F2 Monza: Piastri survives Ticktum charge to win feature race thriller

Championship leader Oscar Piastri took his second win of the season after converting pole position in the Monza feature race, while Dan Ticktum and Carlin provided a late-race threat with a fortuitous tyre gamble.

Piastri got away well from pole to hold the lead into Turn 1, but had to watch his main championship rival Guanyu Zhou assume second place by passing Jehan Daruvala off the line. Daruvala struggled for traction at the start and lost another place to Liam Lawson, while Felipe Drugovich pressured him for fourth throughout the opening lap.

The race was neutralised soon after when Guilherme Samaia spun out of the race at the second Lesmo and brought out the safety car. On the restart on lap 5 Piastri managed to break the tow on the rundown to Rettifilo to see off Zhou, while Zhou then came under attack from a rapid Lawson and lost second place into the Roggia chicane.

Piastri, Lawson and Zhou spent the opening laps more or less matching each other’s pace, with the gap between the three of them never more than 1.5 seconds. On lap 5 Piastri set the fastest lap but wasn’t able to definitively break clear of DRS range from Lawson.

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

On lap 8 Juri Vips, who was running seventh between Theo Pourchaire and Ticktum, slowed suddenly with a mechanical failure in the middle of the Roggia chicane. That caught out Ticktum who made contact with the rear of the Hitech, although he escaped with no significant damage to his own car.

The safety car was brought out again while Vips’ car was cleared away, and the leaders took that opportunity to make their mandatory pit stop from softs to mediums. But Piastri, Lawson and Zhou were followed into the pits by everyone apart from Ticktum, Marino Sato, Christian Lundgaard, Marcus Armstrong and Alessio Deledda, who had started the race on mediums instead.

Sato then dropped out of the race with a mechanical problem of his own, which meant that Piastri rejoined the race in fifth place behind Deledda. Lawson lost out in the pitlane scramble and not only came out behind Zhou but also Daruvala.

At the restart on lap 11 Piastri immediately set about clearing Deledda to get back towards the front. Meanwhile Daruvala found a new turn of pace on his medium tyres and began battling with Zhou for net second.

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

Daruvala got ahead of Zhou at the Roggia chicane but completed the move off track and was ordered to give the place back. He did so on the main straight, but used the momentum to immediately repass Zhou into Rettifilo. But as they came to Roggia again, Zhou went around the outside and reclaimed the position from the Carlin.

By lap 13 Piastri, Zhou and Daruvala had got past Deledda and set about clearing Armstrong as well. Deledda fell back to ninth by the end of the lap, then at the start of lap 14 he made contact with Enzo Fittipaldi at Rettifilo. That allowed Fittipaldi and Robert Shwartzman through, but Drugovich lost out avoiding the HWA and dropped to P12.

Drugovich then dropped out of the midfield battle altogether thanks to a miscommunication with his team. He’d asked his engineer on the radio to check if his front wing was damaged in the incident, but his engineer thought he was reporting wing damage and called him in to pit for repairs — when Drugovich left the pits after the confusion he was in P18 and last.

At the front of the field, Piastri passed fellow Alpine junior Lundgaard for second place on lap 15 and only had Ticktum 1.5 seconds up the road. From the pace of Lundgaard, Armstrong and Deledda it was clear that the worn mediums had run their course, but Carlin kept Ticktum out in front to gamble on another safety car in the final phase of the race.

Dan Ticktum, Carlin (Lars Baron, Getty Images / FIA F2)

Piastri kept closing in, bringing the gap to half a second by lap 18. But Ticktum’s gamble paid off a few laps later when Lawson stopped on the main straight after his fire extinguisher went off and the safety car was deployed. Ticktum immediately pitted for softs and rejoined the race in P12, while Piastri led from Zhou, Pourchaire, Daruvala and Shwartzman.

The race restarted on lap 25, with six laps to go. While Piastri locked up heading to Rettifilo and had to get on the defensive to keep Zhou behind, Ticktum immediately began clearing the cars ahead with his fresh soft tyres. The Carlin driver had a hairy moment at Roggia when he was tapped off the road by Ralph Boschung and narrowly avoided collecting Roy Nissany, but he regrouped to hold seventh place by the end of the lap.

Over the next few laps Ticktum continued to improve with uncontested moves on Nissany, Shwartzman and Daruvala, then on the penultimate lap he passed Pourchaire into Rettifilo for third place. With half a second between him and Zhou and only another eight tenths to Piastri up the road, it seemed inevitable that Ticktum and Piastri would be fighting for the lead on the final tour.

But shortly after Ticktum got past Pourchaire, Bent Viscaal and David Beckmann came together at Rettifilo further down the pack and brought out yet another safety car. With just under two laps left to run, the race was completed under the safety car and Ticktum was forced to settle for third place behind winner Piastri and Zhou in second.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Clive Mason, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Pourchaire finished fourth ahead of Daruvala and Shwartzman. Richard Verschoor took seventh place from Lirim Zendelli, who made a two-stop strategy work to give MP Motorsport a double points finish, and Nissany and Armstrong rounded out the final points positions for DAMS.

With Piastri and Zhou finishing first and second, they remain in the same positions in the championship standings with 15 points separating them. Shwartzman remains third, albeit 21 points behind Zhou and 36 adrift of the lead.

Formula 2 returns on 25–26 September at the Sochi Autodrom in support of the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix.

F2 Monza: Pourchaire storms past Vips for sprint win

Theo Pourchaire took his second win of the season in the opening Monza sprint race, putting in a lightning performance to overhaul longtime leader Juri Vips.

Vips jumped into the lead at the start of the race, passing reverse polesitter David Beckmann on the run down to the Rettifilo chicane. Beckmann then came close to losing second to Dan Ticktum as well, but was able to regroup himself through Curva Grande to hold the place.

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

Ticktum then found himself under pressure from Pourchaire through the rest of the opening lap. Pourchaire was close enough to dive to the inside of Ticktum into Rettifilo at the start of the second lap, but he braked too late and went down the escape road. At the same time Ticktum spun on the chicane’s kerb and stalled the car, and was clipped by Felipe Drugovich and Ralph Boschung who both damaged their front wings and had to pit.

The safety car was brought out for Ticktum’s stranded Carlin, with Vips leading from Beckman, Pourchaire and Liam Lawson. At the restart on lap 5 Lawson moved to the inside of Pourchaire into Rettifilo but got caught out by Pourchaire’s defence and damaged his front wing.

The racing only lasted for a few corners after the safety car restart, as Drugovich spun off at Ascari on cold tyres and brought out a virtual safety car. When the VSC ended on lap 7 Robert Shwartzman took advantage of the timing to pull alongside his teammate Oscar Piastri through the Lesmos and muscle his way up to sixth. Piastri ran wide into the gravel at Lesmo 2, losing another place to Roy Nissany.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Lars Baron, Getty Images / FIA F2)

At the front, Pourchaire set the fastest lap on lap 8 and started mounting an attack on Beckmann’s second place. Beckmann defended the inside line into Rettifilo at the start of lap 9, but on the next time around Pourchaire pressured Beckmann into locking up at the chicane and he took second place as Beckmann ran down the escape road.

With flat-spotted tyres Beckmann then began falling back through the pack. On the same lap after losing second, Beckmann was bumped off the podium altogether by Guanyu Zhou who moved up into third. But he was saved from losing any more places straight away when Nissany spun out through Ascari and brought out yet another safety car.

At the restart on lap 14 Beckmann lost fourth place to Shwartzman, while Pourchaire immediately started shaping up for a move on Vips in the lead. He was unable to get past into Rettifilo at the first opportunity, but on the next lap around Pourchaire moved to the inside and decisively took first place away from Vips.

Once out front Pourchaire’s pace carried him to a lead of well over a second, while Vips fell back to defending from Zhou in third. Zhou tried several times to get past the Hitech, first through Curva Grande and Roggia on lap 15 then again at Rettifilo and Roggia on the following two laps.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Clive Mason, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Vips was able to hold the inside line each time, but on lap 18 he locked up into Rettifilo and not only let Zhou through into second but dropped back to fifth behind Shwartzman and Christian Lundgaard.

Vips then found himself in the same position Beckmann had been in earlier. Over the next few laps he was passed by Piastri, Lawson and Bent Viscaal to fall to the back of the points after leading for 14 laps.

With Zhou being held behind Vips for several laps before moving into second, Pourchaire was able to sprint clear of the pack to take the chequered flag by almost six seconds in the end. Shwartzman was third on the road behind Zhou, but a five-second penalty for gaining an advantage off-track at the start dropped him off the podium and gave third place to Lundgaard.

Piastri finished fourth, meaning he retains the championship lead by five points despite Zhou’s podium. Lawson was fifth, Shwartzman’s penalty dropped him to sixth, and Viscaal and Vips rounded out the last two points positions. Beckmann finished the race in tenth, meaning he will still the second sprint race from reverse pole this afternoon.

F2 Silverstone: Verschoor controls sprint race for first win

MP Motorsport’s Richard Verschoor took his first Formula 2 win in the second Silverstone sprint race, with a calm performance from reverse grid pole.

Verschoor got a good launch from reverse grid pole to enter Abbey ahead of Marcus Armstrong and Dan Ticktum. But as the top ten settled their positions through the opening corners, Ralph Boschung spun at the rear of the field and collected Alessio Deledda, bringing out the safety car before the end of lap 1.

At the restart on lap 5, Verschoor bolted clear of Armstrong and Ticktum to see off any potential move for the lead. Just behind them, Oscar Piastri initially took fourth place from Liam Lawson, but Lawson fought him back on the following lap to retake the position.

Liam Lawson, Hitech (Red Bull Content Pool)

The green flag racing only lasted for another few laps, as the safety car was again brought out on lap 7 when Jehan Daruvala hit the back of Bent Viscaal at Vale and put the Trident into the gravel.

When the safety car pulled in on lap 11, Verschoor was again able to jump clear of Armstrong, while Ticktum was close enough to put pressure on the DAMS ahead. By the end of the first racing lap, Verschoor was more than a second clear of Armstrong, but six tenths separated Armstrong and Ticktum.

Meanwhile, the fight between Lawson and Piastri resumed with just half a second splitting the two. Piastri tried several times to squeeze his way past Lawson, first up the inside of Vale on lap 15 and again around the outside of Woodcote on lap 16.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Bryn Lennon, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

But after Lawson was able to close the door each time, Piastri was finally close enough to dart to the inside at Brooklands on lap 18 and take fourth place. And once freed from behind Lawson, Piastri set the fastest lap as he tried to reel in Armstrong and Ticktum in the final laps.

But despite Piastri’s pace, the gap was too large to overhaul before the chequered flag, and Verschoor led home Armstrong and Ticktum for the podium. Piastri came home fourth with the fastest lap to add another ten points to his new championship lead. Lawson finished fifth, ahead of Juri Vips, Felipe Drugovich and David Beckmann.

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 Monaco: Pourchaire dominates feature race

ART’s Theo Pourchaire took his first Formula 2 victory with a commanding performance in the Monaco feature race, becoming the youngest winner in F2 history.

Pourchaire got a quick launch from pole position to cover off an attack from second-placed Robert Shwartzman into Sainte Devote. The pair then spent the opening laps of the race trading fastest laps, while the gap between them stayed level at around a second.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Bryn Lennon, Getty Images / FIA F2)

Behind them, the order remained stable with Oscar Piastri in third, leading Dan Ticktum, Juri Vips, Ralph Boschung, Roy Nissany, Christian Lundgaard, Felipe Drugovich and Guanyu Zhou. But on lap 9, Drugovich pulled the trigger on the pit window by stopping for soft tyres on the alternate strategy, coming out in 15th.

As the cars he’d been racing against made their own stops to cover him, Drugovich got his fresh tyres up to temperature and started setting successive fastest laps. On lap 21 Drugovich moved up a net sixth by passing Boschung after the latter’s stop, then found himself ahead of Nissany and Lundgaard once they exited the pits.

On lap 29 Shwartzman stopped to attempt the undercut on Pourchaire. But a slow left rear tyre change dropped him down the order, leaving him behind Zhou who had yet to stop, and Piastri, Ticktum and Drugovich.

Pourchaire stopped a lap later and came out comfortably ahead of Piastri, with Zhou inheriting the lead as he had yet to pit. But Zhou was prevented from stopping on lap 31 when Marcus Armstrong hit the wall at La Rascasse while fighting Vips, and the virtual safety car was deployed.

The VSC was only out for one lap, but was redeployed immediately after when Lirim Zendelli locked up and hit the wall at La Rascasse at the restart. A third VSC was then brought out a lap later again, when Ticktum tried to pass Piastri around the outside of La Rascasse on the restart but ended up making it three cars in the wall in as many laps.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Lars Baron, Getty Images / FIA F2)

When the final VSC was withdrawn, Zhou led with a 20-second gap over Pourchaire. But with the Virtuosi driver on old tyres, Pourchaire rapidly halved that lead by the time Zhou stopped on lap 37.

Zhou emerged in third ahead of Drugovich, but Drugovich passed him on the outlap with the advantage of his warmer tyres. Zhou then lost another position to Shwartzman and came under pressure from Boschung, although he was able to hold off the Campos before the chequered flag.

At the front, Pourchaire crossed the line with nearly five seconds in hand over Piastri, while Drugovich followed them home in third for his second podium of the weekend. Shwartzman took fourth ahead of Zhou and Boschung, and Liam Lawson, Vips, Nissany and Richard Verschoor rounded out the points.

Leaving Monaco, Zhou stays in the lead of the championship with 68 points, while Piastri and Pourchaire move up to second and third. UNI-Virtuosi remains at the top of the teams’ standings, although Prema have displaced Carlin from second with 15 points the difference between the top two. Find the full F2 standings here.

F2 Monaco: Zhou leads Virtuosi 1–2 in first sprint race

Guanyu Zhou took his second consecutive win of the Formula 2 season, leading UNI-Virtuosi teammate Felipe Drugovich across the line from pole.

Zhou and Drugovich started alongside each other on the front row. But while Zhou got a clean getaway, Drugovich was slow off the line and lost second to the faster Christian Lundgaard.

Behind them, Theo Pourchaire jumped the Premas of Oscar Piastri and Robert Shwartzman for eighth. Shwartzman’s start then got even worse as lost his front wing to the wall at Beau Rivage, and retired a few laps later from damage.

Theo Pourchaire, ART (Bryn Lennon, Getty Images / FIA F2)

At the front, Lundgaard prevented Zhou from checking out in the lead. Keeping within a second of the Chinese driver after the start, Lundgaard closed the gap to four tenths on lap 4. But Zhou regrouped and pushed on, opening up a buffer of a second just two laps later.

Zhou’s lead then grew to over three seconds when Lundgaard’s engine started smoking on lap 13. After trying to continue for two laps, Lundgaard eventually pulled off the road at the Nouvelle Chicane and retired, promoting Drugovich to second and Roy Nissany to third.

 

Drugovich, who had dropped back from Lundgaard to avoid the ART’s oil spill, assumed pursuit of Zhou with five seconds between himself and his teammate. The Brazilian made good progress to close that gap by more than two seconds by lap 19, but Zhou responded shortly after to keep out of reach.

Zhou’s gap was briefly eliminated in the closing laps after Gianluca Petecof hit the wall out of Piscine and brought out the safety car. But at the restart on lap 28, Drugovich struggled to get his tyres up to temperature in time and Zhou managed to restore his three second lead by the time he crossed the line.

Nissany finished third behind Zhou and Drugovich for his first F2 podium, while Ralph Boschung took his best F2 result so far in fourth for Campos. Juri Vips finished fifth and took the fastest lap, and Dan Ticktum, Pourchaire and Piastri rounded out the points. Marcus Armstrong finished tenth to take reverse grid pole for tomorrow’s second sprint race.

Juri Vips, Hitech (Dan Istitene, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

F2 Sakhir: Zhou storms to victory in frantic feature race

Guanyu Zhou took the final win of Formula 2’s Sakhir weekend, in a feature race dominated by changing tyre performance and a dramatic late collision for title hopeful Oscar Piastri.

Zhou started the race from pole, but it was anything but an easy drive from the front for the Alpine junior. He was slow away off the line and lost the lead to Christian Lundgaard at Turn 1, then dropped to third behind teammate Felipe Drugovich at Turn 4.

After a brief safety car in the early laps when Roy Nissany was spun out by Robert Shwartzman, Zhou then found himself under pressure from Piastri. The Prema driver, who had started on softs as opposed to Zhou’s hard tyres, picked off Zhou for third on lap 4 and set off after Drugovich and Lundgaard, while Zhou lost another position to Marcus Armstrong on lap 8.

Christian Lundgaard, ART (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA Formula 2)

By lap 12 Piastri had passed Drugovich and closed within half a second of Lundgaard, before overtaking the ART for the lead at the start of the following lap. By then the pit window was open and Lundgaard become the first to stop for hards at the end of lap 13, followed by Drugovich on lap 14 and Piastri himself on lap 16. Meanwhile, Zhou made his stop for soft tyres on the alternate strategy on lap 15, and came out of the pits just behind Drugovich.

Another safety car was deployed in the middle of the pit phase when Gianluca Petecof’s cockpit fire extinguisher went off and forced him to retire. The timing of this second safety car benefited Armstrong and Richard Verschoor, who had been shuffled to the head of the field and were able to stop while the pack was slowed down. Armstrong came out of the pits still in the lead, while Verschoor emerged in third between Piastri and Lundgaard.

At the restart on lap 19 however Armstrong immediately fell back, as Piastri and Verschoor both passed him for first and second respectively. Lundgaard also struggled for pace and lost fourth to Drugovich at Turn 4, then fifth to Zhou at Turn 10. Drugovich and Zhou then toppled Armstrong from third on lap 20, before Zhou overtook his teammate for the podium position a lap later.

Felipe Drugovich, UNI-Virtuosi (Bryn Lennon, Getty Images / FIA Formula 2)

As Zhou returned to the podium positions, Verschoor took the lead from Piastri on lap 20 and set about building a two-second gap as his softs had more initial pace than Piastri’s hards. That pace deficit allowed Zhou — as well as Dan Ticktum and Liam Lawson, who were also charging through on softs — to close up to Piastri and challenge him for second.

Zhou took the position from Piastri on lap 23 and started reeling in Verschoor, who was struggling as his softs then started losing grip. But despite being on the same compound, Zhou was able to keep his tyres in better condition than the MP Motorsport ahead and he took the lead of the race at Turn 4 on lap 28.

As Zhou then leaped clear in the lead, Ticktum started challenging Piastri for third as the Prema couldn’t find pace on the hard tyres. After being rebuffed at the inside of Turn 1 and the outside of Turn 4 on lap 29, Ticktum was much closer at the start of lap 30. He pulled to the inside and got momentarily ahead, before the two cars made contact and Piastri was spun into a stall and out of the race.

Ticktum continued on in third, and after a brief virtual safety car to recover Piastri he improved to second with a pass on Verschoor. Lawson also overtook Verschoor on the final lap to take his second podium finish of the weekend.

Dan Ticktum, Carlin (Clive Mason, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA Formula 2)

Verschoor was able to hold onto fourth at the flag ahead of Armstrong and Jehan Daruvala. Shwartzman recovered from a drive-through penalty for hitting Nissany at the start to take seventh and the fastest lap, while Theo Pourchaire, Drugovich and Matteo Nannini rounded out the final points positions.

Zhou now leaves Bahrain in the lead of the championship by 11 points from Liam Lawson, and Piastri drops to fourth behind Daruvala. Carlin now lead the teams’ standings on 47 points, ahead of UNI-Virtuosi (43) and Prema (37).

Formula 2 returns on 20–23 May in support of the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix.

F2 Sakhir: Lawson dominates sprint race on debut

Hitech’s Liam Lawson opened his rookie Formula 2 season with a dominant win in the first Bahrain sprint race, holding the lead throughout after taking it at the start.

Lawson got a rapid start from third on the grid to get past fellow rookies David Beckmann and Theo Pourchaire, who started first. Pourchaire briefly dropped down to third behind Beckmann, but recovered by the end of the lap to retake second place. Just behind them, Jehan Daruvala jumped Oscar Piastri for fourth.

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

Lawson’s attempt to break clear of DRS range from Pourchaire was briefly halted on lap 3, when Marcus Armstrong’s DAMS stopped on track to bring out the virtual safety car. But by lap 6, Lawson pulled a second clear of Pourchaire for the first time and went on to build a gap in clean air.

As Pourchaire dropped back from the lead, he started coming under pressure from Daruvala, who’d passed Beckmann for third on lap 11. But on lap 13 Pourchaire suddenly slowed with a mechanical problem, gifting Daruvala second as he dropped out of the points and eventually stopped on track.

Now in pursuit of the lead, Daruvala looked to have much better tyres than Lawson. On his first lap in second, Daruvala took half a second out of the lead as his rival struggled for grip. Lawson then had a big lock up on lap 17, which brought Daruvala to within half a second of the Hitech.

But despite being in DRS range, Daruvala was ultimately unable to get close enough to Lawson to make a move for the lead. Lawson held on to win by 0.7 seconds over Daruvala, with Beckmann taking third on his F2 debut.

David Beckmann, Charouz (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / courtesy of FIA Formula 2)

Robert Shwartzman took fourth ahead of Piastri, after battling through the field from his starting position of 11th. Christian Lundgaard and Guanyu Zhou were sixth and seventh, and Dan Ticktum took the final point in eighth after being demoted by a time penalty for spinning around Richard Verschoor early on.

Lirim Zendelli finished ninth but took two points for the fastest lap, and Juri Vips finished tenth to start on pole for the second sprint race.

F2 Bahrain preview: New season, new format, same goal

The Formula 2 grid will take to the track this weekend in Bahrain, for the opening round of the 2021 championship.

It only feels like yesterday that Mick Schumacher was crowned the 2020 F2 champion, but a lot has changed since the series left Bahrain last December. For starters, there’s a new race weekend format for the teams and drivers to get their heads around this year.

Instead of a Saturday feature race and Sunday sprint race, the F2 weekend will now feature three races — two sprint events on Saturday, and a feature before Sunday’s F1 Grand Prix. Friday qualifying will still determine the feature race grid, while the first sprint race grid will be set by reversing the top ten from qualifying. The starting positions for the second sprint race will then be a reverse of the first race’s top ten finishers.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

The weekend format might be different though, but for the eleven drivers returning to F2 this year, the goal of winning the championship and reaching F1 remains the same. And of those drivers, Robert Shwartzman is going to come to Bahrain with the most expectation on his shoulders.

In his rookie season last year, Shwartzman took the most wins of the field, helped Prema to the teams’ title, and was in championship contention himself for most of the season. He’s already proven he’s quick in Bahrain — one of his four wins last year came in the sprint race there — so Shwartzman will be the one with the target on his back in the opening round.

But there are plenty more drivers from the class of 2020 who will be out to prove this weekend that it’s not all about Shwartzman. Jehan Daruvala and Dan Ticktum have a great chance of opening the year with a win, as their Carlin team had rapid pace in Bahrain last year. Watch out for Marcus Armstrong too, who was also quick here last year and is starting a new partnership with DAMS.

And lastly, Felipe Drugovich will be a driver with plenty of attention on him in the opening round. After being one of last year’s revelations, the Brazilian has earned himself a move to UNI-Virtuosi alongside Guanyu Zhou and the perfect chance to prove he can challenge the likes of Shwartzman for the title.

Dan Ticktum, Carlin (Michael Regan, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / Courtesy of FIA Formula 2)

But while the returning field is strong, they’ll have a real fight on their hands to keep ahead of an equally impressive crop of rookies.

One of those new faces will be the 2020 Formula 3 champion and Alpine F1 junior Oscar Piastri. Coming into F2 with Prema, Piastri is expected to be a natural title contender this year — and if his F3 days are anything to go by, he won’t be taking any time at all to get his campaign underway.

Piastri isn’t the only rookie looking to impress an F1 academy, though. Hitech is fielding an all-Red Bull junior lineup this year with Juri Vips and Liam Lawson, both of whom were consistently rapid in pre-season testing.

A lot of the spotlight will fall on Vips after he made his F2 debut last year substituting for Sean Gelael in four rounds, and scored a podium at Mugello. But Lawson is no slouch either — he was a multiple race winner with Hitech in F3 last year, and is every bit as quick as Vips.

And then there’s Theo Pourchaire. Like Vips, Sauber F1 junior Pourchaire made his F2 debut in a handful of rounds last year — including Bahrain — before a full campaign for 2021. He came within three points of snatching the F3 title away from Piastri last year and has been widely tipped as a future F1 star. Driving for ART this year, he’ll be with a team capable of challenging for podiums and wins right from the off.

But as Drugovich showed last year, it’s not just the F1 juniors to watch for. Between Formula Regional European champion Gianluca Petecof, F3 race winners Lirim Zendelli, David Beckmann and Bent Viscaal, and F3 podium finishers Richard Verschoor and Matteo Nannini, there are plenty of lightning-fast rookies coming in under the radar this weekend.

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

F2: Armstrong joins DAMS for 2021

DAMS have announced that Ferrari academy driver Marcus Armstrong will join the team for the 2021 Formula 2 campaign.

Armstrong made his F2 debut in 2020 with ART and scored podiums in the opening two rounds at the Red Bull Ring. After a difficult mid-season he returned to form by the end of the year, with points at Mugello, Sochi and Bahrain to end the season 13th in the standings. Armstrong then drove for DAMS in the post-season test at Bahrain.

Previously, Armstrong has been runner-up to Robert Shwartzman in the 2019 F3 championship, as well as 2017 Italian F4 champion and ADAC F4 runner-up.

Marcus Armstrong, ART (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

“I’m very excited to be joining DAMS,” Armstrong said. “It’s been a long time coming as there was a lot of interest in working together last season. DAMS has a massive history, especially in GP2 and F2 — it’s one of, if not the, best to be with.

“We are aiming for the title. By no means is it going to be easy with such fierce competition, but I feel that when I’m in the right environment with a great team I can really do special things.”

DAMS co-team owners Gregory and Oliver Driot added: “We are very happy to welcome Marcus to DAMS. We have been following his career and his performance for several years so we are glad to finally join forces for this season.”

DAMS is set for an all-new lineup for 2021, with Sean Gelael having already announced that he will not return to F2 for another season and Dan Ticktum set to join Jehan Daruvala at Carlin.