keep the car within the track limits, and by parking the bus at the bus stop, Viktor Ostberg was able to hold off Perez and co. to take the lead at Spa. His last win also came at this circuit in a feature race last year, and he looked determined to make sure the result was a carbon copy of last year as he began to pull away from Perez.
He ended up pulling away in the final laps to win the race by 4 seconds from Perez, Zozulya and de la Fuente, who remained stagnant in 2nd, 3rd and 4th to the chequered flag. Vasquez held off McLauglin for 6th, while Brynildsen achieved his first points finish since his Sprint win at Jerez. Full Results below:
* Reverse Pole
We'll be back tomorrow, where more showers could affect the FV2 on the morning of the Belgian V-Prix. Could Ostberg turn it on again if the rain keeps coming down? We'll find out tomorrow. See you then!