F2 Mugello: Lundgaard dominates sprint race

Renault junior Christian Lundgaard took his second win of the F2 season with a dominant performance in the Mugello sprint race, ahead of Louis Deletraz and maiden podium finisher Juri Vips.

Starting from third, Lundgaard got a rapid launch to get ahead of polesitter Artem Markelov and second-placed Vips into Turn 1. Deletraz also made up several places at the start to go from sixth to third ahead of Vips, Mick Schumacher and Felipe Drugovich.

Lundgaard started breaking away from Markelov and the chasing pack almost immediately. By the end of lap 4 he was already over three seconds ahead of Markelov, which only kept increasing as Markelov struggled to keep pace.

Markelov’s difficulties saw him lose second place to Deletraz on lap 6, then third to Vips a lap later. But despite Deletraz finding clear air ahead of the HWA, he was unable to make up any more ground to Lundgaard than Markelov was. By the halfway stage of the race Lundgaard had increased his gap to almost seven seconds, which swelled to 14.5s by the chequered flag.

As Lundgaard flew clear, Deletraz came under pressure from Vips later on in the race. In the final laps the gap was just a few tenths and Vips made several attempts to get by into Turn 1. But ultimately Deletraz was able to keep ahead and take second place, while Vips finished third for his first podium in F2.

Juri Vips, DAMS (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

Mick Schumacher finished just off the podium in fourth, taking valuable points to extend his new championship lead over Callum Ilott. Guanyu Zhou took fifth place after a superb charge through the field from near the back after his retirement in yesterday’s feature race. After making steady progress through the backmarkers early on, Zhou found his way into the points on lap 17 and continued moving forwards with a late burst of pace.

Ilott finished behind his UNI-Virtuosi teammate in sixth ahead of Jehan Daruvala, while Trident’s Marino Sato picked up his first point of the season in eighth. Markelov continued to struggle for pace throughout the race and eventually finished in last place, while Drugovich also slipped back out of the points and down to 15th by the flag.

After taking a 1-2 finish in yesterday’s feature race, Hitech had a complete reversal of fortunes in the sprint race. By the halfway stage Nikita Mazepin and Luca Ghiotto were running fifth and sixth, but on lap 15 they collided at Turn 1 as Mazepin locked up while Ghiotto tried to pass him on the outside.

The crash saw Ghiotto retire on the spot. Mazepin was able to continue in fifth initially, but shortly after was given a ten-second penalty and then forced into a pit stop by damage concerns, which saw him finish in 18th.

Luca Ghiotto, Hitech (Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

After Mugello, Schumacher leads the championship by eight points from Ilott, while Lundgaard moves into third place ahead of Shwartzman by five points. In the teams’ standings, Prema now has a 40-point lead over UNI-Virtuosi.

Formula 2 returns in two weeks’ time at Sochi in support of the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix.

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Christian Lundgaard (FL) ART Grand Prix 17
2 Louis Deletraz Charouz Racing System 12
3 Juri Vips DAMS 10
4 Mick Schumacher Prema Racing 8
5 Guanyu Zhou UNI-Virtuosi Racing 6
6 Callum Ilott UNI-Virtuosi Racing 4
7 Jehan Daruvala Carlin 2
8 Marino Sato Trident 1
9 Robert Shwartzman Prema Racing
10 Roy Nissany Trident
11 Marcus Armstrong ART Grand Prix
12 Pedro Piquet Charouz Racing System
13 Jack Aitken Campos Racing
14 Nobuharu Matsushita MP Motorsport
15 Felipe Drugovich MP Motorsport
16 Guilherme Samaia Campos Racing
17 Dan Ticktum DAMS
18 Nikita Mazepin Hitech Grand Prix
19 Yuki Tsunoda Carlin
20 Artem Markelov BWT HWA Racelab
Ret. Luca Ghiotto Hitech Grand Prix
Ret. Giuliano Alesi BWT HWA Racelab

 

F2 Spa: Shwartzman wins after Ticktum and Nissany collide

Robert Shwartzman led home a Prema 1-2 in the Spa sprint race, assuming the lead after Roy Nissany and Dan Ticktum collided ahead of him.

Starting from fourth on the reverse grid, Shwartzman jumped to third immediately as Guanyu Zhou was slow off the line. Meanwhile Ticktum got a much better start from second than polesitter Nissany and took the lead into the first corner.

Ticktum and Nissany continued fighting through the opening sequence of corners with Nissany managing to get back ahead of the DAMS. But while they fought at the front, there was drama further down the pack as title contender Callum Ilott was hit from behind by Yuki Tsunoda and spun out of the race.

The safety car was deployed to recover Ilott’s car. At the restart on lap 4 Ticktum stuck close to the back of Nissany to harry the Trident through Eau Rouge and down the Kemmel Straight. Ticktum then went to the outside going into Les Combes and ran wide as Nissany held the corner, but didn’t back out and the two collided as Ticktum bounced off the kerb and back onto the track.

Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Nissany was spun into the wall and retired immediately. Ticktum was able to continue albeit with a damaged car, but dropped to second as Shwartzman came through the collision to assume first before the safety car was redeployed.

When the race resumed again on lap 7, the damage to Ticktum’s car became clear as Shwartzman immediately pulled out a 2.8s gap over him. But despite a train forming behind the struggling DAMS, Ticktum was able to defend second place for several laps.

Louis Deletraz initially took the position at the restart but Ticktum repassed him on lap 8. This turned out worse for Deletraz, as he was then passed by Schumacher and Zhou on the same lap and dropped to fifth.

However, Ticktum was unable to keep defending when Schumacher caught him on lap 12. Zhou also got past the DAMS on the following lap, and from there Ticktum started to fall back through the top eight.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

The train caused by Ticktum’s damaged car meant that Shwartzman was able to run away in first place and reach the chequered flag unchallenged. The Russian managed to build a nine-second gap over the rest of the field by lap 14, and kept this gap over the remaining five laps to take a dominant win.

Schumacher and Zhou completed the podium in second and third, with Hitech’s Nikita Mazepin and Luca Ghiotto finishing in formation behind them. Deletraz eventually finished in sixth ahead of Christian Lundgaard. Artem Markelov took the final point in eighth, after a penalty awarded to Tsunoda for hitting Ilott dropped the Carlin out of the points into ninth. Ticktum eventually finished tenth after his late struggles, just ahead of teammate Juri Vips.

Shwartzman’s win and Ilott’s retirement means Shwartzman has retaken the lead of the championship with 132 points to Ilott’s 122. Tsunoda is 11 points back in third, although Schumacher’s sixth podium of the year has moved him to within five points of the Japanese driver.

In the teams’ standings, Prema now has a 24-point lead over UNI-Virtuosi, while third-placed Hitech is 62 points behind.

FIA Formula 2 returns next weekend at Monza, in support of the Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix.

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Robert Shwartzman (FL) Prema Racing 17
2 Mick Schumacher Prema Racing 12
3 Guanyu Zhou UNI-Virtuosi Racing 10
4 Nikita Mazepin Hitech Grand Prix 8
5 Luca Ghiotto Hitech Grand Prix 6
6 Louis Deletraz Charouz Racing System 4
7 Christian Lundgaard ART Grand Prix 2
8 Artem Markelov BWT HWA Racelab 1
9 Yuki Tsunoda Carlin
10 Dan Ticktum DAMS
11 Juri Vips DAMS
12 Pedro Piquet Charouz Racing System
13 Felipe Drugovich MP Motorsport
14 Giuliano Alesi BWT HWA Racelab
15 Guilherme Samaia Campos Racing
16 Jehan Daruvala Carlin
17 Jack Aitken Campos Racing
Ret. Marino Sato Trident
Ret. Marcus Armstrong ART Grand Prix
Ret. Roy Nissany Trident
Ret. Callum Ilott UNI-Virtuosi
DNS Nobuharu Matsushita MP Motorsport

F2 Great Britain: Mazepin storms to maiden feature race win

Hitech’s Nikita Mazepin took his maiden Formula 2 win in the Silverstone feature race, prevailing over a rotation of challengers behind.

The race started with a slow launch for polesitter Felipe Drugovich, allowing Mick Schumacher to take the lead into Turn 1 while Mazepin jumped Christian Lundgaard for third. Drugovich, starting on the hard tyres compared to the medium runners around him, continued to struggle for pace through lap 1 and dropped to fourth behind Mazepin and Lundgaard.

Mazepin quickly got his own tyres up to temperature, closing up to Schumacher on lap 3 and then passing the Prema for the lead shortly after. By lap 5, Mazepin had already broken the DRS range to Schumacher, while Schumacher himself seemed to drop back towards Lundgaard.

Mick Schumacher, Prema (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Mazepin and Schumacher made their stops for hard tyres on lap 8, followed by Lundgaard a lap later. Although Schumacher gained time on Mazepin in the pitlane, he struggled more than the Russian when making his way through traffic.

On lap 12 Schumacher lost half a second passing Guilherme Samaia, then got stuck behind Artem Markelov. On lap 15 Lundgaard overtook Schumacher for net second, while Louis Deletraz closed to four tenths behind him.

Deletraz eventually passed Schumacher on lap 24, which prompted a fall through the order as the German lost out to Guanyu Zhou, Yuki Tsunoda and Callum Ilott over the next two laps.

Yuki Tsunoda, Carlin (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

Deletraz didn’t stay in third for long, being passed himself by Zhou and Tsunoda on lap 25. Zhou and Tsunoda were running the alternate strategy with hard tyres, and lapping much faster than those on mediums. On lap 27 Zhou quickly caught and passed Lundgaard for second, while Tsunoda demoted the ART off the podium on the final lap.

But despite their pace advantage, Zhou and Tsunoda ran out of laps to catch Mazepin and had to settle for second and third respectively behind the Hitech.

Lundgaard finished fourth, while Ilott recovered from stalling on the formation lap and starting from the pitlane to take fifth ahead of Deletraz. Polesitter Drugovich suffered a slow pit stop and eventually finished down in seventh ahead of Dan Ticktum. Schumacher finished ninth, and Nobuharu Matsushita took the final point in tenth after passing Jehan Daruvala through the final corner of the last lap.

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

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Nikita Mazepin Hitech 25
2 Guanyu Zhou (FL) UNI-Virtuosi 20
3 Yuki Tsunoda Carlin 15
4 Christian Lundgaard ART 12
5 Callum Ilott UNI-Virtuosi 10
6 Louis Deletraz Charouz 8
7 Felipe Drugovich MP Motorsport 6
8 Dan Ticktum DAMS 4
9 Mick Schumacher Prema 2
10 Nobuharu Matsushita MP Motorsport 1
11 Pedro Piquet Charouz
12 Jehan Daruvala Carlin
13 Jack Aitken Campos
14 Robert Shwartzman Prema
15 Sean Gelael DAMS
16 Marcus Armstrong ART
17 Luca Ghiotto Hitech
18 Artem Markelov HWA
19 Giuliano Alesi HWA
20 Marino Sato Trident
21 Guilherme Samaia Campos
Ret. Roy Nissany Trident

F2 Austria: Ilott takes maiden F2 win after trouble for Zhou

Callum Ilott took his first Formula 2 victory at the Red Bull Ring feature race, after his teammate Guanyu Zhou dropped out of the lead with technical problems.

Ilott and polesitter Zhou dominated the early stages of the race together with Prema’s Mick Schumacher, who leapt up into third place at the start after passing star of qualifying Felipe Drugovich.

The two UNI-Virtuosi drivers traded the lead throughout the first corners of the race, before Zhou managed to make a move stick and set about breaking the DRS range back to Ilott. But Zhou lost the position again after his pit stop, when Ilott and then Schumacher were able to perform the undercut and emerge in the net lead of the race.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship)

With more heat in his tyres, Zhou managed to repass Ilott and Schumacher on their out laps, while Ilott overhauled Schumacher to resume net second behind Zhou.

But on lap 26 Zhou slowed with a sudden loss of power and dropped down the order. Ilott resumed the lead ahead of Schumacher, with ART’s Marcus Armstrong, who had climbed through the field on the alternate strategy, assuming third place.

While Zhou returned to the pits there were problems too for HWA’s Artem Markelov, who came to a halt on the circuit and brought out the safety car for two laps.

Marcus Armstrong, ART (Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship)

Ilott held the lead at the safety car restart, and was gifted a reprieve when Schumacher ran off the circuit and through the gravel trap, dropping down to P13.

With Schumacher out of contention as well, Ilott held several seconds in hand over second-placed Armstrong, with Robert Shwartzman promoted to third. This gap only increased as Armstrong and Shwartzman battled hard over the podium positions, allowing Ilott to go from 4.8s ahead on lap 36 to more than 8s by the chequered flag.

Despite having an apparent pace advantage, Shwartzman was unable to get past Armstrong and finished in third behind the ART. Armstrong’s teammate Christian Lundgaard finished fourth after seeing off a late challenge from Dan Ticktum, while Giuliano Alesi made the alternate strategy work to take sixth from 18th on the grid.

Louis Deletraz took seventh for Charouz and Drugovich held on to eighth place to take reverse grid pole for tomorrow on his F2 debut. Nobuharu Matsushita, another alternate strategy runner, finished in ninth and Roy Nissany took the final point in tenth.

Along with Markelov, Sean Gelael and Marino Sato also retired from the race, while Luca Ghiotto failed to start because of a technical problem. Schumacher eventually finished just outside the points in P11, while Zhou finished down in P17.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship)

F2 Austria preview: rise of the new guard

The 2020 Formula 2 season gets underway this weekend with the first of a double-header at Austria’s Red Bull Ring.

The F2 grid in Spielberg will be full of returning faces. Series stalwarts Artem Markelov, Sean Gelael, Jack Aitken, Louis Deletraz, Nobuharu Matsushita, Roy Nissany and Luca Ghiotto are all back, as are Guanyu Zhou, Callum Ilott, Giuliano Alesi, Mick Schumacher, Marino Sato and Nikita Mazepin, who made their debuts last year.

Alongside them are nine rookie drivers, six of whom come from Formula 1 junior programmes. These are: Renault’s Christian Lundgaard (ART), Williams’ Dan Ticktum (DAMS), Ferrari’s Marcus Armstrong (ART) and Robert Shwartzman (Prema), and Red Bull’s Yuki Tsunoda and Jehan Daruvala (both at Carlin).

The remaining three rookies are Guilherme Samaia (Campos), Pedro Piquet (Charouz) and Felipe Drugovich (MP Motorsport).

Jehan Daruvala and Yuki Tsunoda, Carlin (Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship)

In such an unusual season, it’s hard to predict the pecking order coming into the first round of the championship.

Of the returning drivers, Aitken, Markelov, Ghiotto, Matsushita and Schumacher all have race-winning pedigree at this level. Aitken is perhaps best-placed to fight at the front as he remains with Campos this year, although none of the others (Markelov least of all) should be discounted from pulling off a surprise charge to the top step.

Looking at the top teams is usually a safe bet coming into a new season. UNI-Virtuosi had a strong showing in Austria last year with podiums in both races, and have a talented lineup in Zhou and Ilott who are both gunning for their first F2 victory.

Callum Ilott, UNI-Virtuosi (Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship)

ART can always be relied on to run at the front. And although the French team has an all-rookie lineup, both Lundgaard and Armstrong were race-winners in Formula 3 last year and could both be credible threats to F2’s old guard.

And then there’s Prema. Schumacher is expected to make a big step forward after a sedate debut last year, so shouldn’t be ruled out of contention just because of his 2019 results. And of course he’s partnered by reigning F3 champion Shwartzman, who has plenty of speed and race craft to make an immediate impression on his F2 debut.

As ever, it’s going to be a fascinating opening round for F2 as we wait to see how the field shakes out for the season ahead.

Marcus Armstrong, ART (Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship)

F2 Abu Dhabi: Ghiotto wins final race of 2019

Luca Ghiotto won the Formula 2 sprint race at Yas Marina, the final race of the 2019 season and Ghiotto’s last race in the series.

Ghiotto started third on the reverse grid behind polesitter Giuliano Alesi and Nicholas Latifi, his rival for second in the standings, but jumped straight to second as Latifi was bogged down by wheelspin off the line.

In the opening laps Ghiotto held back from challenging Alesi in order to preserve his tyres. Although this allowed Alesi to build up a substantial early lead, Ghiotto’s strategy came to fruition when Alesi’s tyres ran out of grip shortly after and started costing him two seconds per lap.

On lap 8 Ghiotto took the lead with an easy move on the struggling Alesi, and quickly built up a lead over the rest of the field. Once Alesi lost the position he started falling back down the field, losing second to Latifi on lap 10 and third to Callum Ilott a lap later.

Ghiotto held a comfortable lead for the remaining laps, helped by a pair of virtual safety cars on laps 17 and 19 (the first brought out by Sean Gelael and the second by Nikita Mazepin and Matevos Isaakyan coming together). By the chequered flag Ghiotto won by 7.2 seconds over Latifi.

Jerry Andre, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

Yesterday’s feature race winner Sergio Sette Camara had another strong race at Yas Marina.

He was dropped out of the points at the start by Mick Schumacher, but repassed the Prema a few laps later and gained another position when Guanyu Zhou dropped down the field to P11.

Shortly after half distance, Sette Camara made his way past the two Carlins of Louis Deletraz and Nobuharu Matsushita, who were locked in a tight battle between themselves for sixth. On lap 16 he then picked off Alesi and moved into fourth place.

His charge was hampered by the two virtual safety cars, but when racing resumed for the penultimate lap Sette Camara immediately reeled in Ilott to take third.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

Ilott finished P4 and Alesi managed to hold onto P5. Deletraz won the intra-team battle at Carlin to take P6 from Matsushita, while Jack Aitken beat Schumacher to the final point in P8.

Artem Markelov was stopped by a gearbox problem on lap 11, joining Gelael, Mazepin and Isaakyan in retirement. 2019 F2 champion Nyck de Vries was P13, for only his third finish outside the points all year.

Latifi’s second place, bolstered by the two points for fastest lap, was enough for him to secure the vice-champion position over Ghiotto by seven points. Sette Camara came close to overhauling Ghiotto for third in the standings, but ultimately fell three points short.

Aitken finished the season P5, and Matsushita managed to keep P6 ahead of Zhou by five points. Deletraz was P8, Jordan King P9, and the late Anthoine Hubert remained in the top 10 by three points over Ilott.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

F2 Abu Dhabi: Sette Camara steals feature race win from Carlin

Sergio Sette Camara overhauled the Carlins of Nobuharu Matsushita and Louis Deletraz to claim his first Formula 2 feature race win in Abu Dhabi.

The DAMS driver took pole position in qualifying yesterday, but dropped to third off the line as Deletraz jumped into the lead ahead of Callum Ilott. Matsushita held his fourth place on the grid, ahead of Nyck de Vries, Guanyu Zhou, Jack Aitken, Nicholas Latifi, Mick Schumacher and Artem Markelov.

However, that order was reshuffled entirely over the course of the next few laps, as the supersoft tyres hit the cliff on lap 3 and its runners were forced to nurse them until the pit window opened at the end of lap 6.

This rapid loss of grip saw no fewer than 20 overtakes over those few laps, with the alternate strategy runners rising to the top of the field. When the supersoft runners pitted at the end of lap 6, Matsushita assumed the race lead ahead of Zhou, Giuliano Alesi, Luca Ghiotto, Nikita Mazepin, Christian Lundgaard, Marino Sato and Maheveer Raghunathan. Deletraz and Sette Camara rejoined the track in P9 and P10.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Media

With Matsushita at the front and Deletraz leading the drivers who had made their stops, Carlin looked to have the race in hand during the middle phase.

After a brief virtual safety car period on lap 10 when Raghunathan pulled over at Turn 16, Matsushita opened up a five-second lead over Zhou. Meanwhile, Deletraz worked his way up to P5 by lap 15 and reduced the gap to his teammate enough that he would inherit the lead again when Matsushita made his own pit stop in the final laps.

However, Sette Camara managed to follow Deletraz through the field and closed in on the Carlin driver as he found himself stuck behind Alesi’s Trident.

With Deletraz’s tyres suffering from the laps spent behind Alesi, Sette Camara then overtook him for the net lead of the race on lap 28.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Media

Deletraz then continued to lose out as his tyres ran out of grip in the closing laps. Although he still had enough time over Matsushita to remain ahead when his teammate pitted, the pace deficit was such that Matsushita and Zhou were both able to pass Deletraz on their fresh supersofts for second and third in the final two laps.

Deletraz took the chequered flag in fourth, three seconds down on Zhou. Ilott finished fourth ahead of Ghiotto and Latifi, who are now separated by just eight points in their fight to be 2019 vice-champion. Alesi took eighth to secure reverse grid pole for tomorrow, and Schumacher and Mazepin rounded out the top ten.

Sette Camara’s win elevates him to third in the standings with one race remaining, and also gave DAMS enough points to clinch the 2019 Teams’ Championship over UNI-Virtuosi.

F2 Russia: De Vries takes title with feature race victory

Nyck de Vries sealed the 2019 Formula 2 championship with victory in the Sochi feature race, despite a late threat from title rival Luca Ghiotto on the alternate strategy.

De Vries needed to win the feature race today to put the title beyond any of his rivals’ reach, and he got a good launch at the start from pole position to see off any challenge from second-place starter Nicholas Latifi.

But after just a few laps, De Vries and the other drivers starting on the supersoft tyres all started to lose grip compared to the alternate strategy runners. Ghiotto, the highest alternate runner starting in fourth, used his greater grip to pick off Callum Ilott and Latifi before taking the lead from De Vries on lap 5.

De Vries and Latifi then bailed into the pits when the pit window opened on lap 6, and were followed by every other supersoft starter behind them. They rejoined the track in 10th and 11th respectively.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

At the head of the field, Ghiotto held the lead while Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin filtered up behind him in heated contention over second and third.

On lap 8 Mazepin dove down the inside of Turn 2 to take second place, but Schumacher tucked in behind the ART around Turn 3 and retook the position on the inside. However, Mazepin repeated his Turn 2 move a lap later and this time got a better exit to see off another fightback from Schumacher.

The Prema driver then came under pressure from Nobuharu Matsushita, who took advantage of a mistake by Schumacher on lap 13 to demote him to fourth.

Schumacher kept close to Matsushita in the following laps and pressured the Japanese driver into running wide on lap 16, but on lap 18 smoke started pouring from Schumacher’s engine. The problem wasn’t enough to force an immediate stop and Schumacher continued running behind Matsushita for another two laps, despite Jordan King behind them protesting on the radio that Schumacher was dropping oil dangerously across the track.

However, Schumacher finally pulled into the pits at the end of lap 19 and retired. He became the second driver out of the race, after Artem Markelov, who joined BWT Arden this weekend, pulled over on the opening lap.

Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

On lap 21 and with seven laps remaining, King became the first of the alternate runners to pit for supersofts. By this stage De Vries had risen from tenth to sixth, with Latifi still trailing just behind him.

As the rest of the alternate strategy drivers followed King’s lead into the pits, Ghiotto remained out despite running out of grip and losing time to De Vries. He finally stopped at the end of lap 24, by which point De Vries had been promoted back to second by Giuliano Alesi, Matsushita and Mazepin pitting as well.

Ghiotto rejoined the track in fourth place behind De Vries, Latifi and Carlin’s Louis Deletraz, and looked to have the pace on his fresh supersofts to reel in the leaders in the closing laps.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

But after passing Deletraz for third and setting the fastest lap on lap 26, Ghiotto then got stuck behind Latifi and was unable to pass the DAMS before his supersofts lost their advantage and ran out of grip. On the final lap a lockup for Ghiotto into Turn 13 allowed Deletraz to brake late around the outside and retake third.

In front, De Vries finished with nearly five seconds in hand over Latifi, with Deletraz a further second behind and Ghiotto ending up 7.6s off the front in fourth.

Sergio Sette Camara’s strategy saw him take fifth ahead of Matsushita, Jack Aitken and Mazepin. Third-place starter Ilott, who was the first of the frontrunners to burn through their supersofts, ended up in ninth and Guanyu Zhou finished tenth after running off-track several times throughout the race.

F2 Russia preview: title in De Vries’ hands

The 2019 Formula 2 Championship could be decided at this weekend’s penultimate round in Sochi, Russia, as points leader Nyck de Vries has his first chance to wrap up the title.

De Vries has been the runaway title leader this year, having amassed three wins, seven further podiums and four pole positions, and finishing in the points in every race bar one. This has put the ART driver on 225 points going into the penultimate round at the Sochi Autodrom, 59 clear of nearest rival Nicholas Latifi.

Mathematically speaking, there are still four drivers that can take the title away from De Vries: Latifi, Luca Ghiotto, Jack Aitken and Sergio Sette Camara. But such is the gulf between De Vries and his challengers, that if those four fail to score even in the feature race, De Vries can wrap up the title by finishing anywhere in the top five—or as low as seventh, if he also secures the four points for pole position.

But while it’s unlikely that all four of De Vries’ rivals will finish outside the top ten in Saturday’s feature race, they can’t afford to squander any opportunities this weekend as at least one of them needs to outscore De Vries by 12 points or more to take the fight down to the wire in Abu Dhabi.

Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

With the top five focusing on the championship this weekend, those drivers sitting just behind them in the standings will be hoping that preoccupation will give them a chance to steal some major results before the end of the season.

Nobuharu Matsushita currently sits sixth in the championship, out of title contention on 116 points. The Honda junior driver said earlier in the year that his goal was to finish in the top four in the standings, to earn him the necessary superlicence points to graduate to F1 with Toro Rosso.

But although he has two feature race wins to his name this year, Matsushita is still 37 points adrift of fourth-placed Aitken—perfectly achievable with 96 points still up for grabs, but a tall order given Aitken’s form this year.

And as if Matsushita’s goal of fourth place wasn’t already far enough away, he may yet drop another place in the standings this weekend with Renault junior driver Guanyu Zhou only one point behind him in eighth.

Zhou, who recently tested Renault’s 2017-spec F1 car, has been F2’s standout rookie this year, accumulating four third-place finishes and a pole position at Silverstone. However his maiden win at this level still eludes him, and he will be hungrier than ever to claim it this weekend and tee himself up as a 2020 title contender.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

BWT Arden and the Sauber Junior Team by Charouz will once again field full entries this weekend, after both entered just one car each at Monza following the tragic loss of Anthoine Hubert and injury of Juan Manuel Correa at Spa last month.

GP2 and F2 veteran Artem Markelov has been brought in to take over Arden’s second car alongside Tatiana Calderon. He will carry the number 22, as Hubert’s number 19 has been officially retired for the rest of the season.

Meanwhile, Sauber have signed Matevos Isaakyan to fill Correa’s place for the final two rounds. The 21-year-old drove for SMP in the World Endurance Championship last year, and finished runner-up in the 2017 Formula V8 3.5 series. Together with Markelov and ART’s Nikita Mazepin, Isaakyan will make it three Russians on the grid for their home event.

Last week, Correa’s family issued an update on his condition that said he had been removed from his induced coma and no longer needed an ECMO machine to assist his breathing. However, he remains in a serious condition in intensive care and is awaiting major surgery to his right leg, which is being delayed until his lungs are capable of withstanding the operation.

Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

Where will F1’s juniors be in 2019?

The 2018 driver market has been both kind and cruel to F1’s young drivers. On the one hand, Charles Leclerc, Pierre Gasly and Lando Norris have all secured dream promotions to Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren respectively.

But on the other hand, Esteban Ocon and Stoffel Vandoorne have both found their F1 careers on the rocks thanks to silly season developments, while rising stars like George Russell struggle to find any space on the grid.

As the final 2019 deals begin to fall into place, we look at which young drivers might yet find seats for Melbourne next year.

Antonio Giovinazzi

Ferrari Media

Despite becoming Italy’s first F1 driver in six years when he deputised for Pascal Wehrlein at Sauber last year, Antonio Giovinazzi has been unable to add to his two starts since being leapfrogged in Ferrari’s junior scheme by Charles Leclerc.

But with Leclerc moving from Sauber to Ferrari, Giovinazzi might finally get his shot at a full-time race seat. If Ferrari’s right to nominate one of Sauber’s drivers is to be believed, then Giovinazzi could be just an executive decision at Maranello away from joining the Swiss team’s lineup for next year.

Stoffel Vandoorne

Glenn Dunbar / McLaren Media

If Ferrari does insist on Sauber taking Giovinazzi, that will put pay to one of Stoffel Vandoorne’s best post-McLaren options.

Should Sauber be off the table, Vandoorne’s only real hope for 2019 is Toro Rosso. Honda is reportedly keen to bring Vandoorne into Toro Rosso having valued his feedback during their partnership with McLaren.

But even with Honda behind him, Vandoorne will have his work cut out convincing Helmut Marko that he has more potential than was shown in his two years with McLaren.

Pascal Wehrlein

Sauber F1 Team

Another potential obstacle in Vandoorne’s route to Toro Rosso is Pascal Wehrlein. The former Manor and Sauber driver is leaving the Mercedes family at the end of the year in a bid to open up more opportunities on the F1 grid, and is said to have a big fan in Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost.

It’s not the first time Wehrlein has been linked with Toro Rosso—he was touted as a potential mid-season replacement for Brendon Hartley earlier in the year. Those rumours may have come to nothing, but Wehrlein’s sudden appearance as a free agent in the driver market will surely give Red Bull and Toro Rosso something to consider.

Esteban Ocon

Racing Point Force India F1 Team

The details of Esteban Ocon’s plight to remain in F1 next year hardly need repeating by now. Currently his best chance of a 2019 race seat involves either Mercedes pressing customer team Williams to pick him over a more well-funded alternative, or breaking free from the Mercedes camp as Wehrlein has done and hoping that leads to a shot with Haas or Toro Rosso.

If neither avenue comes to fruition, then we’ll likely see Ocon take up a third driver role with the works Mercedes team—possibly dovetailing that with outings for the marque’s HWA-run Formula E team—before aiming to replace Valtteri Bottas in 2020.

Outside F1

Renault Sport F1 Team

If current drivers like Ocon and Vandoorne are struggling to stay in F1 next year, it’s doubtful anyone from the junior formulae will find space on the 2019 grid.

As the Formula 2 championship leader, Mercedes junior George Russell should be the best placed young driver to make the step up to F1. However, his position behind Ocon in the Mercedes hierarchy means that it’s unlikely he’ll be allowed to overtake the Frenchman and take an F1 drive at his expense.

On the other hand, F2 stalwart Artem Markelov may yet get his F1 break after five years in the feeder series. His Russian Time backing has seen him linked to Williams in recent weeks, and an FP1 run with Renault in Sochi will be the perfect chance to make his case when it counts.

Formula 3 title leader Dan Ticktum was being queued up to join Toro Rosso for next year, until the FIA pointed out that he was ineligible for a Super License. Ticktum will likely move to F2 for next year to complete his Super License, before stepping up to Toro Rosso in 2020.

David Pastanella / Red Bull Content Pool