F2 Bahrain preview: title in Schumacher’s grasp

Formula 2 returns to the track this weekend at the Bahrain International Circuit for the penultimate round of the 2020 championship.

It’s been a while since September 27th, when we last saw F2 action at the Sochi Autodrom. Guanyu Zhou left Russia an F2 winner at last, having taken victory from Nikita Mazepin in the curtailed sprint race, but it was championship leader Mick Schumacher who made the most of the weekend.

After taking his second win of the season in the feature race, Schumacher came back through the field on Sunday to finish third on the sprint race podium as well. As a result, Schumacher comes to Bahrain with a healthy 22-point lead over his nearest rival Callum Ilott.

In fact, Schumacher could wrap up the title this weekend, perhaps even as early as the feature race. With two rounds remaining, Schumacher would have to outscore Callum Ilott by 26 points across the weekend—a feature race win with either pole or the fastest lap would do it.

But although Schumacher has one hand on the championship trophy, the margin between him and Ilott is still close enough that it wouldn’t take much for the tables to turn. All Ilott needs is a pair of strong results and some bad luck for Schumacher, and we could be looking at a very different picture for next weekend’s Sakhir finale.

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

As ever in F2, there plenty more tight championship battles right through the field than just the one at the front.

Yuki Tsunoda is currently third in the championship but only seven points separate him from Mazepin in sixth. With Red Bull open about wanting Tsunoda to race in F1 with AlphaTauri next year, he’ll be wanting to open that gap a little more to make sure he scores the necessary super licence points.

Tsunoda’s Carlin team didn’t have the most competitive outing in Bahrain last year, with Louis Deletraz’s pair of fifth places their best result. However, the British team does know how to prepare a good car for the circuit, as was seen by Lando Norris and Sergio Sette Camara scoring a win and two podiums respectively in 2018.

Further back again, Felipe Drugovich will be one to keep an eye on this weekend. The Brazilian has been one of the surprise stars of the season, taking two sprint race wins and a pole at Silverstone, and he’ll be well aware that any more great results this weekend will be a big help as he looks for a 2021 seat further up the grid.

Finally, Bahrain will see Formula 3 driver Theo Pourchaire make his F2 debut with HWA. Pourchaire, who finished runner-up in this year’s F3 championship, will take over the #17 HWA from Jake Hughes, who raced at the last round in Sochi following Giuliano Alesis’s mid-season switch to MP Motorsport.

Alesi will continue with MP Motorsport this weekend, despite reports earlier this month that he was in danger of losing his seat and backing from the Ferrari Driver Academy.

Theo Pourchaire, ART F3 (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

F3 2020 season review

The 2020 FIA Formula 3 season ended with a bang last weekend at Mugello. ART’s Theo Pourchaire came within touching distance of flipping the championship on its head after title contender Logan Sargeant crashed out on the opening lap, but ultimately it was Prema’s Oscar Piastri who came through to be crowned the 2020 drivers’ champion.

With all the prizes now handed out, it’s time to look back on what will go down as a memorable season—not just for the circumstances surrounding it, but for the brilliant racing seen all year long.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Courtesy of FIA Formula 3 media)

The fight at the top

Obviously, any review of this year’s F3 season has to start with its champion Oscar Piastri and his rivals for the crown.

From his win in the first race of the season, there was little doubt that Piastri would be one of the major players in the title battle right through to the end. Although it took him until the Barcelona sprint race to win again, Piastri’s podiums and strong points finishes kept him in the championship lead right up until round five at Silverstone, when Logan Sargeant’s first F3 win set up a close title fight between the two Premas.

His season wasn’t perfect. Considering he won the title, it’s surprising that Piastri did so with fewer wins than Frederik Vesti or Liam Lawson, and fewer podiums than Theo Pourchaire. More surprisingly, Piastri scored no pole positions at all this year—by comparison, Sargeant took three and qualified ahead of Piastri in almost every round.

All of which must make the final result of the 2020 season tough to swallow for the four drivers above. Despite all outperforming Piastri by one metric or another, the Australian’s consistency meant he was still able to come out on top.

But hopefully, they’ll all come away from the season emboldened by their performances, and the knowledge that the championship could have so easily swung in any of their directions. Pourchaire, Sargeant, Vesti and Lawson would all have been just as deserving a champion as Piastri, and will surely be contenders once again if they stay in F3 next year.

Alex Peroni, Campos (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Who else impressed?

While much of the focus this year was on the battle for the championship, there were still plenty more standout performances from drivers up and down the grid.

Alex Peroni was one such. His 2019 F3 debut didn’t start particularly strongly with only two lower points finishes, but it was his vertebrae fractures sustained at Monza that defined it. But Peroni came back a different driver in 2020, taking his maiden podium in the first round with two more to follow at Silverstone and Barcelona, and scoring all of Campos’ 64 points.

Another impressive podium challenger was ART’s Aleksandr Smolyar. While the Russian was a long way off teammate Pourchaire’s results, he showed serious pace all season with a pole position at the Hungaroring and a win at Silverstone, although the latter was taken away by a post-race penalty.

Smolyar’s results wobbled a little after his lost win, but two fourth places at Spa and a podium he could keep at Monza put him back on track and will hopefully set up an even stronger sophomore year in 2021.

Mention should also be made of Ben Barnicoat, Michael Belov and Pierre-Louis Chovet, who all managed to score points acting as last-minute stand-ins for Carlin, Charouz and Hitech respectively. No easy feat by any means, given the steep learning curve of Formula 3.

Jack Doohan, HWA (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

Who needs to improve?

As for drivers who’ll need to step up their game if they return to F3 next year, the easy answer is the likes of Cameron Das, Sophia Floersch, Lukas Dunner and Alessio Deledda. Each of these stood out for the unfortunate reason that they scored no points all season, while their respective teammates were able to take frequent points and occasional podiums.

Another driver with the same distinction is Jack Doohan, who finished 26th in the championship while his HWA teammate Jake Hughes took two wins and two further podiums to finish 7th. Doohan is one of a trio of Red Bull juniors along with Dennis Hauger and Igor Fraga who will need to find new form next year after being significantly overshadowed by Lawson this year.

And speaking of F1 junior drivers, there’s also Ferrari’s Enzo Fittipaldi. The Brazilian showed some good speed at certain races this year, and particularly found his form at Mugello where he finished fifth and fourth in the two races. But over the whole season Fittipaldi only finished in the points six times in 18 races.

With highly-rated Ferrari juniors like Gianluca Petecof and Arthur Leclerc potentially targeting F3 next year, Fittipaldi will need to flip this ratio around to avoid falling behind them in the FDA pecking order.

While we won’t know for a while who’ll make up Formula 3’s 2021 grid, the talent and potential seen throughout 2020 gives us a lot to look forward to. In the meantime, F3 will be back on track next month for two post-season tests, at Barcelona on October 5th–6th and Jerez on October 27th–28th.

Igor Fraga, Charouz (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

F3 Mugello preview: advantage Piastri in title decider

Formula 3 takes to Mugello in Italy this weekend for the final round of a sensational 2020 season, and the conclusion of the title fight between Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant.

Mathematically there are six drivers capable of becoming champion this weekend, with Theo Pourchaire, Liam Lawson, David Beckmann and Frederik Vesti all still close enough that a near-perfect weekend could earn them the crown.

But realistically, Piastri and Sargeant have been the only drivers with any real claim to the championship this season, and it would take something remarkable to deny either of them now.

Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant, Prema (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

It’s Piastri who has the upper hand coming to Mugello. After Sargeant failed to score in both races at Monza, Piastri has an eight-point lead over his teammate. It’s not the largest buffer, but it does mean that if Piastri can outscore Sargeant by nine points in the feature race, the title will be his.

This means that if Sargeant misses out on points again in race one, Piastri could finish fifth (providing he doesn’t take any extra points for pole or the fastest lap) and become champion. Alternatively, if Piastri wins the feature race, Sargeant would have to be second just to keep the fight alive into the final race.

Therefore, with overtaking expected to be difficult at Mugello, Sargeant’s best hope will be to qualify ahead of Piastri and hope to create some space between them while also chasing the bonus two points for fastest lap.

But there will be extra drama in the title battle this weekend, as both drivers come to Mugello with grid penalties hanging over them from incidents in the Monza sprint race. Piastri has a five-place penalty for causing Beckmann’s retirement with a Turn 5 collision, while Sargeant will drop three places for cutting across Vesti’s front wing and putting them both out of the race.

This could have huge ramifications for the championship, as Piastri and Sargeant will likely be starting in the thick of the midfield and therefore at much greater risk of a first lap incident.

Theo Pourchaire, ART (Bryn Lennon / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

While the rest of the top six will be hoping for problems for Piastri and Sargeant to give them a last-gasp shot at the title, their focus coming to Mugello will be mostly on the tight battle for third in the standings.

Pourchaire heads the group after his double podium at Monza, with nine points over Lawson. Both drivers have been revelations this season, and will be targeting the “best of the rest” spot as a springboard for a title challenge in 2021.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are eight drivers heading to the final round still in search of their first points: Cameron Das, Lukas Dunner, David Schumacher, Jack Doohan, Sophia Floersch, Federico Malvestiti, Calan Williams, and Alessio Deledda. Each of these will be desperate to make some moves this weekend and not end the season still with a zero next to their name.

Of those, Schumacher will perhaps be the most frustrated if he’s unable to reach the points in Mugello. His mid-season switch from Charouz to Carlin has so far not yielded the step up the order he was hoping for. And to make matters worse, since his move Charouz has gone on to score with all three drivers, including Schumacher’s rookie replacement Michael Belov.

Schumacher seemed to have a turnaround in Monza as he set the fastest time in practice, only to start from the back of the grid after a messy qualifying. But if he can bring that practice pace to Mugello and maintain it across the whole weekend—no mean feat in a field as competitive as Formula 3—then he’s got every chance of being rewarded with his first points and confidence boost for next season.

David Schumacher, Carlin (Photo by Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

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 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

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

F3 Spain preview: Sargeant goes from hunter to hunted

Formula 3 returns this weekend at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain, with Prema’s Logan Sargeant heading into the round as the new championship leader.

After winning the second feature race at Silverstone last weekend, Sargeant became the first driver to take the title lead away from Oscar Piastri, who had previously held it ever since his win in the first race of the season in Austria. That switch puts Sargeant in a tricky position this weekend, as his task has turned from catching Piastri to expanding the slender one-point lead over his Prema teammate.

Sargeant’s key advantage in this fight is his qualifying pace. The American has so far outqualified Piastri at all but one round this season, and took both pole positions at the last two rounds in Silverstone. However, Sargeant’s so far struggled to convert that advantage on race day, as he’s ultimately finished behind Piastri in every feature race bar his victory last weekend.

The key to Sargeant’s title campaign, then, will be a consistent weekend in which he can qualify and then keep ahead of Piastri. And with only four rounds left to go in the season, he will have to start doing so now before he runs out of time.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Having passed the halfway mark in the season, Sargeant and Piastri’s fight for the title isn’t the only battle getting tighter as the championship moves to its climax.

David Beckmann currently leads a close train of drivers all in the mix for third in the standings. On 82.5 points, the German has only a 13.5-point buffer separating him from Liam Lawson, Frederik Vesti and Theo Pourchaire. Each has been a race winner this year, and with one good weekend could even jump up to trouble the title protagonists—especially as Beckmann, Lawson and Pourchaire are this season’s only repeat winners so far.

Bent Viscaal became the only winner outside this group at last weekend’s sprint race. However, with 33 points between him and the top six of the championship, Viscaal is currently more in contention for seventh with the likes of Richard Verschoor, Alex Peroni and Lirim Zendelli, as well as Clement Novalak and Jake Hughes behind him.

Of these drivers, Viscaal and Hughes are the ones currently on a run of form. As well as Viscaal’s win, Hughes took his first podium of the year in the second Silverstone feature race, and both are expected to carry that momentum into Spain.

But with this cluster of drivers as close on points as the group just above them, it’s highly likely we’ll come out of Barcelona with a very different championship order to what we have going in.

Bent Viscaal, MP Motorsport (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

F2 Great Britain: Tsunoda wins after Premas collide

Yuki Tsunoda took victory in the Silverstone sprint race after Prema teammates Mick Schumacher and Robert Shwartzman collided in the closing laps.

Shwartzman and Schumacher started from the front row of the reverse grid and rapidly pulled away from the rest of the field at the start. After the first few laps they were already two seconds clear of Tsunoda in third, while only half a second separated the two Premas themselves.

Schumacher made a move on Shwartzman into Brooklands on lap 5, but ran wide and dropped a second to his teammate. However the German made the time back up as Shwartzman started struggling with rear tyre grip, and by lap 10 was back in DRS range of his teammate.

After chipping away at the gap despite his own tyres losing grip, Schumacher closed to a few tenths of Shwartzman on lap 19 and tried another overtake at Brooklands. But after getting partially ahead on the outside, Schumacher turned in too early and clipped Shwartzman’s front wing, allowing Tsunoda through into the lead as a result.

Mick Schumacher, Prema (Bryn Lennon / Getty Images)

Schumacher was able to continue and took second place behind Tsunoda, albeit a long way adrift. Shwartzman initially stayed out on track in third despite the damage to his front wing, but on the penultimate lap he was caught by a pack led by Jack Aitken. Shwartzman was prompted swamped by the cars behind and dropped down to 13th by the chequered flag.

The stewards investigated the Prema collision, but ultimately deemed it a racing incident.

Aitken came through in third for his second consecutive podium of the weekend. Louis Deletraz finished fourth ahead of Guanyu Zhou, Callum Ilott, Dan Ticktum and Nikita Mazepin. Christian Lundgaard had been set to finish among this pack having run with Aitken and Deletraz for most of the race, but suffered a front left tyre blowout on lap 16 that dropped him to the back of the field.

Shwartzman’s finish outside the points caps off another troubled round at Silverstone, as title rival Ilott has extended his new championship lead to 21 points. In the teams’ standings, Ilott’s UNI-Virtuosi team has the same lead over Prema. Find the full F2 drivers’ and teams’ standings here.

Formula 2 returns next weekend at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, in support of the Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix.

Full race result:

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

F3 Great Britain: Viscaal snatches win from Zendelli in frantic sprint race

Bent Viscaal took victory for MP Motorsport in the Silverstone sprint race, passing long-time leader Lirim Zendelli on the final lap.

Zendelli and Viscaal started second and third on the reverse grid and got a much better start than polesitter Ben Barnicoat to jump into the lead into Turn 1. While Zendelli and Viscaal pulled away in front, Barnicoat found himself under pressure to hold third from David Beckmann, Theo Pourchaire and Liam Lawson, who had all leapt past Oscar Piastri off the line.

The battles for first and third were halted on lap 2 when Lukas Dunner and Calan Williams came together to bring out the safety car. When the race resumed on lap 6, Zendelli and Viscaal once again moved clear of the pack with several seconds back to Barnicoat.

Despite being separated by just half a second for most of the remaining 15 laps, Zendelli held the lead from Viscaal without challenge until the final lap. After setting successive fastest laps and bringing the gap down to just a few tenths, Viscaal made a late dive to the inside of Copse on the final lap, catching Zendelli by surprise and taking the lead.

Zendelli fought back and the two ran side by side through the final corners. But although Zendelli briefly managed to get ahead, Viscaal hung on around the outside of the final corner and came across the line to win by just one tenth over the Trident.

Lirim Zendelli, Trident (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

As Viscaal and Zendelli fought over the lead, a fierce battle raged behind them for third place. Barnicoat put in an impressive performance to hold the position early on from the more experienced drivers behind him. But on lap 11, the British driver pulled off the track with a mechanical problem with his Carlin, elevating Pourchaire into third.

Pourchaire was immediately forced into defending from Beckmann. On lap 16 Beckmann made a move for third but ran wide and dropped back to fifth behind Lawson, while Pourchaire was shown the black and white flag for weaving in his defence.

Lawson then took up the pursuit of third place but was also unable to find a way past Pourchaire in the closing stages. On the final lap, after losing time attacking Pourchaire and running wide out of the last corner, Lawson was then repassed for fourth by Beckmann in a drag race to the line.

Pourchaire took third for his third podium of the season, ahead of Beckmann and Lawson. Piastri took sixth place after a tight battle late in the race with Jake Hughes and Frederik Vesti, who finished seventh and eighth respectively. Clement Novalak finished ninth, and Enzo Fittipaldi took the final point in tenth.

Theo Pourchaire, ART (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

New championship leader Logan Sargeant retired with damage after contact with Cameron Das on lap 10, meaning he now has only a single point in hand over Piastri with four rounds remaining in the championship. Viscaal’s victory elevates him from 14th in the standings to 10th.

In the teams’ standings Prema has 281.5 points, while second-placed Trident has extended its gap over ART to 18.5 points. Find the full F3 drivers’ and teams’ standings here.

Update: Fittipaldi was given a post-race penalty of five seconds for leaving the track and gaining an advantage when passing Das. The Brazilian drops from 10th to 17th, and Igor Fraga is promoted up to the points.

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Bent Viscaal (FL) MP Motorsport 17
2 Lirim Zendelli Trident 12
3 Theo Pourchaire ART Grand Prix 10
4 David Beckmann Trident 8
5 Liam Lawson Hitech Grand Prix 6
6 Oscar Piastri Prema Racing 5
7 Jake Hughes HWA Racelab 4
8 Frederik Vesti Prema Racing 3
9 Clement Novalak Carlin Buzz Racing 2
10 Igor Fraga Charouz Racing System 1
11 Cameron Das Carlin Buzz Racing
12 Max Fewtrell Hitech Grand Prix
13 Sebastian Fernandez ART Grand Prix
14 Aleksandr Smolyar ART Grand Prix
15 Roman Stanek Charouz Racing System
16 Matteo Nannini Jenzer Motorsport
17 Enzo Fittipaldi HWA Racelab
18 Richard Verschoor MP Motorsport
19 Sophia Floersch Campos Racing
20 Dennis Hauger Hitech Grand Prix
21 Jack Doohan HWA Racelab
22 Olli Caldwell Trident
23 Federico Malvestiti Jenzer Motorsport
24 Alex Peroni Campos Racing
Ret. Ben Barnicoat Carlin Buzz Racing
Ret. Logan Sargeant Prema Racing
Ret. Alessio Deledda Campos Racing
Ret. David Schumacher Charouz Racing System
Ret. Lukas Dunner MP Motosport
Ret. Calan Williams Jenzer Motorsport