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,.

HWA announces F2 graduation for Nannini, Deledda

HWA Racelab have announced that they will field Formula 3 graduates Matteo Nannini and Alessio Deledda as their lineup for the 2021 Formula 2 season.

Nannini had already been announced as one of HWA’s F3 drivers for this year, having made the switch from Jenzer Motorsport for his sophomore season. The decision to split the 2021 feeder series calendars, which will see F2 and F3 run on separate Grand Prix weekends, means Nannini is able to contest both championships for the team.

After initially struggling to score points with the uncompetitive Jenzer team in F3 last year, Nannini had a breakthrough weekend in Barcelona with tenth place in the feature race and his maiden series podium in third in the sprint race.

Matteo Nannini, testing for Campos during the 2020 F3 post-season test (David Ramos / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Deledda joins F2 as a controversial signing. In November last year he drew attention for a trio of videos posted on his Instagram, appearing to show himself weaving through a motorway traffic jam at high speed, exceeding 300km/h on a motorway, and driving at 200km/h on another public road. He subsequently claimed the videos were actually of other drivers, which he was sharing to “raise awareness” of “similar acts of villainy” on the road.

Speaking about the driver announcement, HWA team principal Thomas Strick called Nannini a “young and talented driver”, saying that HWA decided to field him in both feeder series’ so that he could be “introduced more quickly to the high performance of a Formula 1 car, as the Formula 2 car comes far closer to matching this performance”.

Nannini said: “I am really looking forward to such a busy season! 45 races in 2021 are going to be demanding, but I feel ready and determined to grow as a driver. I know it will not be easy, but I am willing to learn as much as possible.”

F2 Bahrain preview: title in Schumacher’s grasp

Formula 2 returns to the track this weekend at the Bahrain International Circuit for the penultimate round of the 2020 championship.

It’s been a while since September 27th, when we last saw F2 action at the Sochi Autodrom. Guanyu Zhou left Russia an F2 winner at last, having taken victory from Nikita Mazepin in the curtailed sprint race, but it was championship leader Mick Schumacher who made the most of the weekend.

After taking his second win of the season in the feature race, Schumacher came back through the field on Sunday to finish third on the sprint race podium as well. As a result, Schumacher comes to Bahrain with a healthy 22-point lead over his nearest rival Callum Ilott.

In fact, Schumacher could wrap up the title this weekend, perhaps even as early as the feature race. With two rounds remaining, Schumacher would have to outscore Callum Ilott by 26 points across the weekend—a feature race win with either pole or the fastest lap would do it.

But although Schumacher has one hand on the championship trophy, the margin between him and Ilott is still close enough that it wouldn’t take much for the tables to turn. All Ilott needs is a pair of strong results and some bad luck for Schumacher, and we could be looking at a very different picture for next weekend’s Sakhir finale.

Callum Ilott, UNI-Virtuosi (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

As ever in F2, there plenty more tight championship battles right through the field than just the one at the front.

Yuki Tsunoda is currently third in the championship but only seven points separate him from Mazepin in sixth. With Red Bull open about wanting Tsunoda to race in F1 with AlphaTauri next year, he’ll be wanting to open that gap a little more to make sure he scores the necessary super licence points.

Tsunoda’s Carlin team didn’t have the most competitive outing in Bahrain last year, with Louis Deletraz’s pair of fifth places their best result. However, the British team does know how to prepare a good car for the circuit, as was seen by Lando Norris and Sergio Sette Camara scoring a win and two podiums respectively in 2018.

Further back again, Felipe Drugovich will be one to keep an eye on this weekend. The Brazilian has been one of the surprise stars of the season, taking two sprint race wins and a pole at Silverstone, and he’ll be well aware that any more great results this weekend will be a big help as he looks for a 2021 seat further up the grid.

Finally, Bahrain will see Formula 3 driver Theo Pourchaire make his F2 debut with HWA. Pourchaire, who finished runner-up in this year’s F3 championship, will take over the #17 HWA from Jake Hughes, who raced at the last round in Sochi following Giuliano Alesis’s mid-season switch to MP Motorsport.

Alesi will continue with MP Motorsport this weekend, despite reports earlier this month that he was in danger of losing his seat and backing from the Ferrari Driver Academy.

Theo Pourchaire, ART F3 (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

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)

F3: Doohan tops final post-season test

Trident’s Jack Doohan set the fastest time in Formula 3’s final post-season test at Jerez, ahead of teammate Clement Novalak.

Doohan set his best time of a 1:29.041s during his qualifying simulations in the morning session. This session was interrupted multiple times with red flags brought out for Alessandro Famularo (Campos), Olli Caldwell (ART), Francesco Pizzi (MP Motorsport) and Jonathan Hoggard (Campos), but Doohan was still able to log a respectable 42 laps in between the stoppages.

Novalak came close to Doohan in the sister Trident, but was ultimately kept off the top of the timesheets by just 0.019s. However, Novalak recorded more laps than his teammate with 45 in the morning session, and a day’s total of 101 to Doohan’s 92.

Jenzer’s Calan Williams had another strong day of testing as he again finished the day third-fastest. Williams was also second-fastest in the second session, with his 1:30.238s being only 0.14s slower than afternoon pacesetter Igor Fraga.

Igor Fraga, Hitech (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Hitech rookie Jak Crawford was fourth-fastest overall ahead of Charouz’s David Beckmann. Dennis Hauger (Prema) and Caio Collet (ART) were early pacesetters before Doohan’s run, but ended the day sixth and seventh respectively.

Hoggard was eighth fastest despite ending the morning session early with his spin into the gravel at Turn 5. Arthur Leclerc (Prema) and Enzo Fittipaldi (HWA) were ninth and tenth.

Leclerc logged the fewest laps of the day with 60, while Charouz rookie Konsta Lappalainen recorded the most with 103, despite finishing 28th in the overall times.

Overall classification:

Pos. Driver Team Time (best) Laps (total)
1 Jack Doohan Trident 1:29.041 92
2 Clement Novalak Trident 1:29.060 101
3 Calan Williams Jenzer Motorsport 1:29.328 77
4 Jak Crawford (R) Hitech Grand Prix 1:29.336 97
5 David Beckmann Charouz Racing System 1:29.350 61
6 Dennis Hauger Prema Racing 1:29.361 64
7 Caio Collet (R) ART Grand Prix 1:29.461 93
8 Jonathan Hoggard (R) Campos Racing 1:29.514 68
9 Arthur Leclerc (R) Prema Racing 1:29.516 60
10 Enzo Fittipaldi HWA Racelab 1:29.558 90
11 Igor Fraga Hitech Grand Prix 1:29.622 102
12 Pierre-Louis Chovet HWA Racelab 1:29.628 88
13 David Schumacher Trident 1:29.674 75
14 Frederik Vesti ART Grand Prix 1:29.698 90
15 Olli Caldwell ART Grand Prix 1:29.705 86
16 Matteo Nannini Hitech Grand Prix 1:29.718 92
17 David Vidales (R) Campos Racing 1:29.728 87
18 Bent Viscaal MP Motorsport 1:29.833 72
19 Cameron Das Carlin Buzz Racing 1:29.917 72
20 Jonny Edgar (R) MP Motorsport 1:30.099 86
21 Oliver Rasmussen (R) Prema Racing 1:30.135 61
22 Reshad de Gerus (R) Charouz Racing System 1:30.285 87
23 Nazim Azman (R) Carlin Buzz Racing 1:30.310 82
24 Ido Cohen (R) Carlin Buzz Racing 1:30.410 80
25 Sophia Floersch HWA Racelab 1:30.590 89
26 Francesco Pizzi (R) MP Motorsport 1:30.634 75
27 Rafael Villagomez (R) Jenzer Motorsport 1:30.744 65
28 Konsta Lappalainen (R) Charouz Racing System 1:30.924 103
29 Filip Ugran (R) Jenzer Motorsport 1:30.960 75
30 Alessandro Famularo (R) Campos Racing 1:31.082 64

F3 testing: Stanek leads Leclerc in Jerez

Roman Stanek topped the first day of Formula 3’s final post-season test at Jerez, pipping Prema’s Arthur Leclerc by 0.048s.

Stanek, driving for ART after testing for Prema himself in Barcelona, bucked the trend of the first post-season test by setting his best and the overall fastest time in the afternoon session. The Czech driver was only 11th in the morning session, but in the afternoon he was one of only two drivers to dip below 1:30s with a 1:29.928s.

Leclerc was the other driver to do so with a 1:29.976s. Jonathan Hoggard, driving for Hitech, picked up his impressive display from the first test by finishing the day third-fastest, just 0.086s off Stanek’s benchmark.

Jack Doohan, returning with Trident, finished fourth overall after topping the morning session. Dennis Hauger was fifth for Prema and second behind Doohan in the morning.

Enzo Fittipaldi (HWA), Clement Novalak (Trident), Igor Fraga (Hitech), Frederik Vesti (ART) and rookie Caio Collet (Prema) rounded out the top ten.

Jack Doohan, Trident (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Overall classification:

Pos. Driver Team Time (best) Laps (total)
1 Roman Stanek ART Grand Prix 1:29.928 67
2 Arthur Leclerc (R) Prema Racing 1:29.976 60
3 Jonathan Hoggard (R) Hitech Grand Prix 1:30.014 67
4 Jack Doohan Trident 1:30.161 54
5 Dennis Hauger Prema Racing 1:30.199 57
6 Enzo Fittipaldi HWA Racelab 1:30.202 63
7 Clement Novalak Trident 1:30.222 60
8 Igor Fraga Hitech Grand Prix 1:30.297 67
9 Frederik Vesti ART Grand Prix 1:30.338 70
10 Caio Collet (R) Prema Racing 1:30.356 61
11 David Schumacher Trident 1:30.431 74
12 David Beckmann Charouz Racing System 1:30.462 42
13 Calan Williams Jenzer Motorsport 1:30.473 65
14 Olli Caldwell ART Grand Prix 1:30.540 69
15 David Vidales (R) Campos Racing 1:30.541 67
16 Matteo Nannini MP Motorsport 1:30.566 63
17 Oliver Rasmussen (R) HWA Racelab 1:30.576 84
18 Pierre-Louis Chovet HWA Racelab 1:30.585 89
19 Jak Crawford (R) Hitech Grand Prix 1:30.688 62
20 Cameron Das Carlin Buzz Racing 1:30.696 54
21 Jonny Edgar MP Motorsport 1:30.748 62
22 Nazim Azman (R) Carlin Buzz Racing 1:30.927 65
23 Ido Cohen (R) Carlin Buzz Racing 1:31.151 62
24 Peter Ptacek (R) Campos Racing 1:31.159 71
25 Francesco Pizzi (R) MP Motorsport 1:31.255 66
26 Reshad de Gerus (R) Charouz Racing System 1:31.363 43
27 Alessandro Famularo (R) Campos Racing 1:31.390 68
28 Rafael Villagomez (R) Jenzer Motorsport 1:31.454 68
29 Filip Ugran (R) Jenzer Motorsport 1:31.870 68
30 Konsta Lappalainen (R) Charouz Racing System 1:32.037 68

F3: Nannini fastest in first post-season test

Matteo Nannini topped the first day of Formula 3’s post-season test in Barcelona ahead of Jake Hughes and Calan Williams.

On his first day driving for Campos Racing, Nannini set his time of a 1:32.170s in the morning session, before switching to race simulations in the afternoon and logging a total of 64 laps. Hughes, returning to HWA, was only 0.257s slower than Nannini and set 62 laps overall.

Jenzer’s Williams led a tight trio of drivers with less than three tenths separating him from Dennis Hauger at Prema and ART rookie Victor Martins in fifth. Renault junior Martins, currently leading the 2020 Formula Renault Eurocup championship, was the only rookie within the top ten and had one of the highest lap counts with 74.

Victor Martins, ART (Photo Alexandre Guillaumot, DPPI / Renault Sport Media)

Enzo Fittipaldi (HWA) and Roman Stanek (ART) were sixth and seventh, while Jack Doohan was eighth-fastest overall and topped the afternoon session for Trident. Clement Novalak (Trident) and David Schumacher (Prema) rounded out the top ten.

HWA rookie William Alatalo recorded the most laps of the day with 93, while Novalak had the fewest with 49.

Six drivers set their fastest laps in the afternoon session, all of whom were rookies: Alessandro Famularo (Campos), Amaury Cordeel (MP Motorsport), Jonny Edgar (MP Motorsport), Patrik Pasma (Charouz), Rafael Villagomez (Trident) and Josef Knopp (Charouz).

Overall classification:

Pos. Driver Team Time (best) Laps (total)
1 Matteo Nannini Campos Racing 1:32.170 64
2 Jake Hughes HWA Racelab 1:32.427 62
3 Calan Williams Jenzer Motorsport 1:32.500 60
4 Dennis Hauger Prema Racing 1:32.512 74
5 Victor Martins (R) ART Grand Prix 1:32.527 74
6 Enzo Fittipaldi HWA Racelab 1:32.615 73
7 Roman Stanek ART Grand Prix 1:32.625 77
8 Jack Doohan Trident 1:32.777 57
9 Clement Novalak Trident 1:32.816 49
10 David Schumacher Prema Racing 1:32.948 73
11 Igor Fraga Hitech Grand Prix 1:33.069 70
12 Franco Copalinto (R) MP Motorsport 1:33.085 77
13 Jonathan Hoggard (R) Jenzer Motorsport 1:33.096 54
14 Artur Leclerc (R) Prema Racing 1:33.161 71
15 Jak Crawford (R) Hitech Grand Prix 1:33.286 72
16 Michael Belov Charouz Racing System 1:33.331 50
17 Ben Barnicoat Carlin Buzz Racing 1:33.450 51
18 Oliver Rasmussen (R) Hitech Grand Prix 1:33.492 74
19 Pierre Louis Chovet Campos Racing 1:33.509 64
20 Olli Caldwell ART Grand Prix 1:33.530 72
21 William Alatalo (R) HWA Racelab 1:33.772 93
22 Sophia Floersch Carlin Buzz Racing 1:33.819 61
23 Ido Cohen (R) Carlin Buzz Racing 1:33.838 61
24 Alessandro Famularo (R) Campos Racing 1:33.988 68
25 Amaury Cordeel (R) MP Motorsport 1:34.139 75
26 Jonny Edgar (R) MP Motorsport 1:34.389 71
27 Patrik Pasma (R) Charouz Racing System 1:34.911 64
28 Rafael Villagomez (R) Trident 1:35.062 65
29 Filip Ugran (R) Jenzer Motorsport 1:35.170 56
30 Josef Knopp (R) Charouz Racing System 1:35.758 70

F2 Sochi preview: focus on 2021

Formula 2 returns this weekend for round 10 of the championship at Russia’s Sochi Autodrom, where all the field will now be driving with one eye on their 2021 plans.

With only three rounds of the season left, the focus of the championship has shifted to who’s gunning for an F1 graduation, and who’s teeing up a campaign for next year’s F2 title. Obviously the driver attracting the most spotlight at the moment is championship leader Mick Schumacher, who is reported to be a firm favourite for one of Alfa Romero’s 2021 seats.

If Schumacher wants to solidify his chances he’ll have to continue to pull away from his title rivals Callum Ilott and Robert Shwartzman. And doing that means having a much better weekend in Sochi than he did last year, when he scored nothing after retiring from both races. A repeat of that this year would be disastrous for his title aspirations.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

For Shwartzman in particular though, a troubled weekend for the title leader would be just what he needs. After two non-scores last time out at Mugello, Shwartzman has now dropped to fourth in the standings behind Schumacher, Ilott and Christian Lundgaard, and is 21 points off the championship lead he’d previously held for so long.

Shwartzman fortunately has a great relationship with the Sochi Autodrom to help him this weekend. As well as being the Russian’s home circuit, it was at this track last year that he wrapped up the Formula 3 title in commanding fashion, with pole position and two podiums to leave him 54 points ahead of runner-up Marcus Armstrong.

If Shwartzman can bring that kind of form again this year, there’s no reason he can’t make up for Mugello and get right back in the title hunt.

Another driver whose 2021 F1 shot is looking in danger after Mugello is Yuki Tsunoda. After his pole and win in the Spa feature race made him a shoe-in for AlphaTauri next year, Tsunoda has only scored once in the five races since. Crucially, he’s dropped from fourth to sixth in the standings, and if he doesn’t improve from there he won’t secure the superlicense points he needs to move up to F1.

What Tsunoda needs most of all is a clean race weekend. He’s shown no lack of speed since Spa, but some scruffy racing like his incidents with Dan Ticktum and Felipe Drugovich at Mugello have kept that speed from translating into the points finishes Red Bull are expecting of him.

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

What makes things more difficult for Tsunoda is that he’s racing for that fourth spot against Lundgaard and Nikita Mazepin. Both drivers are on excellent form and will almost certainly be title contenders if they remain in F2 next year.

Neither of them had a particularly profitable outing at Sochi last year. Mazepin finished eighth in the F2 feature race but retired from the sprint race, while Lundgaard finished fourteenth and ninth in the two F3 races.

But in terms of their recent results, Mazepin and Lundgaard are both riding high as the winners of the Mugello feature and sprint race respectively. Lundgaard especially has a lot of momentum behind him, as he was on pole for the Mugello feature race as well and scored a double podium at Monza the week before.

Lundgaard’s results have put him back into the championship’s top three after a run of non-scores in the middle of the season knocked him down the order. Although he’s touted as one of next year’s title favourites, the Dane is only 16 points off Schumacher and could be a surprise late contender for the 2020 crown instead.

Giuliano Alesi, MP Motorsport (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

There have been two driver changes ahead of Sochi. Nobuharu Matsushita has left MP Motorsport, saying in a statement that he’s “decided to move on to fresh challenges elsewhere”. He’s been replaced by Giuliano Alesi who moves over from HWA, and in turn HWA have promoted their F3 driver Jake Hughes to take Alesi’s seat.

Alesi will be hoping that MP, who have won three races this year with Matsushita and Drugovich, will provide him with a car more capable of challenging for points than HWA. Alesi’s only points this year came with sixth place in the opening race in Austria.

Finally, Juri Vips will continue to drive for DAMS this weekend. The Estonian was initially only due to replace the injured Sean Gelael for three rounds ending with Mugello, but this has been extended to include Sochi as well.

Jake Hughes, HWA (Bryn Lennon / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

F3 2020 season review

The 2020 FIA Formula 3 season ended with a bang last weekend at Mugello. ART’s Theo Pourchaire came within touching distance of flipping the championship on its head after title contender Logan Sargeant crashed out on the opening lap, but ultimately it was Prema’s Oscar Piastri who came through to be crowned the 2020 drivers’ champion.

With all the prizes now handed out, it’s time to look back on what will go down as a memorable season—not just for the circumstances surrounding it, but for the brilliant racing seen all year long.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Courtesy of FIA Formula 3 media)

The fight at the top

Obviously, any review of this year’s F3 season has to start with its champion Oscar Piastri and his rivals for the crown.

From his win in the first race of the season, there was little doubt that Piastri would be one of the major players in the title battle right through to the end. Although it took him until the Barcelona sprint race to win again, Piastri’s podiums and strong points finishes kept him in the championship lead right up until round five at Silverstone, when Logan Sargeant’s first F3 win set up a close title fight between the two Premas.

His season wasn’t perfect. Considering he won the title, it’s surprising that Piastri did so with fewer wins than Frederik Vesti or Liam Lawson, and fewer podiums than Theo Pourchaire. More surprisingly, Piastri scored no pole positions at all this year—by comparison, Sargeant took three and qualified ahead of Piastri in almost every round.

All of which must make the final result of the 2020 season tough to swallow for the four drivers above. Despite all outperforming Piastri by one metric or another, the Australian’s consistency meant he was still able to come out on top.

But hopefully, they’ll all come away from the season emboldened by their performances, and the knowledge that the championship could have so easily swung in any of their directions. Pourchaire, Sargeant, Vesti and Lawson would all have been just as deserving a champion as Piastri, and will surely be contenders once again if they stay in F3 next year.

Alex Peroni, Campos (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Who else impressed?

While much of the focus this year was on the battle for the championship, there were still plenty more standout performances from drivers up and down the grid.

Alex Peroni was one such. His 2019 F3 debut didn’t start particularly strongly with only two lower points finishes, but it was his vertebrae fractures sustained at Monza that defined it. But Peroni came back a different driver in 2020, taking his maiden podium in the first round with two more to follow at Silverstone and Barcelona, and scoring all of Campos’ 64 points.

Another impressive podium challenger was ART’s Aleksandr Smolyar. While the Russian was a long way off teammate Pourchaire’s results, he showed serious pace all season with a pole position at the Hungaroring and a win at Silverstone, although the latter was taken away by a post-race penalty.

Smolyar’s results wobbled a little after his lost win, but two fourth places at Spa and a podium he could keep at Monza put him back on track and will hopefully set up an even stronger sophomore year in 2021.

Mention should also be made of Ben Barnicoat, Michael Belov and Pierre-Louis Chovet, who all managed to score points acting as last-minute stand-ins for Carlin, Charouz and Hitech respectively. No easy feat by any means, given the steep learning curve of Formula 3.

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

Who needs to improve?

As for drivers who’ll need to step up their game if they return to F3 next year, the easy answer is the likes of Cameron Das, Sophia Floersch, Lukas Dunner and Alessio Deledda. Each of these stood out for the unfortunate reason that they scored no points all season, while their respective teammates were able to take frequent points and occasional podiums.

Another driver with the same distinction is Jack Doohan, who finished 26th in the championship while his HWA teammate Jake Hughes took two wins and two further podiums to finish 7th. Doohan is one of a trio of Red Bull juniors along with Dennis Hauger and Igor Fraga who will need to find new form next year after being significantly overshadowed by Lawson this year.

And speaking of F1 junior drivers, there’s also Ferrari’s Enzo Fittipaldi. The Brazilian showed some good speed at certain races this year, and particularly found his form at Mugello where he finished fifth and fourth in the two races. But over the whole season Fittipaldi only finished in the points six times in 18 races.

With highly-rated Ferrari juniors like Gianluca Petecof and Arthur Leclerc potentially targeting F3 next year, Fittipaldi will need to flip this ratio around to avoid falling behind them in the FDA pecking order.

While we won’t know for a while who’ll make up Formula 3’s 2021 grid, the talent and potential seen throughout 2020 gives us a lot to look forward to. In the meantime, F3 will be back on track next month for two post-season tests, at Barcelona on October 5th–6th and Jerez on October 27th–28th.

Igor Fraga, Charouz (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)