F2 Jeddah: Armstrong pounces on maiden win in first sprint race

Marcus Armstrong took advantage of a front row start in the first Jeddah sprint race to take his first win in the series, seeing off polesitter Liam Lawson.

Armstrong had wheelspin off the line and looked to drop behind Lawson, but found better acceleration in the second phase of the start. The two cars went into the first corner chicane side by side, but Armstrong muscled Lawson to the edge of the track and came out ahead.

Behind them, Ralph Boschung improved from fourth to third by passing Juri Vips. Further back there was contact between Guilherme Samaia and Marino Sato into the Turn 4 chicane, which left both cars stranded and brought out the safety car.

Ralph Boschung, Campos (Dan Mullan, Getty Images / FIA F2)

When the race restarted again on lap 4 it only lasted a few corners, as title contender Guanyu Zhou was tipped into a spin trying to pass Christian Lundgaard for sixth. Zhou managed to keep the car going albeit at the back of the field and with a broken front wing, and a brief virtual safety car was deployed to clear away the debris.

When the VSC was withdrawn on lap 5, Boschung in third started putting in fastest laps to close the distance to Lawson ahead. But with overtaking so difficult around Jeddah he wasn’t able to make a move for second place, and Boschung instead burned through his tyres and came under attack from Vips.

On lap 10 Vips blasted past Boschung for third under DRS on the start/ finish straight. At the same point on the following lap Boschung lost fourth place to Felipe Drugovich, and by the end of lap 13 he’d been passed by Robert Shwartzman, Lundgaard, Theo Pourchaire and Oscar Piastri to drop out of the points.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Bryn Lennon, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

The safety car made another appearance in the closing stages of the race when Pourchaire spun into the wall at Turn 22, the same place Charles Leclerc crashed during FP2.

When the race resumed it was with just three laps to go, and at the front Lawson put a renewed attack on Armstrong. The Hitech driver managed to hound the DAMS by just a few tenths of a second across the closing laps, but Armstrong’s defensive driving saw him hold off Lawson until the chequered flag and keep first place.

Lawson finished second ahead of Hitech teammate Vips, with Drugovich in fourth. Shwartzman crossed the line in fifth but dropped to sixth due to a penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage earlier in the race.

Jehan Daruvala benefited from the penalty to finish fifth, after a bold move at the restart saw him pass both Lundgaard and Piastri. Lundgaard finished seventh behind Daruvala and Shwartzman, and Dan Ticktum took eighth place after passing Piastri for the final point on the last lap.

Piastri finished ninth and Bent Viscaal took reverse grid pole for the second race with tenth place. Jack Doohan was the highest of the F3 graduates making their debut this weekend with a P11 finish.

F2 Jeddah preview: who can keep the focus as the title approaches?

Formula 2 returns after a long absence this weekend, for the penultimate round of the 2021 championship at Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah Street Circuit.

When the cars take to the track in Jeddah, it will have been nearly 10 weeks since the last race of the championship in Sochi. The previous longest gap this season was eight weeks between Silverstone and Monza, and it was evident in the three races in Italy that several drivers were rusty after such a long time away from the track.

At this late stage in the season, with just two rounds and six races left to run, it’s going to be more important than ever for the drivers to renew their focus fast. And that’s especially true for the title protagonists Oscar Piastri and Guanyu Zhou, as the championship could mathematically be decided in Saudi Arabia this weekend.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images)

Piastri currently leads Zhou by 36 points with 130 remaining in the final two rounds. That sounds like a slim chance to wrap up the title by this Sunday, but if Piastri outscores Zhou by 29 points across the weekend — the amount for a feature race pole and win — the title will be his.

It will be tough for Piastri to make up that kind of ground this weekend without some major misfortune befalling Zhou. But with such a long time off between races, that’s exactly the kind of scenario that could play out if the rust isn’t shaken off in practice.

But Piastri will have to watch out, too. With 130 points still to be won, everyone down to Richard Verschoor in tenth is still technically able to take the title. Most of those will likely be eliminated this weekend, but not all of them can be written off completely.

Robert Shwartzman, Dan Ticktum and Theo Pourchaire sit third, fourth and fifth in the standings with multiple wins so far. Any slip-up by Piastri or Zhou will be gratefully received by this trio of drivers, who still have time to launch a late dark-horse bid for the crown.

What to expect from Jeddah

Ralph Boschung, Campos (Lars Baron, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

With Jeddah being a brand-new circuit and coming after such a long gap, there’s not much to go on when looking ahead to the race.

Piastri would be a good bet for feature race pole this weekend, given that he’s taken the last three poles in a row. But another driver who should come to Jeddah with high hopes is Juri Vips.

What we do know about Jeddah is that it’s a high-speed street circuit, which immediately brings comparisons to the “Monza with walls” sections of Baku. And during F2’s visit to Baku this year, Vips was decisively the driver to beat as he swept up two wins in a row and launched himself up the championship table.

Speaking of street circuit specialists, Ralph Boschung could be one to watch as well. The Swiss driver has scored six points finishes this year and each one has come at previous street tracks — not only that but they’ve all been top-six results, with the highlight being fourth place at Monaco.

Boschung and Campos are unlikely to be challenging for wins or pole this weekend, but a podium appearance could well be on the cards.

Driver changes

 

We might be nearing the end of the year but that hasn’t stopped the F2 grid changing up once again before Jeddah, as four drivers from the 2021 Formula 3 season are stepping up this weekend.

F3 vice-champion Jack Doohan will be making his F2 debut at MP Motorsport, taking the #11 car driven by Verschoor all season. He’ll be joined by Clement Novalak, who replaces Lirim Zendelli in the #12 and will be preparing himself for next year when he joins MP Motorsport full-time.

Olli Caldwell, who raced for Prema in F3 this year, will become the latest driver in the #20 Campos, which has been piloted by Gianluca Petecof, Matteo Nannini and David Beckmann throughout the year so far. Lastly, recent Williams F1 academy signing Logan Sargeant will replace Jake Hughes in the #22 HWA.

W Series: Chadwick seals second title with crushing win in COTA finale

Jamie Chadwick completed her W Series title defence by dominating the final race at Circuit of the Americas, converting pole position into victory while her title rival Alice Powell was stuck in the midfield.

Chadwick got a near-perfect launch from pole to see off any challenge from Abbi Pulling on the front row. Pulling slotted into second place, while Beitske Visser jumped Sarah Moore for third, Emma Kimilainen went from sixth to fourth, and Powell overtook Jess Hawkins to take seventh.

Visser had to take a defensive line into the first corner to see off Kimilainen, who was just too far back to make it three places gained at the start. But Kimilainen kept up the offensive through the opening lap and within a few corners had taken third place from Visser.

By the end of the first lap Chadwick had already pulled out a second in hand over Pulling, who was struggling to get clear of Kimilainen. The Finn lapped within a few tenths of Pulling in the early laps, but Pulling eventually settled into the groove and started to inch clear instead.

As Chadwick kept opening up her lead at the front, Powell was running in seventh behind Belen Garcia and unable to find any way past the Scuderia W car. To deny Chadwick the title Powell needed to outscore her by 10 points, but by lap 7 there were already 12 seconds separating the two of them on track.

 

After running three tenths behind Garcia, Powell saw an opportunity to take sixth place at the start of lap 9 but braked too late into Turn 1 and let Garcia back through. She tried the same inside move at the start of the following lap, but was too far back to pull alongside Garcia.

Powell eventually got the move done on lap 12 by taking an aggressive entry to Turn 1 and squeezing Garcia to the edge of the track. But by this point there were only five minutes left on the clock, and Chadwick was almost five seconds ahead of Pulling and the rest of the field up front.

Chadwick eventually crossed the line with that five second gap to take the title. Pulling claimed her first W Series podium in second, which left her with enough points to earn eighth in the standings and a guaranteed place in the 2022 championship. Kimilainen finished third, where she also ended in the standings.

Moore recovered after dropping back at the start to take fourth place ahead of Visser and Powell, and Belen Garcia finished seventh. Sabré Cook had been running in eighth place and was on course for her first points of the season, until she came together with Jess Hawkins with six minutes to go. That allowed Nerea Marti, Ayla Agren and Caitlin Wood through to take the final three points positions.

Chadwick, Powell and Kimilainen end the season as the top three in the standings. Marti was fourth in her rookie season, and Moore, Fabienne Wohlwend, Pulling and Visser have secured places on next year’s grid by completing the top eight in the championship.

F3 Sochi: Doohan seals Trident teams’ title with contentious feature win

Jack Doohan took his fourth win of the season in the Sochi feature race and helped Trident to snatch the Formula 3 teams’ championship away from Prema, albeit by ignoring team orders in his battle with Clement Novalak.

Doohan and Novalak started alongside each other on the front row, and although Novalak got a quick launch to challenge Doohan into Turn 2, Doohan was able to hold his lead from pole position. Behind them Jonathan Hoggard kept third place while Frederik Vesti dropped from fourth to sixth behind Juan Manuel Correa and Lorenzo Colombo.

Vesti soon took those places back however, repassing Colombo by the end of the first lap and Correa on lap 3. On lap 5 he then caught and passed Hoggard’s Jenzer to bring himself up into the podium positions with just over three seconds separating him from the Tridents out front.

Jonathan Hoggard, Jenzer (Lars Baron, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

Colombo and Correa continued to fall back through the field after those opening laps. Colombo dropped to ninth place after running wide while being passed by Vesti, and was then bumped out of the points altogether by Oliver Rasmussen by the end of lap 1. Meanwhile Correa lost fifth and sixth to Logan Sargeant and Jak Crawford, although he managed to hold seventh by seeing off the new F3 champion Dennis Hauger.

Hauger continued to pressure Correa for seventh, closely pursued himself by Victor Martins. Their battle came to a head on lap 7 as the three of them ran side by side through Turn 7. Correa came out ahead as Martins ran wide, but Hauger was spun around by Rasmussen who tried to take advantage of the melee.

Hauger dropped to the back of the field while Rasmussen and Martins both ended up outside the points. Arthur Leclerc benefited from the incident to sneak through and take seventh from Correa, while Ayumu Iwasa and Alex Smolyar were promoted into the points.

Arthur Leclerc, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

At the front of the field Doohan and Novalak were separated by just a few tenths of a second as they fought for the lead. Novalak set the pace early on with the fastest lap and ran just two tenths behind Doohan by lap 7. On lap 9 Novalak tried a move around the outside of Turn 2 for the lead, but he ran deep into the corner and was forced to slot back into second.

While Doohan and Novalak battled, Vesti was closing in fast on the pair of them. By lap 10 he’d halved his gap to 1.5 seconds behind the Tridents, while Novalak was being visibly held up by Doohan who was sliding through the hard right-handers.

With Vesti coming up fast behind them and the team needing to protect the win to take the teams’ title, Trident instructed Doohan to let Novalak through as he appeared to be the faster driver. But unsurprisingly with a win on the line Doohan didn’t let his teammate past, even though that allowed Vesti to close to just half a second by lap 15.

Trident were spared some anxiety a lap later when Vesti ran wide and dropped out of DRS range of Novalak. But Doohan also ran wide on the same lap which gave Novalak a run on his teammate down the straight at the start of lap 17. Novalak initially got ahead through Turn 2, but Doohan used the corner to set up the inside line into Turn 3 and retake the lead.

Clement Novalak, Trident (Rudy Carezzevoli, Getty Images / FIA F3)

To make matters worse for Novalak he then lost grip in Doohan’s wake and not only dropped out of DRS range of Doohan, but into Vesti’s clutches. Vesti was just a tenth behind Novalak heading through the middle sector while Novalak was warned about weaving in his defence.

When they got to the DRS straight out of Turn 10 Vesti had little trouble pulling alongside and passing Novalak for second. But despite his earlier speed, Vesti’s brief but close battle with Novalak had given Doohan the opportunity to open up a slight lead with two laps remaining, and he ended up crossing the line with two seconds in hand.

Vesti held onto second while Novalak completed the podium in third, but despite losing the 1–2 Trident were still able to take the teams’ title by six points from Prema. Sargeant completed a quiet race in fourth ahead of Crawford and Hoggard, while Leclerc finished seventh and Martins, Iwasa and Olli Caldwell rounded out the points.

Winning the race meant that Doohan keeps his second place in the championship, while Novalak finishes the season in third place ahead of Vesti and Martins.

Frederik Vesti, ART (Bryn Lennon, Getty Images / FIA F3)

F2 Sochi: Ticktum dominates sprint race in tricky damp conditions

Dan Ticktum took his second win of the season in the Sochi F2 sprint race, surviving the difficult conditions while drivers behind him fell afoul of the damp track in an assortment of incidents.

The race got off to a dramatic start before the grid had even formed, as first Guanyu Zhou spun on the lap to the grid and stalled his engine, then his teammate Felipe Drugovich spun into the wall and wrecked his car. As a result neither UNI-Virtuosi was able to take the race start.

With the track still wet in places the race began with a rolling start after two formation laps behind the safety car. Ticktum made the most of that rolling start to get a good gap over second-placed Juri Vips across the line, while Christian Lundgaard was the only driver in the field able to pull off a lap 1 overtake as he passed Marcus Armstrong for tenth.

Although Ticktum got the jump on Vips at the start, Vips responded through the opening lap to be just two tenths behind the Carlin at the start of lap 2. But Ticktum then put in his own answer with a fastest lap to open the gap up again, which began a game of trading lap times between the two of them.

Just a few tenths behind Ticktum and Vips, Liam Lawson was defending third place from Robert Shwartzman. Shwartzman appeared to have the better pace than Lawson and looked at a move out of Turn 3 on lap 3, but with the track still wet outside the racing line he couldn’t get alongside the Hitech. Shwartzman then ran wide through Turn 18 and lost several tenths to Lawson.

Liam Lawson, Hitech (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

On lap 4 Bent Viscaal spun out at the Turn 15/16 chicane and brought out the Virtual Safety Car. When it was withdrawn on lap 6 Oscar Piastri tried to overtake Jehan Daruvala for eighth place, but he immediately lost tyre temperature when he moved out to the wetter part of the track and instead fell to 12th behind Lundgaard, Armstrong and Richard Verschoor.

The VSC then made an immediate reappearance when Lawson, lacking brake temperature from the first VSC, couldn’t get his car stopped heading into Turn 13 and damaged his left rear suspension on the exit wall. With Lawson out, Shwartzman moved up to third place ahead of Jake Hughes, Ralph Boschung, Theo Pourchaire and Daruvala.

Once again, the VSC restart caught out several drivers. Shwartzman ran wide through Turn 10 with cold tyres and was passed down the straight by Hughes, although Shwartzman was able to regroup and take back third into Turn 13. Meanwhile Boschung was slow to react and was passed by both Daruvala and Pourchaire, with Daruvala coming out on top in fifth.

Daruvala then set the fastest lap shortly after and joined the battle for third at just half a tenth off Hughes and Shwartzman. But despite his speed he also couldn’t find a way past, and on lap 15 Daruvala then spun at Turn 15 and dropped all the way down to 12th place.

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin (Lars Baron, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Back at the front Ticktum had come out best over Vips in both of the VSC restarts and had a four-second lead by the start of lap 10. Vips started to come back at the Carlin with a series of fastest laps and brought the gap down to 2.5 seconds by lap 13.

But Vips also ran wide several times as he struggled to keep temperature in his brakes and tyres, and so he was never able to get on the back of Ticktum. He managed to close to within two seconds on lap 16, but with only two laps remaining there wasn’t enough time to challenge for the lead.

After Vips had a few more offs in the final laps, Ticktum crossed the line to take victory with 4.5 seconds in hand over the Hitech while Shwartzman finished third.

Hughes took his first F2 points with fourth place ahead of Pourchaire, who also recorded the fastest lap late on for an extra two points. Boschung survived a pair of lockups late in the race to finish in sixth place over Lundgaard, and Verschoor come home in eighth to deny Piastri the final point.

Ralph Boschung, Campos (Lars Baron, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

F3 Sochi: Hauger seals title at first chance as Sargeant wins Race 1

Dennis Hauger clinched the 2021 Formula 3 title with a podium finish in the opening Sochi sprint race, which was won by Logan Sargeant for his first victory of the season and Charouz Racing System’s first victory in the series.

Sargeant started the race from second on the reverse grid alongside Victor Martins but seized the lead around the outside of Turn 2. Meanwhile Hauger tried to take third place from Jak Crawford, but after backing out he was forced to defend against Caio Collet in fifth and Alex Smolyar in sixth instead.

But although Hauger’s start didn’t go to plan, things were much worse for his title rival Jack Doohan. Starting from 12th on the reverse grid after claiming pole for the feature race, Doohan found himself caught up in the middle of the pack and bounced onto the kerbs at Turn 2, which dropped him down to 17th in the order.

Logan Sargeant, Charouz (Rudy Carezzevoli, Getty Images / FIA F3)

With Doohan out of the points and Hauger only needing six points to claim the title he didn’t need to make up any more places in the race. But despite that, Hauger continued pushing forward and putting the pressure on Crawford in third.

On lap 4 Hauger forced Crawford to take a deep defensive line through Turn 2 and used the opportunity to line up a move through Turn 3, putting himself into the podium positions. He then set the fastest lap and started cutting into Martins’ gap in second.

By lap 7 Hauger had gotten within four tenths of Martins and tried the same Turn 2 setup as he had on Crawford three laps earlier. But Martins was able to better hold off Hauger through Turn 3 and used Hauger’s championship considerations to force the Prema to back out.

But despite coming out on top in that battle, Martins couldn’t keep Hauger behind for much longer. On lap 10 Hauger ran within a tenth of Martins as he set up a move, which he then completed to take second a lap later.

With Sargeant little more than three seconds up the road, Hauger set off with the win in his sights. But with half the race done he started to struggle with his rear tyres losing temperature, and found Martins and Collet in fourth filling his mirrors. Meanwhile Clement Novalak, who had taken the fastest lap from Hauger, was rapidly closing on all three of them.

Victor Martins, MP Motorsport (Dan Istitene, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

Sargeant ran wide on lap 14 and lost seven tenths from his lead, but Hauger wasn’t able to take advantage of the mistake as he had Martins just two tenths behind him. But before Martins could capitalise on Hauger’s tyres and reclaim second, the virtual safety car was brought out when Tijmen van der Helm retired on the side of the road with an engine failure.

When the VSC was withdrawn a lap later Hauger was able to get the better restart to pull out of DRS range of Martins, while Sargeant was just under two seconds ahead of him. Hauger continued to cut that gap as Sargeant’s own tyres fell off, and he closed to within DRS range of the Charouz on the final lap.

Going through the DRS zone after Turn 10, Hauger closed to four tenths behind Sargeant, but with the title in his hands he held back rather than making a lunge into Turn 13. Sargeant crossed the line just ahead of Hauger, and Martins finished third for his sixth podium of the year.

Novalak come through to take fourth from Collet in the final laps. Lorenzo Colombo took sixth for Campos ahead of Arthur Leclerc, Frederik Vesti, Juan Manuel Correa and Ayumu Iwasa. Crawford fell through the top ten in the latter stages of the race to finish 11th, while Doohan came home in 15th.

F2 Sochi preview: will winning experience prove key at Sochi?

Formula 2 returns this weekend for Round 6 of the championship at Russia’s Sochi Autodrom.

The Sochi circuit is one that’s well known to the F2 championship and plenty of this year’s drivers. In fact, of the 24 drivers taking to the grid this weekend, 18 of them have raced around Sochi in the last three years, and six — Guanyu Zhou, Juri Vips, Richard Verschoor, Christian Lundgaard, David Beckmann and Marcus Armstrong — have won before in their various feeder series outings.

Only Oscar Piastri, Theo Pourchaire, Lirim Zendelli and Enzo Fittipaldi have yet to turn a racing lap around Sochi in their careers. And given that Piastri, and to an extent Pourchaire, are in the title fight this year, that difference in experience could prove crucial this weekend.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Michael Regan, Getty Images / FIA F2)

Zhou, who currently sits second in the standings and 15 points behind Piastri after Monza, will certainly be hoping his experience plays its part. Along with Marino Sato, Zhou has the most knowledge of Sochi in an F2 car, having raced there in the last two seasons of F2 — but as well as that, Sochi was also the site of Zhou’s first F2 win in last year’s sprint race.

After Piastri dominated last time out in the Monza feature race, Zhou will be looking to repeat his 2020 win at Sochi and return to the top of the standings. But on the other hand a lack of experience hasn’t hampered Piastri so far this year, as he won at Bahrain and found the podium at Baku despite having never raced at either circuit before this year.

Shwartzman looking for big points on home soil

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

It’s not just Guanyu Zhou who will come to Sochi motivated by memories of past results. Robert Shwartzman will take to the track this weekend not only buoyed by his home support, but also by the fact that it was at Sochi that he clinched the 2019 Formula 3 title.

If that brings Shwartzman any extra confidence in 2021, then it will be gratefully received. Shwartzman was keen to point out in Monza that despite the title focus being firmly on Piastri and Zhou, he was far from out of the equation himself.

After all, Shwartzman is still third in the championship with two wins to his name. And although he had a rocky start in the first two rounds, since his breakthrough win in the first Baku sprint race he has actually outscored Zhou by 75 points to 66.

Shwartzman doesn’t need a perfect weekend in Sochi, he just needs a solid one. That starts with qualifying well, which has largely been his Achilles heel this year compared to Piastri and Zhou. But Shwartzman knows how to get one lap pace at this track, as he showed when he took pole for the 2019 F3 feature race.

If Shwartzman can start high up the grid and close the gap to Piastri and Zhou, then he’ll be in a great position to really challenge for the title on the home stretch in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi.

F3 Sochi preview: title beckons for Hauger in Sochi finale

Formula 3 returns to action this weekend for the final time this season, as Russia’s Sochi Autodrom plays host to the championship showdown between Prema’s Dennis Hauger and Trident’s Jack Doohan.

That title fight is now Hauger’s to lose. With four wins, eight podiums and two pole positions to his name so far, Hauger comes to Sochi with a 43-point advantage over Doohan, with 65 points still left to play for this weekend.

That advantage means that Hauger can clinch the title after Saturday’s second sprint race, provided he doesn’t concede any more than 13 points to Doohan across the two sprint races. And even if Doohan still has a chance going into Sunday’s feature race, he’ll be aiming for almost every point available for victory, pole and the fastest lap unless Hauger’s Saturday really falls apart.

Jack Doohan, Trident (Red Bull Content Pool)

Doohan needs a lot of things to go his way if he’s going to snatch the title from Hauger. But pressure can play a big part in title showdowns, even for drivers who have otherwise been as composed all year as Hauger.

If Doohan can start applying that pressure early, such as by taking pole or closing the gap in the first sprint race, then he can start using that to try and force a mistake from Hauger when it really matters.

Neither driver has raced at the Sochi Autodrom so far in their careers, so both will be learning the circuit fresh this weekend. With only one practice session, whoever can hit the ground running fastest will have a big advantage over the weekend’s three races.

Fight for third as tight as ever

Victor Martins, MP Motorsport (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

It may just be Hauger and Doohan battling for the F3 title this weekend, but there is still an equally intense fight for third place in the championship yet to be resolved — and a four-way fight at that.

Clement Novalak is currently leading that quartet on 122 points after his double podium result at Zandvoort. The Trident driver has shown impressive consistency all year long to reach this position in the championship, with points finishes in all but one of the last nine races — although what’s arguably more impressive is that he is the only driver of these four still yet to win this season.

Just behind Novalak are Victor Martins and Frederik Vesti, both level on 117 points and each with a win to their name. Martins’ victory came in the second Zandvoort sprint race and was the peak of a brilliant bounce back after a disappointing run leading into the summer break. He seems to be riding on a second wind right now, which is the perfect momentum to have running into the season finale.

But Vesti is almost in the opposite situation. He showed great pace early in the season and is still the only driver outside of Hauger and Doohan to take a feature race win this year, but as Novalak and Martins hit their stride Vesti dropped back from the front of the championship.

Frederik Vesti, ART (Dan Istitene , Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

Vesti was back on the podium at Zandvoort — his first since his feature race win at the Red Bull Ring — so hopefully that will give him the boost he needs to end his season on the form it started.

And lastly there’s Alex Smolyar, who is 15 points behind Novalak in sixth despite having more wins than both Martins and Vesti and more podiums than Novalak. But he’s also missed the points on six occasions and consistency has been his main weakness this year.

However, Smolyar is the only one of this pack of drivers with any racing experience of the Sochi Autodrom, and his last visit during his 2017 SMP F4 days resulted in a double podium. That will surely give Smolyar confidence as he comes into the weekend needing a great result to overhaul the drivers ahead of him.

F2 Monza: Piastri survives Ticktum charge to win feature race thriller

Championship leader Oscar Piastri took his second win of the season after converting pole position in the Monza feature race, while Dan Ticktum and Carlin provided a late-race threat with a fortuitous tyre gamble.

Piastri got away well from pole to hold the lead into Turn 1, but had to watch his main championship rival Guanyu Zhou assume second place by passing Jehan Daruvala off the line. Daruvala struggled for traction at the start and lost another place to Liam Lawson, while Felipe Drugovich pressured him for fourth throughout the opening lap.

The race was neutralised soon after when Guilherme Samaia spun out of the race at the second Lesmo and brought out the safety car. On the restart on lap 5 Piastri managed to break the tow on the rundown to Rettifilo to see off Zhou, while Zhou then came under attack from a rapid Lawson and lost second place into the Roggia chicane.

Piastri, Lawson and Zhou spent the opening laps more or less matching each other’s pace, with the gap between the three of them never more than 1.5 seconds. On lap 5 Piastri set the fastest lap but wasn’t able to definitively break clear of DRS range from Lawson.

Liam Lawson, Hitech (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

On lap 8 Juri Vips, who was running seventh between Theo Pourchaire and Ticktum, slowed suddenly with a mechanical failure in the middle of the Roggia chicane. That caught out Ticktum who made contact with the rear of the Hitech, although he escaped with no significant damage to his own car.

The safety car was brought out again while Vips’ car was cleared away, and the leaders took that opportunity to make their mandatory pit stop from softs to mediums. But Piastri, Lawson and Zhou were followed into the pits by everyone apart from Ticktum, Marino Sato, Christian Lundgaard, Marcus Armstrong and Alessio Deledda, who had started the race on mediums instead.

Sato then dropped out of the race with a mechanical problem of his own, which meant that Piastri rejoined the race in fifth place behind Deledda. Lawson lost out in the pitlane scramble and not only came out behind Zhou but also Daruvala.

At the restart on lap 11 Piastri immediately set about clearing Deledda to get back towards the front. Meanwhile Daruvala found a new turn of pace on his medium tyres and began battling with Zhou for net second.

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

Daruvala got ahead of Zhou at the Roggia chicane but completed the move off track and was ordered to give the place back. He did so on the main straight, but used the momentum to immediately repass Zhou into Rettifilo. But as they came to Roggia again, Zhou went around the outside and reclaimed the position from the Carlin.

By lap 13 Piastri, Zhou and Daruvala had got past Deledda and set about clearing Armstrong as well. Deledda fell back to ninth by the end of the lap, then at the start of lap 14 he made contact with Enzo Fittipaldi at Rettifilo. That allowed Fittipaldi and Robert Shwartzman through, but Drugovich lost out avoiding the HWA and dropped to P12.

Drugovich then dropped out of the midfield battle altogether thanks to a miscommunication with his team. He’d asked his engineer on the radio to check if his front wing was damaged in the incident, but his engineer thought he was reporting wing damage and called him in to pit for repairs — when Drugovich left the pits after the confusion he was in P18 and last.

At the front of the field, Piastri passed fellow Alpine junior Lundgaard for second place on lap 15 and only had Ticktum 1.5 seconds up the road. From the pace of Lundgaard, Armstrong and Deledda it was clear that the worn mediums had run their course, but Carlin kept Ticktum out in front to gamble on another safety car in the final phase of the race.

Dan Ticktum, Carlin (Lars Baron, Getty Images / FIA F2)

Piastri kept closing in, bringing the gap to half a second by lap 18. But Ticktum’s gamble paid off a few laps later when Lawson stopped on the main straight after his fire extinguisher went off and the safety car was deployed. Ticktum immediately pitted for softs and rejoined the race in P12, while Piastri led from Zhou, Pourchaire, Daruvala and Shwartzman.

The race restarted on lap 25, with six laps to go. While Piastri locked up heading to Rettifilo and had to get on the defensive to keep Zhou behind, Ticktum immediately began clearing the cars ahead with his fresh soft tyres. The Carlin driver had a hairy moment at Roggia when he was tapped off the road by Ralph Boschung and narrowly avoided collecting Roy Nissany, but he regrouped to hold seventh place by the end of the lap.

Over the next few laps Ticktum continued to improve with uncontested moves on Nissany, Shwartzman and Daruvala, then on the penultimate lap he passed Pourchaire into Rettifilo for third place. With half a second between him and Zhou and only another eight tenths to Piastri up the road, it seemed inevitable that Ticktum and Piastri would be fighting for the lead on the final tour.

But shortly after Ticktum got past Pourchaire, Bent Viscaal and David Beckmann came together at Rettifilo further down the pack and brought out yet another safety car. With just under two laps left to run, the race was completed under the safety car and Ticktum was forced to settle for third place behind winner Piastri and Zhou in second.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Clive Mason, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Pourchaire finished fourth ahead of Daruvala and Shwartzman. Richard Verschoor took seventh place from Lirim Zendelli, who made a two-stop strategy work to give MP Motorsport a double points finish, and Nissany and Armstrong rounded out the final points positions for DAMS.

With Piastri and Zhou finishing first and second, they remain in the same positions in the championship standings with 15 points separating them. Shwartzman remains third, albeit 21 points behind Zhou and 36 adrift of the lead.

Formula 2 returns on 25–26 September at the Sochi Autodrom in support of the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix.

F2 Monza: Daruvala dominates second sprint race

Carlin’s Jehan Daruvala took his first win of the season in the second Formula 2 sprint race at Monza, leaving the field behind him with a dominant drive from the front.

Daruvala started from second on the reverse grid beside the Campos of David Beckmann, who also started Race 1 from reverse pole. And like in Race 1, Beckmann was forced into defending straight away as Daruvala got the quicker launch and took the inside line into the Rettifilo chicane.

Daruvala came out of the chicane ahead of Beckmann and set off in the lead of the race. Behind them, Bent Viscaal moved up to third by passing Juri Vips.

With the slipstream and DRS posing such a danger at Monza, Daruvala set about pulling an early lead over Beckmann with several fastest laps. He was helped by Beckmann having to switch from chasing the Carlin to defending from Viscaal, who had managed to stay within a few tenths of second place and was on the attack.

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin (Lars Baron, Getty Images / FIA F2)

At the back of the points positions, championship leader Oscar Piastri and Race 1 winner Theo Pourchaire were locked in a fierce battle over seventh place. Piastri had started there but Pourchaire nipped past up the inside of the Rettifilo on lap 3 and saw off Piastri’s attempts to fight back through Curva Grande and the Roggia chicane.

Piastri set the fastest lap on lap 6 as he tried to reel Pourchaire back in. But despite being close enough to try moves into Rettifilo and Roggia, Pourchaire was always able to defend the inside line.

Piastri’s teammate Robert Shwartzman was also making his way up the order in the middle phase of the race. After losing fifth place to Liam Lawson at the start, Shwartzman regained the position at the Rettifilo on lap 8. He then started hassling Vips in the second Hitech, who was struggling to keep his tyres alive in fourth.

Shwartzman sized up Vips through Curva Grande on lap 11 and took fourth place up the inside of Roggia. Vips then lost out to his teammate Lawson at the Ascari chicane and dropped to sixth.

A few laps later Piastri succeeded in retaking seventh place from Pourchaire with a move up the inside of the Rettifilo. That left Pourchaire vulnerable to Guanyu Zhou in ninth, who had closed up behind them as they battled lap after lap.

Theo Pourchaire, ART (Rudy Carezzevoli, Getty Images / FIA F2)

Zhou tried several times to pass Pourchaire through the Rettifilo and Roggia chicanes, but each time Pourchaire hugged the inside line and Zhou was unable to complete a move around the outside. But on lap 17 Zhou forced Pourchaire into braking too late at Rettifilo, and took eighth place as Pourchaire locked up and went down the escape road.

Back at the front, Daruvala had pulled more than five seconds clear of Beckmann by lap 17, while Beckmann was still dealing with Viscaal just a few tenths behind him. But on lap 19 Viscaal was able to do what Zhou did to Pourchaire and pressure Beckmann into locking up at the first corner, opening the door to second place.

Nursing a flat spot, Beckmann fell back into the clutches of Shwartzman and Lawson in the final laps. With just three tenths separating them at start of lap 20, Beckmann fell from third to fifth as Shwartzman passed him into Ascari and Lawson got by through the Parabolica.

Shwartzman therefore completed the podium behind Viscaal and runaway winner Daruvala. Lawson finished fourth ahead of Beckmann and Vips, and the two championship contenders Piastri and Zhou took the final points in seventh and eighth respectively.