F2 Great Britain preview: Silverstone reset for Shwartzman and Ilott

Formula 2 is back this weekend for the fifth round of the 2020 championship, returning to Silverstone in support of the F1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.

For title protagonists Robert Shwartzman and Callum Ilott, revisiting Silverstone will provide a much-needed second chance at the circuit after a trying round for them both last weekend.

For Shwartzman, who had previously only finished outside the top four once this year, the British Grand Prix weekend was little short of a nightmare. What began with a lowly qualifying position of 18th for the feature race ended with a best finish of 13th in the sprint race and no points scored for the championship leader.

Shwartzman’s pain was lessened somewhat by Ilott stalling on the feature race grid and spinning out of contention for the sprint race victory, meaning the UNI-Virtuosi driver was unable to capitalise on Shwartzman’s struggles and snatch away the championship lead. However, Ilott’s recovery to fifth in the feature race moved him to within eight points of Shwartzman.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

Shwartzman and Ilott’s struggles mean they’ll now be driving with renewed focus on the chasing pack behind them.

In particular, Christian Lundgaard underlined the pace he’s been showing all season with fourth place in the feature race and second in the sprint race last weekend, putting him just four points behind Ilott and twelve behind Shwartzman. Another strong finish ahead of his rivals this weekend could well see Lundgaard leave Silverstone as the new championship leader.

The top two will also be keenly aware of Hitech’s Nikita Mazepin. The Russian came alive at Silverstone last weekend, taking his first F2 win in the feature race and battling up to fifth in race two, and certainly has the pace to be a threat again this time out.

What’s more, Dan Ticktum is lurking just one point behind Mazepin after taking his own maiden victory in the last sprint race. However, Ticktum’s three podium visits so far have all come in sprint races, so he’ll need to translate that clear speed to a top three in the feature races if he’s going to start troubling the title contenders.

Nikita Mazepin, Hitech (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Just behind the top five, a kind of “Class B” is forming between Guanyu Zhou, Louis Deletraz, Felipe Drugovich, Mick Schumacher and Yuki Tsunoda. While their results over the season so far haven’t kept them in touch with the title battle, they’re all still formidable over a race weekend and each proved this last time out in Silverstone.

Zhou, Deletraz and Tsunoda were all on the podium across last weekend, while Drugovich took pole for the feature race and Schumacher was in contention for the victory before his tyres gave up on him in the final stages.

All of them bar Drugovich are still looking for their first win this season, and given the pace they’ve already shown around Silverstone, that could come for any of them this weekend.

Yuki Tsunoda, Carlin (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

F3 Great Britain preview: can ART or Trident halt Prema’s dominance?

Formula 3 returns this weekend at historic Silverstone, for the fourth round of the 2020 season.

As things stand coming into Great Britain, championship leader Oscar Piastri has begun to break into a dominant position in the title fight. On 76 points so far, he is more than a feature race victory ahead of his nearest rival, teammate Logan Sargeant.

Apart from one eighth place in the first Austria sprint race, Piastri has consistently finished in the top five in every race so far this season, including a double podium last time out in Hungary. Meanwhile, Sargeant has yet to take victory this year, while third-placed driver Theo Pourchaire didn’t score points at all in the first round of the season.

David Beckmann, Trident (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Piastri’s rivals might take some heart from the fact that Silverstone was one of the few rounds Prema didn’t dominate last year, with Juri Vips and Leonardo Pulcini taking both victories for Hitech Grand Prix.

Hitech don’t look to be the same contenders they were last year, despite Liam Lawson winning the first sprint race of the year in Austria and Dennis Hauger finishing third in Hungary. However, Trident and ART have both been close challengers to Prema in 2020 and will be pushing to deal any blow they can to the Italian team this weekend.

One driver in particular who could be a real headache for Prema and Piastri is David Beckmann, who comes to Silverstone off the back of his first F3 win in the Hungary sprint race. With two further podiums already to his name, Beckmann is also one of only three drivers—alongside Piastri and Richard Verschoor—to score in every race so far this season.

Aleksandr Smolyar, ART (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

As for ART, Pourchaire underlined his own championship credentials in Hungary by becoming the only repeat race winner of the season so far. The young Frenchman has a bit of ground to make up after his slow start to the campaign, but clearly has the speed to challenge for the podium this weekend.

But it’s not just Pourchaire carrying ART’s hopes. The French team has plenty more talent in its lineup in Sebastian Fernandez and Aleksandr Smolyar, both of whom have taken a feature race pole this year.

So far luck hasn’t been on their side, with Fernandez and Smolyar both retiring early from their respective pole position starts. But if either of them can marry up another strong qualifying performance with a clean race on Saturday, there’s no reason they can’t join the fight at the front with their teammate.

F3 Hungary: Pourchaire commands interrupted feature race

Theo Pourchaire became the first double winner of the 2020 Formula 3 season at the Hungaroring feature race, seeing off championship leader Oscar Piastri through numerous restarts.

Starting in slippery conditions, the race opened with several incidents at the first corner bringing out the first safety car. Polesitter Aleksandr Smolyar was spun out of the race by Logan Sargeant, while behind them Frederik Vesti and Calan Williams came together to partially block the corner.

With Smolyar out and Sargeant driving a damaged car, Pourchaire moved up into the lead with Piastri second ahead of Sargeant. When the race resumed after a lap behind the safety car, Pourchaire immediately opened up a second over Piastri to protect against the DRS.

Piastri responded on lap five to bring the gap down to half a second. But before he could try a move on Pourchaire the race was interrupted once again when Liam Lawson pulled off with an engine fire, leaving a trail of oil throughout Turns 1 and 2. After one lap behind the safety car, the race was red-flagged to properly clear the track.

When the race resumed after a start behind the safety car, Pourchaire again bolted from Piastri and within two laps the Frenchman had broken out of DRS range again. From there Pourchaire kept improving, setting a series of fastest laps to add almost a second per lap on Piastri.

By the chequered flag, Pourchaire crossed the line more than twelve seconds clear of Piastri to take his second consecutive win of the season, and become the first double winner of the year.

Logan Sargeant, Prema (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Sargeant finished third behind Piastri to make it two Premas on the podium. Nursing damage throughout from the first corner collision with Smolyar, Sargeant was under pressure from both Lawson before his retirement and Sebastian Fernandez after the final safety car restart.

The American’s struggles were clear as he ran wide multiple times. However, he managed to hold onto the position until lap 15, when Fernandez’s tyres dropped off and he dropped behind the MP Motorsport pair of Richard Verschoor and Bent Viscaal.

As Verschoor and Viscaal then battled between themselves for fourth, Sargeant was able to pull away and comfortably keep his podium position. Behind, Viscaal came out on top with a last lap move through Turn 2, taking fourth place and his best F3 finish to date. Verschoor finished fifth and Fernandez was behind in sixth.

Alex Peroni finished in seventh, returning to the points for the first time since his podium in round one. Red Bull junior Dennis Hauger took his first F3 points in eighth place ahead of Clement Novalak, who rose 17 places from his grid position, and David Beckmann took the final point in tenth as well as pole position for tomorrow’s sprint race.

Dennis Hauger, Hitech (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

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.

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)

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.