F2 Mugello preview: Ferrari juniors on top in Ferrari’s backyard

Formula 2 returns this weekend for round nine of the championship, in support of the Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello.

Mugello is set to be a special weekend for F1, being Ferrari’s record 1,000th Grand Prix and taking place at a circuit they own. But while the Scuderia is currently suffering through one of its worst seasons in F1 to date, its academy drivers Callum Ilott, Mick Schumacher and Robert Shwartzman will give them plenty to be proud of as they enter the weekend first, second and third in the F2 championship respectively.

Callum Ilott, UNI-Virtuosi (Photo by Bryn Lennon / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Monza proved a particularly happy hunting ground for the Ferrari academy, with Schumacher taking his first win and eighth podium of the season in the two races. But it was Ilott who came away with a seven-point lead in the standings, having taken pole for the feature race and inheriting the sprint race win from the disqualified Dan Ticktum.

Trying to predict whether they’ll have the same form at Mugello is tricky. Shwartzman and Schumacher both have competitive experience of the track, but nothing more recent than their last Italian F4 campaigns in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

However, the Prema team they drive for has spent many a race weekend at the circuit over the years. They’ll have plenty of knowledge to draw on, and arguably have the best chance of giving their drivers a winning car.

And speaking of winning cars, Schumacher will have an opportunity this weekend to drive one of the very best, as he will take his father’s Ferrari F2004 around the track in a very special demonstration run.

Mick Schumacher driving the Ferrari F2004 at Hockenheim in 2019 (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

As well as Schumacher and Shwartzman, five other drivers on the current F2 grid have experience of Mugello: Guanyu Zhou, Luca Ghiotto, Marcus Armstrong, Marino Sato, and DAMS stand-in Juri Vips.

Armstrong and Vips have the most recent experience, having raced there in the 2017 Italian F4 championship. Both had strong results that year: across the two rounds raced at Mugello, the two drivers collected five poles, three wins and five further podiums between them.

Of course, results in 2017 Italian F4 don’t guarantee results in 2020 F2. But Armstrong and Vips will both be hoping their prior knowledge of the trick will give them some edge at least over their rivals.

After a strong start to the year with two podiums at the Red Bull Ring, Armstrong has yet to finish in the points again since. As another one of Ferrari’s juniors, he needs to get back to the kind of form he showed in F3 last year if he wants the FDA’s focus for a 2021 F2 title campaign. Armstrong still has four rounds of the season left to recover from his 14th position in the standings, and there’s no better place for him to start than on Ferrari’s home turf.

Marcus Armstrong, ART (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

As for Vips, Mugello may mark his final opportunity to score points in F2 this year as Sean Gelael is currently marked to return to DAMS from Sochi onwards.

Vips has enjoyed an impressive debut so far, having challenged for points in each of the four races he’s contested despite being parachuted into the series with little to no preparation.

However, the Estonian must be frustrated that for all his efforts, he’s finished just on the wrong side of the top ten each time. In fact, his average finishing position from the last two rounds is 10.5, so it’s not as if Vips needs a gargantuan upshift in form to break into the points.

It’s not yet been announced whether Vips is targeting a full-time F2 campaign next year, or if he will try to contest Super Formula again instead. But whichever route Red Bull chose for him, capping off his first run in F2 with a couple of points will be an excellent way to make the most of what’s been a challenging year for him.

Juri Vips, DAMS (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

F2 Monza: Ilott inherits sprint race win after Ticktum disqualified

Dan Ticktum has been disqualified from the Monza sprint race after DAMS were unable to provide the required fuel sample from his car, with Callum Ilott inheriting the win.

Ticktum pulled over after taking the chequered flag with concerns that he wouldn’t have enough fuel to make it back to parc-ferme and still provide the 0.08kg of fuel required by the FIA scrutineers. However, when a sample was taken Ticktum’s DAMS only had 0.05kg available.

Ilott and ART’s Christian Lundgaard are now joined by Mick Schumacher on the podium, and Nikita Mazepin moves into eighth place to take the final point.

By inheriting the victory, Ilott’s championship lead is increased from five to six points over Schumacher, and nine points over Robert Shwartzman.

F2 Monza: Ticktum takes comfortable sprint race win

Dan Ticktum cruised to a second F2 win of the season in the Monza sprint race, while yesterday’s feature race winner Mick Schumacher made more progress in his title fight with Callum Ilott and Robert Shwartzman.

Ticktum got into the lead at the start, moving up from second on the grid to pass reverse polesitter Louis Deletraz. Mick Schumacher also got a good start with moves on Luca Ghiotto, Guanyu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard to move from eighth into fifth by the end of the opening lap.

Once in the lead, Ticktum barely had to look back. By the time DRS was enabled he’d already broken more than a second clear of Deletraz, as the Charouz driver fell into the clutches of Ilott. Just after half distance Ilott passed Deletraz into Turn 1, taking second with Ticktum three seconds further up the road.

Callum Ilott, UNI-Virtuosi (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

Deletraz then began slipping back and came under pressure from Lundgaard. The ART had got up into fourth after Schumacher ran wide on lap 8 and Zhou and Yuki Tsunoda both retired with engine problems. On lap 14, Lundgaard then passed Deletraz to get onto the podium for the second time in the Monza weekend.

There was a brief pause to the race on lap 17 when Felipe Drugovich was tipped into a spin at Rettifilo and his beached car warranted a virtual safety car. At the restart two laps later Lundgaard pounced on Ilott coming out of the Parabolica, but Ilott was able to hold the Dane off under braking for Rettifilo and keep second place.

Lundgaard wasn’t close enough to try another move in the final laps and remained third behind Ilott, who crossed the line almost four seconds adrift of race winner Ticktum.

Christian Lundgaard, ART (Bryn Lennon / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Deletraz eventually dropped to fifth, with Schumacher passing him on lap 20 despite the Prema nursing a huge flat spot since the lap 8 lockup that put him behind Lundgaard. Deletraz came under pressure from the second Prema of Shwartzman before the flag, but managed to keep his Charouz ahead.

Jehan Daruvala finished behind Shwartzman in seventh, and Jack Aitken took the final point in eighth place.

Ilott’s second place means he has regained the championship lead from Shwartzman, while Schumacher moves ahead of the Russian into second. Five points separate Ilott and Schumacher, with just three points between the two Premas.

Full race result:

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

F2 Monza: Schumacher wins after Ilott stalls in pits

Mick Schumacher took his first win of 2020 in the F2 feature race at Monza after early race leader Callum Ilott stalled in the pits.

Schumacher got a lightning start from seventh on the grid, jumping all the way up to second behind polesitter Ilott on the run to the first corner. Christian Lundgaard also got away well by passing Luca Ghiotto and Yuki Tsunoda to move into third.

The gap between Ilott and Schumacher stayed steady at half a second in the opening laps, before Ilott was able to open it up to just over a second on lap 7. By lap 10 Ilott had extended the gap further to almost two seconds before he made his pit stop.

But as Ilott pulled away from his box he stalled the car, and by the time UNI-Virtuosi got it going again Ilott had fallen to 21st. As well as losing the lead to Schumacher, Ilott also found himself two places behind title rival Robert Shwartzman, who had already made his own stop.

Callum Ilott, UNI-Virtuosi (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

However, Ilott found a fresh turn of pace in his second stint. Setting successive fastest laps in his first few tours out of the pits, Ilott made his way through the lower midfield and alternate strategy drivers still yet to stop.

By lap 19 Ilott was back in the points as the final alternate strategy runners came into the pits, and seemed to have more speed than the other drivers on the same strategy ahead of him. By lap 23 he had overhauled Shwartzman for sixth, before getting into the top five with a pass on Louis Deletraz a lap later.

By this stage Schumacher was 11 seconds up the road in first, with eight laps left to run. But after catching and running close to Tsunoda in fourth, Ilott’s charge was halted as he struggled to find a way past the Carlin. Over the next few laps Ilott’s pace began to drop as he stayed stuck behind Tsunoda, which allowed Schumacher to get further ahead and Ilott’s teammate Guanyu Zhou to catch and pass Ilott three laps from the end.

Ilott eventually crossed the line in sixth place while Schumacher cruised to victory with more than three seconds back to second place. But despite the disappointment of losing the win, Ilott’s sixth place and points for pole means he is now level on points with Shwartzman in the championship.

Luca Ghiotto, Hitech (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Schumacher’s unchallenged run to the flag was helped by the fierce battle over second and third behind him. After scrapping into the first corner, Lundgaard, Tsunoda and Ghiotto continued to fight over the podium positions through the rest of the race.

Tsunoda was quick to recover from losing out to Lundgaard and Ghiotto at the start, passing Ghiotto later on the opening lap and Lundgaard on lap 5. But the trio found themselves together again at the end of that lap, going wheel to wheel through Parabolica and down the straight. Lundgaard eventually won out into Turn 1, but not before the three made contact in the braking zone, sending Ghiotto down the escape road and dropping him back to fifth.

On lap 8 Lundgaard became the first of the trio to pit as ART sought the undercut advantage. The Dane kept ahead after the others made their stops, although Ghiotto was able to jump Tsunoda on strategy and emerged as the fastest on fresh tyres late in the race. On lap 25 Ghiotto set the fastest lap, before he caught and passed Lundgaard for second on lap 28.

Lundgaard fought back in the final laps but had to settle for third, while Tsunoda finished fourth ahead of Zhou, Ilott and Dan Ticktum. Deletraz took eighth place to deny Shwartzman in ninth reverse grid pole for tomorrow, and Jehan Daruvala took the final point in tenth.

Christian Lundgaard, ART (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

With Ilott and Shwartzman both finishing further down the order, Schumacher’s feature race win has elevated him into the title hunt with them, as he moves into third in the standings with only three points separating him from his fellow Ferrari juniors.

Full race result:

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

F2 Monza preview: momentum back with Shwartzman and Prema

This weekend Formula 2 takes to Italy’s legendary Monza for round eighth of the 2020 championship.

Robert Shwartzman heads to the Temple of Speed back in control of the title fight, courtesy of his sprint race win at Spa last week. After a nightmare triple header at Silverstone and Barcelona which yielded only two points finishes, his third win of the season will have been a great relief as the championship heads into its home stretch.

Shwartzman will also be very happy to carry that momentum into Monza, as he took a commanding win here last year in the F3 feature race to eliminate all but one of his rivals from the title hunt. Returning with the same Prema team that took him to the top step last year, Shwartzman has plenty of reasons for confidence this weekend.

Mick Schumacher, Prema (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

And it’s not just because of Shwartzman that Prema are one of the favourites this weekend. Off the back of a superb double podium at Spa, Mick Schumacher has the enviable honour of the most podium finishes of anyone so far this season.

The German may still be chasing his first win of the season, but he looks to be on a roll at least with consistent points and top three finishes. In fact, Schumacher has outscored everybody but Yuki Tsunoda over the last six races, and could now be considered an outside bet for the championship if he can build on these results over the final five rounds.

It’s worth noting that Schumacher’s season is starting to resemble his run to the 2018 European F3 title. After a patchy start to the campaign with only two podiums in the opening 12 races, he switched things on at the halfway point and went on to dominate the rest of the year.

While it won’t be easy to do the same in F2, keep an eye on him nonetheless as a potential dark horse in this second half of the season.

Callum Ilott, UNI-Virtuosi (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

Callum Ilott will be hoping to disrupt Prema’s momentum at Monza. Since winning the second Silverstone feature race from pole, Ilott’s results have dipped to a best finish of fifth in Spain, while a costly retirement at Spa last weekend handed the title lead back to Shwartzman.

Ilott has a good history with Monza. He’s been on the podium and won there in European F3 and GP3, and last year it was where he took his first F2 pole while driving for the Charouz-run Sauber Junior Team.

Another pole this weekend would be a great first step towards taking back the title lead from Shwartzman. And as the driver with the most pole positions so far this season, Ilott’s got more than enough form to do so.

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 Spa: Tsunoda wins feature race after Mazepin penalty

Red Bull junior Yuki Tsunoda took victory in the Spa feature race after on-track winner Nikita Mazepin was penalised for forcing Tsunoda off track.

Tsunoda got a near-perfect launch from pole position to head off the pack into the first corner, while Nobuharu Matsushita jumped Mazepin for second. Behind them, Mick Schumacher got a good start from seventh on the grid to jump up to fourth, while title protagonist Robert Shwartzman dropped from fourth down into the pack.

At the end of the first lap Tsunoda had already opened up a second over Matsushita, as Mazepin closed back in on the MP Motorsport to retake second. Mazepin took the position back on lap 3 while setting the fastest lap of the race, by which point Tsunoda had pulled almost three seconds clear of the pair.

After losing second to Mazepin, Matsushita then started to drop back through the field. Schumacher demoted him to third at the end of lap 3, then on the following lap Matsushita was passed by Louis Deletraz, Shwartzman and Guanyu Zhou.

At Blanchimont Matsushita was set to lose another position as teammate Felipe Drugovich drew level around the outside. But the two made contact instead, breaking Drugovich’s front wing and sending Matsushita into the wall with a puncture, resulting in the virtual safety car being deployed.

Nobuharu Matsushita, MP Motorsport (Lars Baron / Getty Images)

The virtual safety car was withdrawn on lap 6, with Mazepin being quicker than Tsunoda on the restart to gain six tenths on the Carlin. Tsunoda responded over the following laps as Mazepin’s soft tyres started to fade, and the gap returned to over two seconds by the time Mazepin made his pit stop on lap 9.

Tsunoda stayed out a lap longer than Mazepin, but when he came into the pits his own stop was slow and he rejoined the track behind the Russian in 14th place. However, race control then announced Mazepin was under investigation for an unsafe release, as he came close to hitting several of Trident’s pit crew on leaving his box.

With the Mazepin incident to be decided after the race, Tsunoda stuck close to the back of the Hitech as they made their progress through the alternative strategy runners ahead of them. By lap 16 they were back up to the front of the field with a second between them, which Tsunoda then reduced to half a second by lap 19.

Over the next few laps Tsunoda made two moves for the lead around the outside going into Turn 5, but Mazepin headed both off and Tsunoda ran wide as he bailed out. On the penultimate lap Tsunoda tried the move a third time and once again ran wide as Mazepin defended the position. Unable to get close enough to try another pass, Tsunoda ended up crossing the line in second behind Mazepin.

However, shortly after the chequered flag Mazepin was given a five-second time penalty for forcing Tsunoda off track at Turn 5, reversing their positions and giving Tsunoda his second win of the season.

Nikita Mazepin, Hitech (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

Schumacher completed the podium in third, the German having a relatively quiet race with five seconds separating him from fourth-placed Deletraz. Shwartzman managed to recover to fifth after his poor first lap, and Dan Ticktum finished sixth for DAMS as the highest alternate strategy driver.

Zhou briefly led the race on the same strategy as Ticktum, but the Chinese driver stayed out later than anyone and wasn’t able to make the places back after his stop, coming home in seventh.

Roy Nissany also ran the alternate strategy and was second behind Zhou for a while, but was likewise unable to carve back through the field on the soft tyres later. However he did manage to pass Luca Ghiotto and Callum Ilott to take reverse grid pole for tomorrow. Ghiotto and Ilott took the final points positions, just keeping DAMS stand-in Juri Vips out of the top ten on his F2 debut.

Post-race penalties:

Mazepin has been given a five-place grid drop for the Monza feature race for “potentially dangerous and unsportsmanlike conduct”, after the stewards judged him to have entered parc-ferme too fast.

Hitech were reprimanded for Mazepin’s pit stop, which was investigated as an unsafe release, while Trident have been fined for their mechanics standing too far forward in the pitlane and thus being in Mazepin’s path.

Matsushita has been given a three-place grid drop for the sprint race for causing his collision with Drugovich on lap 3. Drugovich himself, who finished in P20, was disqualified for making his mandatory pit stop on the final lap, which is a breach of the sporting regulations.

Finally, Marcus Armstrong was given a five-second penalty for overtaking Jack Aitken off-track and drops from P13 to P15.

Full race result:

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

Ranking the F1 chances of F2’s top five hopefuls

This year the Formula 2 grid is full of drivers from F1 junior academies, with the top spots in the standings locked out by proteges from Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault.

With plenty of 2021 F1 seats still up for grabs, we’re taking a look at the chances of these young hopefuls stepping up to the top tier next season.

Yuki Tsunoda, Carlin (Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

1. Yuki Tsunoda

Of all the young academy drivers on the 2020 F2 grid, joint Red Bull/ Honda talent Yuki Tsunoda looks the most likely to join F1 next year. Not only is he already racking up wins, poles and podiums in an impressive debut season, but Alpha Tauri boss Franz Tost has said it’s only a matter of time before Tsunoda is promoted to the team.

At almost 40 points adrift of the championship leader Callum Ilott, Tsunoda is an outside contender for the F2 title at best. But given Red Bull’s comments, so long as he can remain within the top four of the standings to secure the necessary super licence points, it seems almost a sure bet that Tsunoda will be a 2021 Alpha Tauri driver.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

2. Robert Shwartzman

If Tsunoda is the most likely F2 driver to get an F1 promotion for next year, then Ferrari protege Robert Shwartzman isn’t far behind. After a dominant run to last year’s F3 title, Shwartzman immediately staked his claim to this year’s F2 crown with two wins early in the campaign.

Shwartzman may have lost the F2 lead to fellow Ferrari junior Callum Ilott, but that doesn’t seem to have harmed the Russian’s status as the FDA’s golden boy. And as well as his formidable talent, Shwartzman comes with additional backing from SMP Racing, which would be an excellent sweetener for Alfa Romeo should he be lined up to replace Antonio Giovinazzi.

Mick Schumacher, Prema (Courtesy of Ferrari Media)

3. Mick Schumacher

Ahead of the season Mick Schumacher was touted as one of the favourites for the F2 title. But although he’s scored more points and podiums than he did in his 2019 debut, a mix of incidents and mistakes means Schumacher’s campaign is still without a win.

However, Schumacher’s chances of an F1 promotion still remain relatively high for two reasons. Firstly, because there’s still half the F2 season left to run, meaning he has another 12 races to break his winless run and move up from fifth in the standings. And secondly, because if he can get in a position to earn his super licence, there’s every chance Ferrari will want to take the opportunity at getting a Schumacher back into F1 as soon as possible.

Callum Ilott, UNI-Virtuosi (Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

4. Callum Ilott

It may seem odd or even unfair putting Callum Ilott behind his fellow FDA members Shwartzman and Schumacher, considering he is currently leading both in the F2 standings and should therefore be Ferrari’s F1 priority. But although Ilott’s every bit their match on track, Shwartzman and Schumacher both have a certain extra “superstar” quality that has left Ilott somewhat in their shade.

However, being F2 champion brings plenty of its own superstar quality. If Ilott can see off Shwartzman in the second half of the season and take the crown himself, he’ll give Ferrari no choice but to take notice of him instead.

Christian Lundgaard, ART (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

5. Christian Lundgaard

As F2 debuts go, Christian Lundgaard’s has been excellent so far. With a win and two further podiums to his name, the Renault junior has not just performed well on his step up from F3, but is currently third in the championship behind Ilott and Shwartzman.

However, even if Lundgaard were to march forward in the rest of the year and snatch the F2 title, the chances of it leading to an F1 seat are very slim at best. Renault have none available, having signed Fernando Alonso to partner Esteban Ocon for the next two years. And with no customer team to place him at either, Lundgaard’s F1 hopes probably depend on waiting for a gap at the works team to open up in 2022.

F2 Spa preview: Red Bull juniors aiming to impress in Belgium

After a week off, Formula 2 returns this weekend for the start of another triple header at Spa-Francorchamps, in support of the F1 Belgian Grand Prix.

One driver looking for a big result when track action begins is Yuki Tsunoda. After taking his first F2 win at the second Silverstone round, Tsunoda has been touted by Alpha Tauri boss Franz Tost as a potential driver for the team next year.

At the moment Tsunoda is doing everything he needs to get his F1 shot, as his fourth place in the standings will earn him enough points for a 2021 super licence. But in a series like F2, the championship order can change from weekend to weekend, so Tsunoda can’t afford to rest easy now.

With only five points between him and Christian Lundgaard ahead, another top three result in either race this weekend would do much to secure Tsunoda’s bid for a 2021 F1 drive.

But Tsunoda won’t be the only one aiming to impress Tost this weekend. As well as his Carlin teammate Jehan Daruvala, the Red Bull junior team will also be represented by Juri Vips. The Estonian is racing for DAMS for the next three rounds, standing in for Sean Gelael as he recovers from the back injury he suffered in Spain.

DAMS have said they’re treating Spa as a test weekend for Vips rather than a proper race outing, given that he’s jumping into F2 machinery for the first time. But with Vips’ pedigree and results from F3 last year, he should be able to get up to speed very quickly and may give some of the grid’s more established drivers something to worry about before the weekend’s through.

Callum Ilott, UNI-Virtuosi (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

While these two Red Bull juniors will be battling for their F1 shot, Ferrari juniors Callum Ilott and Robert Shwartzman will be picking up where they left off in their tight duel for the F2 title.

As things stand Ilott is 18 points ahead of his rival, following a clean weekend in Barcelona while Shwartzman again missed out on points in the sprint race. Where Shwartzman had started off the season in dominant form, Ilott has been the more consistent driver since, picking up 58 points to Shwartzman’s 16 over the second triple header starting at Silverstone.

After a week off, Shwartzman will be hoping to regroup in Spa, where he took a commanding double podium in F3 last year. Two consistent points finishes after his barren run in the last three rounds would do a lot to restore his campaign. But with Ilott building a gap Shwartzman realistically needs to be targeting the podium again this weekend if he’s to regain the lead before it’s too late.

But although there’s plenty to talk about on-track this weekend, F2’s return to Spa is also about remembering the tragic loss of Anthoine Hubert in last year’s feature race, and the serious injuries suffered by Juan Manuel Correa in the same incident.

Ahead of this year’s race F2 has announced that it will permanently retire Hubert’s number 19 from the championship, which was not assigned to any car this year. A minute of silence will also be held before Saturday’s feature race, as well as Sunday’s F1 Grand Prix, to remember Hubert.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

F2 Spain preview: Ferrari junior royale in Barcelona

Formula 2 returns this weekend for round 6 of the championship at Spain’s Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

The last two rounds at the British and 70th Anniversary Grands Prix set up a battle royale for the title between Ferrari academy drivers Callum Ilott and Robert Shwartzman. Shwartzman had looked to be building up to a dominant run at the title coming into the Silverstone double header, as the only repeat winner of the season thus far and with an 18-point lead over Ilott in the standings.

But over the four races that followed, Shwartzman’s campaign was blighted by incidents and poor qualifying performances, scoring only four points with eighth place in the second feature race, and losing victory in the second sprint race after a collision with Mick Schumacher.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

Meanwhile, Ilott scored well in three of the four races and took his second pole and win of the season in the second feature race. As a result, he’s regained the lead of the championship with a 21-point buffer back to Shwartzman.

Coming into Spain, Shwartzman will get a boost of confidence from his previous record at the circuit, as in Formula 3 last year he took pole position and victory in Barcelona to set up his title challenge. However, with such a difference between him and Ilott he’ll need a remarkable bounce back to form, not to mention trouble for Ilott, to recover that deficit.

But Ilott has his own reasons to be confident about heading to Barcelona. The Briton took his first F2 podium in Spain last year, with third in the sprint race. On top of that, his UNI-Virtuosi team were in contention for victory in both races, with Luca Ghiotto and Guanyu Zhou both on the podium across the weekend and Ghiotto taking pole for the feature race.

Christian Lundgaard, ART (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

And it’s not just Ilott that Shwartzman needs to catch this weekend. The Russian’s disastrous run at Silverstone has also allowed Christian Lundgaard to jump him for second in the standings. There are only two points between Shwartzman and Lundgaard, but as Ilott showed last weekend a small gap can grow rapidly in F2.

What’s more, Lundgaard also has great form in Barcelona, as he actually beat Shwartzman on the road in last year’s F3 feature race but lost the win to a five-second penalty for a virtual safety car infringement. Knowing he can go well on this track, Lundgaard will be one to watch this weekend as he aims to remind Ilott and Shwartzman that the title fight isn’t a two-horse race yet.

And not far behind Shwartzman is his countryman Nikita Mazepin, who comes to Spain on a run of seven consecutive points finishes—the longest of anyone so far this year. After taking his maiden win at the first Silverstone round, Mazepin is in the ascendency, and is only another strong weekend away from closing the 14-point gap to Shwartzman.