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GP Week : Issue 91
has taken as a result of the global economic downturn. All but seven drivers of the 22 were joining the series as newcomers, including Euroseries 3000 champion Will Bratt, Formula Master runner-up Sergey Afnasyev and McLaren Autosport BRDC Award nominee Dean Stoneman. In pre-season testing, future title rivals Palmer and Stoneman marked themselves out as the men to beat, with the pair clocking the fastest lap times in the first two days of testing at Snetterton respectively. Then, at the final day's testing before the season proper began, they were separated by just over a tenth at the top of the timesheets, with a further three and a half tenths to the next best. Unlike all other races in 2010, the curtain-raiser to Formula Two's season was a standalone event at Silverstone, and was one of the last series to race on the old Grand Prix track before the new Arena layout was adopted just a fortnight later. As expected, Palmer and Stoneman dominated Sunday's first race, although a spin by the latter mid-way through the race ultimately handed an easy win to Palmer, while Stoneman took second and 18 valuable points to lie seven behind his rival after round 1 (F2 uses the same points-scoring system as F1). In the second race of the day later that afternoon, 2009 race winner Philipp Eng won again after being pushed all the way to the flag by Palmer, but only after Stoneman had been forced to retire from second place with rare reliability problems after seven laps of the 23-lap race. Having had a near-certain podium finish robbed from his grasp in Silverstone, Stoneman bounced back in style at the following round in Morocco a fortnight later. After dominating final practice and qualifying, Dean looked equally comfortable during the race and easily held off the challenge of Palmer, made all the easier by three separate safety car periods. Having gained second at the expense of Stoneman in Silverstone, Palmer himself had to retire, handing the championship lead to Eng. More chaos in Race Two on the streets of Marrakech saw Eng convert a dominant pole in to a second victory in two race weekends, having been pushed to the flag by Stoneman in second. Although the first eight of 17 race laps were raced under Safety Car conditions following a debris-strewn start, Eng and Stoneman were inseparable at the front despite Eng's half-second qualifying advantage. Further behind, Palmer made up for a post-safety car mistake to rise from tenth to fifth thanks to four overtaking manoeuvres, underlining his racing potential. Just 17 points separated the top three drivers -- Eng, Stoneman and Palmer -- as Formula Two took its first visit to the hallowed grounds of Monza in late May since its relaunch last year. At the very front it was the 'Jolyon Palmer Show' all weekend, as the 19-year-old took pole position and victory for both races. In Race 1, Stoneman did all he could to overtake for victory in the final half of the race, having started a lowly eighth, with Palmer eventually winning by 0.8sec, while Sunday's race saw him win by a more comfortable 3.9secs to record F2 FEATURE >> 25