Hubert hooks up Monaco F2 sprint win

Anthoine Hubert became the first rookie of F2’s field to snatch victory in the 2019 championship, but was made to work for it on the tricky streets of Monaco by Louis Deletraz, who set up a nail-biting photo finish. Guanyu Zhou rounded off the podium and made it a day to remember for a pair of Renault junior drivers.

Hubert started the race much as he finished it, competent but under pressure. The same can’t be said of Mahaveer Raghunathan, who cut across the pit lane exit and gained four places, only to (quite deservedly) be given a 10-second time penalty. Zhou, meanwhile, went around the outside of Artem Markelov for third, and Ralph Boschung worked his way up into P7.

Luca Ghiotto caused the first accident of the day, making contact with the sidepod of Tatiana Calderon at Mirabeau and sending the Colombian into the wall. After the stricken Arden was removed from the track, Ghiotto too found his day ruined when he crashed with Raghunathan into Loews corner, ending both their races.

Boschung was forced into retirement shortly after, while Nobuharu Matsushita climbed to 9th and feature race winner Nyck De Vries into P6. Sean Gelael added a large dose of spice to proceedings with a forceful double-punt on Giuliano Alesi, the second contact forcing the Italian out of the race.

The front four drivers began to pull away from fifth-place Dorian Boccolacci, to the tune of over ten seconds, while Deletraz continued to hound and press Hubert into a possible mistake up front. The chance would ultimately not come, however close he made it across the line – Hubert was on the right side of a photo finish and recorded his maiden F2 win.

Nicholas Latifi just managed to cling on to his title lead by a point from De Vries, with the fastest lap putting him on 95 points. Ghiotto finds himself third on 67 points, while Jack Aitken and Guanyu Zhou have 62 and 54 respectively. DAMS leads the teams’ table with 147 points, while Virtuosi Racing remain second on 121 points.

 

[Featured image courtesy of Joe Portlock/FIA F2]

Aitken survives the carnage in Baku’s feature race

Struck with the same fever that’s become all too typical of Baku, the carnage we all bay for was present in the F2 feature race. Jack Aitken was the one to prevail amidst a tornado of carnage. Nyck De Vries and Jordan King joined him on the podium, a product of their experienced heads.

Chaos was an ever-present, even from the start. Mick Schumacher steamed into Turn 1 with an unfruitful late-braking move, and Giuliano Alesi hit his Trident teammate Ralph Boschung, bringing a permanent end to Alesi’s race and badly compromising Boschung.

The start of the 2019 Formula 2 feature race at Baku. Image courtesy of FiaFormula2

A safety car was brought out, which allowed De Vries to cement a lead he had taken from experienced driver Nobuharu Matsushita and gave him hope he would be the one to prevail among the carnage.

De Vries was in fine form after the restart, building up a six-second lead on the pack, but Matsushita’s car gave up on him and left the Japanese driver with scant reward for his fine qualifying performance.

Not long after, the pitstops started to come to the fore, with Tatiana Calderon the only one to stay out and attempt the alternate strategy – the same move in Bahrain a month prior worked to her advantage.

De Vries suffered a slow stop, and although it could have been much worse, the fact it allowed Aitken to get a run on him and pass into Turn 2 was a bitter blow. He also fell behind Nicolas Latifi, but that didn’t last long – he was soon back past the title contender.

The second restart, after Schumacher dropped his Prema out of Turn 16 and into retirement, was where the real carnage happened. Sergio Sette Camara was sent into a spin by Luca Ghiotto as the cars were weaving, while Louis Deletraz bashed into the wall as a result of avoiding contact, with Aitken bunching up the field until the last possible metre of track.

Jack Aitken, winner of the Formula F2, Baku 2019 race. Image courtesy of FiaFormula2

This kept the safety car out for another two laps, and when it did finally pull in Anthoine Hubert took to the Turn 1 escape road and lost his shot at big points, while Mahaveer Raghunathan was unable to hold on to tenth due to the Frenchman reeling him in, to the tune of 5 seconds a lap.

Other retirements were Calderon and Callum Ilott, and notable points finishers were Sean Gelael, who recovered well after his qualifying exclusion, Juan Manuel Correa, and Latifi, coming in sixth, seventh and fourth respectively after penalties.

Mick Schumacher joins Ferrari Driver Academy

Ferrari have announced that they have signed Mick Schumacher to their Driver Academy ahead of the 2019 season.

In a press statement, Schumacher said, “I am thrilled that Ferrari has entered into a partnership with me and [that] my next future in motorsport will be in red, being part of the Ferrari Driver Academy and also of the Scuderia Ferrari family.

“This is another step forward in the right direction, and I can only profit from the immense amount of expertise bundled there. Be sure I will make everything to extract whatever helps me achieve my dream [of] racing in Formula 1.

“It is more than obvious that Ferrari has a big place in my heart since I was born and also in the hearts of our family, so I am delighted on a personal level about this opportunity as well. At this stage it is, however, also time to say thank you to my family, friends and partners who supported me all along and helped me arrive at this point.”

Zak Mauger / FIA Formula 2

Past alumni include Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll, Antonio Giovinazzi and the late Jules Bianchi, who was the first driver to be signed to the program when it was formed back in 2009.

Schumacher joins the Academy on the back of his title-winning campaign in the Formula Three European Championship, where he won eight races and finished on the podium on six other occasions. He finished the season 57 points ahead of second-place Dan Ticktum.

New Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said that despite the more sentimental aspects of the signing, Schumacher had been picked first and foremost because of his racing talent.

“For someone like me who has known him from birth, there’s no doubt that welcoming Mick into Ferrari has a special emotional meaning,” he said, “but we have chosen him for his talent and the human and professional qualities that have already distinguished him despite his young age.”

Alongside his duties with the Academy in 2019, Schumacher will make his debut in FIA Formula 2, where he will compete with Prema Racing.

 

Featured image – Joe Portlock / FIA Formula 2

Battle of the Brazilians: who will be next to fly the flag in Formula 1?

Since the (final) departure of Felipe Massa at the end of the 2017 season, Formula 1 has been without a Brazilian driver for the first time since 1969. It goes without saying that Brazil has long had an important presence on the grid, and has produced some of the true legends of the sport. So, who will be the next Brazilian hope?

Two teams have recently announced Brazilian additions to their test and reserve driver lineups. McLaren have appointed F2 race winner (and Lando Norris’ current Carlin teammate) Sergio Sette Câmara, while IndyCar driver Pietro Fittipaldi will take on the role of test driver at Haas.

But of the two, who is more likely to find themselves in a race seat in Formula 1 in years to come? Let’s take a look at their prospects.

Careers so far

Pietro Fittipaldi (Dale Coyne Racing), IndyCar at Portland International Raceway. Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media

2018 has been a difficult year for Fittipaldi. Plans for a packed season in IndyCar, Super Formula and the World Endurance Championship were put on hold by a leg-breaking crash during qualifying for the 6 Hours of Spa in May. However, he returned to IndyCar later in the year, scoring a best 9th place finish in Portland.

Prior to 2018, Fittipaldi was no stranger to variety, having tried his hand at everything from stock cars to endurance racing to European single seaters over the years. His results are a bit of a mixed bag on first glance, though there are some standout performances in there: in 2017 Fittipaldi won the World Series Formula V8 3.5 series, taking 10 out of 18 pole positions and 6 race wins.

Sergio Sette Camara (Carlin), FIA Formula 2 in Monza, Italy. Zak Mauger / FIA Formula 2

Sette Câmara, a former Red Bull junior, has twice been heartbreakingly close to victory at the Macau Grand Prix. In 2016 he led comfortably for much of the race but ultimately lost out to two-time winner Antonio Felix da Costa. The following year he led until the very last corner of the final lap, but found himself in the wall with the finish line in sight defending against Ferdinand Habsburg.

In F2 this year, Sette Câmara’s shown a lot of promise and taken eight podiums so far, although an unfortunate dose of bad luck has left him adrift from teammate Lando Norris in the standings.

The only cross point of reference between Fittipaldi and Sette Câmara is the 2015 Formula 3 season. Sette Câmara finished the higher of the two with 57.5 points to Fittipaldi’s 32, and displayed good defence and some handy starts as well as scoring two podiums.

Super Licence Points

Pietro Fittipaldi (Dale Coyne Racing), IndyCar at Gateway Motorsports Park. Matt Fraver / IndyCar Media

Of course, you can’t get into F1 these days if the numbers don’t add up, so it’s time to get the calculator out and see how these two would fare if they were after their super licence.

As it currently stands, neither driver is eligible to race in F1 next year. Due to his leg injuries benching him for much of this year, Fittipaldi has only 15 super licence points from his 2017 Formula V8 3.5 championship.

Sergio Sette Camara (Carlin), FIA Formula 2 in Sochi, Russia.
Zak Mauger, LAT Images / FIA Formula 2

Sette Câmara is currently 6th in the F2 standings which would give him 10 points. However, he ’s a mere two points behind Artem Markelov in 5th, and overtaking him at the last round in Abu Dhabi would give him 20 points.

If he manages to outscore Markelov this year, another 5th place in F2 next year would see Sette Câmara become eligible for a 2020 F1 seat. If he remains in 6th, he’ll need a top four finish next year.

Fittipaldi is yet to announce his racing plans for 2019, but he will need another 25 points to bridge the gap. It will be a challenge for him to get these next year, as he’d need a top 4 F2 finish, or possibly a championship win in the new International F3 series (although the points for this series have not yet been announced). Either seems unlikely as he would be a rookie in what would likely be a very competitive field.

The verdict

Age matters, or at least that’s been the trend of late in Formula 1. While at 22 Fittipaldi is hardly over the hill, he’s still got a long way to go before he is likely to collect the required super licence points and will likely be in his mid-twenties when that happens. (Fittipaldi’s younger brother Enzo may be a more likely prospect in years to come, having won the Italian F4 title this year as part of the Ferrari Driver Academy.)

Pietro Fittipaldi (Dale Coyne Racing), IndyCar at Sonoma Raceway. Chris Jones / IndyCar Media

Time is more on Sette Câmara’s side. At 20, he’s still younger than most of the 2019 F1 field (excepting only Norris and Stroll) and his F2 performances have already got the attention of McLaren.

If there’s one area Sette Câmara could do with improving, it’s race pace. Lacklustre race pace isn’t the sort of drawback that can be easily fixed, but perhaps working closely with an F1 team like McLaren can improve his skills in this area.

However, while Sette Câmara does seem the more likely of the two Brazilians to find himself in an F1 race seat in the future, empty seats are not easy to come by these days. With contractual musical chairs seeing plenty of talented drivers without race seats in 2019, it’s going to take some poor showings by current drivers for Sette Câmara to be rewarded with an opportunity.

Sergio Sette Camara (Carlin), FIA Formula 2 in Paul Ricard, France. Zak Mauger, LAT Images / FIA Formula 2