Alesi dropped from Ferrari academy amid budget problems

Giuliano Alesi has been dropped from the Ferrari Driver Academy and run out of funding for 2021, according to his father Jean.

Alesi’s journey through the F1 feeder series’ has largely been financed by private backing raised by his father, who recently spoke out about the rising costs of Formula 2 after admitting he sold his Ferrari F40 to add to Alesi Jr.’s budget.

Speaking to Swiss newspaper Blick, Alesi Sr. said: “We have no sponsors for 2021, Ferrari fired him from the Academy and I can no longer raise private funds.”

Ahead of the most recent F2 round in Sochi, Alesi left HWA to join MP Motorsport for the remainder of the campaign. However, Alesi Sr. said that the €80,000 fee needed to leave his HWA contract early has contributed to his son’s funding issues.

Alesi is 17th in the F2 standings having yet to finish in the points since the opening race of the season in Austria.

Giuliano Alesi, HWA (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marcus Armstrong, ART (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

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

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

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

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

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

2020 F1 Esports Series season preview

The 2020 F1 Esports Series is almost upon us, and with it the official confirmation of who will race for all ten of the teams. Here’s your guide to who’ll be competing and what’s new ahead of the fourth F1 Esports season.

While drivers will be competing for individual honours, the teams will all be competing for a bigger share of the now $750,000 prize pool. Each team will consist of three drivers who will all take varying parts in the twelve race season between October and December.

In the annual F1 Esports Pro Draft which took place on August 27th, each of the ten teams must pick at least one driver who had qualified through the game, and the teams went in reverse championship order from the previous season.

Haas: Floris Wijers (NED), Cedric Thomé (FRA) and Simon Weigang (GER)

Haas have finished second-to-last and last in their first two seasons of competing, and will want to change that in 2020. Floris Wijers was their 2019 Pro Draft pick and Cedric Thomé raced last season for Renault which resulted in a victory on the Canadian GP circuit.

Simon Weigang is their Pro Draft pick for this year, he also raced last season for Renault. Wijers impressed in the first Pro Exhibition race earlier this year, and the two former Renault drivers are undoubtedly quick. Haas will want to lift themselves from the tail end of the virtual grid and finally now may be the time they do.

AlphaTauri: Joni Törmälä (FIN), Patrik Holzmann (GER) and Manuel Biancolilla (ITA)

After previously finishing runner-up in the team’s championship to Mercedes in 2018 primarily thanks to the efforts of Frederik Rasmussen, the cool-headed Dane’s move to Red Bull meant that the then-named Toro Rosso team didn’t fair brilliantly. They however have stuck to their guns with Patrik Holzmann and redrafting Manuel Biancolilla, and have also inherited Joni Törmälä from Red Bull.

Törmälä was part of the Red Bull team’s championship winning effort last season so he will be the one to watch in their B-Team now as he will be undoubtedly the one leading the charge for AlphaTauri. Whilst it may be seen as a demotion, they are all in equal cars so he will have every opportunity to prove Red Bull wrong for not having him in their main team.

Mercedes: Brendon Leigh (GBR), Bono Huis (NED) and Bardia Boroumand (IRN)

After dominating in 2018, two-time champion Brendon Leigh failed to win a race and Mercedes struggled after losing Dani Bereznay to Alfa Romeo. This seemed to coincide also with Leigh making the transition to real-life racing in the BRSCC National Formula Ford 1600 championship, where he finished fourth in his first race. However he proved in the Pro Exhibition race on the Chinese GP circuit that he’s not lost any commitment to Esports, and this season he has some very strong teammates.

Former McLaren driver Bono Huis joined Mercedes this year after finishing a respectable 7th in last year’s F1 Esports season. Joining them is the highly-rated Bardia Boroumand who starred in his stint in the Pro Exhibition races for Alfa Romeo, notably when he took pole for the race in support of the Virtual Spanish Grand Prix. Mercedes have a strong bunch of drivers to help them get back to winning ways.

BWT Racing Point: Lucas Blakeley (GBR), Daniele Haddad (ITA) and Shanaka Clay (GBR)

Lucas Blakely (Formula 1 esports)

After being drafted in 2019, Scottish driver Lucas Blakeley’s star power has only risen as he went from doing four races last year where he got a best of second at Suzuka, to being able to hold off the reigning champion David Tonizza in the Monaco Pro Exhibition race for an incredible win. Blakeley and Racing Point scored the most points for driver and team across all those races and he could upset the established order this season.

Alongside Blakeley is the reliable Daniele Haddad (who you’ll recognise as being the voice in Jimmy Broadbent’s ears during the Virtual Grand Prix races) and also Shanaka Clay, who really impressed when he won the Canada Pro Exhibition race in very tricky conditions. Clay being a former karting rival of Lando Norris and George Russell, and being only his second race when he won, will have some spring in his step come the start of the season.

McLaren Shadow: James Baldwin (GBR), Dani Moreno (ESP) and Matthias Cologon (FRA)

With an all-new line-up, McLaren Shadow will be putting their faith in a relatively inexperienced set of drivers. First up is World’s Fastest Gamer James Baldwin, who raced a few times for Alfa Romeo in the Pro Exhibition races. He will be doubling up his efforts in the F1 Esports Series with competing in the British GT for Jenson Button’s team, of which he’s already won a race, taken a few pole positions and is in contention for the championship.

Baldwin’s teammates are relatively unknown quantities. Moreno impressed in some Play-Off qualification races, and Cologon was in the Pro Draft in 2019 though he wasn’t picked, but McLaren see something beyond their inexperience in the F1 Esports Series. So while it may be a gamble, it could very well pay off.

Williams: Alvaro Carreton (ESP), Salih Saltunç (GBR) and Michael Romanidis (GRC)

Having been with Williams since the beginning, Alvaro Carreton has improved massively over the years to the point that he could challenge for the odd win or two so Williams were not wanting to let him go that easily. Michael Romanidis started racing for Williams this year in the Pro Exhibition races and also competed for them in the Le Mans 24 Virtual.

Saltunç joins from Alfa Romeo where was overshadowed by Dani Bereznay and will be looking to remind people why he was the only driver in 2018 other than Bereznay and Rasmussen to win a race over the dominant Brendon Leigh. A very highly rated driver, maybe a move to Williams was exactly what he needs.

Renault Vitality: Nicolas Longuet (FRA), Fabrizio Donoso Delgado (CHL) and Caspar Jansen (NED)

Having lost their star Jarno Opmeer, Renault quickly snapped up the services of former Red Bull driver Nicolas Longuet who only raced one time last season and got a podium finish out of it. He’s also joined by 2017 runner-up Fabrizio Donoso Delgado who sat out 2019 and will be hoping to remind everyone why he was the one who came close to denying Brendon Leigh the inaugural championship.

Renault’s final pick is Caspar Jansen, who has been performing very well in league racing and will undoubtedly benefit from Donoso’s experience to get him performing well in the Esports series too. A varied but balanced line-up at Renault that they think will help them hold onto or even improve on fourth in last year’s team championship standings.

Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen: Dani Bereznay (HUN), Jarno Opmeer (NED) and Dominik Hofmann (GER)

When it was announced in the run-up to the Virtual Azerbaijan Grand Prix that Opmeer had signed for Alfa Romeo, I immediately said that Alfa would be the favourite for the team championship and I stand by that. Opmeer was fourth and Bereznay third in last year’s F1 Esports series and are both utter machines, I was concerned that whoever would be Alfa’s Pro Draft pick may get the short end of the stick.

Nevertheless, the highly-rated Dominik Hofmann is also very rapid so it’s odd to think he’s only been picked up now. It’s going to be interesting to see the dynamic within the team, as both Opmeer and Bereznay are capable of fighting for the championship though Hofmann will also be racing at some point. But like team manager Jamie MacLaurin stated on the Pro Draft broadcast, it’s a good problem to have.

FDA Hublot: David Tonizza (ITA), Enzo Bonito (ITA) and Filip Prešnajder (SVK)

Enzo Bonito and David Tonizza, FDA (Scuderia Ferrari Media)

Now onto Ferrari’s Esports team, having joined the virtual racing party a year later than everyone else and drafting the eventual champion in David Tonizza. The teams championship however eluded them as Tonizza was the only one amongst the three Ferrari drivers to score points.

To fix that, Ferrari have now signed former McLaren driver Enzo Bonito, and together both Tonizza and Bonito have been doing the Pro Exhibition races, competing together in the SRO GT E-Sports Series and even shared a Ferrari GTE car with Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi in the Le Mans 24 Virtual.

As for their Pro Draft pick, Slovakian Filip Prešnajder was the one they went for after he impressed them with his speed in the play-off races on his gaming platform.

Red Bull: Frederik Rasmussen (DNK), Marcel Kiefer (GER) and Tino Naukarrinen (FIN)

The ever calm and cool character that is Frederik Rasmussen was third in 2018 and fell short of the championship last year, so it’s probably fair to say that the championship this year would be the most fitting result. He is joined by former Racing Point driver Marcel Kiefer, who won a race during the F1 Esports last year at Silverstone, and also won in the Pro Exhibition race around Interlagos.

Then we have Tino Naukarrinen, who was drafted after departing from Williams. All three drivers are proven quantities within the F1 Esports world and are very much capable of collecting very valuable points for Red Bull in their effort to retain the team’s championship.

What else is new?

After the outcry of the community to up the race length, the upcoming season will have races that are 35% distance of an F1 race (upwards of 25% from previous seasons) and will also have full knockout-style qualifying that will also be broadcast this year.

There will be four events with three races each so twelve races overall. Held on Wednesdays and Thursdays, the first event will take place on October 14-15 with races at the Bahrain, Vietnam and Chinese Grand Prix circuits.

The second batch of races will be on the Zandvoort, Montreal and Red Bull Ring circuits on November 4-5, followed by races at Silverstone, Spa and Monza on November 18-19. Then finally on December 9-10 will be Suzuka, Mexico City and São Paulo which will round off the fourth season.

You will be able to watch the F1 Esports drivers racing on F1’s official YouTube, Twitch and Facebook pages as well as your appropriate TV channels.

(Featured image courtesy of F1 2020 game by Codemasters)

F2 Spain preview: Ferrari junior royale in Barcelona

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

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

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

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 preview: can Shwartzman break free at Silverstone?

Formula 2 returns this weekend at Silverstone for the fourth round of the 2020 campaign.

Prema driver and Ferrari protege Robert Shwartzman will come into the weekend full of confidence, after becoming the championship’s only repeat winner so far last time out in Hungary.

With 18 points in hand over the next-best driver Callum Ilott, Shwartzman’s goal at Silverstone will be to build that gap even further and break free of the chasing pack. If he can keep up the momentum now, there will be little his rivals can do to stop Shwartzman asserting his dominance over the title as he did in Formula 3 last year.

Ilott will of course be the first of many drivers hoping to disrupt Shwartzman’s title challenge this weekend. Since winning the first race of the season, Ilott’s own campaign has been patchy by comparison, with only one further podium to his name so far.

A win on home soil this weekend will easily put Ilott back in the mix, and he should be well-placed to do so as his UNI-Virtuosi team won last year’s Silverstone feature race with Luca Ghiotto.

Callum Ilott, UNI-Virtuosi (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Behind Shwartzman and Ilott, there’s a fierce battle developing over third place in the standings. Christian Lundgaard currently holds the position with 43 points, but Mick Schumacher, Dan Ticktum and Marcus Armstrong are all within nine points of the Dane.

Although Lundgaard is quite a way adrift of Shwartzman, he is still likely to be a threat this weekend. Prior to Hungary, where he failed to score in either race, Lundgaard had been on a run of top-six finishes culminating in his sprint race win in Austria.

If Lundgaard can put his Hungaroring disappointment behind him, he’s shown he has the pace to be a serious title threat this year.

Schumacher comes to Silverstone on a good run of form, having taken a double podium at the last round in Hungary. However, he’ll need to make a much bigger step forward this weekend if he wants to stay in contention for the title and an F1 shot next year, as he is so far yet to outscore Shwartzman in any race this season.

Meanwhile, Ticktum has also displayed plenty of ability in his F2 debut, although has yet to claim his first win in the series. A challenger in sprint races in particular, the DAMS driver will be one to watch this weekend for sure.

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

F2 Hungary preview: rookie leaders prepare for battle in Budapest

FIA Formula 2 takes to Budapest’s Hungaroring this weekend for round three of the 2020 championship.

While the opening round of the season was dominated by returning drivers Callum Ilott and Guanyu Zhou, last weekend was the turn of F2’s rookies. Robert Shwartzman and Christian Lundgaard took their first victories in the series to assume the lead of championship from Ilott, while Yuki Tsunoda, Dan Ticktum and Marcus Armstrong all impressed with podium finishes.

When F2 arrives in Hungary these rookies will be aiming to build on that momentum and take charge of the championship. Expect to see Shwartzman come out of the gates strong as he tries to make up for retiring from last weekend’s sprint race, while Tsunoda will be hungry to reclaim the feature race win that was taken from him by a team radio failure in Austria.

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

Mick Schumacher will also be one to watch this weekend. Not only will he come to Hungary with confidence from having won there in F2 last year, but he’s also on a much-improved run of form this time around.

In both rounds at the Red Bull Ring, Schumacher showed he had the pace to come away with at least a podium finish, if not a win. However, a spell of bad luck—including his fire extinguisher going off in his cockpit while running third last Sunday—means he’s currently lagging behind his title rivals, and will be pushing even harder this weekend to catch up.

And he won’t be the only one. Zhou will also be looking ahead to the Hungaroring weekend as a chance to get his championship campaign back on track. The Renault junior will be sorely disappointed after leading both feature races in Austria but coming away with only one podium, and will need to lay down a marker this weekend to avoid the title fight slipping away from him.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Further back, the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend will also provide a much-needed reset for some of the drivers still yet to score any points.

Chief among these will be Hitech’s Luca Ghiotto. Used to being a title protagonist, Ghiotto’s best finish so far has been tenth in the second Austria sprint race, with an array of incidents and technical issues helping to keep him away from the points.

Also in need of a breakthrough soon is Jehan Daruvala. At the start of the season the Red Bull-backed driver talked up his goal of vying for an F1 seat with Alpha Tauri next year, but so far he’s had a mixed start to the season and is currently only P17 in the standings.

Daruvala has been solid in qualifying this year, starting both feature races well inside the top ten, but scruffy performances on race day mean he’s yet to convert any of those starts into points. With his Carlin teammate and fellow Red Bull junior Tsunoda already fighting for wins and podiums, Daruvala will need to tidy up his racecraft this weekend and make good on his pace if he wants to avoid losing Red Bull’s focus.

F2 Styria: Lundgaard beats Ticktum to dominant sprint race win

Christian Lundgaard took victory in the Styria sprint race, taking the lead early and going on to command throughout.

Lundgaard started the race in third behind reverse polesitter Dan Ticktum and ART teammate Marcus Armstrong, but passed Armstrong for second at the start. He stuck with Ticktum through the opening few laps and on lap 4 passed the DAMS on the inside of Turn 3 to take the lead.

Once in front, Lundgaard continued pushing and opened up a two second gap over Ticktum by lap 8—this increased by another second by lap 12. Ticktum responded in the middle phase of the race to take a few tenths out of Lundgaard, but a series of lock ups allowed the gap to open back up to 3.2s by lap 22.

Lundgaard began to ease off towards the end of the race as his tyres degraded, but by this point Ticktum’s own tyres were also running out of grip and the DAMS was unable to close the gap. By the chequered flag Lundgaard took the win with 2.3s in hand over Ticktum, as well as two extra points for setting the fastest lap earlier in the race.

Dan Ticktum, DAMS (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Armstrong was unable to keep up with Lundgaard and Ticktum up front, and on lap 12 he was passed for third by Mick Schumacher into Turn 3. However, Armstrong regained the position two laps later when Schumacher’s fire extinguisher went off in his cockpit, forcing the German to retire. Armstrong held on to the position until the end of the race to take his second podium of the season.

UNI-Virtuosi ran a quiet race behind the top three. Guanyu Zhou passed teammate Callum Ilott at the start and was promoted to fourth after Schumacher’s retirement.

In the final laps Ilott closed up to the back of Zhou and looked to have the pace on his tyres to pass his teammate. But the pair caught up with Armstrong on the last lap which gave Zhou DRS to defend and keep Ilott behind in fifth.

Jack Aitken finished sixth ahead of Sean Gelael, while Nikita Mazepin picked up his first point of the season in eighth. Saturday’s feature race protagonists Robert Shwartzman and Yuki Tsunoda both retired, the Prema spinning out at the start and the Carlin stopping with a clutch issue.

At the end of round 2, Shwartzman holds a narrow five-point lead in the drivers’ championship over Lundgaard and Ilott, who are level on 43 points. Ticktum is fourth and Armstrong fifth.

In the teams’ standings, ART maintain their lead with 77 points, seven ahead of UNI-Virtuosi and 15 ahead of Prema.

Formula 2 returns next weekend in support of the Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix.

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

F2 Styria: Shwartzman wins feature race after pit stop problem for Tsunoda

Prema’s Robert Shwartzman took his first Formula 2 win in the Styria feature race, taking advantage of a team radio problem for longtime race leader Yuki Tsunoda.

With the track drenched the race began after a lengthy delay with four laps behind the safety car. When the safety car pulled into the pits and the race began in earnest, polesitter Tsunoda got away from the pack cleanly and commanded the race in its early phase, building a gap over Guanyu Zhou with each lap. After two laps of racing the Carlin driver was 1.6s ahead, which increased to 5.5s by lap 21 as Zhou’s wet tyres started to overheat.

Zhou pitted on lap 21 along with Shwartzman. But when Carlin called Tsunoda in to cover the UNI-Virtuosi, he was unable to hear the message over team radio and stayed out for another three laps. All the while, Tsunoda’s pace compared to Zhou on the fresher tyres continued to drop off.

Tsunoda eventually came in on lap 26 after seeing the team’s pit board, but lost so much time on his older tyres that he lost the lead to Zhou and rejoined the track in a net third position.

Yuki Tsunoda, Carlin (Bryn Lennon / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Shwartzman had been making progress through the field after initially losing a position to Christian Lundgaard on the second racing lap. On lap 14 he passed Luca Ghiotto for sixth, then took fifth from Jack Aitken on the following lap. When Lundgaard had a slow pit stop on lap 21, Shwartzman moved into fourth behind Tsunoda, Zhou and Callum Ilott.

Shwartzman demoted Ilott off the podium after both drivers had made their respective stops, and on fresher tyres he started reeling in Zhou with a series of fastest laps. On lap 27 Shwartzman passed Zhou for the lead of the race and began building up a gap as Tsunoda rejoined them after his own stop.

In the closing laps Zhou began to struggle with overheating tyres again and Tsunoda passed him for second on lap 30. With much younger tyres, Tsunoda then started eating into Shwartzman’s gap out front, reducing it by over two seconds across the next three laps.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

But although he closed in to within half a second of Shwartzman, Tsunoda’s pace wasn’t enough to complete a move on the Prema in the final laps and Shwartzman held on to the victory. However, Tsunoda was able to earn another two points for setting the fastest lap.

Zhou continued to struggle and dropped back from the two leaders. He came under threat from Mick Schumacher in the closing laps, who had taken fourth from Ilott after starting ninth on the grid, but managed to defend his place on the podium and finish third.

Schumacher and Ilott finished fourth and fifth respectively, with Lundgaard and Marcus Armstrong behind them. Dan Ticktum finished eighth and took pole for Sunday’s reverse grid, and Aitken and Sean Gelael closed out the top ten.