Leclerc clinches F2 title with Jerez victory
7 October 2017 – Ferrari protégé Charles Leclerc secured the 2017 Formula 2 title with victory in the Feature Race at the penultimate round of the campaign at the Circuito de Jerez.
Leclerc, running the helmet design of his late father, led away from pole position and built a gap of 11-seconds in as many laps prior to the pit-stop phase, running an Option/Prime strategy.
DAMS rival Oliver Rowland, who started fourth, closed in after the pit-stops as the pair negotiated traffic, moving to within six seconds, and ate into Leclerc's advantage throughout the remaining laps.
Rowland got the gap down to four seconds and a late Safety Car period, caused when Santino Ferrucci and Nobuharu Matsushita collided at Turn 1, bunched the pack.
Leclerc bolted clear at the restart, with the situation complicated by the presence of the lapped Sean Gelael and Louis Delétraz, who were not shown the blue flags by marshals, and had strong pace.
Leclerc and Rowland both grappled with increasingly worn Prime tyres and the Prema driver locked up into Turn 1 before sliding through Turn 5 on the final lap, as his rival edged closer.
Leclerc ultimately held on and crossed the line just 0.230s clear of Rowland, securing his sixth win of the campaign, amassing an insurmountable points lead in the process.
The level of tyre degradation was so high that both Leclerc and Rowland came under pressure from Prema's Antonio Fuoco, who ran the alternate strategy to surge into contention.
Fuoco started from 15th on the grid but extended his first stint and emerged in the points, before the Safety Car bunched the field, enabling him to carve his way up to third on fresh, softer rubber.
Fuoco finished just 0.917s behind team-mate Leclerc, despite the interference of lapped cars during the closing laps compromising his chances, with Nicholas Latifi, on the same strategy, making it a four-way scrap.
Latifi ultimately came home at the rear of the lead quartet, ahead of Artem Markelov and Jordan King, the MP Motorsport driver charging through on fresh tyres.
Luca Ghiotto held a comfortable third for much of the race, having been overhauled by Rowland, but the Safety Car nullified his advantage over the chasing pack.
On worn tyres, Ghiotto was unable to defend and tumbled to seventh during the final laps.
Álex Palou took eighth place, and pole for the Sprint Race, on his debut, while Nabil Jeffri and Sérgio Sette Câmara rounded out the top 10.
1. Charles Leclerc - 247 points
2. Oliver Rowland - 179 points
3. Artem Markelov - 162 points
Sunday's 28-lap Sprint Race will begin at 14:00 local time