F2 Silverstone: Zhou strikes back at Piastri with feature race win

Guanyu Zhou ran away to victory in the Silverstone Formula 2 feature race, beating polesitter Oscar Piastri after losing the championship lead to the Australian yesterday.

Zhou started alongside Piastri on the front row but got the better launch and was already ahead before they made it to Abbey. Behind them, Dan Ticktum also made a move off the line to take third from Richard Verschoor, while Robert Shwartzman jumped past Felipe Drugovich and Theo Pourchaire for fifth.

At the front of the field, Zhou set the pace with early fastest laps as the top four pulled away from Shwartzman, Drugovich and Pourchaire behind. By lap 4 Zhou had pulled out of DRS range of Piastri, who was starting to come under pressure from Ticktum.

That pressure was relieved when Ticktum pitted for hard tyres on lap 6 to try the undercut. Piastri covered him off on the following lap, but despite coming out ahead of Ticktum he didn’t have the tyre temperature to keep the Carlin behind on the outlap, and Ticktum was able to pass him for P13 and net second.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

Zhou pitted from the lead a lap after Piastri, but was able to come out comfortably ahead of Ticktum despite his undercut strategy. That left Verschoor out in the lead for a few laps, but his own pit stop was slow and left him well down on Piastri when he rejoined the track.

At the front, Juri Vips now lead from Lirim Zendelli, Jehan Daruvala, Jack Aitken and Matteo Nannini. They had started on the hard tyre instead of the mediums and were trying to prolong their first stint to jump up into the points. Meanwhile, Zhou had joined the back of this group after passing Marino Sato on lap 12.

Ticktum and Piastri picked off Sato a lap later. Ticktum was held up by the Japanese driver and lost a lot of time to Piastri, who had considerable pace on his first laps on the new hard tyre. But that pace seemed to flip around on lap 16, as Ticktum passed the long-running Nannini for sixth but Piastri couldn’t find a way around the Campos.

Piastri stayed behind Nannini until the Italian finally pitted on lap 24. By this point Piastri was more than nine seconds adrift of Ticktum, while Verschoor was closing rapidly to put pressure on for the final podium position.

Verschoor got within a second of Piastri by lap 27, and finally launched his assault around the outside of Stowe on the penultimate lap. Piastri managed to hold him off then, almost cutting the corner at Club to stay ahead. On the final lap, Verschoor tried the same move at Stowe, but was too far back this time to get alongside the Prema.

Richard Verschoor, MP Motorsport (Lars Baron, Getty Images / FIA F2)

 

Zhou took the chequered flag with four seconds in hand over Ticktum, and Piastri completed the podium with Verschoor on his gearbox. Shwartzman led Drugovich over the line in fifth and sixth, and Vips picked up seventh place from ninth on the grid after his alternate strategy. Pourchaire, Zendelli and Daruvala completed the top ten, with Daruvala taking another two points for the fastest lap.

Zhou’s victory puts him back up to second in the championship standings, just five behind Piastri and twelve ahead of Shwartzman.

Formula 2 now takes a long break, returning at Monza for the Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix on 10–12 September.

F3 Austria: Vesti triumphs over Hauger in action-packed feature race

Mercedes junior Frederik Vesti took his first win of the 2021 Formula 3 season in the Red Bull Ring feature race, beating polesitter Dennis Hauger in a race-long fight.

Starting from second on the grid, Vesti launched an immediate challenge on Hauger on the opening lap. Hauger had to go defensive as early as the first corner, and on the run down to Turn 4 he was forced to cover off the inside as Vesti pulled alongside him under slipstream.

Dennis Hauger, Prema (Bryn Lennon, Getty Images / FIA F3)

Hauger set an early fastest lap but was unable to pull away from Vesti over the first phase of the race. Vesti started lap four just a few tenths behind the Prema and again attacked Hauger around the outside of Turns 3 and 4, but was again rebuffed.

But on the following lap Vesti was close enough to pull alongside Hauger under DRS down to Turn 4 and take the lead. The move then left Hauger vulnerable to Vesti’s ART teammate Alex Smolyar, who followed Hauger closely before taking second place on lap 7.

Over the short lap Vesti faced the same difficulty in pulling away as Hauger did, and he found himself having to defend from Smolyar as well. After an unsuccessful move at Turn 3 on lap 10, Smolyar came back at Vesti under DRS on the following lap to take the lead. But the Russian’s time at the front only last one corner, as Vesti fought back up the inside of Turn 4, with Hauger following him through to retake second place as well.

Vesti wasn’t able to drop Hauger over the remaining laps, despite moving eight tenths clear at one point, but neither was Hauger able to make any serious attempts at retaking the lead. Meanwhile, Smolyar dropped back after losing the lead and came under attack from the #3 Prema of Olli Caldwell.

Alex Smolyar, ART (Clive Mason, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / Courtesy of FIA F3)

Smolyar managed to hold off Caldwell for a while, including multiple moves at the Turn 3 overtaking spot. But with four laps to go, Caldwell finally managed to get past Smolyar at Turn 4 to take his third podium of the year and second of the weekend.

Behind the podium fight, there was another fierce battle throughout the top ten as a DRS train covered the points positions. Clement Novalak was at the head of that group in fourth for much of the race, defending from the likes of Jak Crawford, Jack Doohan and Victor Martins, while Caldwell and the #2 Prema of Arthur Leclerc came up the order behind them.

On lap 9 Caldwell and Leclerc had finally made their way to the front of the train, and Caldwell slipped past Novalak at Turn 3 to take fourth place. Leclerc tried several times to pass Novalak for fifth but was fended off, which left him in turn defending from Martins in sixth.

Clement Novalak, Trident (Alexander Scheuber, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / courtesy of FIA F3)

On lap 14 Martins got a run on Leclerc through Turn 1 to take sixth, but Leclerc came back at him on the straight down to Turn 4. As they fought, Leclerc lost his front wing as he tagged the back of Martins then ran onto the grass and lost control.

After first clouting the wall and breaking his front right suspension, Leclerc shot across the braking zone of Turn 4 and collected Novalak. Both retired in the gravel trap, while Martins dropped to the back with a puncture and the safety car was deployed.

Crawford inherited fifth place ahead of Doohan, but they also came together on lap 22 and promoted Matteo Nannini to fifth ahead of Ayumu Iwasa and Caio Collet. Logan Sargeant, Calan Williams and Jonny Edgar rounded out the top ten by the chequered flag.

Caio Collet, MP Motorsport (Alexander Scheuber, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / Courtesy of FIA F3)

With podiums in each race this weekend, Hauger leaves the Red Bull Ring with 115 points and a substantial championship advantage. As Hauger’s main rivals Doohan and Martins both failed to score in the feature race, Vesti now moves up to second in the standings, albeit 41 points behind Hauger and just two ahead of Doohan.

Formula 3 returns in four weeks’ time in support of the Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest.

F3 Austria: Hauger wins chaotic sprint race after leaders collide

Prema’s Dennis Hauger won the opening sprint race at the Red Bull Ring from 12th on the grid, taking the lead late on after Clement Novalak and Matteo Nannini collided at the front.

Nannini snatched first place at the start of the race, beating reverse polesitter Logan Sargeant into Turn 1, while Novalak jumped from seventh to third off the line. Behind them, Hauger got himself up into the points in seventh between Jack Doohan and Arthur Leclerc.

The race was stable through the opening laps as most of the cars were running in a DRS train and unable to close up any of the gaps. But on lap 9 things kicked off as Sargeant came back at Nannini to retake the lead through Turn 4.

Logan Sargeant, Charouz Racing System (Dan Istitene, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

That triggered a frantic couple of laps as Sargeant, Nannini and Novalak traded the lead between themselves multiple times. Nannini looked to come out on top at last as he took first on lap 13 and fended off Sargeant for the following laps.

But on lap 16 the battle sparked off again as Sargeant came back and retook the lead. Nannini repassed him on the following lap, but both were passed by Novalak on lap 19.

After Novalak took the lead, Sargeant started to drop back from the battle at the front and was dropped to fifth by Hauger and Olli Caldwell. That put the Premas in the perfect position to benefit when Novalak and Nannini made contact through Turn 3, which sent Novalak into the gravel with suspension damage and dropped Nannini down to eighth.

Hauger took the lead with just over three laps remaining, from Caldwell in second and Sargeant who had been restored to the podium. When Hauger crossed the line he also had the fastest lap to his name, to take the maximum 17 points away from the opening race.

Olli Caldwell, Prema (Clive Rose, Getty Images / FIA F3)

Hauger’s closest championship challenger Victor Martins initially finished fourth, leading home Jak Crawford, Caio Collet, Doohan and Nannini. But after the race a raft of drivers were penalised, most of them for consistently abusing track limits, which drastically altered the top ten.

Sargeant was the biggest casualty as he was handed a five-second penalty for four track limits abuses, which dropped him off the podium. But in total, eleven drivers were penalised including a disqualification for Ayumu Iwasa for failing to comply with a black and white flag.

The penalties eventually brought Charouz’s Enzo Fittipaldi up to fourth ahead of a penalised Martins, and Jonny Edgar rose from 12th to fifth. Frederik Vesti was seventh, and Crawford, Kaylen Frederik and Juan Manuel Correa rounded out the points. Trident’s David Schumacher was elevated to reverse grid pole, and Sargeant ended up 15th.

F2 Monaco preview: can Zhou extend his championship lead?

Formula 2 will take to the streets of Monaco this weekend, as the second round of the 2021 championship gets underway.

This weekend, the action will run from Thursday to Saturday rather than Friday to Sunday. Instead of both sprint races taking place on Saturday, the first will be at midday local time on Friday and the second at 8:20am on Saturday, with the feature race then at 17:15 on Saturday evening.

Alpine vs Red Bull

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Clive Mason, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA Formula 2)

The opening round of the season left us with a fascinating picture of the Alpine and Red Bull junior stables battling it out at the top of the standings.

Alpine came away with the upper hand, with Oscar Piastri and Guanyu Zhou taking two of the three wins in Bahrain and Zhou leading the championship.

But Red Bull’s juniors aren’t far behind, as Liam Lawson sits just 11 points behind Zhou with a sprint race win and a third place under his belt already. And then there’s Jehan Daruvala, who was rapid across the Bahrain weekend and is 7 points clear of Piastri in third despite not taking a victory last time out.

Monaco presents a great chance for Zhou to make up some ground on his less-experienced rivals. As one of only three drivers on this weekend’s grid to have raced in Monaco in F2 before, Zhou has some crucial experience around the tricky track — not only that, but he scored a third place on his last outing at the principality.

Inconsistency has been the bane of Zhou’s campaigns in the past. So if he can notch up more big points and top three finishes in Monte Carlo, he’ll be well on the way to turning a strong start into a strong year.

Second chance at a first impression

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

While Lawson, Piastri and Zhou left Bahrain with winners’ trophies, their teammates ended the first round of the season with some regrouping to do.

Robert Shwartzman, the championship favourite before the season, only sits five points behind Piastri in the standings, but he seemed a long way off the Australian’s pace throughout the Bahrain weekend. Meanwhile, Felipe Drugovich managed only 2 points to Zhou’s 41, and Lawson’s Hitech teammate Juri Vips had a torrid weekend of penalties and points-free finishes.

But with Bahrain almost two months in the rearview mirror now, those three have had plenty of time to pick themselves up and look to Monaco as a second chance to start off their season well.

And as Monaco is such a difficult circuit to master, Shwartzman, Vips and Drugovich will know that all it takes is one error for their teammates while they score decent points themselves, and Bahrain will just be a minor blip rather than an omen for the season.

Return of the Jack

Jack Aitken (Courtesy of Williams Media)

Together with Zhou and Ralph Boschung, one other driver will head to Monaco with F2 experience of the principality: Jack Aitken. He’ll be returning to F2 this weekend and at Baku with HWA, replacing Matteo Nannini who’s left the series after sponsorship trouble to focus on his Formula 3 campaign.

Aitken hasn’t had the best history at Monaco, with a highest finish of 7th in the 2018 feature race. But he does bring a wealth of experience at this level to help HWA move forward, and his record as a multiple F2 winner and audacious overtaker will make him someone for the rest of the field to beware.

F3 Barcelona: Hauger dominates in near-perfect feature race

Prema driver and Red Bull junior Dennis Hauger dominated the first feature race of the Formula 3 season, putting in a lights-to-flag performance and taking the fastest lap for maximum points.

Hauger looked to have lost the lead at the start as he got bogged down at the launch and had to fight a four-wide battle down to Turn 1 with Jack Doohan, Victor Martins and Matteo Nannini. But Hauger managed to keep ahead going into the first corner, while Martins and Nannini assumed second and third and Doohan was shuffled down to fourth.

Nannini moved up to second at the end of the second lap, as Martins ran wide through the final corner and allowed the HWA through. But as Hauger set the fastest lap out front and moved out of DRS range, Nannini was unable to make any in-roads into the Prema’s lead.

Jack Doohan, Trident (Clive Mason, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / courtesy of FIA F3)

Nannini and Martins then both came under pressure from Doohan as he recovered from his start. After taking third from Martins on lap 9, Doohan then reeled in Nannini and passed him for second on lap 12.

But just like Nannini, Doohan was unable to catch Hauger, who was more than three seconds further up the road by this point. Hauger eventually crossed the line with almost four seconds in hand, with Doohan and Nannini completing the podium.

Martins lost another position in the final laps, finishing fifth behind yesterday’s second race winner Olli Caldwell. Clement Novalak took sixth ahead of Frederik Vesti, Caio Collet and Logan Sargeant, and Hitech’s Roman Stanek took his first point of the year in tenth.

Hauger now leads the drivers’ championship after Barcelona with 34 points, two ahead of teammate Caldwell and six clear of Novalak. Prema leads the teams’ standings with 66 points, 17 ahead of Trident in second. Find the full F3 championship standings here.

F3 Barcelona: Caldwell takes maiden win in chaotic second sprint race

Olli Caldwell took his first Formula 3 win in the second Barcelona sprint race, inheriting the lead late on after two separate battles for the win ahead of him ended in collisions.

The race started with Enzo Fittipaldi on reverse pole ahead of David Schumacher, Matteo Nannini, Victor Martins and Dennis Hauger. At lights out the top five all got away in order, while Caldwell went from seventh to sixth by passing Frederik Vesti.

The first four laps ran behind the safety car, after Logan Sargeant and Alex Smolyar came together further back at the start. When the race resumed on lap 5, Schumacher started pressuring Fittipaldi for the lead by keeping within DRS range, while Hauger and Caldwell took advantage of Martins running wide to take fourth and fifth respectively.

After making several attempts to pass Fittipaldi under DRS into Turn 1, Schumacher finally took the lead of the race on lap 12. However, Schumacher wasn’t able to pull clear at the front and Fittipaldi attempted to retake the lead at Turn 1 on lap 14.

Schumacher fended off Fittipaldi on that occasion, but the Brazilian came back around the outside of Turn 1 on the following lap. But as they went side by side through Turn 2, the pair made contact which took them both out of the race, brought out the safety car, and handed the lead to Nannini.

When the safety car came in at the end of lap 17, Hauger immediately challenged Nannini from second but was rebuffed into the first corner. Hauger kept close to the HWA through the next couple of laps and tried another move up the inside of Turn 1 on lap 20, but remarkably they too collided as they went side by side into Turn 2.

As Nannini was spun round and Hauger lost his front wing, Caldwell avoided the incident to lead from Martins and Vesti with three laps remaining. Martins tried to pass Caldwell into the first corner on the final lap but bailed out of the move onto the runoff area, leaving Caldwell clear to take the win.

Martins finished in second and Vesti third, ahead of Clement Novalak and Caio Collet. Red Bull juniors Jonny Edgar, Ayumu Iwasa, Jack Doohan and Jak Crawford finished in formation from sixth to ninth, and Juan Manuel Correa took the final point on his first weekend back racing.

L-R: Victor Martins, Olli Caldwell, Frederik Vesti (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / courtesy of FIA F3)

F3 Barcelona: Smolyar takes first blood in opening sprint race

ART’s Alex Smolyar took the first win of the 2021 Formula 3 season in Barcelona, beating Clement Novalak and rookie Caio Collet.

Smolyar and Collet started from second and third behind reverse polesitter Jonny Edgar, and held position behind the Carlin at the start. Behind them, Novalak jumped from sixth to fourth by passing Logan Sargeant and David Schumacher.

Jonny Edgar, Carlin (courtesy of Carlin Buzz Racing)

Smolyar stuck with Edgar through the opening laps, and on lap four he took the lead at the inside of Turn 1 under DRS. Edgar tried to return the move on the following lap, but Smolyar was able to hold the Carlin off and start pushing out of DRS range.

As Smolyar opened up a gap at the front, Edgar started to struggle with his tyres and came under pressure from Collet and Novalak. On lap 10 Collet tried a move for second at Turn 1 but lost momentum around the outside, which allowed Novalak to pass the Brazilian for third.

Novalak then overtook Edgar for second on lap 14, while Collet got through for third a lap later. As the race entered its final stage, Smolyar reported losing rear grip as Novalak started to eat into the Russian’s lead.

But as Novalak got close to DRS range, the race was halted when Oliver Rasmussen went off into the gravel on lap 18 and brought out the safety car.

Clement Novalak, Trident (Alexander Scheuber, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / courtesy of FIA F3)

This proved to be Smolyar’s saving grace, as there wasn’t enough time for the safety car to come in before the chequered flag — aided somewhat by the tractor recovering Rasmussen’s car getting stuck in the gravel itself.

Smolyar therefore took the win ahead of Novalak and Collet, while Sargeant finished fourth for Charouz having passed Edgar just before the safety car was deployed. Olli Caldwell finished sixth in his first race for Prema, ahead of Frederik Vesti, Dennis Hauger, Victor Martins and Matteo Nannini.

Smolyar took the additional points for fastest lap, and Enzo Fittipaldi finished twelfth to start the second sprint race on reverse pole.

F3 Barcelona preview: All eyes on the class of ’21

Formula 3 will take to Spain’s Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this weekend for the opening round of the 2021 season.

This year, F3 will be following the same new weekend format used by Formula 2 in Bahrain. That means there will be two sprint races on Saturday, and one feature race before the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday.

Can anyone stop Prema?

Arthur Leclerc, Prema (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

As we get into a new season, the big question is whether Prema will once again be the team to beat. And looking at their new lineup, it would be hard to bet against them.

Dennis Hauger and Arthur Leclerc, from the Red Bull and Ferrari junior teams respectively, have already been outlined as title favourites. Hauger comes with an impressive resume of Formula 4 results as well as a season of F3 under his belt with Hitech last year, which included a podium at Hungary. As for Leclerc, he came close to winning last year’s Formula Regional European Championship, with only a retirement in the last round leaving him as runner-up.

Olli Caldwell will be the wildcard in Prema’s lineup. Like Hauger, Caldwell brings F3 experience after running with Trident last year, although he only scored points four times across the season. But don’t write him off based on that — Logan Sargeant did the same in his debut F3 year, before going on to be a title contender with Prema last year.

But while Prema has an impressive lineup, they won’t have it all their own way this year. New Mercedes junior Frederik Vesti, who won the joint-most races of anyone last year while driving for Prema, has moved to ART and will be aiming to challenge for the title there as Theo Pourchaire did in 2020.

Meanwhile, Prema’s closest challengers last year Trident have looked rapid during testing with their new lineup of Clement Novalak, Jack Doohan and David Schumacher. Novalak in particular will be one to watch, as he comes off the back of a debut F3 year that included two podium finishes for Carlin.

Watch out for the midfield pack

Jak Crawford, Hitech (David Ramos, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / courtesy of FIA F3)

But it’s not just the top three teams who could start their season off on top this weekend, as there’s an impressive crop of drivers in the midfield pack ready to make their mark.

For F1 fans, there are plenty of potential future Grand Prix drivers making their F3 debuts this weekend. As well as Hauger and Doohan, Red Bull have three more irons in the fire in the form of Jak Crawford and Ayumu Iwasa at Hitech, and Jonny Edgar at Carlin. Iwasa and Edgar were both F4 champions last year, while Crawford was runner-up to Edgar and a five-time race winner in ADAC F4.

Alpine has two exciting prospects in Victor Martins and Caio Collet, who are both racing for MP Motorsport this year. The two juniors spent last year duelling for the Formula Renault Eurocup title, with the crown going the way of Martins, and have carried that rivalry into F3 already as they topped three days of pre-season testing between them. Watch out for these two springing surprise results at the front of the field.

Victor Martins, MP Motorsport (David Ramos, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / courtesy of FIA F3)

Outside of the F1 junior spotlight, there’s also Matteo Nannini and Roman Stanek. They were two of the quieter revelations from last year, and now driving for HWA and Hitech respectively they’re well placed to make a big impression in their sophomore year.

Lastly, there’s the good news story that is the racing comeback of Juan Manuel Correa. Driving for ART, Correa will be returning to motorsport for the first time since the F2 crash at Spa in 2019 which left him with severe injuries and claimed the life of Anthoine Hubert.

Although this is Correa’s first time racing since 2019, and first time driving at this level since his 2018 GP3 season with Jenzer, he performed well in both pre-season tests earlier in the year. What’s more, with ART he’s got a great team to help him get up to speed quickly, so Correa’s progress this weekend will be well worth watching.

Check out the full list of F3 teams and drivers for this weekend here.

F2 Sakhir: Zhou storms to victory in frantic feature race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F2 Sakhir: Piastri snatches last lap sprint race win from Zhou

Prema’s Oscar Piastri became Formula 2’s second rookie winner in as many races after a strategy gamble and a hectic race helped him to overhaul Guanyu Zhou on the final lap.

The race started with an incident at the first corner. As Juri Vips led away Lirim Zendelli and Zhou from pole, Robert Shwartzman hit Dan Ticktum at Turn 1 as he challenged for fourth place. Ticktum spun out and Shwartzman pulled over with terminal damage, and the safety car was deployed for the opening lap.

When the safety car pulled in at the end of lap 3, Zhou immediately took second from Zendelli. Once ahead, Zhou then started reeling in Vips, setting the fastest lap at the end of lap 4 and taking the lead from the Hitech on the following lap at Turn 4.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Clive Mason, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA Formula 2)

Meanwhile, Liam Lawson and Felipe Drugovich joined the podium battle. After moving past Piastri and Christian Lundgaard for fourth and fifth respectively at the restart, the pair then demoted Zendelli to fifth on lap 5 with Lawson ahead moving into the podium positions. Zendelli’s race then took another hit, as contact from Lundgaard at Turn 1 left the German with a puncture and dropped him to the back of the field.

At the front of the field, Zhou continued to stretch out a gap over Vips, and was running 2.5 seconds clear by lap 11. Behind them, Lawson and Drugovich were much closer in the battle for third, and on lap 15 Drugovich made a move to the inside of Turn 1. Lawson managed to hold off the Brazilian, but they were both passed instead by Lundgaard. Lawson and Drugovich continued battling through the next couple of corners, until they made contact at Turn 4 and Lawson was spun out of the race.

The safety car was deployed again while Lawson’s car was recovered, and Vips, Lundgaard and Piastri all took the opportunity to gamble on a switch to soft tyres. Despite dropping down the order, the trio had an immediate pace advantage over the rest of the field on hards or worn softs when the race resumed on lap 18.

After carving back through the field on the first green flag lap, Vips, Piastri and Lundgaard were back up to second, third and fourth respectively by the end of lap 19, and Vips had the gap to Zhou down to a second.

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

But Vips’ hard work came undone just a few laps later when he lost power and started dropping through the field. Piastri assumed second and the pursuit of Zhou, and at the start of the final lap he and Lundgaard both lunged past their fellow Alpine junior at Turn 1.

As Zhou battled to repass Lundgaard, Piastri was free to pull away in the lead and take his first Formula 2 victory. Lundgaard finished second on the road, but a ten-second penalty for his collision with Zendelli dropped him back to ninth. Zhou therefore finished second, and Jehan Daruvala scored his second podium of the weekend in third.

Richard Verschoor finished fourth for MP Motorsport, ahead of Theo Pourchaire, David Beckmann, Marino Sato and Matteo Nannini.

UPDATE: Lundgaard’s second place finish was reinstated following the race, after the FIA confirmed he had already served his 10 second penalty during his pit stop. The updated result means that Zhou drops to third and Daruvala fourth, and Nannini loses his point as he drops to ninth,.