Formula 1 to race at Melbourne until 2035

Formula 1 will be racing at Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix until 2035. The new 10 year contract starts in 2025 and comes with the addition of Formula 2 and formula 3 to the schedules from 2023.

The crowds were excited for the Australian GP to be back. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Formula 1 raced in Melbourne for the first time in 1996 and has been entertaining us ever since. However, the pandemic meant that we missed out on the Australian Grand Prix for two seasons running but this year it saw 419,000 fans attend the race.

We also saw all the upgrades made through investment from the circuit promoter and organisers. It brought lots of attention and came back with good reviews from fans and drivers. This looks to improve fan experience over the next decade.

Stefano Domenicali, President and CEO, Formula 1, said “The race has always been a favourite for the fans, drivers and the teams and Melbourne is an incredible and vibrant international city that is a perfect match for our sport. I want to thank the Victorian Government, Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria and Martin Pakula, Minister for Tourism, Sport & Major Events for their tireless support for the event in Melbourne, as well as Andrew Westacott and Paul Little from the AGPC for making this already long-term partnership secure for the future. We are all looking forward to being back in Melbourne next season with all our fans.”

F2 Jeddah preview: experience leads the way into Round 2

After an action-packed season opener in Bahrain last week, Formula 2 is back again this weekend for Round 2 of the championship at Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

After last weekend’s races it’s experience that leads the way heading to Jeddah. Richard Verschoor and Theo Pourchaire took the two victories in Bahrain, and the remaining podium places were claimed by Jehan Daruvala, Liam Lawson and Juri Vips. In the championship picture it’s Pourchaire who leads the standings ahead of Lawson and Vips, with Ralph Boschung in fourth place.

The only “true” rookie to score in Bahrain was Ayumu Iwasa, who finished eighth in the sprint race despite starting from the very back of the field after an error in qualifying. However Logan Sargeant, Jake Hughes and Jack Doohan – who all made a handful of F2 starts at the end of last year – managed to score as well, with Doohan even taking pole for the feature race.

Ayumu Iwasa, DAMS (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

With a Formula 2 weekend now under their belts and no long break in between, those rookies will be coming to Jeddah looking to take the fight to the more experienced drivers on the grid. For drivers like Doohan and Iwasa that will mean bringing the same rapid speed shown in Bahrain but without the errors and incidents that cost them larger points hauls, while Sargeant’s job will be to unlock the same speed in his Carlin found by teammate Lawson.

The fight at the front is wide open

Although Bahrain was just one round in a long season, the early signs from the weekend are that we can expect plenty of close fights for victory from right across the field.

Pourchaire will come to Jeddah as an obvious favourite for pole and victory, given his position as championship leader. But it’s worth noting the ART driver only leads the standings by a single point, while Lawson’s double Sakhir podium is an impressive marker to lay down at the start of a season.

Felipe Drugovich was another driver who showed pace to watch for last weekend. Seemingly rejuvenated now he’s back at MP Motorsport, the Brazilian looked like he was going to take pole position until Doohan pipped him to it. His new teammate Clement Novalak was also very fast in practice last week, even if that wasn’t converted to points, so expect to see MP Motorsport near the front again in Jeddah.

Felipe Drugovich, MP Motorsport (Clive Mason, Getty Images / FIA F2)

And if Bahrain pace is anything to go by, keep an eye out for Boschung at Campos this weekend. The Swiss driver took a pair of fourth places in Sakhir after fighting with the frontrunners, but more than that he’s also returning to the site of one of his two podium finishes from last year. Boschung has always run well at street circuits and seems to be bedded in with Campos enough to bring out another great result this year.

Hauger needs a result after a tough first round

One driver who will be hoping to be in the fight at the front this weekend is Prema’s Dennis Hauger. After being tipped as a championship favourite for this year, Hauger opened the season just outside the points in Bahrain’s sprint race, then retired in the pits after being released with only three tyres attached in the feature race.

There’s nothing Hauger can do to avoid a repeat of that pitstop incident. But as for not missing out on points in the race, the key right now will be improving his qualifying. Hauger qualified in 15th in Bahrain and nearly a full second off of Doohan’s pole time, which meant he couldn’t benefit from the sprint race’s reversed top 8 and had to fight hard just to get into contention.

Getting on top of that this weekend will be difficult, as the Jeddah street circuit is completely new to Hauger but known from last year to key rivals like Pourchaire, Lawson and Vips. But Hauger also took nearly half of the available pole positions in his Formula 3 campaign last year, so if he can get to grips with the track early on there’s no reason he can’t be fighting at the front on Friday’s qualifying session.

Dennis Hauger, Prema (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

F2 Bahrain: Pourchaire takes victory in a race of pit stop errors

ART’s Theo Pourchaire won the first feature race of the Formula 2 season in Bahrain, in a race that was turned on its head several times by disastrous pit stops.

Pourchaire started the race from second place alongside polesitter Jack Doohan, but both drivers had major wheelspin off the line as they struggled to fire up their hard tyres. As Doohan and Pourchaire were slow away, Juri Vips and Ralph Boschung shot through into first and second by Turn 1, while Liam Lawson jumped Pourchaire for fourth place.

The racing only lasted for a few corners before Frederik Vesti’s ART spun out of the race and the safety car was deployed. At the end of the first lap Vips led from Boschung, Doohan, Lawson and Pourchaire, while Calan Williams, Marcus Armstrong and Richard Verschoor had all managed to leap into the top 10 with their faster soft tyres at the start.

When the safety car came in at the end of lap 4 Vips kept the lead but Doohan took second place away from Boschung. The Swiss driver tried to retake the position coming out of Turn 1 but that only opened the door for Pourchaire to sneak past for third. Boschung then came under attack from Lawson, who moved up into fourth at the start of lap 6.

Liam Lawson, Carlin (Bryn Lennon, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

At the front of the field Vips spent the opening laps building a healthy gap over Doohan and Pourchaire. By lap 6 he was already two seconds clear, which then became six seconds by the time he came in for his pit stop on lap 13. But in the pits a stuck wheel nut wiped his advantage out completely, and when Vips rejoined the track with soft tyres he was not only behind Doohan and Pourchaire but also Lawson and Boschung.

Doohan made his own stop a lap after Vips. While his change to soft tyres was problem-free, he ended up exiting the pits alongside Pourchaire who had made up time by stopping a lap earlier. As they came through Turn 1 the two cars made contact, which left Doohan with a broken front wing and needing to stop a second time for repairs.

After all the pit stops had shaken out on lap 19, Pourchaire led from Felipe Drugovich, who had made an aggressive early stop for softs on lap 9. Lawson was running third ahead of Boschung and Vips, and Doohan was at the back of the field following his second stop for a new front wing.

As the race entered its final 10 laps, Drugovich’s early stop strategy began to hurt him as his soft tyres started to fade. Lawson passed him for second on lap 22 and Vips – who had set the fastest lap after clearing Boschung’s Campos – followed through for third shortly after. Drugovich then fell back behind Boschung and Armstrong as well.

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

At the front Pourchaire still had two seconds in hand over Lawson and Vips, and the gap remained steady for several laps. But on lap 27 Richard Verschoor was spun around at Turn 1 by Roy Nissany as they battled just outside the points and the safety car was deployed once again.

That triggered a flurry of pit stops for drivers at the tail end of the points, including Calan Williams, Dennis Hauger and Jehan Daruvala. But in the flurry to get everyone back out on track, both Hauger and Williams were released without their front left tyres properly attached, and Williams ended up blocking the pitlane as his car partially spun when the wheel came off. As a result the cars in the pitlane had to weave around the Trident to rejoin the track, while the pit entry was closed to everyone else.

The race was eventually restarted on lap 31, but with the time allocation for the race exceeded that became the final lap. Pourchaire bolted early out of the final corner to get clear of Lawson going down to Turn 1, and Lawson’s spent soft tyres meant he was unable to challenge for the lead. The top three remained the same across the line, with Pourchaire winning ahead of Lawson and Vips.

Theo Pourchaire, ART (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Boschung came home in fourth place, matching his result from yesterday’s sprint race, ahead of Armstrong and Drugovich in fifth and sixth. Logan Sargeant finished seventh, and Nissany, Jake Hughes and Doohan rounded out the points.

After the feature race Pourchaire leads the championship with 25 points, with Lawson second on 24 and Vips third on 18. The teams’ championship however is led by Lawson’s Carlin team on 33 points, five ahead of Hitech.

F2 Bahrain: Verschoor takes controlled victory in opening sprint race

Trident’s Richard Verschoor took the first win of the Formula 2 season in the Bahrain sprint race, after pouncing on the lead early on and controlling the race from then on.

Verschoor started from second place on the reverse grid, alongside polesitter Felipe Drugovich. But when the lights went out Drugovich was bogged down off the line and Verschoor immediately assumed the lead heading down to Turn 1, while Jehan Daruvala and Ralph Boschung filtered into second and third.

Drugovich slipped back into the midfield pack as he recovered from his slow start, eventually stabilising in sixth place behind Liam Lawson in fourth and Jake Hughes in fifth. At the start of the second lap Drugovich passed Hughes for fifth place. Their battle down to Turn 1 opened the door for Theo Pourchaire, Jack Doohan and Juri Vips, who all passed Hughes over the course of the lap to demote the Van Amersfoort driver down to eighth.

Felipe Drugovich, MP Motorsport (Clive Mason, Getty Images / FIA F2)

Hughes’ struggles then continued as he tried to fight back but ended up making contact with Marcus Armstrong and spinning the Hitech around. That brought out the safety car as Armstrong was unable to get going again.

Behind the safety car Drugovich, who had fallen behind Pourchaire, reported that Pourchaire’s car was dropping oil on the track. At the restart on lap 6 Pourchaire then fell down through the order with a mechanical failure and was forced to retire. Meanwhile Lawson darted to the inside of Daruvala at Turn 1, but Daruvala was able to hold off the Carlin to keep third place.

After fending off Lawson, Daruvala started to reel in Boschung as the Swiss driver’s tyres fell away from him. On lap 15 the gap between the two was just a few tenths, and Boschung had little grip to defend second place as Daruvala made his move into Turn 1 on the following lap.

Boschung was able to briefly reclaim second place on lap 17 after a virtual safety car period brought on by Hughes stopping on track. But that only lasted a lap until Daruvala was back in front of the Campos, and on lap 21 Lawson demoted Boschung another place as he took third at Turn 1.

Liam Lawson, Carlin (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

As the battle over second, third and fourth unfolded behind him, Verschoor continued unchallenged in the lead. By the time the final lap came around he had a 2.3 second gap over Daruvala, and crossed the line to comfortably take his second victory in F2.

Boschung finished the race in fourth behind Lawson, and ahead of Drugovich in fifth. Logan Sargeant made his way into the points in the closing stages to take sixth place for Carlin, and Vips and Ayumu Iwasa rounded out the points in seventh and eighth.

F2 Bahrain preview: new faces, new challengers, new format

This weekend the 2022 Formula 2 championship gets underway in Bahrain, with plenty of new drivers and even a new team looking to open the season with a strong result.

The new weekend schedule

Liam Lawson, Carlin (Bryn Lennon, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

It’s not just the makeup of the grid that’s different this year – the format has also been tweaked for the new season. Last year F2 and Formula 3 ran on separate weekends with three races across Saturday and Sunday, but now they’re back on the same billing and returning to the familiar schedule of one sprint race and one feature race.

It’s not a complete return to the pre-2021 way, however. The sprint race remains on Saturday with the feature race taking place before Sunday’s F1 Bahrain Grand Prix. Qualifying on Friday will set the grid for Sunday’s feature race, while the starting order for Saturday’s sprint race will be decided by reversing the top 10 from qualifying.

The points system has also been tweaked for 2022. The number of points available for pole position and the fastest lap in each race has been halved for this year, meaning pole is now worth two points and the fastest lap is a single point. The points for the sprint race have been adjusted as well – the top eight still score, but victory will now award 10 points with 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 available for the remaining places.

The feature race keeps the same F1 points system as it has always used, with 25 points for the winner down to one point for tenth place.

Will experience lead the way?

Juri Vips, Hitech (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Heading into a new season of F2, the focus will always be on the returning drivers with experience behind them.

In 2022 only four drivers are still with the same team as last year: Juri Vips (Hitech), Theo Pourchaire (ART), Ralph Boschung (Campos) and Roy Nissany (DAMS). Of those Vips and Pourchaire will be expected to be in the title hunt as both are fighting to impress F1 teams, and both have good working relationships with their teams to build on after their successful debuts.

Liam Lawson is another driver who will be one to watch this season and this weekend in particular. After winning on his debut last year with Hitech, the New Zealand Red Bull junior moves to Carlin who finished third in the teams’ championship last year. As one of the winners from Bahrain last year, he should be a threat for the top spot in Sakhir again.

Another driver who will be interesting to watch after moving teams is Felipe Drugovich. The Brazilian has switched from UNI-Virtuosi to MP Motorsport for his third season, which theoretically would be a drop down the grid.

But it was with MP that Drugovich took three victories (including one in Bahrain) during his debut season in 2020. With a more comfortable environment he may return to fighting at the front of the field again this year.

Felipe Drugovich, MP Motorsport (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Fresh faces, big impact

As Oscar Piastri showed last season when he won the title at the first attempt, experience isn’t everything in F2 – and there’s a bumper crop of rookies joining the series for 2022 looking to follow in his footsteps.

Reigning champions Prema are no exception. With Piastri leaving the series, Prema have called up Red Bull junior and reigning Formula 3 champion Dennis Hauger to take his seat. Given his and his team’s recent success, Hauger is considered one of the favourites for the title this year.

Hauger won’t be without his competition though. His F3 title rival Jack Doohan is also joining the grid for a full campaign this year with the UNI-Virtuosi team. His team enjoyed recent championship challenges led by Callum Ilott and Guanyu Zhou, while Doohan himself already has some competitive F2 experience under his belt from running in the final two rounds last year. This is definitely a pairing to watch out for.

Jack Doohan, UNI-Virtuosi (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Further along the grid there are more impressive rookies joining the field. Logan Sargeant, Frederik Vesti and Clement Novalak will race with Carlin, ART and MP Motorsport respectively after earning plenty of plaudits in F3 in recent years. Meanwhile F3 race winners and podium finishers Olli Caldwell, Ayumu Iwasa, Enzo Fittipaldi and Calan Williams will represent Campos, DAMS, Charouz and Trident respectively, and former F1 eSports driver Cem Bolukbasi joins Charouz after a race-winning Euroformula Open campaign last year.

And last but not least, there is a new team on the grid in the form of Van Amersfoort Racing. The Dutch feeder series stalwarts are taking over HWA’s vacant entry, and for their first season will pair experienced F2 and F3 driver Jake Hughes with rookie Amaury Cordeel.

Racing gets underway this weekend with the F2 sprint race on Saturday at 16:40 UTC and the feature race on Sunday at 10:40 UTC.

2022 IndyCar Season Preview: The Year of the Rookies

This week, the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship gets underway in St. Petersburg, Florida. The 2022 roster of drivers includes no less than six rookies, and 20 veteran full-time drivers in total, making it the largest full-time field of competitors in IndyCar for a decade.

IndyCar never fails to disappoint, with a diverse array of tracks from across the United States and drivers from all over the world, to a traditional points based system where all positions count, oh and not to mention it has one of the most welcoming fanbases you’ll find in motorsports; there’s every reason to watch IndyCar this season whether you’re a veteran or rookie yourself. Let’s get you up to speed with what’s new for IndyCar in 2022.

Continue reading “2022 IndyCar Season Preview: The Year of the Rookies”

F2 Abu Dhabi: Piastri rounds out F2 campaign with feature race win

Newly-crowned Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri signed off his time in the series by winning his final feature race from pole position, while the battles for second place in the drivers’ and teams’ standings were settled behind him.

Piastri got away well off the line to hold the lead from MP Motorsport’s Jack Doohan in second. Doohan started the race on the slower medium tyres and so had to immediately go defensive as the supersoft runners Guanyu Zhou and Robert Shwartzman swarmed him from the second row of the grid.

That difference in tyre strategy set up a frantic opening lap as Zhou tried to find a way past Doohan at every opportunity, while their battle helped Liam Lawson join the fray by attacking Shwartzman for fourth. As they headed into Turn 9 both pairs went side by side for position which saw Doohan and Lawson run wide on the outside.

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

As they rejoined the track, both drivers then spun on dirty tyres. Lawson managed to keep his car on track albeit down in seventh, but Doohan ended up in the wall and out of the race to bring out a safety car.

When the safety car period ended on lap 5, the race resumed with Piastri leading Zhou and Shwartzman, who were battling over second place in the final standings. Further back Theo Pourchaire was fighting to hold on to fifth position on the medium tyres, with Dan Ticktum on the supersofts behind him.

As the highest driver on the mediums, Pourchaire took the lead of the race on lap 10 when Piastri, Zhou, Shwartzman and Ralph Boschung pitted to swap from the supersofts to fresh mediums. Once the frontrunners who started on supersofts had all stopped, Pourchaire led from Felipe Drugovich and Jehan Daruvala, while net leader Piastri was in P12.

The race then entered a lull as those at front on their starting tyres waited for their own stops to switch to the supersofts. By lap 26 Piastri was leading Zhou and Shwartzman from fifth as those ahead of them had stopped, but Pourchaire and Drugovich had extended their stint and had enough time over Zhou and Shwartzman to emerge in the podium fight once they made their own stops.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Clive Rose, Getty Images / FIA F2)

Pourchaire came in first at the end of lap 27 but a slow stop meant he ended up behind Shwartzman once he rejoined the track. Drugovich came in on the following lap and emerged ahead of Pourchaire, although Pourchaire’s extra lap getting the supersoft tyres up to temperature allowed him to pass the Brazilian on track and retake fourth.

At the end of that lap Pourchaire set the fastest lap time as he continued to close on Shwartzman. But despite his pace he was unable to drop Drugovich, and Drugovich passed Pourchaire again for fourth place on lap 31 with Shwartzman just ahead.

Shwartzman was given a momentary relief at the end of lap 31 when Lawson pulled off the track with a mechanical problem and brought out the virtual safety car. But when that was withdrawn shortly after, Drugovich began lap 32 on Shwartzman’s gearbox and passed him under DRS down to Turn 6. Pourchaire then demoted Shwartzman to fifth on the run to Turn 9.

Theo Pourchaire, ART (Lars Baron, Getty Images / FIA F2)

With one lap to go Drugovich and Pourchaire didn’t have enough time to challenge the remaining positions, and so Piastri took the chequered flag from Zhou with Drugovich taking third over Pourchaire and Shwartzman. Ticktum finished sixth ahead of Marcus Armstrong, Juri Vips, Boschung and Richard Verschoor.

With Zhou and Drugovich on the podium UNI-Virtuosi sealed second place in the teams’ championship over Carlin. But despite Zhou finishing three places higher than Shwartzman in the race, Shwartzman held on to the runner-up spot in the drivers’ standings by nine points.

F2 Abu Dhabi: Piastri clinches title as Daruvala holds on to sprint victory

Jehan Daruvala took his second win of the year in the first Yas Marina sprint race after a race-long battle with Felipe Drugovich, while Oscar Piastri sealed the Formula 2 Championship by beating out his teammate Robert Shwartzman on track.

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

Daruvala started the race from reverse grid pole ahead of his Carlin teammate Dan Ticktum. The polesitter had a clear run down to the first corner as Ticktum was slow off the line and passed by both Drugovich and Liam Lawson. Behind them the two Premas of Shwartzman and Piastri jumped from seventh and tenth to fifth and sixth respectively behind Ticktum.

Ticktum tried to retake third from Lawson on the opening lap but struggled for pace with an apparent car issue. Within two laps he was under pressure from Shwartzman and Piastri, who both passed the Carlin for fourth and fifth on lap 3.

By this point in the weekend Shwartzman was Piastri’s only remaining rival for the title and had to finish in third at the least to keep his title hopes alive. On the following lap after clearing Ticktum he set the fastest lap and started hunting down Lawson for that crucial third.

Shwartzman took the final podium place from Lawson on lap 6, but his rival Piastri was only half a second behind Lawson himself. After taking the fastest lap, Piastri then overtook Lawson for fourth on lap 7.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Bryn Lennon, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

At the front of the field, Drugovich was told by his UNI-Virtuosi team to clear Daruvala as fast as possible, as the two Premas were closing rapidly on the leading pair. Drugovich closed the gap to within a few tenths, but each time he got close enough to press for first place Daruvala responded with enough pace in the first sector to protect himself throughout the rest of the lap.

On lap 12 Drugovich pressured Daruvala into a mistake as his tyres began to fade, and momentarily got ahead as he dived up the inside of Turn 9. But Daruvala managed to stay side by side with Daruvala as they went down to Turn 12, and by the end of the corner Daruvala was back out in front.

As Daruvala and Drugovich battled for the lead, Shwartzman and Piastri closed up to within half a second behind them. But instead of pressuring the leaders, the Premas started battling each other as Piastri put the attack on Shwartzman for third.

With three laps to go Shwartzman locked up going into Turn 6 and opened the door for Piastri to take third. Shwartzman tried to fight back around the outside of Turn 9, but Piastri held the inside line and kept ahead.

Daruvala, Drugovich and Piastri took the three podium positions with Shwartzman in fourth. Lawson and Ticktum came home in fifth and sixth, with Theo Pourchaire and Guanyu Zhou taking the final points.

F2 Jeddah: Armstrong pounces on maiden win in first sprint race

Marcus Armstrong took advantage of a front row start in the first Jeddah sprint race to take his first win in the series, seeing off polesitter Liam Lawson.

Armstrong had wheelspin off the line and looked to drop behind Lawson, but found better acceleration in the second phase of the start. The two cars went into the first corner chicane side by side, but Armstrong muscled Lawson to the edge of the track and came out ahead.

Behind them, Ralph Boschung improved from fourth to third by passing Juri Vips. Further back there was contact between Guilherme Samaia and Marino Sato into the Turn 4 chicane, which left both cars stranded and brought out the safety car.

Ralph Boschung, Campos (Dan Mullan, Getty Images / FIA F2)

When the race restarted again on lap 4 it only lasted a few corners, as title contender Guanyu Zhou was tipped into a spin trying to pass Christian Lundgaard for sixth. Zhou managed to keep the car going albeit at the back of the field and with a broken front wing, and a brief virtual safety car was deployed to clear away the debris.

When the VSC was withdrawn on lap 5, Boschung in third started putting in fastest laps to close the distance to Lawson ahead. But with overtaking so difficult around Jeddah he wasn’t able to make a move for second place, and Boschung instead burned through his tyres and came under attack from Vips.

On lap 10 Vips blasted past Boschung for third under DRS on the start/ finish straight. At the same point on the following lap Boschung lost fourth place to Felipe Drugovich, and by the end of lap 13 he’d been passed by Robert Shwartzman, Lundgaard, Theo Pourchaire and Oscar Piastri to drop out of the points.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Bryn Lennon, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

The safety car made another appearance in the closing stages of the race when Pourchaire spun into the wall at Turn 22, the same place Charles Leclerc crashed during FP2.

When the race resumed it was with just three laps to go, and at the front Lawson put a renewed attack on Armstrong. The Hitech driver managed to hound the DAMS by just a few tenths of a second across the closing laps, but Armstrong’s defensive driving saw him hold off Lawson until the chequered flag and keep first place.

Lawson finished second ahead of Hitech teammate Vips, with Drugovich in fourth. Shwartzman crossed the line in fifth but dropped to sixth due to a penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage earlier in the race.

Jehan Daruvala benefited from the penalty to finish fifth, after a bold move at the restart saw him pass both Lundgaard and Piastri. Lundgaard finished seventh behind Daruvala and Shwartzman, and Dan Ticktum took eighth place after passing Piastri for the final point on the last lap.

Piastri finished ninth and Bent Viscaal took reverse grid pole for the second race with tenth place. Jack Doohan was the highest of the F3 graduates making their debut this weekend with a P11 finish.

F2 Jeddah preview: who can keep the focus as the title approaches?

Formula 2 returns after a long absence this weekend, for the penultimate round of the 2021 championship at Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah Street Circuit.

When the cars take to the track in Jeddah, it will have been nearly 10 weeks since the last race of the championship in Sochi. The previous longest gap this season was eight weeks between Silverstone and Monza, and it was evident in the three races in Italy that several drivers were rusty after such a long time away from the track.

At this late stage in the season, with just two rounds and six races left to run, it’s going to be more important than ever for the drivers to renew their focus fast. And that’s especially true for the title protagonists Oscar Piastri and Guanyu Zhou, as the championship could mathematically be decided in Saudi Arabia this weekend.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images)

Piastri currently leads Zhou by 36 points with 130 remaining in the final two rounds. That sounds like a slim chance to wrap up the title by this Sunday, but if Piastri outscores Zhou by 29 points across the weekend — the amount for a feature race pole and win — the title will be his.

It will be tough for Piastri to make up that kind of ground this weekend without some major misfortune befalling Zhou. But with such a long time off between races, that’s exactly the kind of scenario that could play out if the rust isn’t shaken off in practice.

But Piastri will have to watch out, too. With 130 points still to be won, everyone down to Richard Verschoor in tenth is still technically able to take the title. Most of those will likely be eliminated this weekend, but not all of them can be written off completely.

Robert Shwartzman, Dan Ticktum and Theo Pourchaire sit third, fourth and fifth in the standings with multiple wins so far. Any slip-up by Piastri or Zhou will be gratefully received by this trio of drivers, who still have time to launch a late dark-horse bid for the crown.

What to expect from Jeddah

Ralph Boschung, Campos (Lars Baron, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

With Jeddah being a brand-new circuit and coming after such a long gap, there’s not much to go on when looking ahead to the race.

Piastri would be a good bet for feature race pole this weekend, given that he’s taken the last three poles in a row. But another driver who should come to Jeddah with high hopes is Juri Vips.

What we do know about Jeddah is that it’s a high-speed street circuit, which immediately brings comparisons to the “Monza with walls” sections of Baku. And during F2’s visit to Baku this year, Vips was decisively the driver to beat as he swept up two wins in a row and launched himself up the championship table.

Speaking of street circuit specialists, Ralph Boschung could be one to watch as well. The Swiss driver has scored six points finishes this year and each one has come at previous street tracks — not only that but they’ve all been top-six results, with the highlight being fourth place at Monaco.

Boschung and Campos are unlikely to be challenging for wins or pole this weekend, but a podium appearance could well be on the cards.

Driver changes

 

We might be nearing the end of the year but that hasn’t stopped the F2 grid changing up once again before Jeddah, as four drivers from the 2021 Formula 3 season are stepping up this weekend.

F3 vice-champion Jack Doohan will be making his F2 debut at MP Motorsport, taking the #11 car driven by Verschoor all season. He’ll be joined by Clement Novalak, who replaces Lirim Zendelli in the #12 and will be preparing himself for next year when he joins MP Motorsport full-time.

Olli Caldwell, who raced for Prema in F3 this year, will become the latest driver in the #20 Campos, which has been piloted by Gianluca Petecof, Matteo Nannini and David Beckmann throughout the year so far. Lastly, recent Williams F1 academy signing Logan Sargeant will replace Jake Hughes in the #22 HWA.

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