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 Sochi: Ticktum dominates sprint race in tricky damp conditions

Dan Ticktum took his second win of the season in the Sochi F2 sprint race, surviving the difficult conditions while drivers behind him fell afoul of the damp track in an assortment of incidents.

The race got off to a dramatic start before the grid had even formed, as first Guanyu Zhou spun on the lap to the grid and stalled his engine, then his teammate Felipe Drugovich spun into the wall and wrecked his car. As a result neither UNI-Virtuosi was able to take the race start.

With the track still wet in places the race began with a rolling start after two formation laps behind the safety car. Ticktum made the most of that rolling start to get a good gap over second-placed Juri Vips across the line, while Christian Lundgaard was the only driver in the field able to pull off a lap 1 overtake as he passed Marcus Armstrong for tenth.

Although Ticktum got the jump on Vips at the start, Vips responded through the opening lap to be just two tenths behind the Carlin at the start of lap 2. But Ticktum then put in his own answer with a fastest lap to open the gap up again, which began a game of trading lap times between the two of them.

Just a few tenths behind Ticktum and Vips, Liam Lawson was defending third place from Robert Shwartzman. Shwartzman appeared to have the better pace than Lawson and looked at a move out of Turn 3 on lap 3, but with the track still wet outside the racing line he couldn’t get alongside the Hitech. Shwartzman then ran wide through Turn 18 and lost several tenths to Lawson.

Liam Lawson, Hitech (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

On lap 4 Bent Viscaal spun out at the Turn 15/16 chicane and brought out the Virtual Safety Car. When it was withdrawn on lap 6 Oscar Piastri tried to overtake Jehan Daruvala for eighth place, but he immediately lost tyre temperature when he moved out to the wetter part of the track and instead fell to 12th behind Lundgaard, Armstrong and Richard Verschoor.

The VSC then made an immediate reappearance when Lawson, lacking brake temperature from the first VSC, couldn’t get his car stopped heading into Turn 13 and damaged his left rear suspension on the exit wall. With Lawson out, Shwartzman moved up to third place ahead of Jake Hughes, Ralph Boschung, Theo Pourchaire and Daruvala.

Once again, the VSC restart caught out several drivers. Shwartzman ran wide through Turn 10 with cold tyres and was passed down the straight by Hughes, although Shwartzman was able to regroup and take back third into Turn 13. Meanwhile Boschung was slow to react and was passed by both Daruvala and Pourchaire, with Daruvala coming out on top in fifth.

Daruvala then set the fastest lap shortly after and joined the battle for third at just half a tenth off Hughes and Shwartzman. But despite his speed he also couldn’t find a way past, and on lap 15 Daruvala then spun at Turn 15 and dropped all the way down to 12th place.

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin (Lars Baron, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Back at the front Ticktum had come out best over Vips in both of the VSC restarts and had a four-second lead by the start of lap 10. Vips started to come back at the Carlin with a series of fastest laps and brought the gap down to 2.5 seconds by lap 13.

But Vips also ran wide several times as he struggled to keep temperature in his brakes and tyres, and so he was never able to get on the back of Ticktum. He managed to close to within two seconds on lap 16, but with only two laps remaining there wasn’t enough time to challenge for the lead.

After Vips had a few more offs in the final laps, Ticktum crossed the line to take victory with 4.5 seconds in hand over the Hitech while Shwartzman finished third.

Hughes took his first F2 points with fourth place ahead of Pourchaire, who also recorded the fastest lap late on for an extra two points. Boschung survived a pair of lockups late in the race to finish in sixth place over Lundgaard, and Verschoor come home in eighth to deny Piastri the final point.

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

F2 Monza: Piastri survives Ticktum charge to win feature race thriller

Championship leader Oscar Piastri took his second win of the season after converting pole position in the Monza feature race, while Dan Ticktum and Carlin provided a late-race threat with a fortuitous tyre gamble.

Piastri got away well from pole to hold the lead into Turn 1, but had to watch his main championship rival Guanyu Zhou assume second place by passing Jehan Daruvala off the line. Daruvala struggled for traction at the start and lost another place to Liam Lawson, while Felipe Drugovich pressured him for fourth throughout the opening lap.

The race was neutralised soon after when Guilherme Samaia spun out of the race at the second Lesmo and brought out the safety car. On the restart on lap 5 Piastri managed to break the tow on the rundown to Rettifilo to see off Zhou, while Zhou then came under attack from a rapid Lawson and lost second place into the Roggia chicane.

Piastri, Lawson and Zhou spent the opening laps more or less matching each other’s pace, with the gap between the three of them never more than 1.5 seconds. On lap 5 Piastri set the fastest lap but wasn’t able to definitively break clear of DRS range from Lawson.

Liam Lawson, Hitech (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

On lap 8 Juri Vips, who was running seventh between Theo Pourchaire and Ticktum, slowed suddenly with a mechanical failure in the middle of the Roggia chicane. That caught out Ticktum who made contact with the rear of the Hitech, although he escaped with no significant damage to his own car.

The safety car was brought out again while Vips’ car was cleared away, and the leaders took that opportunity to make their mandatory pit stop from softs to mediums. But Piastri, Lawson and Zhou were followed into the pits by everyone apart from Ticktum, Marino Sato, Christian Lundgaard, Marcus Armstrong and Alessio Deledda, who had started the race on mediums instead.

Sato then dropped out of the race with a mechanical problem of his own, which meant that Piastri rejoined the race in fifth place behind Deledda. Lawson lost out in the pitlane scramble and not only came out behind Zhou but also Daruvala.

At the restart on lap 11 Piastri immediately set about clearing Deledda to get back towards the front. Meanwhile Daruvala found a new turn of pace on his medium tyres and began battling with Zhou for net second.

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

Daruvala got ahead of Zhou at the Roggia chicane but completed the move off track and was ordered to give the place back. He did so on the main straight, but used the momentum to immediately repass Zhou into Rettifilo. But as they came to Roggia again, Zhou went around the outside and reclaimed the position from the Carlin.

By lap 13 Piastri, Zhou and Daruvala had got past Deledda and set about clearing Armstrong as well. Deledda fell back to ninth by the end of the lap, then at the start of lap 14 he made contact with Enzo Fittipaldi at Rettifilo. That allowed Fittipaldi and Robert Shwartzman through, but Drugovich lost out avoiding the HWA and dropped to P12.

Drugovich then dropped out of the midfield battle altogether thanks to a miscommunication with his team. He’d asked his engineer on the radio to check if his front wing was damaged in the incident, but his engineer thought he was reporting wing damage and called him in to pit for repairs — when Drugovich left the pits after the confusion he was in P18 and last.

At the front of the field, Piastri passed fellow Alpine junior Lundgaard for second place on lap 15 and only had Ticktum 1.5 seconds up the road. From the pace of Lundgaard, Armstrong and Deledda it was clear that the worn mediums had run their course, but Carlin kept Ticktum out in front to gamble on another safety car in the final phase of the race.

Dan Ticktum, Carlin (Lars Baron, Getty Images / FIA F2)

Piastri kept closing in, bringing the gap to half a second by lap 18. But Ticktum’s gamble paid off a few laps later when Lawson stopped on the main straight after his fire extinguisher went off and the safety car was deployed. Ticktum immediately pitted for softs and rejoined the race in P12, while Piastri led from Zhou, Pourchaire, Daruvala and Shwartzman.

The race restarted on lap 25, with six laps to go. While Piastri locked up heading to Rettifilo and had to get on the defensive to keep Zhou behind, Ticktum immediately began clearing the cars ahead with his fresh soft tyres. The Carlin driver had a hairy moment at Roggia when he was tapped off the road by Ralph Boschung and narrowly avoided collecting Roy Nissany, but he regrouped to hold seventh place by the end of the lap.

Over the next few laps Ticktum continued to improve with uncontested moves on Nissany, Shwartzman and Daruvala, then on the penultimate lap he passed Pourchaire into Rettifilo for third place. With half a second between him and Zhou and only another eight tenths to Piastri up the road, it seemed inevitable that Ticktum and Piastri would be fighting for the lead on the final tour.

But shortly after Ticktum got past Pourchaire, Bent Viscaal and David Beckmann came together at Rettifilo further down the pack and brought out yet another safety car. With just under two laps left to run, the race was completed under the safety car and Ticktum was forced to settle for third place behind winner Piastri and Zhou in second.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Clive Mason, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Pourchaire finished fourth ahead of Daruvala and Shwartzman. Richard Verschoor took seventh place from Lirim Zendelli, who made a two-stop strategy work to give MP Motorsport a double points finish, and Nissany and Armstrong rounded out the final points positions for DAMS.

With Piastri and Zhou finishing first and second, they remain in the same positions in the championship standings with 15 points separating them. Shwartzman remains third, albeit 21 points behind Zhou and 36 adrift of the lead.

Formula 2 returns on 25–26 September at the Sochi Autodrom in support of the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix.

F2 Monza: Daruvala dominates second sprint race

Carlin’s Jehan Daruvala took his first win of the season in the second Formula 2 sprint race at Monza, leaving the field behind him with a dominant drive from the front.

Daruvala started from second on the reverse grid beside the Campos of David Beckmann, who also started Race 1 from reverse pole. And like in Race 1, Beckmann was forced into defending straight away as Daruvala got the quicker launch and took the inside line into the Rettifilo chicane.

Daruvala came out of the chicane ahead of Beckmann and set off in the lead of the race. Behind them, Bent Viscaal moved up to third by passing Juri Vips.

With the slipstream and DRS posing such a danger at Monza, Daruvala set about pulling an early lead over Beckmann with several fastest laps. He was helped by Beckmann having to switch from chasing the Carlin to defending from Viscaal, who had managed to stay within a few tenths of second place and was on the attack.

Jehan Daruvala, Carlin (Lars Baron, Getty Images / FIA F2)

At the back of the points positions, championship leader Oscar Piastri and Race 1 winner Theo Pourchaire were locked in a fierce battle over seventh place. Piastri had started there but Pourchaire nipped past up the inside of the Rettifilo on lap 3 and saw off Piastri’s attempts to fight back through Curva Grande and the Roggia chicane.

Piastri set the fastest lap on lap 6 as he tried to reel Pourchaire back in. But despite being close enough to try moves into Rettifilo and Roggia, Pourchaire was always able to defend the inside line.

Piastri’s teammate Robert Shwartzman was also making his way up the order in the middle phase of the race. After losing fifth place to Liam Lawson at the start, Shwartzman regained the position at the Rettifilo on lap 8. He then started hassling Vips in the second Hitech, who was struggling to keep his tyres alive in fourth.

Shwartzman sized up Vips through Curva Grande on lap 11 and took fourth place up the inside of Roggia. Vips then lost out to his teammate Lawson at the Ascari chicane and dropped to sixth.

A few laps later Piastri succeeded in retaking seventh place from Pourchaire with a move up the inside of the Rettifilo. That left Pourchaire vulnerable to Guanyu Zhou in ninth, who had closed up behind them as they battled lap after lap.

Theo Pourchaire, ART (Rudy Carezzevoli, Getty Images / FIA F2)

Zhou tried several times to pass Pourchaire through the Rettifilo and Roggia chicanes, but each time Pourchaire hugged the inside line and Zhou was unable to complete a move around the outside. But on lap 17 Zhou forced Pourchaire into braking too late at Rettifilo, and took eighth place as Pourchaire locked up and went down the escape road.

Back at the front, Daruvala had pulled more than five seconds clear of Beckmann by lap 17, while Beckmann was still dealing with Viscaal just a few tenths behind him. But on lap 19 Viscaal was able to do what Zhou did to Pourchaire and pressure Beckmann into locking up at the first corner, opening the door to second place.

Nursing a flat spot, Beckmann fell back into the clutches of Shwartzman and Lawson in the final laps. With just three tenths separating them at start of lap 20, Beckmann fell from third to fifth as Shwartzman passed him into Ascari and Lawson got by through the Parabolica.

Shwartzman therefore completed the podium behind Viscaal and runaway winner Daruvala. Lawson finished fourth ahead of Beckmann and Vips, and the two championship contenders Piastri and Zhou took the final points in seventh and eighth respectively.

F2 Monza: Pourchaire storms past Vips for sprint win

Theo Pourchaire took his second win of the season in the opening Monza sprint race, putting in a lightning performance to overhaul longtime leader Juri Vips.

Vips jumped into the lead at the start of the race, passing reverse polesitter David Beckmann on the run down to the Rettifilo chicane. Beckmann then came close to losing second to Dan Ticktum as well, but was able to regroup himself through Curva Grande to hold the place.

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

Ticktum then found himself under pressure from Pourchaire through the rest of the opening lap. Pourchaire was close enough to dive to the inside of Ticktum into Rettifilo at the start of the second lap, but he braked too late and went down the escape road. At the same time Ticktum spun on the chicane’s kerb and stalled the car, and was clipped by Felipe Drugovich and Ralph Boschung who both damaged their front wings and had to pit.

The safety car was brought out for Ticktum’s stranded Carlin, with Vips leading from Beckman, Pourchaire and Liam Lawson. At the restart on lap 5 Lawson moved to the inside of Pourchaire into Rettifilo but got caught out by Pourchaire’s defence and damaged his front wing.

The racing only lasted for a few corners after the safety car restart, as Drugovich spun off at Ascari on cold tyres and brought out a virtual safety car. When the VSC ended on lap 7 Robert Shwartzman took advantage of the timing to pull alongside his teammate Oscar Piastri through the Lesmos and muscle his way up to sixth. Piastri ran wide into the gravel at Lesmo 2, losing another place to Roy Nissany.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Lars Baron, Getty Images / FIA F2)

At the front, Pourchaire set the fastest lap on lap 8 and started mounting an attack on Beckmann’s second place. Beckmann defended the inside line into Rettifilo at the start of lap 9, but on the next time around Pourchaire pressured Beckmann into locking up at the chicane and he took second place as Beckmann ran down the escape road.

With flat-spotted tyres Beckmann then began falling back through the pack. On the same lap after losing second, Beckmann was bumped off the podium altogether by Guanyu Zhou who moved up into third. But he was saved from losing any more places straight away when Nissany spun out through Ascari and brought out yet another safety car.

At the restart on lap 14 Beckmann lost fourth place to Shwartzman, while Pourchaire immediately started shaping up for a move on Vips in the lead. He was unable to get past into Rettifilo at the first opportunity, but on the next lap around Pourchaire moved to the inside and decisively took first place away from Vips.

Once out front Pourchaire’s pace carried him to a lead of well over a second, while Vips fell back to defending from Zhou in third. Zhou tried several times to get past the Hitech, first through Curva Grande and Roggia on lap 15 then again at Rettifilo and Roggia on the following two laps.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Clive Mason, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Vips was able to hold the inside line each time, but on lap 18 he locked up into Rettifilo and not only let Zhou through into second but dropped back to fifth behind Shwartzman and Christian Lundgaard.

Vips then found himself in the same position Beckmann had been in earlier. Over the next few laps he was passed by Piastri, Lawson and Bent Viscaal to fall to the back of the points after leading for 14 laps.

With Zhou being held behind Vips for several laps before moving into second, Pourchaire was able to sprint clear of the pack to take the chequered flag by almost six seconds in the end. Shwartzman was third on the road behind Zhou, but a five-second penalty for gaining an advantage off-track at the start dropped him off the podium and gave third place to Lundgaard.

Piastri finished fourth, meaning he retains the championship lead by five points despite Zhou’s podium. Lawson was fifth, Shwartzman’s penalty dropped him to sixth, and Viscaal and Vips rounded out the last two points positions. Beckmann finished the race in tenth, meaning he will still the second sprint race from reverse pole this afternoon.

F2 Monza preview: F1 seat on the line as title fight resumes

Formula 2 returns from its extended summer break this weekend, taking to the iconic Temple of Speed at Monza for Round 5 of the championship.

When F2 was last on track at Silverstone in July, Guanyu Zhou took his third win of the season in the feature race but it was Oscar Piastri who left as the new championship leader. Coming to Monza Piastri has five points in hand over Zhou and just two non-scores to his name compared to Zhou’s five.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Michael Regan, Getty Images / FIA F2)

Zhou will be racing for more than just championship points and pride this weekend, though. After a run of major changes in the F1 driver market over the last few weeks, Zhou has emerged as one of the leading contenders to join Valtteri Bottas at Alfa Romeo in 2022.

Zhou doesn’t need to win the F2 title to qualify for a super licence. But returning himself to the lead of the championship would do a lot to impress Alfa Romeo at this crucial time, especially when his two chief rivals for the seat are former F2 champion Nyck de Vries and GP2 runner-up Antonio Giovinazzi.

Whether the prospect of landing an Alfa Romeo seat comes as extra motivation or unwelcome pressure remains to be seen. But what Zhou can depend on coming to Monza is his record so far this season — that is, the most wins of anyone and the joint-most podiums as well.

His strength throughout his time in F2 has always been his qualifying performances. That’s an area where he has the upper hand over Piastri, although Piastri has demonstrated incredible racecraft this year to make up for not always starting near the front. And with Monza being a track where overtaking is much easier than usual, that sets up a fascinating state of play for the next instalment of their title fight.

Still all to play for in the top eight

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Although Piastri and Zhou have become the clear title favourites, it’s still way too early to say that the battle will just be between them. After all, we’ve only had four rounds so far, with Monza, Sochi, Jeddah and Abu Dhabi still to go.

That means there are still plenty of drivers right behind Piastri and Zhou that are far from being written off just yet. Robert Shwartzman for one is just 12 points behind Zhou and 17 behind his teammate Piastri, with two wins under his belt. Monza is a track the Russian knows well, having won there in his title-winning F3 season, and he’ll be going all out to perform well on his Ferrari academy’s home turf.

Juri Vips is another F1 junior looking to kick off well in the second half. After a slow start with no points in Bahrain, Vips has since gone on a run of nine races in the points — the longest streak so far this year — including two wins in Baku. Vips has F2 experience at Monza, having raced there for DAMS last year in place of the injured Sean Gelael, so can hit the ground running this weekend.

The same could also be said of Vips’ Hitech and Red Bull academy teammate Liam Lawson, who won the opening race of the season but now sits eighth in the standings after being disqualified from his second win in the Monaco sprint race. Lawson’s currently lighting up the DTM series, running second in the standings with three wins, and will be fired up to restore himself to contention in F2 as well.

Zhou’s not the only one out to impress Alfa

Theo Pourchaire, ART (Clive Rose, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

And then there’s Theo Pourchaire. After a mighty start to the year that included pole and victory at Monaco, Pourchaire has dropped back from the title fight since — not helped by that Baku crash that led to a broken wrist. After Silverstone he has 65 points on the board, putting him 20 points behind Vips and 43 behind Piastri.

But anyone who watched Pourchaire’s 2020 F3 season will know how well he comes on in the latter stage of a campaign. Last year he went from being an outside contender in Piastri’s fight with Logan Sargeant, to almost snatching the title away from both of them in the final round. And it was at Monza, where he took a pair of second places to begin a run of four podium finishes, that Pourchaire really launched himself into the equation.

It will be a tall order for Pourchaire to repeat that performance in F2. But as a Sauber academy driver he’s vying for that same Alfa Romeo seat as Zhou, and by most accounts is the team’s preferred choice for the future if he can prove himself in F2. With an F1 seat dangling before him and a lot of potential still to be seen, Pourchaire will surely be one to watch this weekend.

F2 Silverstone: Verschoor controls sprint race for first win

MP Motorsport’s Richard Verschoor took his first Formula 2 win in the second Silverstone sprint race, with a calm performance from reverse grid pole.

Verschoor got a good launch from reverse grid pole to enter Abbey ahead of Marcus Armstrong and Dan Ticktum. But as the top ten settled their positions through the opening corners, Ralph Boschung spun at the rear of the field and collected Alessio Deledda, bringing out the safety car before the end of lap 1.

At the restart on lap 5, Verschoor bolted clear of Armstrong and Ticktum to see off any potential move for the lead. Just behind them, Oscar Piastri initially took fourth place from Liam Lawson, but Lawson fought him back on the following lap to retake the position.

Liam Lawson, Hitech (Red Bull Content Pool)

The green flag racing only lasted for another few laps, as the safety car was again brought out on lap 7 when Jehan Daruvala hit the back of Bent Viscaal at Vale and put the Trident into the gravel.

When the safety car pulled in on lap 11, Verschoor was again able to jump clear of Armstrong, while Ticktum was close enough to put pressure on the DAMS ahead. By the end of the first racing lap, Verschoor was more than a second clear of Armstrong, but six tenths separated Armstrong and Ticktum.

Meanwhile, the fight between Lawson and Piastri resumed with just half a second splitting the two. Piastri tried several times to squeeze his way past Lawson, first up the inside of Vale on lap 15 and again around the outside of Woodcote on lap 16.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Bryn Lennon, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

But after Lawson was able to close the door each time, Piastri was finally close enough to dart to the inside at Brooklands on lap 18 and take fourth place. And once freed from behind Lawson, Piastri set the fastest lap as he tried to reel in Armstrong and Ticktum in the final laps.

But despite Piastri’s pace, the gap was too large to overhaul before the chequered flag, and Verschoor led home Armstrong and Ticktum for the podium. Piastri came home fourth with the fastest lap to add another ten points to his new championship lead. Lawson finished fifth, ahead of Juri Vips, Felipe Drugovich and David Beckmann.

F2 Silverstone: Shwartzman commands sprint race as Piastri takes title lead

Prema’s Robert Shwartzman dominated the opening Formula 2 sprint race at Silverstone for his second win of the season, while championship leader Guanyu Zhou retired on lap 1 and lost the points lead to Oscar Piastri.

Shwartzman started the race from fourth on the grid behind Christian Lundgaard, Juri Vips and Roy Nissany. But a rapid launch saw him pass third-placed Nissany off the line, then beat Vips and Lundgaard into first place down to Turn 1.

As Shwartzman assumed the lead from Vips and Lundgaard, Nissany found trouble at Turn 3 as he was hit from behind and then tagged the rear of Lundgaard too. Lundgaard’s car was undamaged, but Nissany was spun around and out of the race.

Almost simultaneously, Zhou was spun around at the same corner while fighting up into the points. The longtime championship leader retired on the spot, and the safety car was deployed.

At the restart, Shwartzman was able to jump clear of Vips, while Lundgaard locked up and dropped back towards Felipe Drugovich in fourth. Meanwhile, Shwartzman’s Prema teammate Oscar Piastri put the attack on Liam Lawson for sixth while Dan Ticktum behind tried to join the battle.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Michael Regan, Getty Images / FIA F2)

Piastri’s assault on sixth was briefly halted at the end of lap 4 as Alessio Deledda was spun out of the race and the safety car was redeployed. But at the restart on lap 7, Piastri was able to get up the inside of Lawson and take sixth place away.

A third safety car came out on lap 12 when Guilherme Samaia found himself beached in the gravel. With ten laps to go, Richard Verschoor, Jack Aitken, Bent Viscaal and Matteo Nannini chose to pit from outside the points and take on fresh medium tyres.

At the restart on lap 15, Shwartzman again shot clear of Vips to protect first place, and went on to ease his gap up to over a second. Over the final laps, Vips couldn’t find a way to close the gap to Shwartzman and came home second where he started.

Juri Vips, HItech (Dan Istitene, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Lundgaard briefly came within half a second of Vips but couldn’t get close enough to make a move for second before the end. Drugovich took fourth behind Lundgaard, while Theo Pourchaire and Piastri were fifth and sixth. Lawson held on to seventh place despite not having the pace to stick with Piastri, and Ticktum finished eighth for the final point.

Verschoor was able to put his fresh mediums to good use in the closing stages. After making his way past Ralph Boschung and David Beckmann early after the restart, he made his way up to the back of Lirim Zendelli by lap 18, and took tenth place from his teammate to start the second sprint race from reverse grid pole.

With Zhou retiring from the race, Piastri’s sixth place and Shwartzman’s win moves the two Premas to the top of the standings on 83 and 81 points respectively.