Guanyu Zhou took his second consecutive win of the Formula 2 season, leading UNI-Virtuosi teammate Felipe Drugovich across the line from pole.
Zhou and Drugovich started alongside each other on the front row. But while Zhou got a clean getaway, Drugovich was slow off the line and lost second to the faster Christian Lundgaard.
Behind them, Theo Pourchaire jumped the Premas of Oscar Piastri and Robert Shwartzman for eighth. Shwartzman’s start then got even worse as lost his front wing to the wall at Beau Rivage, and retired a few laps later from damage.
At the front, Lundgaard prevented Zhou from checking out in the lead. Keeping within a second of the Chinese driver after the start, Lundgaard closed the gap to four tenths on lap 4. But Zhou regrouped and pushed on, opening up a buffer of a second just two laps later.
Zhou’s lead then grew to over three seconds when Lundgaard’s engine started smoking on lap 13. After trying to continue for two laps, Lundgaard eventually pulled off the road at the Nouvelle Chicane and retired, promoting Drugovich to second and Roy Nissany to third.
Drugovich, who had dropped back from Lundgaard to avoid the ART’s oil spill, assumed pursuit of Zhou with five seconds between himself and his teammate. The Brazilian made good progress to close that gap by more than two seconds by lap 19, but Zhou responded shortly after to keep out of reach.
Zhou’s gap was briefly eliminated in the closing laps after Gianluca Petecof hit the wall out of Piscine and brought out the safety car. But at the restart on lap 28, Drugovich struggled to get his tyres up to temperature in time and Zhou managed to restore his three second lead by the time he crossed the line.
Nissany finished third behind Zhou and Drugovich for his first F2 podium, while Ralph Boschung took his best F2 result so far in fourth for Campos. Juri Vips finished fifth and took the fastest lap, and Dan Ticktum, Pourchaire and Piastri rounded out the points. Marcus Armstrong finished tenth to take reverse grid pole for tomorrow’s second sprint race.
Guanyu Zhou took the final win of Formula 2’s Sakhir weekend, in a feature race dominated by changing tyre performance and a dramatic late collision for title hopeful Oscar Piastri.
Zhou started the race from pole, but it was anything but an easy drive from the front for the Alpine junior. He was slow away off the line and lost the lead to Christian Lundgaard at Turn 1, then dropped to third behind teammate Felipe Drugovich at Turn 4.
After a brief safety car in the early laps when Roy Nissany was spun out by Robert Shwartzman, Zhou then found himself under pressure from Piastri. The Prema driver, who had started on softs as opposed to Zhou’s hard tyres, picked off Zhou for third on lap 4 and set off after Drugovich and Lundgaard, while Zhou lost another position to Marcus Armstrong on lap 8.
By lap 12 Piastri had passed Drugovich and closed within half a second of Lundgaard, before overtaking the ART for the lead at the start of the following lap. By then the pit window was open and Lundgaard become the first to stop for hards at the end of lap 13, followed by Drugovich on lap 14 and Piastri himself on lap 16. Meanwhile, Zhou made his stop for soft tyres on the alternate strategy on lap 15, and came out of the pits just behind Drugovich.
Another safety car was deployed in the middle of the pit phase when Gianluca Petecof’s cockpit fire extinguisher went off and forced him to retire. The timing of this second safety car benefited Armstrong and Richard Verschoor, who had been shuffled to the head of the field and were able to stop while the pack was slowed down. Armstrong came out of the pits still in the lead, while Verschoor emerged in third between Piastri and Lundgaard.
At the restart on lap 19 however Armstrong immediately fell back, as Piastri and Verschoor both passed him for first and second respectively. Lundgaard also struggled for pace and lost fourth to Drugovich at Turn 4, then fifth to Zhou at Turn 10. Drugovich and Zhou then toppled Armstrong from third on lap 20, before Zhou overtook his teammate for the podium position a lap later.
As Zhou returned to the podium positions, Verschoor took the lead from Piastri on lap 20 and set about building a two-second gap as his softs had more initial pace than Piastri’s hards. That pace deficit allowed Zhou — as well as Dan Ticktum and Liam Lawson, who were also charging through on softs — to close up to Piastri and challenge him for second.
Zhou took the position from Piastri on lap 23 and started reeling in Verschoor, who was struggling as his softs then started losing grip. But despite being on the same compound, Zhou was able to keep his tyres in better condition than the MP Motorsport ahead and he took the lead of the race at Turn 4 on lap 28.
As Zhou then leaped clear in the lead, Ticktum started challenging Piastri for third as the Prema couldn’t find pace on the hard tyres. After being rebuffed at the inside of Turn 1 and the outside of Turn 4 on lap 29, Ticktum was much closer at the start of lap 30. He pulled to the inside and got momentarily ahead, before the two cars made contact and Piastri was spun into a stall and out of the race.
Ticktum continued on in third, and after a brief virtual safety car to recover Piastri he improved to second with a pass on Verschoor. Lawson also overtook Verschoor on the final lap to take his second podium finish of the weekend.
Verschoor was able to hold onto fourth at the flag ahead of Armstrong and Jehan Daruvala. Shwartzman recovered from a drive-through penalty for hitting Nissany at the start to take seventh and the fastest lap, while Theo Pourchaire, Drugovich and Matteo Nannini rounded out the final points positions.