George Russell cruised to his third win of the season with a demonstration run of pace and guile in this afternoon’s Race 1 at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, dealing with an attack from teammate Nirei Fukuzumi early on before cruising to victory by over seven seconds from the race-long fight between Jack Aitken and Fukuzumi for another all-ART Grand Prix podium.
The Mercedes F1 junior driver made a slow getaway compared to his rivals but had just enough to hold them back at La Source, with Fukuzumi lining up behind Russell on the run down to Eau Rouge and Aitken running around the outside of Arjun Maini at La Source for P3. The Honda development driver had the run on his rival and eased past at Les Combes for the lead, and the fight was on.
Maini and Dorian Boccolacci came together at Les Combes, with the Indian just able to hold back his rivals but the Frenchman losing to teammate Ryan Tveter as the order shook out behind them. Two more teammates squabbling over positions saw a fight between Tatiana Calderon and Bruno Baptista end early on lap 3, when the Colombian ran wide at Les Combes before jumping the curb on the way back and clattering into the Brazilian, who was into the wall and retirement ahead of a brief VSC period to remove the stricken DAMS vehicle.
Russell was biding his time (and his DRS), but two laps after the restart he pounced, using the advantage to blast past Fukuzumi and into the lead into Les Combes, towing Aitken behind him to engage the Japanese driver: while his teammates fought each other for P2 Russell sailed away into an unassailable lead, setting the fastest lap as he built a gap that would deny his teammates the DRS advantage he used to good effect.
Further back Giuliano Alesi was on a charge, making great use of his speed on the Kemmel straight to find a way up the order, outdragging Niko Kari, Alessio Lorandi and Julien Falchero and he did so. Aitken used much the same move as Russell to steal P2 from Fukuzumi, running outside and through his teammate at Les Combes to give him track advantage, although he was unable to shake Fukuzumi all race long as the pair fought all the way to the flag.
And when it dropped the paddock applauded a superb drive from Russell, who put his Budapest disappointments behind him as he got his title fight back in order, while Aitken overturned a late attack from Fukuzumi for P2 at the line. Maini closed on the pair late in the race but was just unable to find a way by, while Boccolacci reclaimed P5 at the restart and held it all race long ahead of Tveter and Alesi, with Falchero racing alone to the flag and tomorrow’s reverse pole, ahead of a late fight between Kari and Kevin Jörg which resolved in the Finn’s favor.