Maloney leaves Saudi GP empty-handed, but still leads championship

Emerging Barbadian race car driver Zane Maloney failed to make it onto the podium during the Saudi Arabian F2 Grand Prix on Friday and Saturday – but he continues to lead the way in the drivers’ championship after two rounds.

The 20-year-old Rodin Motorsport driver finished fifth in the sprint race on Friday and seventh in the feature race on Saturday at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, where Trident Racing driver Richard Verschoor of the Netherlands and Maloney’s former teammate Enzo Fittipaldi of Brazil were the respective winners.

Maloney has 47 points on top of the standings, with the feature race win and fastest lap moving Fittipaldi to second on 32, and MP Motorsport driver Dennis Hauger of Norway is third one point further back with Hitech Pulse-Eight driver Paul Aron of Estonia now fourth 28, and Invicta Racing driver Kush Maini of India rounding out the top five on 27.

Rodin Motorsport remain in front on 49 points in the team standings, they are seven points clear of Invicta Racing, MP Motorsport have moved into third on 39, one point ahead of Hitech Pulse-Eight, and Van Amersfoort Racing have climbed to fifth on 34.

Maloney, winner of the sprint and feature races in the first round last weekend in Bahrain, was resigned to a lowly 15th place on the starting grid for this race.

He moved himself into the points with a straightforward pass on Art Grand Prix driver Victor Martins of France under braking on the 11th lap of 28 in the feature race, but he could not coax enough from his car to mow down the front-runners.

Fittipaldi, grandson of two-time Formula 1 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi, pulled off an audacious three-wide pass on the penultimate lap to grab the lead in the race.

He was untroubled on the final lap and drove confidently to take his first F2 feature race win, while the fight for the final podium places ended in a drag race across the line.

Maini, who was the pole-sitter because Prema Racing driver Oliver Bearman of Great Britain stepped up to Formula 1 to drive for Ferrari in place of Carlos Sainz, who is recovering from an appendicitis operation.

The Indian driver bounced back from his disappointment in the first round in Bahrain to take second, and Hauger rounded out the podium by less than one tenth-of-a-second.

Maloney also started from 15th on the grid in the sprint race, and he successfully ascended into eighth at the start of the sixth lap.

He dove down the inside of Maini in the first turn to take sixth and tried a move on Campos Racing driver Isack Hadjar of France around the outside of the same turn on the 15th lap, but he had to escape off road, passing the Red Bull Junior off track before giving the positon back.

This made Maloney vulnerable to hard-charging Dams Lucas Oil driver Jak Crawford of the United States, who poached sixth off the championship leader in the Turn 22/23 sequence.

But Maloney reclaimed the position at the start of the 16th lap, and he continued his charge at the start of the penultimate lap as he used the first turn again to make a move, this time on Hadjar to take fifth.

Verschoor put in a dominant performance up front to take victory, crossing the line to score his fourth Formula 2 win.

The Dutchman made a lunge down the inside of race leader Aron on the eighth lap and from then on kept a hold of first place.

Hauger was able to overtake Aron before the end to take second, leaving the Hitech Pulse-Eight rookie to grab third and score his second F2 podium in as many rounds.(CMC)

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