Nirei Fukuzumi reminded everyone of his abilities with a strong, unopposed victory in this morning’s Race 1 at the Circuito de Jerez, making a tremendous start and soaring off into the distance untroubled by the intra-team battle behind him for his first win since Barcelona, leading home an ART 1-2-3 ahead of teammates George Russell and Jack Aitken.
If most eyes were on the title fight between his teammates, the Honda development driver was determined to make the most of his opportunity and grab the win on offer: under gloriously sunny skies Fukuzumi tore away when the lights went out for a lead which never looked in question, while Aitken made a strong start from P2 but was slightly conservative into Turn 1, opening the door to Russell.
The series leader didn’t need any further invitation: the Mercedes F1 junior driver slid inside his teammate into turn 1, with the pair running side by side through 2 before Russell edged ahead at turn 3, with Aitken left thinking about DRS strategies and the mounting challenge behind him from newcomer Dan Ticktum, who made a good start and was running on the same pace as his countryman.
Fukuzumi shook off his rivals early, building a gap to avoid any DRS attacks while Russell, Aitken and Ticktum were running at a similar to each other but were unable to capitalise given the tight, technical nature of the circuit. As the race ran down it became clear that the combination of the new, smoother surface and the hard-compound tires meant that degradation was not going to affect the race, as there was little in the way of overtaking up and down the order.
Fukuzumi slowed slightly at the end before greeting the flag with delight 1.6s ahead of Russell, who extended his lead in the title fight over teammate Aitken, with Ticktum a strong P4 behind the title contenders. Anthoine Hubert held station behind the Briton all race long, ahead of Niko Kari, who dispatched Dorian Boccolacci at the start for sixth place, while Giuliano Alesi barged his way past Alessio Lorandi on the last lap for P8 and the reverse pole, with Julien Falchero grabbing the final point of the day after blasting past Steijn Schothorst midway through the race.