F2 Spa: Shwartzman wins after Ticktum and Nissany collide

Robert Shwartzman led home a Prema 1-2 in the Spa sprint race, assuming the lead after Roy Nissany and Dan Ticktum collided ahead of him.

Starting from fourth on the reverse grid, Shwartzman jumped to third immediately as Guanyu Zhou was slow off the line. Meanwhile Ticktum got a much better start from second than polesitter Nissany and took the lead into the first corner.

Ticktum and Nissany continued fighting through the opening sequence of corners with Nissany managing to get back ahead of the DAMS. But while they fought at the front, there was drama further down the pack as title contender Callum Ilott was hit from behind by Yuki Tsunoda and spun out of the race.

The safety car was deployed to recover Ilott’s car. At the restart on lap 4 Ticktum stuck close to the back of Nissany to harry the Trident through Eau Rouge and down the Kemmel Straight. Ticktum then went to the outside going into Les Combes and ran wide as Nissany held the corner, but didn’t back out and the two collided as Ticktum bounced off the kerb and back onto the track.

Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Nissany was spun into the wall and retired immediately. Ticktum was able to continue albeit with a damaged car, but dropped to second as Shwartzman came through the collision to assume first before the safety car was redeployed.

When the race resumed again on lap 7, the damage to Ticktum’s car became clear as Shwartzman immediately pulled out a 2.8s gap over him. But despite a train forming behind the struggling DAMS, Ticktum was able to defend second place for several laps.

Louis Deletraz initially took the position at the restart but Ticktum repassed him on lap 8. This turned out worse for Deletraz, as he was then passed by Schumacher and Zhou on the same lap and dropped to fifth.

However, Ticktum was unable to keep defending when Schumacher caught him on lap 12. Zhou also got past the DAMS on the following lap, and from there Ticktum started to fall back through the top eight.

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

The train caused by Ticktum’s damaged car meant that Shwartzman was able to run away in first place and reach the chequered flag unchallenged. The Russian managed to build a nine-second gap over the rest of the field by lap 14, and kept this gap over the remaining five laps to take a dominant win.

Schumacher and Zhou completed the podium in second and third, with Hitech’s Nikita Mazepin and Luca Ghiotto finishing in formation behind them. Deletraz eventually finished in sixth ahead of Christian Lundgaard. Artem Markelov took the final point in eighth, after a penalty awarded to Tsunoda for hitting Ilott dropped the Carlin out of the points into ninth. Ticktum eventually finished tenth after his late struggles, just ahead of teammate Juri Vips.

Shwartzman’s win and Ilott’s retirement means Shwartzman has retaken the lead of the championship with 132 points to Ilott’s 122. Tsunoda is 11 points back in third, although Schumacher’s sixth podium of the year has moved him to within five points of the Japanese driver.

In the teams’ standings, Prema now has a 24-point lead over UNI-Virtuosi, while third-placed Hitech is 62 points behind.

FIA Formula 2 returns next weekend at Monza, in support of the Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix.

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Robert Shwartzman (FL) Prema Racing 17
2 Mick Schumacher Prema Racing 12
3 Guanyu Zhou UNI-Virtuosi Racing 10
4 Nikita Mazepin Hitech Grand Prix 8
5 Luca Ghiotto Hitech Grand Prix 6
6 Louis Deletraz Charouz Racing System 4
7 Christian Lundgaard ART Grand Prix 2
8 Artem Markelov BWT HWA Racelab 1
9 Yuki Tsunoda Carlin
10 Dan Ticktum DAMS
11 Juri Vips DAMS
12 Pedro Piquet Charouz Racing System
13 Felipe Drugovich MP Motorsport
14 Giuliano Alesi BWT HWA Racelab
15 Guilherme Samaia Campos Racing
16 Jehan Daruvala Carlin
17 Jack Aitken Campos Racing
Ret. Marino Sato Trident
Ret. Marcus Armstrong ART Grand Prix
Ret. Roy Nissany Trident
Ret. Callum Ilott UNI-Virtuosi
DNS Nobuharu Matsushita MP Motorsport

F2 Spa: Tsunoda wins feature race after Mazepin penalty

Red Bull junior Yuki Tsunoda took victory in the Spa feature race after on-track winner Nikita Mazepin was penalised for forcing Tsunoda off track.

Tsunoda got a near-perfect launch from pole position to head off the pack into the first corner, while Nobuharu Matsushita jumped Mazepin for second. Behind them, Mick Schumacher got a good start from seventh on the grid to jump up to fourth, while title protagonist Robert Shwartzman dropped from fourth down into the pack.

At the end of the first lap Tsunoda had already opened up a second over Matsushita, as Mazepin closed back in on the MP Motorsport to retake second. Mazepin took the position back on lap 3 while setting the fastest lap of the race, by which point Tsunoda had pulled almost three seconds clear of the pair.

After losing second to Mazepin, Matsushita then started to drop back through the field. Schumacher demoted him to third at the end of lap 3, then on the following lap Matsushita was passed by Louis Deletraz, Shwartzman and Guanyu Zhou.

At Blanchimont Matsushita was set to lose another position as teammate Felipe Drugovich drew level around the outside. But the two made contact instead, breaking Drugovich’s front wing and sending Matsushita into the wall with a puncture, resulting in the virtual safety car being deployed.

Nobuharu Matsushita, MP Motorsport (Lars Baron / Getty Images)

The virtual safety car was withdrawn on lap 6, with Mazepin being quicker than Tsunoda on the restart to gain six tenths on the Carlin. Tsunoda responded over the following laps as Mazepin’s soft tyres started to fade, and the gap returned to over two seconds by the time Mazepin made his pit stop on lap 9.

Tsunoda stayed out a lap longer than Mazepin, but when he came into the pits his own stop was slow and he rejoined the track behind the Russian in 14th place. However, race control then announced Mazepin was under investigation for an unsafe release, as he came close to hitting several of Trident’s pit crew on leaving his box.

With the Mazepin incident to be decided after the race, Tsunoda stuck close to the back of the Hitech as they made their progress through the alternative strategy runners ahead of them. By lap 16 they were back up to the front of the field with a second between them, which Tsunoda then reduced to half a second by lap 19.

Over the next few laps Tsunoda made two moves for the lead around the outside going into Turn 5, but Mazepin headed both off and Tsunoda ran wide as he bailed out. On the penultimate lap Tsunoda tried the move a third time and once again ran wide as Mazepin defended the position. Unable to get close enough to try another pass, Tsunoda ended up crossing the line in second behind Mazepin.

However, shortly after the chequered flag Mazepin was given a five-second time penalty for forcing Tsunoda off track at Turn 5, reversing their positions and giving Tsunoda his second win of the season.

Nikita Mazepin, Hitech (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

Schumacher completed the podium in third, the German having a relatively quiet race with five seconds separating him from fourth-placed Deletraz. Shwartzman managed to recover to fifth after his poor first lap, and Dan Ticktum finished sixth for DAMS as the highest alternate strategy driver.

Zhou briefly led the race on the same strategy as Ticktum, but the Chinese driver stayed out later than anyone and wasn’t able to make the places back after his stop, coming home in seventh.

Roy Nissany also ran the alternate strategy and was second behind Zhou for a while, but was likewise unable to carve back through the field on the soft tyres later. However he did manage to pass Luca Ghiotto and Callum Ilott to take reverse grid pole for tomorrow. Ghiotto and Ilott took the final points positions, just keeping DAMS stand-in Juri Vips out of the top ten on his F2 debut.

Post-race penalties:

Mazepin has been given a five-place grid drop for the Monza feature race for “potentially dangerous and unsportsmanlike conduct”, after the stewards judged him to have entered parc-ferme too fast.

Hitech were reprimanded for Mazepin’s pit stop, which was investigated as an unsafe release, while Trident have been fined for their mechanics standing too far forward in the pitlane and thus being in Mazepin’s path.

Matsushita has been given a three-place grid drop for the sprint race for causing his collision with Drugovich on lap 3. Drugovich himself, who finished in P20, was disqualified for making his mandatory pit stop on the final lap, which is a breach of the sporting regulations.

Finally, Marcus Armstrong was given a five-second penalty for overtaking Jack Aitken off-track and drops from P13 to P15.

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Yuki Tsunoda Carlin 25
2 Nikita Mazepin Hitech Grand Prix 18
3 Mick Schumacher Prema Racing 15
4 Louis Deletraz Charouz Racing System 12
5 Robert Shwartzman (FL) Prema Racing 12
6 Dan Ticktum DAMS 8
7 Guanyu Zhou UNI-Virtuosi Racing 6
8 Roy Nissany Trident 4
9 Luca Ghiotto Hitech Grand Prix 2
10 Callum Ilott UNI-Virtuosi Racing 1
11 Juri Vips DAMS
12 Pedro Piquet Charouz Racing System
13 Jack Aitken Campos Racing
14 Marino Sato Trident
15 Marcus Armstrong ART Grand Prix
16 Artem Markelov BWT HWA Racelab
17 Christian Lundgaard ART Grand Prix
18 Giuliano Alesi BWT HWA Racelab
19 Jehan Daruvala Carlin
20 Guilherme Samaia Campos Racing
Ret. Nobuharu Matsushita MP Motorsport
DSQ Felipe Drugovich MP Motorsport

F2 Austria: Ilott takes maiden F2 win after trouble for Zhou

Callum Ilott took his first Formula 2 victory at the Red Bull Ring feature race, after his teammate Guanyu Zhou dropped out of the lead with technical problems.

Ilott and polesitter Zhou dominated the early stages of the race together with Prema’s Mick Schumacher, who leapt up into third place at the start after passing star of qualifying Felipe Drugovich.

The two UNI-Virtuosi drivers traded the lead throughout the first corners of the race, before Zhou managed to make a move stick and set about breaking the DRS range back to Ilott. But Zhou lost the position again after his pit stop, when Ilott and then Schumacher were able to perform the undercut and emerge in the net lead of the race.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship)

With more heat in his tyres, Zhou managed to repass Ilott and Schumacher on their out laps, while Ilott overhauled Schumacher to resume net second behind Zhou.

But on lap 26 Zhou slowed with a sudden loss of power and dropped down the order. Ilott resumed the lead ahead of Schumacher, with ART’s Marcus Armstrong, who had climbed through the field on the alternate strategy, assuming third place.

While Zhou returned to the pits there were problems too for HWA’s Artem Markelov, who came to a halt on the circuit and brought out the safety car for two laps.

Marcus Armstrong, ART (Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship)

Ilott held the lead at the safety car restart, and was gifted a reprieve when Schumacher ran off the circuit and through the gravel trap, dropping down to P13.

With Schumacher out of contention as well, Ilott held several seconds in hand over second-placed Armstrong, with Robert Shwartzman promoted to third. This gap only increased as Armstrong and Shwartzman battled hard over the podium positions, allowing Ilott to go from 4.8s ahead on lap 36 to more than 8s by the chequered flag.

Despite having an apparent pace advantage, Shwartzman was unable to get past Armstrong and finished in third behind the ART. Armstrong’s teammate Christian Lundgaard finished fourth after seeing off a late challenge from Dan Ticktum, while Giuliano Alesi made the alternate strategy work to take sixth from 18th on the grid.

Louis Deletraz took seventh for Charouz and Drugovich held on to eighth place to take reverse grid pole for tomorrow on his F2 debut. Nobuharu Matsushita, another alternate strategy runner, finished in ninth and Roy Nissany took the final point in tenth.

Along with Markelov, Sean Gelael and Marino Sato also retired from the race, while Luca Ghiotto failed to start because of a technical problem. Schumacher eventually finished just outside the points in P11, while Zhou finished down in P17.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship)

F2 Austria preview: rise of the new guard

The 2020 Formula 2 season gets underway this weekend with the first of a double-header at Austria’s Red Bull Ring.

The F2 grid in Spielberg will be full of returning faces. Series stalwarts Artem Markelov, Sean Gelael, Jack Aitken, Louis Deletraz, Nobuharu Matsushita, Roy Nissany and Luca Ghiotto are all back, as are Guanyu Zhou, Callum Ilott, Giuliano Alesi, Mick Schumacher, Marino Sato and Nikita Mazepin, who made their debuts last year.

Alongside them are nine rookie drivers, six of whom come from Formula 1 junior programmes. These are: Renault’s Christian Lundgaard (ART), Williams’ Dan Ticktum (DAMS), Ferrari’s Marcus Armstrong (ART) and Robert Shwartzman (Prema), and Red Bull’s Yuki Tsunoda and Jehan Daruvala (both at Carlin).

The remaining three rookies are Guilherme Samaia (Campos), Pedro Piquet (Charouz) and Felipe Drugovich (MP Motorsport).

Jehan Daruvala and Yuki Tsunoda, Carlin (Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship)

In such an unusual season, it’s hard to predict the pecking order coming into the first round of the championship.

Of the returning drivers, Aitken, Markelov, Ghiotto, Matsushita and Schumacher all have race-winning pedigree at this level. Aitken is perhaps best-placed to fight at the front as he remains with Campos this year, although none of the others (Markelov least of all) should be discounted from pulling off a surprise charge to the top step.

Looking at the top teams is usually a safe bet coming into a new season. UNI-Virtuosi had a strong showing in Austria last year with podiums in both races, and have a talented lineup in Zhou and Ilott who are both gunning for their first F2 victory.

Callum Ilott, UNI-Virtuosi (Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship)

ART can always be relied on to run at the front. And although the French team has an all-rookie lineup, both Lundgaard and Armstrong were race-winners in Formula 3 last year and could both be credible threats to F2’s old guard.

And then there’s Prema. Schumacher is expected to make a big step forward after a sedate debut last year, so shouldn’t be ruled out of contention just because of his 2019 results. And of course he’s partnered by reigning F3 champion Shwartzman, who has plenty of speed and race craft to make an immediate impression on his F2 debut.

As ever, it’s going to be a fascinating opening round for F2 as we wait to see how the field shakes out for the season ahead.

Marcus Armstrong, ART (Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship)