F2: Armstrong joins DAMS for 2021

DAMS have announced that Ferrari academy driver Marcus Armstrong will join the team for the 2021 Formula 2 campaign.

Armstrong made his F2 debut in 2020 with ART and scored podiums in the opening two rounds at the Red Bull Ring. After a difficult mid-season he returned to form by the end of the year, with points at Mugello, Sochi and Bahrain to end the season 13th in the standings. Armstrong then drove for DAMS in the post-season test at Bahrain.

Previously, Armstrong has been runner-up to Robert Shwartzman in the 2019 F3 championship, as well as 2017 Italian F4 champion and ADAC F4 runner-up.

Marcus Armstrong, ART (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

“I’m very excited to be joining DAMS,” Armstrong said. “It’s been a long time coming as there was a lot of interest in working together last season. DAMS has a massive history, especially in GP2 and F2 — it’s one of, if not the, best to be with.

“We are aiming for the title. By no means is it going to be easy with such fierce competition, but I feel that when I’m in the right environment with a great team I can really do special things.”

DAMS co-team owners Gregory and Oliver Driot added: “We are very happy to welcome Marcus to DAMS. We have been following his career and his performance for several years so we are glad to finally join forces for this season.”

DAMS is set for an all-new lineup for 2021, with Sean Gelael having already announced that he will not return to F2 for another season and Dan Ticktum set to join Jehan Daruvala at Carlin.

HWA announces F2 graduation for Nannini, Deledda

HWA Racelab have announced that they will field Formula 3 graduates Matteo Nannini and Alessio Deledda as their lineup for the 2021 Formula 2 season.

Nannini had already been announced as one of HWA’s F3 drivers for this year, having made the switch from Jenzer Motorsport for his sophomore season. The decision to split the 2021 feeder series calendars, which will see F2 and F3 run on separate Grand Prix weekends, means Nannini is able to contest both championships for the team.

After initially struggling to score points with the uncompetitive Jenzer team in F3 last year, Nannini had a breakthrough weekend in Barcelona with tenth place in the feature race and his maiden series podium in third in the sprint race.

Matteo Nannini, testing for Campos during the 2020 F3 post-season test (David Ramos / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Deledda joins F2 as a controversial signing. In November last year he drew attention for a trio of videos posted on his Instagram, appearing to show himself weaving through a motorway traffic jam at high speed, exceeding 300km/h on a motorway, and driving at 200km/h on another public road. He subsequently claimed the videos were actually of other drivers, which he was sharing to “raise awareness” of “similar acts of villainy” on the road.

Speaking about the driver announcement, HWA team principal Thomas Strick called Nannini a “young and talented driver”, saying that HWA decided to field him in both feeder series’ so that he could be “introduced more quickly to the high performance of a Formula 1 car, as the Formula 2 car comes far closer to matching this performance”.

Nannini said: “I am really looking forward to such a busy season! 45 races in 2021 are going to be demanding, but I feel ready and determined to grow as a driver. I know it will not be easy, but I am willing to learn as much as possible.”

F3: Vesti announced as Mercedes junior, joins ART for 2021

Formula 3 race winner Frederik Vesti has been announced as a new addition to the Mercedes junior driver academy, and as part of ART Grand Prix’s lineup for the 2021 F3 season.

Vesti finished fourth in last year’s F3 standings driving for Prema, having taken three feature race wins across the season—the most of any driver—and was a title contender until the final round. The year before, Vesti won the Formula Regional European Championship, also driving for Prema, with 13 wins from 24 rounds.

In joining ART as a Mercedes junior, Vesti follows in the footsteps of Esteban Ocon and George Russell, who both won the GP3 title with the French team and Mercedes backing in 2015 and 2017 respectively.

Frederik Vesti, Prema (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

On becoming a Mercedes junior, Vesti said: “To now be working with Mercedes, the best team in the world, is a massive boost for my career and I am really looking forward to building a powerful relationship in the future.

“The collaboration between ART, Mercedes and me is the beginning of an incredibly exciting journey for me,” he added. “I’m convinced that will take me one step closer to my goal, which is to reach Formula 1.”

Mercedes Driver Development Advisor Gwen Lagrue said: “Fred’s commitment and dedication is something we love to see and hugely respect. We are happy to welcome him into the Mercedes family and look forward to seeing him fight for the title this season in FIA F3.”

ART team principal Sébastien Philippe added: “We know Frederik very well since he was one of our most formidable opponents last season in Formula 3, and we were eager to start our collaboration with him in Barcelona during the off-season testing. With Frederik, ART will try and win back the FIA F3 title.”

ART also announced on Tuesday that one of Vesti’s F3 teammates will be Aleksandr Smolyar, who will remain with the French team for his second season in 2020. Smolyar had a successful debut campaign with a pole position in Hungary and a podium in the Monza sprint race.

Aleksandr Smolyar, ART (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Red Bull announces feeder placements for Vips, Lawson, Daruvala

The Red Bull Junior Team announced a raft of feeder series’ placements for its drivers today, including seats in Formula 2 for Juri Vips, Liam Lawson and Jehan Daruvala.

Vips will return to the series full-time after making a stand-in appearance for Sean Gelael at DAMS last year, and will partner New Zealander Lawson at Hitech Grand Prix. Lawson graduates to F2 from Formula 3, where he also drove for Hitech and took three wins in his 2020 sophomore season to finish fifth in the standings.

Daruvala will remain with Carlin for his second F2 campaign. The Indian driver improved on a difficult start to his rookie year with a run of strong results in the last five rounds, which were capped off with his first podium and sprint race win in the Bahrain double header.

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Red Bull also announced that three of its juniors will make their F3 debuts this year. Jonny Edgar and Jak Crawford, who finished first and second in the 2020 ADAC F4 championship, will race for Carlin and Hitech respectively. Honda-backed 2020 French F4 champion Ayumu Iwasa will also join Crawford at Hitech as a new member of the Red Bull Junior Team.

This follows Red Bull-supported Dennis Hauger being announced as one of Prema’s drivers at the end of last year.

Red Bull also added 13-year-old Swedish-British karter Arvid Lindblad to its junior team, following his championship victory in the 2020 OK Junior WSK Super Master Series.

Jonny Edgar, Red Bull Junior Team (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

Why McLaren entering Formula E is no surprise

image courtesy of Formula E

Today, it was announced that McLaren will branch out of their already extensive motorsport catalogue, with the news that they have secured the option to enter the 2022-2023 Formula E season ahead of the launch of the Gen3 electric car. Although it’s uncertain yet as to what role they will take in participating, whether as a full manufacturer outfit or otherwise, the signs are clear that they intend to make a move into the rapidly growing electric series.

“We’ve been closely observing Formula E for some time and monitoring the series’ progress and future direction,” Chief Executive Officer Zak Brown said in a press release issued by Formula E earlier today. “The opportunity to take an option on an entry, together with the completion of the McLaren Applied supplier contract with the FIA at the end of Gen 2 gives us the necessary time to decide if Formula E is right for McLaren as a future competition platform,”

McLaren is no stranger to Formula E, having been a part of the spec car back in the series’ infancy. The first version of the electric car contained an electric motor, transmission and electronics all created by the Woking-based manufacturer. Despite the fact that there is more creative freedom within Formula E in terms of the powertrain and gearbox in latter seasons, McLaren Applied Technology has supplied all the batteries that power the cars since 2018 – allowing them for the first time to complete the entire race distance without the need for pit stops or car changes. With the contract expiring at the end of the 2021/2022 season, it comes as little surprise that McLaren would choose to branch out into one of the fastest growing series in motorsport, particularly as they have been at the heart of the action since the very beginning.

Their pledge to take an option with Formula E has particular significance, BMW and Audi have chosen to bow out of the series and McLaren may have sensed an opportunity to further their own prospects. With an already well established role within the NASCAR and IndyCar market in the United States, McLaren may have seen Formula E’s potential of bringing electric sustainability and racing to the heart of cities, particularly within places such as Jakarta and Seoul, lucrative markets which McLaren could potentially tap into. Mercedes and Audi have used their participation in Formula E with great effect, using it to promote their electric road cars and McLaren may well do the same – especially as they plan to launch their first hybrid road car in 2021, with the hopes of developing a roadworthy EV by 2025. McLaren as a motorsport constructor are now flourishing under Brown’s rule – a more relaxed approach than that of his predecessor Ron Dennis, and after several years of disappointment, are beginning to reap the benefits. It remains to be seen if McLaren will join Formula E in any capacity but the signs of them wanting to branch out beyond F1 are there.

Interview: F3 Asian champion Joey Alders

Joey Alders has been one of the standout feeder series drivers since starting his single seater racing career in 2018.

After a strong debut in ADAC Formula 4, Joey swept the 2019 Asian Formula Renault Series. Driving for BlackArts Racing, he took eight wins, two second places and eleven poles from the championship’s twelve races, and won the title with 314 points.

Joey then moved onto the 2019–20 F3 Asian Championship, which he also dominated with BlackArts Racing, before making his Formula Renault Eurocup debut with MP Motorsport in the summer.

We spoke to Joey about his championship successes, his 2020 season, and his plans for the future.

Joey Alders, MP Motorsport (Gregory Lenormand, DPPI / Renault Sport Media)

1. First of all, you had a great start to the year by winning the F3 Asian Championship, after winning the Asian Formula Renault Series title in 2019. Can you describe what it means to win both titles and with such dominant campaigns as well?

Well, I have learned so much in a short period. With my team BlackArts Racing there was a chemistry, dedication, passion and a lot of fun. Even if we won, we worked harder to do better.

I can not describe how much this means to me. I can say it sucks that achievements in Asia are not highly regarded in general by people within the racing community in Europe.

2. Your move to Formula Renault Eurocup this year didn’t quite work out. What were some of the difficulties you had adapting to the Eurocup series and its car, and also what did you enjoy about it?

We had some very good testing days at Paul Ricard. I had never been there and I did enjoy it very much. I was within the top 5, and fastest in the rain most of the time. We did good and I was very grateful to Renault for this opportunity.

The budget is always a struggle for us, we were looking from race to race for support and sponsorship. In the end we went for a team [MP Motorsport] where we had the most chance for Dutch support. But I had never tested with this team.

When we look back, it was a gamble and unfortunately it turned out to be the biggest mistake we could make. It’s hard seeing the team we did test with battling for the podium.

3. You’ve said that your Formula Renault Eurocup season ended early because of budget. This year we’ve seen a lot of young drivers speak out about the rising costs of the feeder series’. Do you think more needs to be done to control the cost of single seater racing?

Well the costs are extreme. With this it’s more important having the budget than driving and getting good results. I don’t think that’s what we want.

4. You said earlier this year that you were targeting a move to Formula 2 for 2021. Can you give us any update on how that’s going? And are you looking at other options, like FIA F3 or Formula Regional?

Getting the budget is a race on its own. We’re still trying hard and I do have a unique concept with a cooperation with TrackSide Legends and Druktemaker. A sponsor gets these marketing companies with all opportunities with us.

I got the support of my team sponsor last year, Oloi, but I am a long way from the total budget. I have to keep my eyes open for other opportunities in single seaters because I am not done and I hope I still get the chance to show myself in Europe.

5. With your racing season having finished in July, how have you been keeping yourself ready and race fit for 2021 since then? Has the pandemic impacted how you would normally train this year?

The pandemic of course didn’t help at all. Finding support just got harder. I haven’t raced since July but the focus was on being physically fit and I did also E-Racing like everybody else.

It’s not ideal but also not a problem. I learn fast and after a few laps I know I will be there. It’s one of the strongest things of me as I have always have been the one with the least track time.

Arthur Leclerc joins Prema for 2021 F3 debut

Prema has announced that Arthur Leclerc will join their FIA Formula 3 team for the 2021 season.

Leclerc, a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy and young brother to Ferrari Formula 1 driver Charles, enters F3 after finishing runner-up in this year’s Formula Regional European Championship, also with Prema. Leclerc took six wins and eight poles to contend for the title, but a retirement in the final round left him unable to challenge eventual champion Gianluca Petecof.

In preparation for his move to F3, Leclerc has also driven for Prema in both of the post-season F3 tests at Barcelona and Jerez.

Arthur Leclerc, Prema (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

“I am really happy to announce that I will step up to FIA F3 with Prema Racing next year,” Leclerc said. “It will be a completely new challenge for me, a lot more drivers on the grid and a weekend format that looks really exciting! I can’t wait to start the season.”

Prema team principal René Rosin said: “I am delighted to welcome Arthur to our FIA Formula 3 operation. He experienced a high quality season in 2020, ending up with more wins than anybody else in the Regional championship.

“His skills come with a dedicated approach to the hard work behind the scenes, which is clearly what we are looking for at this level.”

Leclerc is set to be joined by Red Bull junior and F3 sophomore Dennis Hauger, who also ran with Prema throughout post-season testing. Prema also rotated David Schumacher, Roman Stanek, Caio Collet and Oliver Rasmussen between its third car.

Who is Jack Aitken?

With Pietro Fittipaldi filling in for Romain Grosjean in the Sakhir Grand Prix, nobody was expecting another change to the grid. However it was Lewis Hamilton’s positive COVID-19 result which meant his Mercedes seat was taken by Williams driver George Russell, whose own seat went to Jack Aitken.

So for those of you who were not aware of Aitken before last weekend, here is all you need to know about the latest British driver to reach F1.

First thing you should know, he’s actually British-Korean. Born to a Scottish father and Korean mother, he began karting in 2006 at Buckmore Park where he won the Summer Challenge club series aged 14 before moving into national and international karting championships.

Aitken made his first move into car racing in 2012. In the BARC Formula Renault winter series he took one win and just missed out on the championship by one point to future British GT champion Seb Morris. His main campaign was the InterSteps Championship, where he would finish third overall having taken 13 podiums across 23 races, two of those being wins.

In 2013 Aitken moved to the Northern European Formula Renault championship and was second to Matt Parry, the previous year’s InterSteps champion. That was followed by a move to the Formula Renault EuroCup for the following year in which he finished seventh in the championship, but it was all building up to what would be Aitken’s best year.

For 2015 Aitken would double up his Formula Renault campaign with assaults on the EuroCup and Alps championships, but to prepare for the season he went over to the States to compete in the Pro Mazda Winterfest. He battled for the championship with Malaysian driver Weiron Tan and pipped him to the title by a single point, which boded well for his dual Formula Renault campaign.

So it did! Moving to the Koiranen GP team that took Nyck de Vries to both the EuroCup and Alps championships the year before, Aitken racked up five wins in the EuroCup and four wins in the Alps series. He capped off his successful season by becoming a member of Renault’s F1 driver academy, and by sealing a drive in the F1-supporting GP3 Series with Arden.

While the 2016 GP3 championship was between now-F1 drivers Charles Leclerc and Alexander Albon in the leading ART team, Aitken did very well with a win and fifth in the standings. 2017 looked to be an even better year for Aitken as he took one of the ART seats. However, a new kid arrived who plays a big part in Aitken’s story.

That new kid was George Russell, who moved up from European F3 to take one of the other ART seats. The season was hard fought and ART occupied the first four places in the driver’s championship with Russell, Aitken and their teammates Nirei Fukuzumi and Anthoine Hubert.

However, Russell annihilated Aitken, taking four wins to Aitken’s one and finishing nearly 80 points clear. They both moved up to F2 the following season remaining with ART, but Russell dominated the championship there as well, over the likes of Lando Norris and Albon. Aitken did win the sprint race at Barcelona, but finishing only 11th in the championship coupled with Russell’s success did not do his reputation any good unfortunately.

For 2019, Aitken made the move to the unfancied Campos team. He began to repair some of the damage that had been done, taking the feature race win at Baku, a glorious victory on the Sunday morning of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and a further sprint win at Monza to finish the season fifth.

Jack Aitken, Campos. Image courtesy of FIA Formula 2.

He remained with Campos for 2020 but left the Renault academy, joining Williams as a reserve driver. He was thought to be one of the favourites for the F2 title this year, but the results have not been there for Jack.

However with Russell’s immediate call-up to Mercedes in Sakhir, Aitken’s F1 dream came true. It may have been short-lived, but he immediately made an impression by qualifying less than a tenth from Williams’ other full season driver Nicholas Latifi and outqualifying an F1 world champion in Kimi Räikkönen.

It may be unusual circumstances but Aitken can be pretty pleased with how he did. While it was Russell who starred in his Mercedes debut and nearly came away with a victory, Aitken has certainly done himself a lot of favours with how he performed over the Sakhir Grand Prix weekend.

UNI-Virtuosi sign Drugovich for 2021

UNI-Virtuosi have announced that Felipe Drugovich will join the team for the 2021 Formula 2 season.

Drugovich made his F2 debut this season with MP Motorsport. He finished the year ninth in the standings with 121 points, having claimed three victories, as well as one pole position, fastest lap and third place.

UNI-Virtuosi already had one confirmed vacancy for 2021, after Callum Ilott announced he would not be returning to F2 after this season. It’s not yet known if Guanyu Zhou will remain for what would be a third year with the team.

“[I am] extremely happy that I will be racing next year with UNI-Virtuosi in F2,” Drugovich said. “I would like to thank the team for giving me this opportunity, that will give us big success!”

Team principal Andy Roche said: “UNI-Virtuosi is delighted to have Felipe Drugovich on board for the 2021 FIA Formula 2 season.

“Felipe had a fantastic maiden season in Formula 2 this year, with three victories. He has shown amazing pace and ability in only his first year in the championship.”

Drugovich will join the team for this week’s post-season F2 test in Bahrain. UNI-Virtuosi have also announced that he will be joined on the final day by Formula 3 driver Clement Novalak.

Felipe Drugovich, MP Motorsport (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

Shwartzman stays with Prema for 2021

Prema have confirmed that Robert Shwartzman will remain with the team for the 2021 Formula 2 season.

Shwartzman joined Prema for his rookie F2 campaign this year after winning the Formula 3 title with them in 2019. He finished the 2020 season fourth in the standings with four wins—the most of any driver in the field—and helped Prema to secure the teams’ championship alongside teammate and drivers’ champion Mick Schumacher.

“I am happy to race in Formula 2 with Prema again in 2021,” said Shwartzman. “Our target as a team is obviously to win and make progress in terms of results, working hard and improving the car.”

Prema team principal René Rosin said: “We are delighted to extend our relationship with Robert into the 2021 season. He has a truly rare talent, and we are looking forward to seeing him take another step next year.

“In 2020 he immediately proved he could run for wins, and we want to build on that immediacy to be consistent contenders in 2021.”

Shwartzman will be joined at Prema next year by reigning F3 champion Oscar Piastri, and both drivers will represent the team this week during post-season testing in Bahrain.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)