Guanyu Zhou took his second consecutive win of the Formula 2 season, leading UNI-Virtuosi teammate Felipe Drugovich across the line from pole.
Zhou and Drugovich started alongside each other on the front row. But while Zhou got a clean getaway, Drugovich was slow off the line and lost second to the faster Christian Lundgaard.
Behind them, Theo Pourchaire jumped the Premas of Oscar Piastri and Robert Shwartzman for eighth. Shwartzman’s start then got even worse as lost his front wing to the wall at Beau Rivage, and retired a few laps later from damage.
At the front, Lundgaard prevented Zhou from checking out in the lead. Keeping within a second of the Chinese driver after the start, Lundgaard closed the gap to four tenths on lap 4. But Zhou regrouped and pushed on, opening up a buffer of a second just two laps later.
Zhou’s lead then grew to over three seconds when Lundgaard’s engine started smoking on lap 13. After trying to continue for two laps, Lundgaard eventually pulled off the road at the Nouvelle Chicane and retired, promoting Drugovich to second and Roy Nissany to third.
Drugovich, who had dropped back from Lundgaard to avoid the ART’s oil spill, assumed pursuit of Zhou with five seconds between himself and his teammate. The Brazilian made good progress to close that gap by more than two seconds by lap 19, but Zhou responded shortly after to keep out of reach.
Zhou’s gap was briefly eliminated in the closing laps after Gianluca Petecof hit the wall out of Piscine and brought out the safety car. But at the restart on lap 28, Drugovich struggled to get his tyres up to temperature in time and Zhou managed to restore his three second lead by the time he crossed the line.
Nissany finished third behind Zhou and Drugovich for his first F2 podium, while Ralph Boschung took his best F2 result so far in fourth for Campos. Juri Vips finished fifth and took the fastest lap, and Dan Ticktum, Pourchaire and Piastri rounded out the points. Marcus Armstrong finished tenth to take reverse grid pole for tomorrow’s second sprint race.
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
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
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
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.
Guanyu Zhou took the final win of Formula 2’s Sakhir weekend, in a feature race dominated by changing tyre performance and a dramatic late collision for title hopeful Oscar Piastri.
Zhou started the race from pole, but it was anything but an easy drive from the front for the Alpine junior. He was slow away off the line and lost the lead to Christian Lundgaard at Turn 1, then dropped to third behind teammate Felipe Drugovich at Turn 4.
After a brief safety car in the early laps when Roy Nissany was spun out by Robert Shwartzman, Zhou then found himself under pressure from Piastri. The Prema driver, who had started on softs as opposed to Zhou’s hard tyres, picked off Zhou for third on lap 4 and set off after Drugovich and Lundgaard, while Zhou lost another position to Marcus Armstrong on lap 8.
By lap 12 Piastri had passed Drugovich and closed within half a second of Lundgaard, before overtaking the ART for the lead at the start of the following lap. By then the pit window was open and Lundgaard become the first to stop for hards at the end of lap 13, followed by Drugovich on lap 14 and Piastri himself on lap 16. Meanwhile, Zhou made his stop for soft tyres on the alternate strategy on lap 15, and came out of the pits just behind Drugovich.
Another safety car was deployed in the middle of the pit phase when Gianluca Petecof’s cockpit fire extinguisher went off and forced him to retire. The timing of this second safety car benefited Armstrong and Richard Verschoor, who had been shuffled to the head of the field and were able to stop while the pack was slowed down. Armstrong came out of the pits still in the lead, while Verschoor emerged in third between Piastri and Lundgaard.
At the restart on lap 19 however Armstrong immediately fell back, as Piastri and Verschoor both passed him for first and second respectively. Lundgaard also struggled for pace and lost fourth to Drugovich at Turn 4, then fifth to Zhou at Turn 10. Drugovich and Zhou then toppled Armstrong from third on lap 20, before Zhou overtook his teammate for the podium position a lap later.
As Zhou returned to the podium positions, Verschoor took the lead from Piastri on lap 20 and set about building a two-second gap as his softs had more initial pace than Piastri’s hards. That pace deficit allowed Zhou — as well as Dan Ticktum and Liam Lawson, who were also charging through on softs — to close up to Piastri and challenge him for second.
Zhou took the position from Piastri on lap 23 and started reeling in Verschoor, who was struggling as his softs then started losing grip. But despite being on the same compound, Zhou was able to keep his tyres in better condition than the MP Motorsport ahead and he took the lead of the race at Turn 4 on lap 28.
As Zhou then leaped clear in the lead, Ticktum started challenging Piastri for third as the Prema couldn’t find pace on the hard tyres. After being rebuffed at the inside of Turn 1 and the outside of Turn 4 on lap 29, Ticktum was much closer at the start of lap 30. He pulled to the inside and got momentarily ahead, before the two cars made contact and Piastri was spun into a stall and out of the race.
Ticktum continued on in third, and after a brief virtual safety car to recover Piastri he improved to second with a pass on Verschoor. Lawson also overtook Verschoor on the final lap to take his second podium finish of the weekend.
Verschoor was able to hold onto fourth at the flag ahead of Armstrong and Jehan Daruvala. Shwartzman recovered from a drive-through penalty for hitting Nissany at the start to take seventh and the fastest lap, while Theo Pourchaire, Drugovich and Matteo Nannini rounded out the final points positions.
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.
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.
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,.
Hitech’s Liam Lawson opened his rookie Formula 2 season with a dominant win in the first Bahrain sprint race, holding the lead throughout after taking it at the start.
Lawson got a rapid start from third on the grid to get past fellow rookies David Beckmann and Theo Pourchaire, who started first. Pourchaire briefly dropped down to third behind Beckmann, but recovered by the end of the lap to retake second place. Just behind them, Jehan Daruvala jumped Oscar Piastri for fourth.
Lawson’s attempt to break clear of DRS range from Pourchaire was briefly halted on lap 3, when Marcus Armstrong’s DAMS stopped on track to bring out the virtual safety car. But by lap 6, Lawson pulled a second clear of Pourchaire for the first time and went on to build a gap in clean air.
As Pourchaire dropped back from the lead, he started coming under pressure from Daruvala, who’d passed Beckmann for third on lap 11. But on lap 13 Pourchaire suddenly slowed with a mechanical problem, gifting Daruvala second as he dropped out of the points and eventually stopped on track.
Now in pursuit of the lead, Daruvala looked to have much better tyres than Lawson. On his first lap in second, Daruvala took half a second out of the lead as his rival struggled for grip. Lawson then had a big lock up on lap 17, which brought Daruvala to within half a second of the Hitech.
But despite being in DRS range, Daruvala was ultimately unable to get close enough to Lawson to make a move for the lead. Lawson held on to win by 0.7 seconds over Daruvala, with Beckmann taking third on his F2 debut.
Robert Shwartzman took fourth ahead of Piastri, after battling through the field from his starting position of 11th. Christian Lundgaard and Guanyu Zhou were sixth and seventh, and Dan Ticktum took the final point in eighth after being demoted by a time penalty for spinning around Richard Verschoor early on.
Lirim Zendelli finished ninth but took two points for the fastest lap, and Juri Vips finished tenth to start on pole for the second sprint race.
The Formula 2 grid will take to the track this weekend in Bahrain, for the opening round of the 2021 championship.
It only feels like yesterday that Mick Schumacher was crowned the 2020 F2 champion, but a lot has changed since the series left Bahrain last December. For starters, there’s a new race weekend format for the teams and drivers to get their heads around this year.
Instead of a Saturday feature race and Sunday sprint race, the F2 weekend will now feature three races — two sprint events on Saturday, and a feature before Sunday’s F1 Grand Prix. Friday qualifying will still determine the feature race grid, while the first sprint race grid will be set by reversing the top ten from qualifying. The starting positions for the second sprint race will then be a reverse of the first race’s top ten finishers.
The weekend format might be different though, but for the eleven drivers returning to F2 this year, the goal of winning the championship and reaching F1 remains the same. And of those drivers, Robert Shwartzman is going to come to Bahrain with the most expectation on his shoulders.
In his rookie season last year, Shwartzman took the most wins of the field, helped Prema to the teams’ title, and was in championship contention himself for most of the season. He’s already proven he’s quick in Bahrain — one of his four wins last year came in the sprint race there — so Shwartzman will be the one with the target on his back in the opening round.
But there are plenty more drivers from the class of 2020 who will be out to prove this weekend that it’s not all about Shwartzman. Jehan Daruvala and Dan Ticktum have a great chance of opening the year with a win, as their Carlin team had rapid pace in Bahrain last year. Watch out for Marcus Armstrong too, who was also quick here last year and is starting a new partnership with DAMS.
And lastly, Felipe Drugovich will be a driver with plenty of attention on him in the opening round. After being one of last year’s revelations, the Brazilian has earned himself a move to UNI-Virtuosi alongside Guanyu Zhou and the perfect chance to prove he can challenge the likes of Shwartzman for the title.
But while the returning field is strong, they’ll have a real fight on their hands to keep ahead of an equally impressive crop of rookies.
One of those new faces will be the 2020 Formula 3 champion and Alpine F1 junior Oscar Piastri. Coming into F2 with Prema, Piastri is expected to be a natural title contender this year — and if his F3 days are anything to go by, he won’t be taking any time at all to get his campaign underway.
Piastri isn’t the only rookie looking to impress an F1 academy, though. Hitech is fielding an all-Red Bull junior lineup this year with Juri Vips and Liam Lawson, both of whom were consistently rapid in pre-season testing.
A lot of the spotlight will fall on Vips after he made his F2 debut last year substituting for Sean Gelael in four rounds, and scored a podium at Mugello. But Lawson is no slouch either — he was a multiple race winner with Hitech in F3 last year, and is every bit as quick as Vips.
And then there’s Theo Pourchaire. Like Vips, Sauber F1 junior Pourchaire made his F2 debut in a handful of rounds last year — including Bahrain — before a full campaign for 2021. He came within three points of snatching the F3 title away from Piastri last year and has been widely tipped as a future F1 star. Driving for ART this year, he’ll be with a team capable of challenging for podiums and wins right from the off.
But as Drugovich showed last year, it’s not just the F1 juniors to watch for. Between Formula Regional European champion Gianluca Petecof, F3 race winners Lirim Zendelli, David Beckmann and Bent Viscaal, and F3 podium finishers Richard Verschoor and Matteo Nannini, there are plenty of lightning-fast rookies coming in under the radar this weekend.
Prema have confirmed that Robert Shwartzman will remain with the team for the 2021 Formula 2 season.
Shwartzman joined Prema for his rookie F2 campaign this year after winning the Formula 3 title with them in 2019. He finished the 2020 season fourth in the standings with four wins—the most of any driver in the field—and helped Prema to secure the teams’ championship alongside teammate and drivers’ champion Mick Schumacher.
“I am happy to race in Formula 2 with Prema again in 2021,” said Shwartzman. “Our target as a team is obviously to win and make progress in terms of results, working hard and improving the car.”
Prema team principal René Rosin said: “We are delighted to extend our relationship with Robert into the 2021 season. He has a truly rare talent, and we are looking forward to seeing him take another step next year.
“In 2020 he immediately proved he could run for wins, and we want to build on that immediacy to be consistent contenders in 2021.”
Shwartzman will be joined at Prema next year by reigning F3 champion Oscar Piastri, and both drivers will represent the team this week during post-season testing in Bahrain.
Prema Racing have announced that Oscar Piastri will step up to Formula 2 with the Italian team next year.
Renault junior Piastri had been set to graduate to F2 after winning the Formula 3 title with Prema earlier this year, beating rivals Theo Pourchaire and Logan Sargeant in the final race at Mugello.
It is expected that Piastri will take the place of Prema’s current driver and F2 championship leader Mick Schumacher, who is widely reported to be joining the Haas F1 team for 2021.
Piastri will also take place in the post-season F2 test in Bahrain next week.
“I’m super excited to be racing with Prema in the FIA Formula 2 championship,” Piastri said. “We had a very successful 2020 season, winning the Formula 3 championship together, and I’m hoping for another successful year with them.
“Prema has proven to be the team to beat once again in F2 this year, so I’m extremely happy to be moving into the championship with them.”
Prema team principal René Rosin said: “We are delighted to welcome Oscar to our FIA Formula 2 team. Having witnessed his progress and success throughout the 2020 season, taking our relationship to the next step for the 2021 FIA Formula 2 Championship felt like the natural thing to do and we look forward to having him on track right from Bahrain.”
Prema has yet to announce whether Schumacher’s current teammate Robert Shwartzman, who sits fourth in the F2 standings with four wins, will remain alongside Piastri for next year.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Oscar Piastri was crowned the 2020 Formula 3 champion after the Mugello sprint race finale, overcoming a late charge from outside contender Theo Pourchaire after main rival Logan Sargeant retired from a first lap collision.
Sargeant started the race as the highest title contender in fifth on the reverse grid, while Pourchaire started in eighth and Piastri outside the points in 11th. But Sargeant’s title challenge was ended at the second corner of the race when he was squeezed by Sebastian Fernandez into Lirim Zendelli. Sargeant and Zendelli both went off into the gravel, and despite Sargeant’s efforts he couldn’t make it back to the track and was out of the race.
As the safety car came out to recover Sargeant and Zendelli’s cars, Piastri looked set to take the title as he ran seventh with his only remaining rival Pourchaire behind in eighth. But at the restart on lap 4 Pourchaire immediately leapt past Piastri and then Jake Hughes for sixth as he tried to turn his nine-point deficit into an unlikely championship steal.
As the opening phase of the race unfolded, everything seemed to fall into place for Pourchaire’s title hopes. As he passed his ART teammate Aleksandr Smolyar for fifth and targeted the podium positions he needed to become champion, Piastri struggled for pace and was shuffled down to tenth by his own teammate Frederik Vesti.
But after Pourchaire passed Enzo Fittipaldi and Sebastian Fernandez to reach third place in the second half of the race, Piastri’s pace started to recover. The Australian took ninth from the struggling Smolyar at the same time as Pourchaire passed Fernandez, meaning that Piastri would still have enough points to win the championship if Pourchaire couldn’t improve to second.
With 1.5s between Pourchaire and second-placed David Beckmann on lap 17, it looked far from unlikely that Pourchaire would be able to take the position. But while Piastri’s pace was improving, Pourchaire’s earlier charge took its toll on his tyres and he was unable to make up much of the gap between him and Beckmann.
Meanwhile, Piastri continued picking off the lower top ten to make Pourchaire’s job even more difficult. On lap 18 Piastri passed Vesti for eighth place, then caught Fernandez as the ART dropped back through the field and took seventh place in a drag race to the line on the final lap.
Finishing seventh with Pourchaire third, Piastri won the championship by three points, while Pourchaire took the runner-up position from Sargeant by one point.
The sprint race was won by Liam Lawson, who put in a commanding performance from pole to win by almost seven seconds from Beckmann. The win gave Lawson fifth place in the championship ahead of Beckmann, although both were kept out of the top four by Vesti.
Fittipaldi took his best result of the season just behind the podium in fourth, ahead of Richard Verschoor and Hughes. Behind Piastri and Fernandez, the final points were taken by Vesti and Smolyar, with Vesti also earning the bonus two points for the fastest lap.