F2 Mugello: Lundgaard dominates sprint race

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

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

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

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

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

Juri Vips, DAMS (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

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

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

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

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

Luca Ghiotto, Hitech (Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

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

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

Full race result:

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

 

F2 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: 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 Great Britain: Ilott takes title lead with feature race win

Callum Ilott took his second win of the season in the Silverstone feature race, taking advantage of a low finish for title rival Robert Shwartzman to assume the lead of the championship.

Ilott started the race from pole and got away well to hold the lead into Turn 1. Behind him, Dan Ticktum also got a good launch from fourth to jump both Jack Aitken and Christian Lundgaard into second.

Ticktum pressured Ilott for the lead over the opening laps, but a mistake on lap 3 sent him wide and dropped the DAMS back behind Lundgaard and Aitken. Two laps later Ticktum then lost another three positions, to Mick Schumacher, Nikita Mazepin and Louis Deletraz respectively.

Jack Aitken, Campos (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

On lap 6 Lundgaard and Aitken both pitted from the podium positions to change to hard tyres, and Ilott made his own stop a lap later and came out in P12. Schumacher, running the alternative strategy having started on hards, assumed the lead ahead of Mazepin and teammate Shwartzman, who started outside the points.

While Ilott and the former leaders cut their way through the traffic, Schumacher and Mazepin engaged in a fierce battle at the front of the field. Mazepin looked to be faster at first but couldn’t find a way through, and after a few laps stuck behind the Prema his tyres began to blister and he dropped to over a second behind Schumacher on lap 11.

Schumacher became the first of the alternate runners to pit on lap 19, handing the lead to Mazepin who stayed out for another three laps. When Mazepin did come in his longer stint looked to have paid off as he rejoined the track ahead of Schumacher in sixth, but Schumacher was able to get back ahead of Mazepin while the Russian was on cold tyres.

Louis Deletraz, Charouz (Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

After all the pit stops had been completed, Ilott was back in the lead ahead of Lundgaard and Aitken, with Deletraz and Yuki Tsunoda in fourth and fifth having passed Ticktum as they made their way through the traffic.

The top three remained the same for the rest of the race, despite Lundgaard running off track on lap 26 and dropping back towards Aitken. However, Deletraz and Tsunoda came under pressure in the closing laps from Mazepin on fresh soft tyres. Having already taken sixth place back from Schumacher on lap 25, Mazepin then passed Tsunoda two laps later and caught and passed Deletraz for fourth on the final lap.

Deletraz just about hung on to keep fifth place from Tsunoda. Schumacher was unable to find the same late-race speed as Mazepin despite running on the same strategy and stayed in seventh, and will share the front row of tomorrow’s sprint race with eighth-place finisher Shwartzman. Guanyu Zhou and Felipe Drugovich rounded out the points, while Ticktum finished in P15 after plummeting down the order in the closing stages.

Ilott’s victory with Shwartzman only eighth means the UNI-Virtuosi driver retakes the lead of the championship with 102 points.

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

Full race result:

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

F2 Great Britain preview: Silverstone reset for Shwartzman and Ilott

Formula 2 is back this weekend for the fifth round of the 2020 championship, returning to Silverstone in support of the F1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.

For title protagonists Robert Shwartzman and Callum Ilott, revisiting Silverstone will provide a much-needed second chance at the circuit after a trying round for them both last weekend.

For Shwartzman, who had previously only finished outside the top four once this year, the British Grand Prix weekend was little short of a nightmare. What began with a lowly qualifying position of 18th for the feature race ended with a best finish of 13th in the sprint race and no points scored for the championship leader.

Shwartzman’s pain was lessened somewhat by Ilott stalling on the feature race grid and spinning out of contention for the sprint race victory, meaning the UNI-Virtuosi driver was unable to capitalise on Shwartzman’s struggles and snatch away the championship lead. However, Ilott’s recovery to fifth in the feature race moved him to within eight points of Shwartzman.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

Shwartzman and Ilott’s struggles mean they’ll now be driving with renewed focus on the chasing pack behind them.

In particular, Christian Lundgaard underlined the pace he’s been showing all season with fourth place in the feature race and second in the sprint race last weekend, putting him just four points behind Ilott and twelve behind Shwartzman. Another strong finish ahead of his rivals this weekend could well see Lundgaard leave Silverstone as the new championship leader.

The top two will also be keenly aware of Hitech’s Nikita Mazepin. The Russian came alive at Silverstone last weekend, taking his first F2 win in the feature race and battling up to fifth in race two, and certainly has the pace to be a threat again this time out.

What’s more, Dan Ticktum is lurking just one point behind Mazepin after taking his own maiden victory in the last sprint race. However, Ticktum’s three podium visits so far have all come in sprint races, so he’ll need to translate that clear speed to a top three in the feature races if he’s going to start troubling the title contenders.

Nikita Mazepin, Hitech (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Just behind the top five, a kind of “Class B” is forming between Guanyu Zhou, Louis Deletraz, Felipe Drugovich, Mick Schumacher and Yuki Tsunoda. While their results over the season so far haven’t kept them in touch with the title battle, they’re all still formidable over a race weekend and each proved this last time out in Silverstone.

Zhou, Deletraz and Tsunoda were all on the podium across last weekend, while Drugovich took pole for the feature race and Schumacher was in contention for the victory before his tyres gave up on him in the final stages.

All of them bar Drugovich are still looking for their first win this season, and given the pace they’ve already shown around Silverstone, that could come for any of them this weekend.

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

F2 Great Britain: Mazepin storms to maiden feature race win

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full race result:

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

F2 Austria: Drugovich dominates chaotic sprint race

Felipe Drugovich dominated Sunday’s sprint race at the Red Bull Ring, leading from pole to take his maiden Formula 2 victory.

The MP Motorsport rookie got a clean getaway from reverse grid pole to set up an early lead from Louis Deletraz on the front row. Behind them third place changed multiple times over the first lap as Giuliano Alesi came under pressure from Dan Ticktum, Robert Shwartzman and Marcus Armstrong all at once.

The battle was resolved by the end of the first lap when Alesi pulled off to the side of the track with flames pouring from the rear of his HWA. The safety car was brought out to recover Alesi, with Armstrong assuming third over Ticktum and Shwartzman.

Alesi’s car was quickly cleared but the safety car was redeployed multiple times in the following laps. First when Sean Gelael ground to a halt, again when Luca Ghiotto was spun out of the race by Jehan Daruvala, and for the final time on lap 15 when Armstrong lost drive and stopped on track, handing third place to Ticktum.

Dan Ticktum, DAMS (Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship)

When the safety car pulled in for the last time on lap 16 Drugovich rapidly pulled away from Deletraz and was out of range by the time DRS was enabled. Behind them, Ticktum managed to drop Shwartzman and open a gap to protect third place from the Prema.

The podium positions remained unchanged for the final 12 laps of the race, with Drugovich winning by 2.3s from Deletraz and Ticktum. Shwartzman finished fourth ahead of ART’s Christian Lundgaard.

Nobuharu Matsushita took sixth place after a long battle with Mick Schumacher, who made early progress from P11 on the grid but couldn’t find a way to continue past Matsushita. Jack Aitken took the final point of the day in eighth.

At the end of the first F2 round of the season, Callum Ilott leads the championship with 27 points, four ahead of Shwartzman with Drugovich a further two points back. ART heads the teams’ championship by five points from UNI-Virtuosi, with MP Motorsport in third.

F2 returns next weekend at the Red Bull Ring again, supporting the Formula 1 Styrian Grand Prix.

Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F2 Austria preview: rise of the new guard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F3 Monza: Title is Shwartzman’s to lose

The penultimate round of the 2019 FIA Formula 3 Championship takes place this weekend at Monza.

After a double podium at the last round in Belgium, championship leader Robert Shwartzman has the opportunity to wrap up the title in Italy this weekend.

There are currently seven drivers who can still mathematically deny Shwartzman the title: Jehan Daruvala, Juri Vips, Marcus Armstrong, Christian Lundgaard, Pedro Piquet, Leo Pulcini and Max Fewtrell. But such is Shwartzman’s lead that if the Ferrari junior can outscore his rivals by 26 points, the championship will be his with one round to spare.

Shwartzman’s closest challenger is his fellow Prema teammate and Ferrari junior Daruvala, who is on 129 points to Shwartzman’s 152. But Daruvala doesn’t have the luxury of just looking ahead, as Vips and Armstrong are within 10 points of him and Lundgaard is only a strong result away from joining them.

Jehan Daruvala, Prema (Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)

With the season nearing its finale, close racing is expected throughout the field as drivers try to use what few opportunities are left to impress ahead of 2020.

Bent Viscaal, Felipe Drugovich, Simo Laaksonen, Teppei Natori and Fabio Scherer have all scored just one points finish each this season, and they will be fighting desperately at Monza to get more points on the board while they can.

Scherer’s fellow Sauber Junior Team drivers Lirim Zendelli and Raoul Hyman will also be on the hunt for any chance to end their season on a high and justify their links to the F1 team for another year. Zendelli, the runaway 2018 German F4 champion, has only six points to his name and hasn’t scored since Austria, while Hyman has no points and a best result of 13th.

And in a similar situation is Hitech driver and Renault junior Ye Yifei, who has come close to the points on several occasions but remains 24th in the championship.

Lirim Zendeli, Sauber Junior Team by Charouz (Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)