F2 Monaco: Pourchaire dominates feature race

ART’s Theo Pourchaire took his first Formula 2 victory with a commanding performance in the Monaco feature race, becoming the youngest winner in F2 history.

Pourchaire got a quick launch from pole position to cover off an attack from second-placed Robert Shwartzman into Sainte Devote. The pair then spent the opening laps of the race trading fastest laps, while the gap between them stayed level at around a second.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Bryn Lennon, Getty Images / FIA F2)

Behind them, the order remained stable with Oscar Piastri in third, leading Dan Ticktum, Juri Vips, Ralph Boschung, Roy Nissany, Christian Lundgaard, Felipe Drugovich and Guanyu Zhou. But on lap 9, Drugovich pulled the trigger on the pit window by stopping for soft tyres on the alternate strategy, coming out in 15th.

As the cars he’d been racing against made their own stops to cover him, Drugovich got his fresh tyres up to temperature and started setting successive fastest laps. On lap 21 Drugovich moved up a net sixth by passing Boschung after the latter’s stop, then found himself ahead of Nissany and Lundgaard once they exited the pits.

On lap 29 Shwartzman stopped to attempt the undercut on Pourchaire. But a slow left rear tyre change dropped him down the order, leaving him behind Zhou who had yet to stop, and Piastri, Ticktum and Drugovich.

Pourchaire stopped a lap later and came out comfortably ahead of Piastri, with Zhou inheriting the lead as he had yet to pit. But Zhou was prevented from stopping on lap 31 when Marcus Armstrong hit the wall at La Rascasse while fighting Vips, and the virtual safety car was deployed.

The VSC was only out for one lap, but was redeployed immediately after when Lirim Zendelli locked up and hit the wall at La Rascasse at the restart. A third VSC was then brought out a lap later again, when Ticktum tried to pass Piastri around the outside of La Rascasse on the restart but ended up making it three cars in the wall in as many laps.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Lars Baron, Getty Images / FIA F2)

When the final VSC was withdrawn, Zhou led with a 20-second gap over Pourchaire. But with the Virtuosi driver on old tyres, Pourchaire rapidly halved that lead by the time Zhou stopped on lap 37.

Zhou emerged in third ahead of Drugovich, but Drugovich passed him on the outlap with the advantage of his warmer tyres. Zhou then lost another position to Shwartzman and came under pressure from Boschung, although he was able to hold off the Campos before the chequered flag.

At the front, Pourchaire crossed the line with nearly five seconds in hand over Piastri, while Drugovich followed them home in third for his second podium of the weekend. Shwartzman took fourth ahead of Zhou and Boschung, and Liam Lawson, Vips, Nissany and Richard Verschoor rounded out the points.

Leaving Monaco, Zhou stays in the lead of the championship with 68 points, while Piastri and Pourchaire move up to second and third. UNI-Virtuosi remains at the top of the teams’ standings, although Prema have displaced Carlin from second with 15 points the difference between the top two. Find the full F2 standings here.

F2 Monaco: Zhou leads Virtuosi 1–2 in first sprint race

Guanyu Zhou took his second consecutive win of the Formula 2 season, leading UNI-Virtuosi teammate Felipe Drugovich across the line from pole.

Zhou and Drugovich started alongside each other on the front row. But while Zhou got a clean getaway, Drugovich was slow off the line and lost second to the faster Christian Lundgaard.

Behind them, Theo Pourchaire jumped the Premas of Oscar Piastri and Robert Shwartzman for eighth. Shwartzman’s start then got even worse as lost his front wing to the wall at Beau Rivage, and retired a few laps later from damage.

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

At the front, Lundgaard prevented Zhou from checking out in the lead. Keeping within a second of the Chinese driver after the start, Lundgaard closed the gap to four tenths on lap 4. But Zhou regrouped and pushed on, opening up a buffer of a second just two laps later.

Zhou’s lead then grew to over three seconds when Lundgaard’s engine started smoking on lap 13. After trying to continue for two laps, Lundgaard eventually pulled off the road at the Nouvelle Chicane and retired, promoting Drugovich to second and Roy Nissany to third.

 

Drugovich, who had dropped back from Lundgaard to avoid the ART’s oil spill, assumed pursuit of Zhou with five seconds between himself and his teammate. The Brazilian made good progress to close that gap by more than two seconds by lap 19, but Zhou responded shortly after to keep out of reach.

Zhou’s gap was briefly eliminated in the closing laps after Gianluca Petecof hit the wall out of Piscine and brought out the safety car. But at the restart on lap 28, Drugovich struggled to get his tyres up to temperature in time and Zhou managed to restore his three second lead by the time he crossed the line.

Nissany finished third behind Zhou and Drugovich for his first F2 podium, while Ralph Boschung took his best F2 result so far in fourth for Campos. Juri Vips finished fifth and took the fastest lap, and Dan Ticktum, Pourchaire and Piastri rounded out the points. Marcus Armstrong finished tenth to take reverse grid pole for tomorrow’s second sprint race.

Juri Vips, Hitech (Dan Istitene, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

F2 Sakhir: Zhou storms to victory in frantic feature race

Guanyu Zhou took the final win of Formula 2’s Sakhir weekend, in a feature race dominated by changing tyre performance and a dramatic late collision for title hopeful Oscar Piastri.

Zhou started the race from pole, but it was anything but an easy drive from the front for the Alpine junior. He was slow away off the line and lost the lead to Christian Lundgaard at Turn 1, then dropped to third behind teammate Felipe Drugovich at Turn 4.

After a brief safety car in the early laps when Roy Nissany was spun out by Robert Shwartzman, Zhou then found himself under pressure from Piastri. The Prema driver, who had started on softs as opposed to Zhou’s hard tyres, picked off Zhou for third on lap 4 and set off after Drugovich and Lundgaard, while Zhou lost another position to Marcus Armstrong on lap 8.

Christian Lundgaard, ART (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA Formula 2)

By lap 12 Piastri had passed Drugovich and closed within half a second of Lundgaard, before overtaking the ART for the lead at the start of the following lap. By then the pit window was open and Lundgaard become the first to stop for hards at the end of lap 13, followed by Drugovich on lap 14 and Piastri himself on lap 16. Meanwhile, Zhou made his stop for soft tyres on the alternate strategy on lap 15, and came out of the pits just behind Drugovich.

Another safety car was deployed in the middle of the pit phase when Gianluca Petecof’s cockpit fire extinguisher went off and forced him to retire. The timing of this second safety car benefited Armstrong and Richard Verschoor, who had been shuffled to the head of the field and were able to stop while the pack was slowed down. Armstrong came out of the pits still in the lead, while Verschoor emerged in third between Piastri and Lundgaard.

At the restart on lap 19 however Armstrong immediately fell back, as Piastri and Verschoor both passed him for first and second respectively. Lundgaard also struggled for pace and lost fourth to Drugovich at Turn 4, then fifth to Zhou at Turn 10. Drugovich and Zhou then toppled Armstrong from third on lap 20, before Zhou overtook his teammate for the podium position a lap later.

Felipe Drugovich, UNI-Virtuosi (Bryn Lennon, Getty Images / FIA Formula 2)

As Zhou returned to the podium positions, Verschoor took the lead from Piastri on lap 20 and set about building a two-second gap as his softs had more initial pace than Piastri’s hards. That pace deficit allowed Zhou — as well as Dan Ticktum and Liam Lawson, who were also charging through on softs — to close up to Piastri and challenge him for second.

Zhou took the position from Piastri on lap 23 and started reeling in Verschoor, who was struggling as his softs then started losing grip. But despite being on the same compound, Zhou was able to keep his tyres in better condition than the MP Motorsport ahead and he took the lead of the race at Turn 4 on lap 28.

As Zhou then leaped clear in the lead, Ticktum started challenging Piastri for third as the Prema couldn’t find pace on the hard tyres. After being rebuffed at the inside of Turn 1 and the outside of Turn 4 on lap 29, Ticktum was much closer at the start of lap 30. He pulled to the inside and got momentarily ahead, before the two cars made contact and Piastri was spun into a stall and out of the race.

Ticktum continued on in third, and after a brief virtual safety car to recover Piastri he improved to second with a pass on Verschoor. Lawson also overtook Verschoor on the final lap to take his second podium finish of the weekend.

Dan Ticktum, Carlin (Clive Mason, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA Formula 2)

Verschoor was able to hold onto fourth at the flag ahead of Armstrong and Jehan Daruvala. Shwartzman recovered from a drive-through penalty for hitting Nissany at the start to take seventh and the fastest lap, while Theo Pourchaire, Drugovich and Matteo Nannini rounded out the final points positions.

Zhou now leaves Bahrain in the lead of the championship by 11 points from Liam Lawson, and Piastri drops to fourth behind Daruvala. Carlin now lead the teams’ standings on 47 points, ahead of UNI-Virtuosi (43) and Prema (37).

Formula 2 returns on 20–23 May in support of the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix.

F2 Sakhir: Tsunoda wins as title goes to the final race

Yuki Tsunoda won the feature race on the Sakhir outer loop after a frantic battle at the front of the field, while Callum Ilott and Mick Schumacher finished in the lower points to take the title fight to the final race tomorrow.

Tsunoda started from pole but lost the lead of the race into Turn 1, as he was passed by both Nikita Mazepin and Robert Shwartzman. Jehan Daruvala slipped back off the line, promoting Felipe Drugovich to fourth.

Meanwhile, Guanyu Zhou and Mick Schumacher, both starting on the hard tyres, gained at the start, with the former reaching eighth and the latter moving from P18 to P16. Both drivers then set about making rapid progress past the cars on soft tyres around them throughout the opening laps.

As Zhou reeled in Ilott and Daruvala to move up to sixth, Schumacher picked his way through Louis Deletraz, Roy Nissany, Giuliano Alesi and Theo Pourchaire to get within touching distance of the points by the end of lap 7.

Mick Schumacher, Prema (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

At the front of the field, Tsunoda recovered from his drop at the first corner and retook second place from Shwartzman on lap 13. When Shwartzman and Mazepin then made their stops for hard tyres in the next few laps, Tsunoda stayed out to attempt the overcut and stopped at the end of lap 16.

The strategy seemed to work as Tsunoda emerged from the pits ahead of Mazepin, but his colder tyres meant he was soon passed by both Mazepin and Shwartzman on his out lap.

The overcut strategy was more successful for Drugovich, who stayed out until the end of lap 20 and managed to make up enough time to join Mazepin, Shwartzman and Tsunoda in the fight for the net lead.

With the frontrunners having stopped, the top three positions were assumed by Zhou, Dan Ticktum and Schumacher who were all running the alternative strategy having started on hards. Ticktum was the first of these to pit for softs at the end of lap 26, but Zhou and Schumacher both waited a few laps longer before making their own stops.

Once they were on softs, their pace advantage over the rest of the field on hards was plain to see. Schumacher rejoined the race in P12 but was very quickly up into the points with passes on Deletraz, Artem Markelov, Ticktum and Pedro Piquet, and set the fastest lap in the process.

Zhou meanwhile passed Daruvala and Ilott for the second time in the race to take fifth, and was closing rapidly on the leading quartet of Mazepin, Shwartzman, Tsunoda and Drugovich.

Felipe Drugovich, MP Motorsport (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

As Zhou got closer behind them, Tsunoda took second from Shwartzman on lap 36 and started chipping away at Mazepin’s 1.3 second lead. Tsunoda got Mazepin within DRS range on lap 43, and at the start of the following lap he swung to the inside down the pit straight to make the move. Mazepin ran Tsunoda close to the pit wall to defend, but Tsunoda was through into the lead by Turn 1.

Mazepin then ran wide at the final corner of the lap, allowing Drugovich through for second and putting Mazepin under DRS pressure from Zhou, who had got by Shwartzman for fourth. After repeating the same defence he tried on Tsunoda a lap earlier, Mazepin briefly held his position but lost out to Zhou a few corners later.

Drugovich ran wide on lap 45 and gifted Zhou and Mazepin a position as he dropped to fourth. But the Brazilian regrouped to attack Mazepin for third on the final lap. Mazepin again put up a questionable defence, edging Drugovich towards the pit wall first and then off the road a few corners later, and was able to keep his car ahead.

With Mazepin defending from Drugovich, Zhou was able to pull clear to secure second place behind Tsunoda. Mazepin held on to third ahead of Drugovich, with Shwartzman coming home in fifth.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Ilott and Schumacher finished sixth and seventh. With Schumacher taking an extra two points for the fastest lap, the gap between them in the standings remains at 14 points with 17 available in the sprint race. Daruvala will start that sprint race from pole after finishing eighth ahead of Ticktum and Piquet.

Schumacher only has to finish sixth or higher tomorrow to guarantee the title, regardless of Ilott’s position. For Ilott to overhaul his rival he’ll have to either win the race with Schumacher eighth or lower, or take second place and the fastest lap with Schumacher failing to score.

Nevertheless, Schumacher’s points together with Shwartzman’s fifth place was enough for Prema to secure the teams’ championship ahead of UNI-Virtuosi.

UPDATE: Mazepin was given two five-second penalties as well as two penalty points on his licence for forcing Tsunoda onto the pit exit on lap 44 and blocking Drugovich on the pit straight on lap 48. Mazepin drops to ninth in the classification, which promotes Drugovich to the podium.

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Yuki Tsunoda Carlin 25
2 Guanyu Zhou UNI-Virtuosi Racing 18
3 Felipe Drugovich MP Motorsport 15
4 Robert Shwartzman Prema Racing 12
5 Callum Ilott UNI-Virtuosi Racing 10
6 Mick Schumacher Prema Racing 10
7 Jehan Daruvala Carlin 6
8 Dan Ticktum DAMS 4
9 Nikita Mazepin Hitech Grand Prix 2
10 Pedro Piquet Charouz Racing System 1
11 Marcus Armstrong ART Grand Prix
12 Louis Deletraz Charouz Racing System
13 Artem Markalov BWT HWA Racelab
14 Ralph Boschung Campos Racing
15 Giuliano Alesi MP Motorsport
16 Luca Ghiotto Hitech Grand Prix
17 Marino Sato Trident
18 Theo Pourchaire BWT HWA Racelab
19 Sean Gelael DAMS
20 Roy Nissany Trident
21 Christian Lundgaard ART Grand Prix
22 Guilherme Samaia Campos Racing

 

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)