Mitch Evans and Sean Gelael have delivered a surprise 1-2 result for the Campos Racing team in the GP2 Series feature race at the Red Bull Ring after avoiding chaos brought about by changeable weather and a red flag interruption.
A race that started sedately enough as Prema pair Antonio Giovinazzi and Pierre Gasly sprinted away from the opposition in the opening laps having gotten the better of slow-starting pole sitter Sergey Sirotkin, the arrival of rain would nonetheless change the dynamic of the race.
Indeed, with showers only affecting turns two and three, Gasly – who had caught and passed Giovinazzi for the lead on lap six – would see his hopes of a long-awaited first win dashed when he spun and beached himself at turn three.
Prompting the safety car, several drivers dived for the pit lane, but while most that did went for treaded rubber, a precious few decided to continue braving it on slick tyres, including Evans and Gelael.
Up front, the lead pack would get embroiled in an occasionally bizarre battle in the half wet-dry conditions, positions changing repeatedly as they tested – and occasionally exceeded – the limits. With Giovinazzi and Raffaele Marciello swapping the lead more than once, their battle would be neutralised when the safety car was called out again to clear the stricken Marvin Kirchhofer, who had spun and stalled at turn two.
With the lead pack all diving in for their stops – along with those unable to make their wet tyres work -, it would allow Evans and Gelael to assume the lead just as the red flag was shown following a crash for erstwhile championship leader Artem Markelov, the Russian driver slamming into the wall on the exit of the pit lane.
With the cars queued up in the pit lane, Evans headed Gelael over Jimmy Eriksson – also benefiting from his early slick stop – Marciello, Rene Binder, Marciello and Giovinazzi. However, cruel fortune would befall Giovinazzi and Binder as they stalled as the drivers were released from the pit lane, ending their races there and then.
Restarting under the safety car, Evans and Gelael simply had to manage their advantage over the remaining eight laps, benefiting from Eriksson's slow getaway to pull ahead of the pack and hold on to complete a wholly unexpected 1-2 finish having only started 10th and 19th.
Marciello completed the podium to assume the lead of the overall standings, ahead of Luca Ghiotto, scoring his and Trident's best finish of the season, while Eriksson picked up his and Arden's first points of the year with a plucky run to fifth.
Up with the leaders from the beginning but losing out in terms of strategy, Oliver Rowland picked up points in sixth for MP Motorsport, ahead of Norman Nato, Sirotkin – who will get another chance from pole in the sprint race -, Jordan King and Gustav Malja.
In the overall standings, Marciello leads Nato and now Evans by three points, with Markelov fourth and Giovinazzi fourth.