F2 Baku: Vips wins feature race as Piastri slashes championship lead

Juri Vips took his second Formula 2 victory in a row in the Baku feature race, while Oscar Piastri finished second to close in on championship leader Guanyu Zhou.

Vips started from second place alongside Hitech teammate Liam Lawson, but a quicker launch saw the Estonian take the lead into the first corner. Lawson then dropped behind Piastri as well, and only held third place over Theo Pourchaire with an aggressive move that pushed Pourchaire onto the pit exit and almost into the wall.

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

Pourchaire’s challenge then unravelled further at Turn 3 as he was caught between Dan Ticktum on the inside and Marcus Armstrong on the outside. The three drivers made contact, which put Armstrong and Pourchaire out of the race and left Ticktum with a broken front wing and a 10 second penalty for causing the collision.

Pourchaire later confirmed after the race that he also suffered a broken wrist in the crash.

The safety car was brought out to clear the incident at Turn 3. At the restart on lap 3, Lawson immediately put the pressure on Piastri for second, and battled his way past the Prema by the third corner. However, Lawson then fell out of contention for the win as he was given a 10 second penalty for his first lap defence against Pourchaire.

When Lawson served his penalty at his pit stop, Vips then had to hold off a rapid Piastri for the lead. But Vips responded with a series of fastest laps after his stop to open up a gap on the Prema. He was then given some more breathing room as Piastri was given a 5 second penalty for an unsafe release from his own pit stop.

Piastri continued to put the pressure on Vips to try and nullify his penalty. He gained a second on the leader as Vips was held up lapping Alessio Deledda, who was given a drive-through penalty for ignoring blue flags. But despite Piastri closing to within eight tenths in the final laps, Vips was able to keep his car ahead to beat the Australian on the road as well as the timing screen.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Dan Istitene, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Piastri’s second place briefly came under threat from his own teammate Robert Shwartzman. Starting tenth, Shwartzman had made charging progress to get up to fifth before his stop on lap 8. The Russian then kept up his pace in the second stint to reach third, although he wasn’t quite able to get within the necessary five second window behind Piastri to inherit second.

Felipe Drugovich followed Shwartzman through the field to go from eleventh to fourth at the flag, ahead of fifth-placed Ralph Boschung. Lawson ended up sixth after his penalty ahead of Jehan Daruvala.

Ticktum took on medium tyres on the opening lap when he pitted to replace his front wing, and ran long on his stint to cover off the 10 second penalty he had to serve later.

Finally making his mandatory stop on lap 21, Ticktum emerged in eleventh but with a clear pace advantage on supersoft tyres. He finished the race eighth ahead of Christian Lundgaard and David Beckmann, and took the fastest lap as well.

Championship leader Zhou started the race eighth but struggled for pace throughout and eventually finished outside the points in P13. With Piastri scoring 18 points for second, the gap between them is now only five points. Shwartzman’s podium moves him into third in the standings, and Vips is now fourth after his two wins this weekend.

Formula 2 returns on 17th and 18th July in support of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

F2 Baku: Vips seizes victory in second sprint race

Red Bull junior Juri Vips took his first Formula 2 win in the second Baku sprint race, after overtaking Bent Viscaal and David Beckmann early on and surviving multiple safety car restarts.

Viscaal started from reverse grid pole ahead of Beckmann and Vips. While Viscaal got a slower start than the others, an aggressive chop to the inside of Turn 1 ensured he stayed ahead, although Beckmann was close enough to keep up the attack.

But although the leaders got away cleanly, there were several incidents in the midpack behind them. Championship leader Guanyu Zhou locked up with a stuck throttle pedal as he came into Turn 1, tagging Dan Ticktum into a spin and putting himself out the race. Just ahead of them, Theo Pourchaire ran into Ralph Boschung and lost his front wing.

Lirim Zendelli made it three cars out of the race in the opening corners and brought out the safety car, but not before Beckmann passed Viscaal for the lead at Turn 4 and Jehan Daruvala took fourth place from Marcus Armstrong.

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

At the restart on lap 3, Daruvala initially took third from Vips, but Vips recovered the position a few corners later, before passing Viscaal for second on lap 5. Another safety car was deployed on lap 6 when Roy Nissany hit Richard Verschoor at Turn 3 and put him into the wall. Vips again lost a position at the restart as Viscaal resumed second, but Vips repassed the Trident shortly after to continue pursuing Beckmann.

After losing out to Vips a second time, Viscaal then slid backwards as he was passed by both Daruvala and Armstrong. Viscaal tried to retake fourth from Armstrong on lap 8, but as they both locked up heading through Turn 4, Armstrong ended up in the wall and brought out a Virtual Safety Car.

When the race resumed on lap 9, Vips set the fastest lap and closed the gap to Beckmann. The Estonian then took the lead on lap 11 and immediately starting to pull away, as a DRS train began to form behind Beckmann.

But although Vips moved 3.5 seconds clear of Beckmann by the chequered flag, Beckmann himself was able to hold onto second place for his second podium of the season. Daruvala finished third, and Viscaal came home fourth.

Robert Shwartzman took fifth place, after making an impressive jump from tenth to sixth at the start and benefiting from Armstrong’s crash. Ticktum — taking advantage of the multiple safety cars — recovered from his lap 1 spin to finish sixth, while Liam Lawson and Oscar Piastri navigated the early carnage to round out the points after starting on the penultimate row of the grid.

L–R: David Beckmann, Juri Vips, Jehan Daruvala (Dan Mullan, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

F2 Baku: Shwartzman takes dominant win in first sprint race

Robert Shwartzman took his first win of 2021 with a dominant performance in the opening Baku sprint race, while championship leader Guanyu Zhou extended his lead with another podium.

Shwartzman started the race from reverse grid pole ahead of Jehan Daruvala and Zhou, and held first place off the line. Marcus Armstrong jumped Ralph Boschung for fourth, while Theo Pourchaire passed Dan Ticktum for sixth.

As Shwartzman lead the field away, there was big championship drama at the second corner as Felipe Drugovich ran into the back of Oscar Piastri. Piastri was then knocked into Liam Lawson on the outside, and both cars were put out of the race while Drugovich received a ten-second penalty.

Liam Lawson, Hitech (Francois Nel, Getty Images / FIA F2)

With two of his closest title rivals out of the race, Zhou then began putting pressure on second-placed Daruvala, who was struggling to keep pacing with the leading Shwartzman. As Shwartzman pulled three seconds clear of the field, Zhou took second from Daruvala on lap 9 with a DRS move into Turn 1.

But after clearing Daruvala, Zhou wasn’t able to catch up to Shwartzman either. Instead, he and Daruvala then came under attack from Ticktum, who had recovered from losing a place at the start to overhaul Pourchaire, Boschung and Armstrong for fourth by lap 8.

On lap 11 Ticktum got onto the podium with a Turn 1 move on Daruvala, and then moved up to second a lap later by passing Zhou. The Carlin driver looked to have the most pace of anyone on track and started chipping away at Shwartzman’s 4.5 second lead by setting the fastest lap.

But as Ticktum made gains, Shwartzman responded with fastest laps of his own and not only kept clear of Ticktum but eased the gap over 5 seconds by lap 19. Ticktum therefore had to settle for second place, while Zhou completed the podium for his fourth top three finish of the year.

Theo Pourchaire, ART (Dan Mullan, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Pourchaire struggled for pace early on, losing positions to Ticktum and Juri Vips, but recovered in the closing stages. After repassing Vips at the halfway stage, Pourchaire then cleared Boschung and Armstrong in the final four laps to finish fifth behind Daruvala, and snatched the fastest lap on the last lap of the race.

Boschung finished sixth for his fourth consecutive points finish of the year ahead of Armstrong and Vips, and Bent Viscaal finished tenth to start the second sprint race from pole.

F2 Baku preview: Piastri and Pourchaire on the title hunt

Formula 2 returns this weekend for the third round of the season in Azerbaijan, where championship leader Guanyu Zhou will be looking to keep his rivals at bay with another win.

Zhou took his second victory of the season in the opening Monaco sprint race two weeks ago. What’s more, Zhou moved 32 points clear of Liam Lawson after the Hitech rookie was disqualified from his own win in race two following a technical regulations breach.

But that doesn’t mean Zhou’s now in the clear. While Lawson dropped from second to fifth in the standings, Oscar Piastri moved up to replace him with a pair of second place finishes putting him 16 points behind Zhou. Meanwhile, Theo Pourchaire claimed his first F2 win in the feature race, and is now third in the standings.

Momentum is key in a series like F2, so Zhou will have to make sure he keeps his while stopping his rivals from building their own. But given what we’ve seen in the races so far, it’ll be a hard task for anyone to stop Piastri and Pourchaire once they get going.

Can Lawson bounce back?

Liam Lawson, Hitech (Dan Istitene, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

On social media, Lawson understandably said his Monaco disqualification was a “tough one to swallow”, so he’ll be gunning to return to the top step this weekend. And luckily for him, Baku could be just the track he needs.

Lawson hasn’t raced at Baku before, so theoretically he could be at a disadvantage compared with Zhou, who raced there in 2019. But at the same time, Lawson excels at keeping up a blistering pace without destroying his tyres, and that trait should be perfectly matched with Baku’s mix of blasting straights and slower technical corners.

In particular, Lawson ought to be a threat for the win in the two pit stop-free sprint races, but don’t rule him out of pulling off an audacious strategy in the feature race too.

Lundgaard looking for a reset

Christian Lundgaard, ART (David Ramos, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Christian Lundgaard came to Monaco needing to score big after a mixed opening round in Bahrain. But instead he had an engine failure while fighting for the lead of the first sprint race, retired from the second sprint race as well, and finished P12 in the feature.

While Monaco was only the second round, the new F2 format means that a quarter of the season is now gone. That means Lundgaard can’t afford any more problems in Baku if he’s to get himself back into championship contention.

But just like Lawson, Lundgaard is another driver who thrives on high-speed tracks, so Baku should be much more suited to his style. What’s more, Baku isn’t as dependant on track position as Monaco, so he’ll have more opportunities in all three races to fight through the field and challenge for the podium positions.

Red flags cause chaos in qualifying for Azerbaijan GP

The sun was shining over the Baku Street Circuit this afternoon as qualifying for the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix got underway.

Q1 began with two brief yellow flags when Hamilton and Hulkenberg both ran off-track before rejoining the circuit, with Stroll also having a brief scrape with the wall.

A red flag came out just moments after the chequered flag fell on Q1, with Williams’ driver Robert Kubica clipping the wall at turn eight and hitting the barriers. Kubica was okay, but Williams were left with a huge repair job on their hands.

The first session ended with Pierre Gasly in P1, followed by Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton. The five drivers knocked out of Q1 were Stroll, Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Russell and Kubica.

LAT Images

After a delayed start due to the recovery of Kubica’s William’s, Q2 finally got underway, but the red flag was brought out again within minutes when Charles Leclerc crashed into the barriers at turn eight – the exact same place where Kubica crashed in Q1. Leclerc was uninjured but was left understandably frustrated as he made his way back to the Ferrari garage.

After yet another half-hour delay, Q2 finished without further incident. Max Verstappen topped the time sheets followed by Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton in P3. The five drivers out in Q2 and lining up from P11-P15 on the grid for tomorrow’s race are Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo, Alex Albon, Kevin Magnussen and Pierre Gasly, who didn’t set a time in Q2 due to his penalty for missing the weigh-in yesterday in practice. He will start tomorrow’s race from the pit-lane.

Q3 was relatively uneventful with nine out of ten drivers out on track in a bid to get pole position. Despite having crashed out in Q2, Leclerc set a competitive time and will start tomorrow’s race in tenth place.

Valtteri Bottas set a sensational lap time of 1:40.495, placing him on pole position for tomorrow’s race. Hamilton completed the front row with Sebastian Vettel behind in P3 next to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. The rest of the grid consists of Perez in P5, Kvyat in P6, Lando Norris in an impressive 7th, with Giovanazzi, Raikkonen and Leclerc rounding out the top ten.

LAT Images

If today’s dramatic qualifying is anything to go by, tomorrow promises to be a very interesting race in Azerbaijan!

[Featured image – LAT Images]

Race 1001: Another cracker in Baku?

After a decidedly disappointing 1000th race at the Chinese Grand Prix, the F1 bandwagon brings us to the six kilometre-long Baku Street Circuit for the fourth ever race in Azerbaijan.

Last time out saw Lewis Hamilton take the 75th win of his career, and his second of the season. He goes into this weekend at the top of the WDC ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas, while Ferrari are yet to deliver on the massive potential that they promised after testing in February.

In fact, they have seen their rivals not only inflict significant damage to their title hopes, but make the best team start to a season since Williams in 1992 with three one-two finishes to start the season.

2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, Sunday – Wolfgang Wilhelm

If there is to be any hope for Ferrari getting back to winning ways for the first time in 2019, it is that they looked impressive in Baku last year. Sebastian Vettel had been on for victory had it not been for a safety car late on that allowed Bottas to pit and rejoin ahead of him.

A penultimate lap puncture for Bottas then handed the win to Hamilton in a race that didn’t quite equal 2017, but certainly gave us a lot of excitement and entertainment, while Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen were given a lot of resentment by their Red Bull team after their crash.

Speaking of the Austrian team, the tight and twisty corners of a street circuit plus a Honda engine which is giving them significantly more power than Renault did could put them into contention for a podium or perhaps even more if things do their way.

However, this weekend will be a telling one for Pierre Gasly. Having been heavily out-qualified and out-raced thus far by team mate Verstappen this season, a circuit like Baku is an opportunity for him to prove that he deserves the seat awarded to him by Red Bull. Knowing Red Bull’s tendency to be impatient with young drivers, he’d better find some pace quickly.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Their sister team Toro Rosso continue to enjoy a solid start to 2019, and Alex Albon is Red Bull’s next optimistic topic of conversation. He finished 10th in China, having started the race from the pit-lane following a crash in FP3 that put him out of qualifying.

The battle between Toro Rosso, Racing Point, Haas, and Renault continues to be a fun one to watch, as Haas still look for answers to their baffling lack of race pace, and Renault try to have their first clean weekend of the season after a reliability issue-strewn start to the year. There is extra incentive for Nico Hulkenberg, as he looks to prove that Baku is not a bogey track for him, having crashed out of both of the last two races.

As a street track looms, opportunity beckons for some to prove their worth to their teams, and for Ferrari to finally try and throw down the gauntlet to Mercedes in 2019.

 

[Featured image – Wolfgang Wilhelm]

Driver Ratings: Baku Does it Again!

Azerbaijan never ceases to amaze, I am unsure whether this beats 2017’s race which was amazing to watch. Lady luck was on a few driver’s side today, we’ll look in deeper detail at who had it in the rating review. As per always the rating will be done in results order.

Lewis Hamilton – 7

Lady luck was most definitely on his side today, he took longer to turn the tyres on unlike Vettel who led early on. He made some uncharacteristic mistakes especially at the first corner flat spotting both tyres he told pit wall the tyres were finished so had no choice but to change strategy and pit. The pace on the fresher yellow softs was slow but then the safety car came into play. He was gifted the win with misfortune of others.

Kimi Raikkonen – 7

Kimi being Kimi, you wouldn’t really remember he is a World Champion from 2007. He’s being used to a certain extent as a clear number two driver to Vettel. It all went wrong on Saturday with Ferrari only bringing one set of super softs he had to make one lap count, he didn’t do so. This forced him onto another strategy for Sunday. A silly collision on the first lap when he could of let off the throttle easily damaged his car, no penalty surprisingly, as others fell by the way side he took an unexpected second.

Sergio Perez – 9

Ever the opportunist, now the most successful Mexican driver in Formula 1 history and most successful at Baku in terms of podium finishes. Force India looked strong all weekend with their Mercedes grunt. Great pass on wounded Vettel along the straight. The catalyst the fourth placed team from 2017 need to push on this year?

Sebastian Vettel – 8

Go big or go home from the German, he took advantage of the safety car in Australia but this race it hindered him as we look at in a moment. A great flying lap for pole and early race from the quadruple champion. He pulled a clear lead out after the first safety car. He got a lacklustre restart from the second safety car and went for it on the brakes but with such a long straight they went cold, locked up and ran wide. He lost places rather than gaining, and dropped to P4, with then Perez getting him in the later laps due to his massive flat spot. The Ferrari was strongest all weekend, did he really have to go for it at the first attempt he had?

Carlos Sainz – 8

Flying the flag for Renault today for the first half of the race had they had the third best package. He got by the Red Bulls well and then pulled clear. When they got up to speed he kept up with them. He pitted early as started on the ultra softs and continued well to finish solidly in the points. Pretty much the reason why Renault ‘loaned’ the Spaniard from Red Bull this season.

Charles Leclerc – 9

The reason why Ferrari rate this driver highly was shown today as he scores his first World Championship points in P6. He did better than most turning on the super softs and had great pace from his impressive qualifying managing to keep Raikkonen at bay after the first restart. He would of still scored points even if others finished, he just got a few more as result. Great for the Sauber team to have points but more importantly a talent like Leclerc behind the wheel of one of their cars.

Fernando Alonso – 8

The character and grit that Alonso showed today was the reason why everyone rates him so highly. To begin with he got the McLaren round a near 2 minute lap with 2 wheels shod car into the pits with minimal damage. There was some to the floor of the car as a result but still managed to score decent points for the team. Good battle with fellow countryman Sainz today. Worth every penny to Mclaren once again.

Lance Stroll – 8

A happy hunting ground for the Canadian, after taking advantage of the 2017 race and scoring an unlikely podium, he scored his and the team’s first points this season. Great confidence booster for him and the team. He had the pace with the Mercedes power and good racecraft to finish in the points.

Stoffel Vandoorne – 6

Stoffel was off colour this weekend, but took advantage of others to finish in the low end of the points but also once again Alonso was on average a few tenths quicker than him all weekend. He continues to pile pressure on himself regardless of a points finish today, Lando Norris is looking pretty nifty in Formula 2.

Brendan Hartley – 6

The Kiwi has scored his first point in Formula 1. He had a very unorthodox way of entering the sport last year and has taken him a while to adjust, some say he still is and was the fortunate today. Bad driving on Saturday as he didn’t set a lap and his team mate nearly went flying over the top of him. He drove better on Sunday.

Marcus Ericcson – 6

Marcus was in the shadow of his team mate today, a collision on the first lap turn 2 restricted his performance. He received a penalty for the collision and was clearly at fault, no excuses. He flat spotted tyres which also ruined the strategy he was on halfway through the race. The car was good over the weekend which should give him confidence Bahrain can happen again.

Pierre Gasly – 7

He showed great racecraft on Sunday, and reactions on Saturday. He thought that he was going into the wall after coming across his team mate but managed to keep it away with lightning reactions. With yellows like his team mate he didn’t set a representitve lap time. The race was different all be it he has nothing to show from it, he managed to get up as high as P7 in the race after carving through the field’s destruction on lap 1. An out and out racer, battled with former rival Leclerc which was good to see. He was involved in a collision with Magnussen which prevented the attack for points as he had the pace.

Kevin Magnussen – 6

K-Mag was in the wars on Sunday after a tough qualifying. A short run to the 90 degree corners and being in the middle of the pack increases chances of collisions. He collided with Ericcson at turn 2 which ended his chance of a good finish at that stage. A further collision with Gasly after the second restart then ended his chance of points. Later reprimanded with 2 penalty points, 12 is the amount before a ban, at this current time he is on 8 in the 12 month period. Most dangerous driver Gasly has ever raced according to the Frenchman. An off colour performance to such a great start to the season.

Valterri Bottas – 8

He was on for a win with Mercedes but you could say poor marshalling and debris still scattered over the track resulted in his dramatic retirement. It was through no fault of his own. He managed the gap all race and was consistent, and midway was fastest driver. He made no mistakes throughout. Due to staying out longest he used the safety car to continue to lead. He then restarted well and pulled away but ran over debris which caused a dramatic puncture at around 180mph, forcing him to retire with only a handful of laps remaining. Great weekend but nothing to show for it, joy for one of the Silver Arrows but despair for the other.

Romain Grosjean – 5

Grosjean seemed to be in 2017 mood, very emotional and spins aplenty with one really silly. He was hindered by a gearbox problem in qualifying which resulted him starting last. He kept his nose clean driving through the mess and was on for good points. Every driver was struggling for tyre temperature. He tried to warm the tyres up behind the second safety car by weaving and too much the Frenchman hit the wall at slow speed, throwing away first points of the season ironically at the time putting Magnussen into the points. Bad day at the office.

Max Verstappen – 5

His fault or not but Max has now collided with other drivers 3 times in 4 races, beginning to remind me of the great Pastor Maldonado. He was playing with fire all race long with his team mate, great spacial awareness but sometimes a bit too aggressive with squeezes and double direction changes defending. He couldn’t get the red walled super soft tyre switched on early in the race resulting in both Renault passing him. Battery issues may of slowed his pace but the issue between team mates was brewing all race long. Once more a retirement and hefty bill for Red Bull to pay.

Daniel Ricciardo – 5

The high of Shanghai two weeks ago to the despair of Baku. He struggled to get by his team mate as the over powered DRS with gusty winds helped him dramatically. Various occasions the driver supposedly best on the brakes had his car side by side with his team mate but only pulled it off a few laps prior to the pit stop. He had better pace than Max at a track he did great on last year. Multiple times he was on the outside centimetres from the wall and multiple lock ups. He lost out to the overcut but with the warmer rubber from far back he tried to get by but went straight into the back of his team mate. The worst thing you can do in motorsport! Red Bull blame both drivers which you can understand, but much like Vettel did he have to go for it? Plenty of laps were remaining. There is talk of Ricciardo going to Ferrari with contracts ending for various drivers, not the first time he colliding with his team mate maybe sway his mind to leave the Austrian outfit?

Nico Hulkenburg – 5

With how the race played out, Nico could of finally got on the podium! He still waits to taste the champagne after being close on multiple occasions. He lost the car on his own accord after getting by the poor paced Red Bulls. Renault looked like the fourth best car. He needs to keep concentration as with more mental races and no mistakes from the German, he could be that podium soon.

Esteban Ocon – 7

A passenger in his crash with Raikkonen, surprised that the Ferrari driver didn’t receive a penalty. Strong qualifying and pace but nothing he could do on his short Sunday afternoon.

Sergey Sirotkin – 7

Best weekend for the Russian rookie, albeit the mistake into the wall in third practice. Qualified strongly and was unfortunate to be in the sandwich between drivers on the first lap which ended his race early. Extremely harsh that he has received a 3 place grid penalty for the next race in Spain.

Summary

So Hamilton got his win in Baku through some strong luck, whilst Vettel through his decision to go big at the restart lost points. Hamilton now leads the Championship for the first time this year. 

My driver of the day is a very tough decision, my toughest yet this year, and it’ll go to Sergio Perez for his podium finish. It just shades Charles Leclerc’s impressive points finish. Red Bull really need to look at the current situation, once more through collisions they have cars not finishing. 

Cars tend to change quite dramatically at Barcelona and that is where the Formula 1 circus is next at. Will Red Bull kiss and make up or will the fire get bigger? Mclaren say big upgrade for Spain, will it work and push them forward? What upgrades will Mercedes have in store to catch up to Ferrari? We have to wait 2 weeks to find out.

?image courtesy of Sahara Force India. Fetured image courtesy of RedBull Content pool