F2 Sochi: Piastri wins feature and extends championship lead

Oscar Piastri won the Sochi Formula 2 feature race with a dominant performance over Theo Pourchaire who finished second. Jehan Daruvala rounded out the podium with the rest of the top four in the championship standings finishing one behind the other in fourth, fifth and sixth, setting up a tight fight in the final leg of the championship.

The feature race was only the second of this unusual weekend. After a huge crash in the sprint race yesterday Felipe Drugovich was declared unfit for this race. He is OK but the chief medical officer was not happy for him to compete in the race today.

Piastri had the best start of anyone, pulling out a gap immediately on Daruvala who bogged down off the line and lost two places down into fourth. The virtual safety car came out before the end of lap 1 with contact between Bent Viscaal and Roy Nissany in Turn 3 leaving Viscaal’s car stranded. Nissany was given a 5 second time penalty for his part which he served during his pitstop.

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

As Juri Vips came into the pits he suffered a problem and on the way out couldn’t get it resolved. This meant he had to stop on track but managed to park in a good place and no flags were needed. This brought in the first of the mandatory pitstops early on lap 8 for Daruvala and Robert Shwartzman. Both had quick stops but with a lot of traffic in the pit lane they struggled to get out of the box.

Piastri pitted just one lap later leaving Pourchaire, Guanyu Zhou and Dan Ticktum at the front of the pack. A radio message from Ticktum to say ‘let me chase him’ as he was only a couple of tenths off Zhou. Importantly, he made a great move on track around Turn 6 and then came out in front once they went in for tyres.

With warmer tyres, Piastri manage to get past Pourchaire who had come out from the pitstops in front. However, once Pourchaire’s tyres were warmed up he was on a charge, consistently getting fastest laps in an attempt to get back to the top. On lap 15 both drivers were behind Nissany on the alternative strategy. Piastri got past quickly, but Pourchaire took an extra lap, which meant that Piastri open up a gap on Pourchaire.

With work to do, Daruvala was closing the gap on Ralph Boschung in the last 8 laps. By lap 23 Boschung was feeling the pressure and had a huge left front lock up down the back straight, sending him wide and allowing Daruvala to make an easy move back into third.

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

Boschung lost out again with no grip left as Shwartzman took advantage of the mistake and dropped Boschung down to fifth. Just three laps later that lock up came back to bite Boschung. The tyre began to fall apart, and a puncture meant he had to retire from the race with just two laps left.

Importantly for the championship Ticktum was able to keep Zhou behind him, despite only a three tenth gap between them for several laps, and they finished fifth and sixth respectively. However, championship leader Piastri extended his lead with a dominant win. Pourchaire finished with a strong performance in P2 and Daruvala made up for his poor start, finishing on the final step of the podium.

For the championship, Shwartzman finished in fourth, gaining points on Ticktum and Zhou but still significantly behind Piastri. Pourchaire with that second is now just nine points behind Shwartzman in the standings in fifth.

Theo Pourchaire, ART (Bryn Lennon, Getty Images / FIA F2)

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 Sochi preview: will winning experience prove key at Sochi?

Formula 2 returns this weekend for Round 6 of the championship at Russia’s Sochi Autodrom.

The Sochi circuit is one that’s well known to the F2 championship and plenty of this year’s drivers. In fact, of the 24 drivers taking to the grid this weekend, 18 of them have raced around Sochi in the last three years, and six — Guanyu Zhou, Juri Vips, Richard Verschoor, Christian Lundgaard, David Beckmann and Marcus Armstrong — have won before in their various feeder series outings.

Only Oscar Piastri, Theo Pourchaire, Lirim Zendelli and Enzo Fittipaldi have yet to turn a racing lap around Sochi in their careers. And given that Piastri, and to an extent Pourchaire, are in the title fight this year, that difference in experience could prove crucial this weekend.

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

Zhou, who currently sits second in the standings and 15 points behind Piastri after Monza, will certainly be hoping his experience plays its part. Along with Marino Sato, Zhou has the most knowledge of Sochi in an F2 car, having raced there in the last two seasons of F2 — but as well as that, Sochi was also the site of Zhou’s first F2 win in last year’s sprint race.

After Piastri dominated last time out in the Monza feature race, Zhou will be looking to repeat his 2020 win at Sochi and return to the top of the standings. But on the other hand a lack of experience hasn’t hampered Piastri so far this year, as he won at Bahrain and found the podium at Baku despite having never raced at either circuit before this year.

Shwartzman looking for big points on home soil

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

It’s not just Guanyu Zhou who will come to Sochi motivated by memories of past results. Robert Shwartzman will take to the track this weekend not only buoyed by his home support, but also by the fact that it was at Sochi that he clinched the 2019 Formula 3 title.

If that brings Shwartzman any extra confidence in 2021, then it will be gratefully received. Shwartzman was keen to point out in Monza that despite the title focus being firmly on Piastri and Zhou, he was far from out of the equation himself.

After all, Shwartzman is still third in the championship with two wins to his name. And although he had a rocky start in the first two rounds, since his breakthrough win in the first Baku sprint race he has actually outscored Zhou by 75 points to 66.

Shwartzman doesn’t need a perfect weekend in Sochi, he just needs a solid one. That starts with qualifying well, which has largely been his Achilles heel this year compared to Piastri and Zhou. But Shwartzman knows how to get one lap pace at this track, as he showed when he took pole for the 2019 F3 feature race.

If Shwartzman can start high up the grid and close the gap to Piastri and Zhou, then he’ll be in a great position to really challenge for the title on the home stretch in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi.

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: Zhou strikes back at Piastri with feature race win

Guanyu Zhou ran away to victory in the Silverstone Formula 2 feature race, beating polesitter Oscar Piastri after losing the championship lead to the Australian yesterday.

Zhou started alongside Piastri on the front row but got the better launch and was already ahead before they made it to Abbey. Behind them, Dan Ticktum also made a move off the line to take third from Richard Verschoor, while Robert Shwartzman jumped past Felipe Drugovich and Theo Pourchaire for fifth.

At the front of the field, Zhou set the pace with early fastest laps as the top four pulled away from Shwartzman, Drugovich and Pourchaire behind. By lap 4 Zhou had pulled out of DRS range of Piastri, who was starting to come under pressure from Ticktum.

That pressure was relieved when Ticktum pitted for hard tyres on lap 6 to try the undercut. Piastri covered him off on the following lap, but despite coming out ahead of Ticktum he didn’t have the tyre temperature to keep the Carlin behind on the outlap, and Ticktum was able to pass him for P13 and net second.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

Zhou pitted from the lead a lap after Piastri, but was able to come out comfortably ahead of Ticktum despite his undercut strategy. That left Verschoor out in the lead for a few laps, but his own pit stop was slow and left him well down on Piastri when he rejoined the track.

At the front, Juri Vips now lead from Lirim Zendelli, Jehan Daruvala, Jack Aitken and Matteo Nannini. They had started on the hard tyre instead of the mediums and were trying to prolong their first stint to jump up into the points. Meanwhile, Zhou had joined the back of this group after passing Marino Sato on lap 12.

Ticktum and Piastri picked off Sato a lap later. Ticktum was held up by the Japanese driver and lost a lot of time to Piastri, who had considerable pace on his first laps on the new hard tyre. But that pace seemed to flip around on lap 16, as Ticktum passed the long-running Nannini for sixth but Piastri couldn’t find a way around the Campos.

Piastri stayed behind Nannini until the Italian finally pitted on lap 24. By this point Piastri was more than nine seconds adrift of Ticktum, while Verschoor was closing rapidly to put pressure on for the final podium position.

Verschoor got within a second of Piastri by lap 27, and finally launched his assault around the outside of Stowe on the penultimate lap. Piastri managed to hold him off then, almost cutting the corner at Club to stay ahead. On the final lap, Verschoor tried the same move at Stowe, but was too far back this time to get alongside the Prema.

Richard Verschoor, MP Motorsport (Lars Baron, Getty Images / FIA F2)

 

Zhou took the chequered flag with four seconds in hand over Ticktum, and Piastri completed the podium with Verschoor on his gearbox. Shwartzman led Drugovich over the line in fifth and sixth, and Vips picked up seventh place from ninth on the grid after his alternate strategy. Pourchaire, Zendelli and Daruvala completed the top ten, with Daruvala taking another two points for the fastest lap.

Zhou’s victory puts him back up to second in the championship standings, just five behind Piastri and twelve ahead of Shwartzman.

Formula 2 now takes a long break, returning at Monza for the Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix on 10–12 September.

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.

F2 Baku: Vips wins feature race as Piastri slashes championship lead

Juri Vips took his second Formula 2 victory in a row in the Baku feature race, while Oscar Piastri finished second to close in on championship leader Guanyu Zhou.

Vips started from second place alongside Hitech teammate Liam Lawson, but a quicker launch saw the Estonian take the lead into the first corner. Lawson then dropped behind Piastri as well, and only held third place over Theo Pourchaire with an aggressive move that pushed Pourchaire onto the pit exit and almost into the wall.

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

Pourchaire’s challenge then unravelled further at Turn 3 as he was caught between Dan Ticktum on the inside and Marcus Armstrong on the outside. The three drivers made contact, which put Armstrong and Pourchaire out of the race and left Ticktum with a broken front wing and a 10 second penalty for causing the collision.

Pourchaire later confirmed after the race that he also suffered a broken wrist in the crash.

The safety car was brought out to clear the incident at Turn 3. At the restart on lap 3, Lawson immediately put the pressure on Piastri for second, and battled his way past the Prema by the third corner. However, Lawson then fell out of contention for the win as he was given a 10 second penalty for his first lap defence against Pourchaire.

When Lawson served his penalty at his pit stop, Vips then had to hold off a rapid Piastri for the lead. But Vips responded with a series of fastest laps after his stop to open up a gap on the Prema. He was then given some more breathing room as Piastri was given a 5 second penalty for an unsafe release from his own pit stop.

Piastri continued to put the pressure on Vips to try and nullify his penalty. He gained a second on the leader as Vips was held up lapping Alessio Deledda, who was given a drive-through penalty for ignoring blue flags. But despite Piastri closing to within eight tenths in the final laps, Vips was able to keep his car ahead to beat the Australian on the road as well as the timing screen.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Dan Istitene, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Piastri’s second place briefly came under threat from his own teammate Robert Shwartzman. Starting tenth, Shwartzman had made charging progress to get up to fifth before his stop on lap 8. The Russian then kept up his pace in the second stint to reach third, although he wasn’t quite able to get within the necessary five second window behind Piastri to inherit second.

Felipe Drugovich followed Shwartzman through the field to go from eleventh to fourth at the flag, ahead of fifth-placed Ralph Boschung. Lawson ended up sixth after his penalty ahead of Jehan Daruvala.

Ticktum took on medium tyres on the opening lap when he pitted to replace his front wing, and ran long on his stint to cover off the 10 second penalty he had to serve later.

Finally making his mandatory stop on lap 21, Ticktum emerged in eleventh but with a clear pace advantage on supersoft tyres. He finished the race eighth ahead of Christian Lundgaard and David Beckmann, and took the fastest lap as well.

Championship leader Zhou started the race eighth but struggled for pace throughout and eventually finished outside the points in P13. With Piastri scoring 18 points for second, the gap between them is now only five points. Shwartzman’s podium moves him into third in the standings, and Vips is now fourth after his two wins this weekend.

Formula 2 returns on 17th and 18th July in support of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.