ART Grand Prix’s George Russell sealed the 2018 Formula 2 championship title with victory in a dramatic feature race in Abu Dhabi.

The Mercedes Formula 1 junior - who will step up to F1 with Williams in 2019 - had already extended his comfortable points buffer over Alexander Albon thanks to his fifth pole position of the season, before wrapping up the championship with another impressive drive under the floodlights in Abu Dhabi.

Russell recovered from a slow getaway to beat Russian Time’s Artem Markelov to his seventh win of 2018, while Luca Ghiotto turned in a stunning recovery drive to clinch the final podium spot despite starting from 16th on the grid and being hit with a five-second time penalty for track limits abuse.

It means Russell has now matched Ferrari-bound Charles Leclerc’s achievement of winning back-to-back titles in GP3 and F2 before progressing up to F1, as well as equalling Leclerc and Stoffel Vandoorne’s joint record of wins in a season.

Russell initially lost the lead to de Vries on the run to Turn 1 as he bogged down with wheelspin off the line, while there was drama behind when Nicholas Latifi stalled from the second row and was hit by the unsighted Arjun Maini in a scary crash.

Both drivers were out of the race on the spot but emerged from their respective cars unscathed, with the Safety Car immediately scrambled due to the vast amounts of debris littered across the start-finish straight.

Nirei Fukuzimi also suffered race-ending damage to his Arden machine as he attempted to avoid making contact with Latifi’s stranded car, as the second DAMS of Albon also failed to get away.

The British-Thai driver, who started from eighth on the grid, was able to get going shortly after the lights went out but fell to the back of the field, effectively ending his slim championship hopes. He ultimately took 14th in a spirited comeback drive from being a lap down on the field. 

Russell made slight contact with de Vries when the race restarted on Lap 7 as the leaders nearly came to blows under braking at the Turn 8/9 chicane, with the Briton crucially avoided damage to his front wing, before becoming the first of the frontrunners to pit two laps later.

de Vries pitted on the following tour and narrowly emerged ahead of Russell when he exited the pit lane but the ART driver made the most of his tyres being up to temperature by diving down the inside to reclaim the position at Turn 5.

Russell was made to wait to reclaim the lead of the race, which he did not gain until the long-running Ghiotto finally pitted deep into the race on Lap 25. From there on in he managed the gap to Markelov in a controlled end to the race which concluded under timed conditions.

de Vries, who had looked set to complete the rostrum until Ghiotto swept past on the final lap, finished fourth, ahead of McLaren-bound Carlin driver Lando Norris and Louis Deletraz.

Charouz Racing System’s Antonio Fuoco was seventh, while Campos driver Roberto Merhi sealed eighth place and reverse grid pole for Sunday’s sprint race, ahead of Tadasuke Makino and Jack Aitken - the latter fading from fifth on the grid to take the final point on offer in 10th.

F2 Abu Dhabi Feature Race Result

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