F2 Hungary preview: rookie leaders prepare for battle in Budapest

FIA Formula 2 takes to Budapest’s Hungaroring this weekend for round three of the 2020 championship.

While the opening round of the season was dominated by returning drivers Callum Ilott and Guanyu Zhou, last weekend was the turn of F2’s rookies. Robert Shwartzman and Christian Lundgaard took their first victories in the series to assume the lead of championship from Ilott, while Yuki Tsunoda, Dan Ticktum and Marcus Armstrong all impressed with podium finishes.

When F2 arrives in Hungary these rookies will be aiming to build on that momentum and take charge of the championship. Expect to see Shwartzman come out of the gates strong as he tries to make up for retiring from last weekend’s sprint race, while Tsunoda will be hungry to reclaim the feature race win that was taken from him by a team radio failure in Austria.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Mick Schumacher will also be one to watch this weekend. Not only will he come to Hungary with confidence from having won there in F2 last year, but he’s also on a much-improved run of form this time around.

In both rounds at the Red Bull Ring, Schumacher showed he had the pace to come away with at least a podium finish, if not a win. However, a spell of bad luck—including his fire extinguisher going off in his cockpit while running third last Sunday—means he’s currently lagging behind his title rivals, and will be pushing even harder this weekend to catch up.

And he won’t be the only one. Zhou will also be looking ahead to the Hungaroring weekend as a chance to get his championship campaign back on track. The Renault junior will be sorely disappointed after leading both feature races in Austria but coming away with only one podium, and will need to lay down a marker this weekend to avoid the title fight slipping away from him.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Further back, the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend will also provide a much-needed reset for some of the drivers still yet to score any points.

Chief among these will be Hitech’s Luca Ghiotto. Used to being a title protagonist, Ghiotto’s best finish so far has been tenth in the second Austria sprint race, with an array of incidents and technical issues helping to keep him away from the points.

Also in need of a breakthrough soon is Jehan Daruvala. At the start of the season the Red Bull-backed driver talked up his goal of vying for an F1 seat with Alpha Tauri next year, but so far he’s had a mixed start to the season and is currently only P17 in the standings.

Daruvala has been solid in qualifying this year, starting both feature races well inside the top ten, but scruffy performances on race day mean he’s yet to convert any of those starts into points. With his Carlin teammate and fellow Red Bull junior Tsunoda already fighting for wins and podiums, Daruvala will need to tidy up his racecraft this weekend and make good on his pace if he wants to avoid losing Red Bull’s focus.

F3 Hungary preview: Piastri looking in his mirrors as rivals close in

FIA Formula 3 returns this weekend, heading to the Hungaroring in Budapest for the third round of the season.

The 2020 championship got off to an excellent start at the Red Bull Ring double header, with four first-time winners in each of the four races creating a tight battle at the top of the drivers’ standings.

Renault junior and Prema driver Oscar Piastri still leads the championship with 44 points after the opening two rounds. However, he hasn’t finished on the podium since his win in the opening race of the campaign, and in each of the two sprint races so far he’s struggled to make progress through the reverse grid field.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)

Meanwhile, his teammates Frederik Vesti and Logan Sargeant have closed up behind him and are only one good result away from taking the title lead.

In Hungary, Vesti needs to capitalise on the momentum of his feature race win last weekend and take the fight to Piastri again. Sargeant meanwhile must take the pace that’s yielded two second place finishes so far and battle to the top step of the podium this time.

But it’s not just his fellow Premas that Piastri will have to watch out for in Budapest. David Beckmann is sitting just behind them in the standings after a double podium in Spielberg last weekend, and the Trident team generally has emerged as Prema’s nearest rival.

Beckmann and Lirim Zendelli both have the pace to be genuine threats for victory this weekend, while Olli Caldwell showed no qualms about battling with Piastri at the Red Bull Ring last time out.

Frederik Vesti, Prema (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

While the battle rages for the lead of the championship, there are a couple of drivers further back who will be looking to reset their own campaigns as we move on to Hungary.

Sebastian Fernandez would have been hoping for a lot more than six points and 13th in the standings after storming to the first pole of the season in Austria. His only top ten finish came with ninth place in the second Spielberg sprint race, although this was largely gifted to him by Jake Hughes and Liam Lawson crashing out in the final laps—prior to that, Fernandez had dropped down the order after running wide while battling with Zendelli for eighth.

As for Hughes, he will also be glad to finally see the back of the Red Bull Ring. His collision with Lawson last Sunday capped off a troubled start to the year—after a technical problem left him 28th in the season opener, Hughes’ best result is half a point for tenth in the red-flagged second feature race.

The good news for both Hughes and Fernandez is that while neither came away from Austria with the points they expected, both showed that their form this season is a lot higher than their championship standings suggest. Given a clean weekend, both drivers have the potential to trouble the frontrunners for victory at the Hungaroring.

Sebastian
Fernandez, ART (Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

F2 Styria: Lundgaard beats Ticktum to dominant sprint race win

Christian Lundgaard took victory in the Styria sprint race, taking the lead early and going on to command throughout.

Lundgaard started the race in third behind reverse polesitter Dan Ticktum and ART teammate Marcus Armstrong, but passed Armstrong for second at the start. He stuck with Ticktum through the opening few laps and on lap 4 passed the DAMS on the inside of Turn 3 to take the lead.

Once in front, Lundgaard continued pushing and opened up a two second gap over Ticktum by lap 8—this increased by another second by lap 12. Ticktum responded in the middle phase of the race to take a few tenths out of Lundgaard, but a series of lock ups allowed the gap to open back up to 3.2s by lap 22.

Lundgaard began to ease off towards the end of the race as his tyres degraded, but by this point Ticktum’s own tyres were also running out of grip and the DAMS was unable to close the gap. By the chequered flag Lundgaard took the win with 2.3s in hand over Ticktum, as well as two extra points for setting the fastest lap earlier in the race.

Dan Ticktum, DAMS (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Armstrong was unable to keep up with Lundgaard and Ticktum up front, and on lap 12 he was passed for third by Mick Schumacher into Turn 3. However, Armstrong regained the position two laps later when Schumacher’s fire extinguisher went off in his cockpit, forcing the German to retire. Armstrong held on to the position until the end of the race to take his second podium of the season.

UNI-Virtuosi ran a quiet race behind the top three. Guanyu Zhou passed teammate Callum Ilott at the start and was promoted to fourth after Schumacher’s retirement.

In the final laps Ilott closed up to the back of Zhou and looked to have the pace on his tyres to pass his teammate. But the pair caught up with Armstrong on the last lap which gave Zhou DRS to defend and keep Ilott behind in fifth.

Jack Aitken finished sixth ahead of Sean Gelael, while Nikita Mazepin picked up his first point of the season in eighth. Saturday’s feature race protagonists Robert Shwartzman and Yuki Tsunoda both retired, the Prema spinning out at the start and the Carlin stopping with a clutch issue.

At the end of round 2, Shwartzman holds a narrow five-point lead in the drivers’ championship over Lundgaard and Ilott, who are level on 43 points. Ticktum is fourth and Armstrong fifth.

In the teams’ standings, ART maintain their lead with 77 points, seven ahead of UNI-Virtuosi and 15 ahead of Prema.

Formula 2 returns next weekend in support of the Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix.

Marcus Armstrong, ART (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

F3 Styria: Pourchaire wins sprint race after leaders collide

Theo Pourchaire took his first Formula 3 win in the Red Bull Ring sprint race after longtime leaders Liam Lawson and Jake Hughes collided in the closing laps.

Pourchaire had started the race on the front row of the reverse grid behind polesitter Hughes. The Frenchman jumped into the lead at Turn 1 as Hughes was slow off the line, but was soon caught by Hughes and Lawson and demoted down to third.

Hughes and Lawson then continued to swap the lead throughout the race, passing each other every few laps through Turns 3 and 4. While the win looked set to be decided between the two of them, Pourchaire came under pressure for third from the Prema of Logan Sargeant.

But on lap 21 Hughes and Lawson collided with each other on the outside of Turn 4 and both retired with suspension damage. This gifted first back to Pourchaire with Sargeant and David Beckmann elevated to the podium. The safety car was deployed to recover Hughes’ and Lawson’s stricken cars, and with only four laps remaining the race ended under caution and the order was frozen with Pourchaire taking the victory.

David Beckmann, Trident (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Beckmann’s podium, his second of the weekend, led another triple points haul for Trident. He and Lirim Zendelli both got past Oscar Piastri at the start, while Olli Caldwell moved past Richard Verschoor to run fifth.

However, Beckmann had more pace than his teammates and by lap 8 was ahead of both Zendelli and Caldwell to put him in place for the podium behind Sargeant. Caldwell and Zendelli were unable to keep up with Beckmann in the latter half of the race, with Caldwell eventually finishing sixth behind Verschoor and Piastri, and Zendelli taking the final point in tenth.

Max Fewtrell made progress from 14th on the grid and rose to seventh by the flag. Saturday’s feature race winner Frederik Vesti finished eighth, and Sebastian Fernandez took ninth ahead of Zendelli.

After the second round of the championship, Piastri still holds the lead in the drivers’ standings with 44 points, ahead of Prema teammates Vesti and Sargeant. Beckmann’s double podium moves him up to fourth, while Liam Lawson drops from second after last weekend down to seventh.

Prema maintains the lead of the teams’ championship with 115.5 points, ahead of Trident (67.5) and Hitech (30).

Formula 3 returns next week in support of the Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix.

Logan Sargeant, Prema (Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)

F2 Styria: Shwartzman wins feature race after pit stop problem for Tsunoda

Prema’s Robert Shwartzman took his first Formula 2 win in the Styria feature race, taking advantage of a team radio problem for longtime race leader Yuki Tsunoda.

With the track drenched the race began after a lengthy delay with four laps behind the safety car. When the safety car pulled into the pits and the race began in earnest, polesitter Tsunoda got away from the pack cleanly and commanded the race in its early phase, building a gap over Guanyu Zhou with each lap. After two laps of racing the Carlin driver was 1.6s ahead, which increased to 5.5s by lap 21 as Zhou’s wet tyres started to overheat.

Zhou pitted on lap 21 along with Shwartzman. But when Carlin called Tsunoda in to cover the UNI-Virtuosi, he was unable to hear the message over team radio and stayed out for another three laps. All the while, Tsunoda’s pace compared to Zhou on the fresher tyres continued to drop off.

Tsunoda eventually came in on lap 26 after seeing the team’s pit board, but lost so much time on his older tyres that he lost the lead to Zhou and rejoined the track in a net third position.

Yuki Tsunoda, Carlin (Bryn Lennon / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Shwartzman had been making progress through the field after initially losing a position to Christian Lundgaard on the second racing lap. On lap 14 he passed Luca Ghiotto for sixth, then took fifth from Jack Aitken on the following lap. When Lundgaard had a slow pit stop on lap 21, Shwartzman moved into fourth behind Tsunoda, Zhou and Callum Ilott.

Shwartzman demoted Ilott off the podium after both drivers had made their respective stops, and on fresher tyres he started reeling in Zhou with a series of fastest laps. On lap 27 Shwartzman passed Zhou for the lead of the race and began building up a gap as Tsunoda rejoined them after his own stop.

In the closing laps Zhou began to struggle with overheating tyres again and Tsunoda passed him for second on lap 30. With much younger tyres, Tsunoda then started eating into Shwartzman’s gap out front, reducing it by over two seconds across the next three laps.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

But although he closed in to within half a second of Shwartzman, Tsunoda’s pace wasn’t enough to complete a move on the Prema in the final laps and Shwartzman held on to the victory. However, Tsunoda was able to earn another two points for setting the fastest lap.

Zhou continued to struggle and dropped back from the two leaders. He came under threat from Mick Schumacher in the closing laps, who had taken fourth from Ilott after starting ninth on the grid, but managed to defend his place on the podium and finish third.

Schumacher and Ilott finished fourth and fifth respectively, with Lundgaard and Marcus Armstrong behind them. Dan Ticktum finished eighth and took pole for Sunday’s reverse grid, and Aitken and Sean Gelael closed out the top ten.

F3 Styria: Vesti sees off Trident challenge in red-flagged feature race

Frederik Vesti saw off a challenge from the Trident trio to take Prema’s second consecutive feature race win, albeit with half points awarded as the race was red-flagged due to torrential rain.

Vesti held on to his pole position off the line, while the order behind him changed. Trident’s David Beckmann had a poor start from second, allowing teammate Lirim Zendelli and championship leader Oscar Piastri to challenge him into the first corner. Zendelli got through for second, although Beckmann was able to hold third ahead of Piastri.

The third Trident of Olli Caldwell also enjoyed a good start, rising from ninth on the grid to challenge Piastri for fourth, while Logan Sargeant slipped back from third to run behind Caldwell and Richard Verschoor.

David Beckmann, Trident (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

The first interruption came at the end of lap 4 when Aleksandr Smolyar spun off at the final corner, prompting a Virtual Safety Car. After three laps of resumed racing, a full safety car was then deployed when Clement Novalak picked up a puncture from a collision and retired.

The race resumed again on lap 13, but was almost immediately halted again when Roman Stanek spun off  and Sebastian Fernandez was hit from behind on the straight and ended up beached beside the track. The safety car was redeployed, then followed shortly by the red flag.

After waiting to see if the conditions improved, the race was finally abandoned as the time to run it elapsed and Vesti was declared the winner. Zendelli and Beckmann took their first FIA F3 podiums in second and third, while Caldwell managed to pass Piastri to score his first points in fourth.

Piastri finished fifth ahead of Verschoor, and Sargeant was classified seventh. Liam Lawson was eighth, Theo Pourchaire ninth, and Jakes Hughes closed out the top ten having climbed from P16 on the grid.

Lirim Zendelli, Trident (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

F2 Styria preview: battle resumes at the Red Bull Ring

Formula 2’s second round gets underway this weekend at the Red Bull Ring, in support of the Formula 1 Styrian Grand Prix.

The opening round in Austria last weekend presented us with a whole host of potential title protagonists. UNI-Virtuosi came out on top with Guanyu Zhou on pole for the feature race and Callum Ilott taking the win and the championship lead.

But Prema were also rapid, with Robert Shwartzman on the podium and Mick Schumacher challenging for the win on Saturday. And ART were in the mix with Marcus Armstrong and Christian Lundgaard, and came away from the round top of the teams’ championship.

This weekend, it could be any combination of those six drivers on the feature and sprint race podiums. Zhou will be especially fired up, not just to make up for his costly retirement last Saturday, but also to prove a point to Renault after he was passed over for Fernando Alonso for the 2021 race seat.

But if last weekend is anything to go by, he’ll have stiff competition from his teammate first of all, with Ilott looking to consolidate his lead in the standings.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Hitech and Carlin will both be wanting more on their second visit to Spielberg. Hitech had a difficult F2 debut with Luca Ghiotto failing to start the feature race and retiring from the sprint race, and Nikita Mazepin finishing both races outside the points.

And Carlin’s dual Red Bull-backed lineup had an awful start to the season last weekend. After Yuki Tsunoda and Jehan Daruvala showed impressive pace in practice and qualifying, they ended up coming together on the opening lap of the feature race and lost their chance at points in either race.

Considering they’re running at the Red Bull Ring again this weekend, Tsunoda and Daruvala will need to have a much cleaner race to avoid attracting Helmut Marko’s displeasure.

Yuki Tsunoda, Carlin (Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

F3 Styria preview: pressure on for Prema

When Formula 3 returns to the Red Bull Ring in support of the Styrian Grand Prix this weekend, all the pressure will be on Prema to maintain their dominant start to the season.

The Italian team started last weekend with Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant taking a 1–2 in the feature race, and Frederik Vesti scoring solid points in both races. As such, Piastri leads the championship with 30 points, with Sargeant in third and Vesti fifth.

Liam Lawson’s win in the Austria sprint race has him second in the standings behind Piastri and makes the Red Bull junior one to watch again this weekend. Alex Peroni also shone at the last round, taking third place behind the Premas in the feature race, and it will be interesting to see if he can continue this forward momentum in his second F3 season.

Trident also had a decent start to the season with Lirim Zendelli and David Beckmann scoring in both races, putting the team second in the championship. To capitalise on this start they’ll need Beckmann and Zendelli to push on towards the podium this weekend, as well as for new signing Olli Caldwell to join them in the points.

David Beckmann, Trident (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

One driver who will be hoping for better fortunes in Spielberg this weekend is Sebastian Fernandez. The ART driver claimed a surprise maiden pole for last weekend’s feature race but lost his shot at victory when he was spun by Piastri at Turn 1. But if Fernandez can hook it up in qualifying again this Saturday, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to take the fight to Prema and challenge for his maiden win.

Jake Hughes will also be eager to move on from a disappointing season opener. He was all but out of the feature race before it even began with technical problems meaning he couldn’t start from his qualifying position inside the top 10. But in the sprint race he climbed 16 places from the back row of the grid to P12, showing he has the pace and experience needed to fight at the front, provided his car doesn’t let him down.

Finally, Charouz and Jenzer are the teams most in need of an improvement this weekend as they are the only two outfits still yet to score points with any of their drivers. Charouz came closest last time out, with a best of P15 for David Schumacher in the sprint race, but neither team really came close to worrying the top 10. In such an unusual season, both Charouz and Jenzer will have to find improvements fast if they’re to avoid being stuck to the bottom of the standings.

Sebastian
Fernandez, ART (Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

F3 Austria: Lawson climbs to sprint race victory

Hitech’s Liam Lawson took victory in Sunday’s Red Bull Ring sprint race, rising from fifth on the grid to take his first win in Formula 3.

Carlin’s Clement Novalak made a good getaway from reverse grid pole to lead into Turn 1, while ART’s Aleksandr Smolyar was slow away from second, being passed by David Beckmann, Lawson and Richard Verschoor.

Beckmann kept close to Novalak through the opening laps, and on lap 4 he passed the Carlin for the lead under DRS. Novalak tried to retake the lead on the following lap but ran wide, losing second place to Lawson when he rejoined the track.

Lawson immediately closed up the gap to Beckmann, and on lap 7 he took the lead into Turn 3. Within two laps Lawson managed to pull out of DRS range of Beckmann, as the Trident came under pressure from Novalak and Verschoor.

On lap 10 Novalak demoted Beckmann back to third with a late lunge into Turn 3. Verschoor tried to do the same to take third from Beckmann a lap later but their battle was called off when Alex Peroni broke down and brought on a Virtual Safety Car.

Clement Novalak, Carlin (Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship)

With the track clear again on lap 12, Verschoor resumed his assault on Beckmann and took away third place under DRS. By this time, Verschoor was 1.2s behind Novalak, but by lap 16 he brought this gap down to 0.2s and dived down the inside of the Carlin into Turn 3 to take second.

Novalak tried to retake the position several times through lap 17 but couldn’t make a move stick. While he and Verschoor battled over second, Lawson was able to open up a two-second gap over them.

On lap 19 the safety car was deployed after Roman Stanek hit a DRS board out of the last corner, wiping out Lawson’s gap over Verschoor and Novalak. But with the race resuming with just two laps remaining, there wasn’t enough time for DRS to be enabled and so Lawson managed to hold on to beat Verschoor by 0.4s. Novalak held onto third and Beckmann missed out on the podium in fourth.

Beckmann’s teammate Lirim Zendelli finished fifth ahead of Prema’s Frederik Vesti, with Smolyar coming home seventh after tumbling from the front row of the grid. Saturday’s feature race winner Oscar Piastri finished eighth and picked up an extra two points for the fastest lap. Enzo Fittipaldi finished ninth for HWA, and Hitech’s Max Fewtrell took the final point in tenth.

After the first weekend of F3 racing, Piastri leads the championship with 30 points, seven ahead of Lawson. Logan Sargeant and Peroni are third and fourth, despite neither scoring in the sprint race. Prema already hold a commanding lead in the teams’ standings with 65 points, 35 clear of next-best Trident.

Formula 3 returns next weekend at the Red Bull Ring again, supporting the Formula 1 Styrian Grand Prix.

Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

F2 Austria: Drugovich dominates chaotic sprint race

Felipe Drugovich dominated Sunday’s sprint race at the Red Bull Ring, leading from pole to take his maiden Formula 2 victory.

The MP Motorsport rookie got a clean getaway from reverse grid pole to set up an early lead from Louis Deletraz on the front row. Behind them third place changed multiple times over the first lap as Giuliano Alesi came under pressure from Dan Ticktum, Robert Shwartzman and Marcus Armstrong all at once.

The battle was resolved by the end of the first lap when Alesi pulled off to the side of the track with flames pouring from the rear of his HWA. The safety car was brought out to recover Alesi, with Armstrong assuming third over Ticktum and Shwartzman.

Alesi’s car was quickly cleared but the safety car was redeployed multiple times in the following laps. First when Sean Gelael ground to a halt, again when Luca Ghiotto was spun out of the race by Jehan Daruvala, and for the final time on lap 15 when Armstrong lost drive and stopped on track, handing third place to Ticktum.

Dan Ticktum, DAMS (Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship)

When the safety car pulled in for the last time on lap 16 Drugovich rapidly pulled away from Deletraz and was out of range by the time DRS was enabled. Behind them, Ticktum managed to drop Shwartzman and open a gap to protect third place from the Prema.

The podium positions remained unchanged for the final 12 laps of the race, with Drugovich winning by 2.3s from Deletraz and Ticktum. Shwartzman finished fourth ahead of ART’s Christian Lundgaard.

Nobuharu Matsushita took sixth place after a long battle with Mick Schumacher, who made early progress from P11 on the grid but couldn’t find a way to continue past Matsushita. Jack Aitken took the final point of the day in eighth.

At the end of the first F2 round of the season, Callum Ilott leads the championship with 27 points, four ahead of Shwartzman with Drugovich a further two points back. ART heads the teams’ championship by five points from UNI-Virtuosi, with MP Motorsport in third.

F2 returns next weekend at the Red Bull Ring again, supporting the Formula 1 Styrian Grand Prix.

Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images