ART Grand Prix’s George Russell claimed his third Formula 2 victory of 2018 in wet-dry conditions to propel himself into title contention at Paul Ricard.

The Mercedes Formula 1 junior led every lap of a dramatic feature race at the French Grand Prix venue, which was hit by an early rain shower with the entire field running on dry tyres.

Russell held his nerve in the worsening conditions and maintained his advantage in the dry following the mandatory pit stop window to become the first driver to move onto three race wins this season as he recovered strongly from a torrid Monaco round.

The result sees Russell jump up to second place in the championship and dramatically cut the gap to early points leader Lando Norris, with the pair separated by just seven points after Norris endured a nightmare race. 

Carlin’s Norris held a 27-point advantage heading into the weekend but stalled from third on the grid and dropped to the rear of the field with Russian Time’s Artem Markelov - another driver who bogged down off the line and fell a lap down. 

The McLaren reserve driver - recently linked with a possible graduation to F1 at Toro Rosso -suffered an early off at the Mistral chicane and was forced into an unscheduled three-stop strategy after a wet tyre gamble failed to pay off, ultimately crossing the line 17th and last. 

Sergio Sette Camara took advantage of a great launch from the second row to leapfrog Carlin teammate Norris and Alexander Albon on the run to Turn 1 to grab second, a position he held throughout as the Brazilian bounced back from a hand injury that ruled him out of both Monaco races in emphatic style - finishing just one second adrift of Russell after a late charge. 

MP Motorsport’s Roberto Merhi impressed in the changing conditions as he rose from 14th on the grid to take third and the final spot on the rostrum, adding to the podium he achieved at the previous round in Monte Carlo. The former Manor F1 driver finished some 30s behind lead pair Russell and Camara. 

Luca Ghiotto achieved his joint-best result of the season for Campos in fourth, ahead of Antonio Fuoco, who remarkably recovered to fifth from a 10-second stop-go penalty - received after his Charouz Racing System mechanic was found to be working on his car too late on the grid - and Prema’s Nyck de Vries. 

Charouz teammate Louis Deletraz took seventh ahead of ahead of the lead DAMS of Nicholas Latifi, who spun in the early stages and fell towards the rear of the field, before charging through to claim eighth and reverse-grid pole position for Sunday’s sprint race. 

Tadasuke Makino narrowly missed out on eighth during a late squabble with Latifi but led home fellow Japanese racer Nirei Fukuzumi as the pair rounded out the top 10. 

Post-race disqualification for Roberto Merhi for not racing with minimum tyre pressures.

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