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)

F3 Sochi: Doohan seals Trident teams’ title with contentious feature win

Jack Doohan took his fourth win of the season in the Sochi feature race and helped Trident to snatch the Formula 3 teams’ championship away from Prema, albeit by ignoring team orders in his battle with Clement Novalak.

Doohan and Novalak started alongside each other on the front row, and although Novalak got a quick launch to challenge Doohan into Turn 2, Doohan was able to hold his lead from pole position. Behind them Jonathan Hoggard kept third place while Frederik Vesti dropped from fourth to sixth behind Juan Manuel Correa and Lorenzo Colombo.

Vesti soon took those places back however, repassing Colombo by the end of the first lap and Correa on lap 3. On lap 5 he then caught and passed Hoggard’s Jenzer to bring himself up into the podium positions with just over three seconds separating him from the Tridents out front.

Jonathan Hoggard, Jenzer (Lars Baron, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

Colombo and Correa continued to fall back through the field after those opening laps. Colombo dropped to ninth place after running wide while being passed by Vesti, and was then bumped out of the points altogether by Oliver Rasmussen by the end of lap 1. Meanwhile Correa lost fifth and sixth to Logan Sargeant and Jak Crawford, although he managed to hold seventh by seeing off the new F3 champion Dennis Hauger.

Hauger continued to pressure Correa for seventh, closely pursued himself by Victor Martins. Their battle came to a head on lap 7 as the three of them ran side by side through Turn 7. Correa came out ahead as Martins ran wide, but Hauger was spun around by Rasmussen who tried to take advantage of the melee.

Hauger dropped to the back of the field while Rasmussen and Martins both ended up outside the points. Arthur Leclerc benefited from the incident to sneak through and take seventh from Correa, while Ayumu Iwasa and Alex Smolyar were promoted into the points.

Arthur Leclerc, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

At the front of the field Doohan and Novalak were separated by just a few tenths of a second as they fought for the lead. Novalak set the pace early on with the fastest lap and ran just two tenths behind Doohan by lap 7. On lap 9 Novalak tried a move around the outside of Turn 2 for the lead, but he ran deep into the corner and was forced to slot back into second.

While Doohan and Novalak battled, Vesti was closing in fast on the pair of them. By lap 10 he’d halved his gap to 1.5 seconds behind the Tridents, while Novalak was being visibly held up by Doohan who was sliding through the hard right-handers.

With Vesti coming up fast behind them and the team needing to protect the win to take the teams’ title, Trident instructed Doohan to let Novalak through as he appeared to be the faster driver. But unsurprisingly with a win on the line Doohan didn’t let his teammate past, even though that allowed Vesti to close to just half a second by lap 15.

Trident were spared some anxiety a lap later when Vesti ran wide and dropped out of DRS range of Novalak. But Doohan also ran wide on the same lap which gave Novalak a run on his teammate down the straight at the start of lap 17. Novalak initially got ahead through Turn 2, but Doohan used the corner to set up the inside line into Turn 3 and retake the lead.

Clement Novalak, Trident (Rudy Carezzevoli, Getty Images / FIA F3)

To make matters worse for Novalak he then lost grip in Doohan’s wake and not only dropped out of DRS range of Doohan, but into Vesti’s clutches. Vesti was just a tenth behind Novalak heading through the middle sector while Novalak was warned about weaving in his defence.

When they got to the DRS straight out of Turn 10 Vesti had little trouble pulling alongside and passing Novalak for second. But despite his earlier speed, Vesti’s brief but close battle with Novalak had given Doohan the opportunity to open up a slight lead with two laps remaining, and he ended up crossing the line with two seconds in hand.

Vesti held onto second while Novalak completed the podium in third, but despite losing the 1–2 Trident were still able to take the teams’ title by six points from Prema. Sargeant completed a quiet race in fourth ahead of Crawford and Hoggard, while Leclerc finished seventh and Martins, Iwasa and Olli Caldwell rounded out the points.

Winning the race meant that Doohan keeps his second place in the championship, while Novalak finishes the season in third place ahead of Vesti and Martins.

Frederik Vesti, ART (Bryn Lennon, Getty Images / FIA F3)

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)

F3 Sochi: Hauger seals title at first chance as Sargeant wins Race 1

Dennis Hauger clinched the 2021 Formula 3 title with a podium finish in the opening Sochi sprint race, which was won by Logan Sargeant for his first victory of the season and Charouz Racing System’s first victory in the series.

Sargeant started the race from second on the reverse grid alongside Victor Martins but seized the lead around the outside of Turn 2. Meanwhile Hauger tried to take third place from Jak Crawford, but after backing out he was forced to defend against Caio Collet in fifth and Alex Smolyar in sixth instead.

But although Hauger’s start didn’t go to plan, things were much worse for his title rival Jack Doohan. Starting from 12th on the reverse grid after claiming pole for the feature race, Doohan found himself caught up in the middle of the pack and bounced onto the kerbs at Turn 2, which dropped him down to 17th in the order.

Logan Sargeant, Charouz (Rudy Carezzevoli, Getty Images / FIA F3)

With Doohan out of the points and Hauger only needing six points to claim the title he didn’t need to make up any more places in the race. But despite that, Hauger continued pushing forward and putting the pressure on Crawford in third.

On lap 4 Hauger forced Crawford to take a deep defensive line through Turn 2 and used the opportunity to line up a move through Turn 3, putting himself into the podium positions. He then set the fastest lap and started cutting into Martins’ gap in second.

By lap 7 Hauger had gotten within four tenths of Martins and tried the same Turn 2 setup as he had on Crawford three laps earlier. But Martins was able to better hold off Hauger through Turn 3 and used Hauger’s championship considerations to force the Prema to back out.

But despite coming out on top in that battle, Martins couldn’t keep Hauger behind for much longer. On lap 10 Hauger ran within a tenth of Martins as he set up a move, which he then completed to take second a lap later.

With Sargeant little more than three seconds up the road, Hauger set off with the win in his sights. But with half the race done he started to struggle with his rear tyres losing temperature, and found Martins and Collet in fourth filling his mirrors. Meanwhile Clement Novalak, who had taken the fastest lap from Hauger, was rapidly closing on all three of them.

Victor Martins, MP Motorsport (Dan Istitene, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

Sargeant ran wide on lap 14 and lost seven tenths from his lead, but Hauger wasn’t able to take advantage of the mistake as he had Martins just two tenths behind him. But before Martins could capitalise on Hauger’s tyres and reclaim second, the virtual safety car was brought out when Tijmen van der Helm retired on the side of the road with an engine failure.

When the VSC was withdrawn a lap later Hauger was able to get the better restart to pull out of DRS range of Martins, while Sargeant was just under two seconds ahead of him. Hauger continued to cut that gap as Sargeant’s own tyres fell off, and he closed to within DRS range of the Charouz on the final lap.

Going through the DRS zone after Turn 10, Hauger closed to four tenths behind Sargeant, but with the title in his hands he held back rather than making a lunge into Turn 13. Sargeant crossed the line just ahead of Hauger, and Martins finished third for his sixth podium of the year.

Novalak come through to take fourth from Collet in the final laps. Lorenzo Colombo took sixth for Campos ahead of Arthur Leclerc, Frederik Vesti, Juan Manuel Correa and Ayumu Iwasa. Crawford fell through the top ten in the latter stages of the race to finish 11th, while Doohan came home in 15th.

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.

F3 Sochi preview: title beckons for Hauger in Sochi finale

Formula 3 returns to action this weekend for the final time this season, as Russia’s Sochi Autodrom plays host to the championship showdown between Prema’s Dennis Hauger and Trident’s Jack Doohan.

That title fight is now Hauger’s to lose. With four wins, eight podiums and two pole positions to his name so far, Hauger comes to Sochi with a 43-point advantage over Doohan, with 65 points still left to play for this weekend.

That advantage means that Hauger can clinch the title after Saturday’s second sprint race, provided he doesn’t concede any more than 13 points to Doohan across the two sprint races. And even if Doohan still has a chance going into Sunday’s feature race, he’ll be aiming for almost every point available for victory, pole and the fastest lap unless Hauger’s Saturday really falls apart.

Jack Doohan, Trident (Red Bull Content Pool)

Doohan needs a lot of things to go his way if he’s going to snatch the title from Hauger. But pressure can play a big part in title showdowns, even for drivers who have otherwise been as composed all year as Hauger.

If Doohan can start applying that pressure early, such as by taking pole or closing the gap in the first sprint race, then he can start using that to try and force a mistake from Hauger when it really matters.

Neither driver has raced at the Sochi Autodrom so far in their careers, so both will be learning the circuit fresh this weekend. With only one practice session, whoever can hit the ground running fastest will have a big advantage over the weekend’s three races.

Fight for third as tight as ever

Victor Martins, MP Motorsport (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

It may just be Hauger and Doohan battling for the F3 title this weekend, but there is still an equally intense fight for third place in the championship yet to be resolved — and a four-way fight at that.

Clement Novalak is currently leading that quartet on 122 points after his double podium result at Zandvoort. The Trident driver has shown impressive consistency all year long to reach this position in the championship, with points finishes in all but one of the last nine races — although what’s arguably more impressive is that he is the only driver of these four still yet to win this season.

Just behind Novalak are Victor Martins and Frederik Vesti, both level on 117 points and each with a win to their name. Martins’ victory came in the second Zandvoort sprint race and was the peak of a brilliant bounce back after a disappointing run leading into the summer break. He seems to be riding on a second wind right now, which is the perfect momentum to have running into the season finale.

But Vesti is almost in the opposite situation. He showed great pace early in the season and is still the only driver outside of Hauger and Doohan to take a feature race win this year, but as Novalak and Martins hit their stride Vesti dropped back from the front of the championship.

Frederik Vesti, ART (Dan Istitene , Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

Vesti was back on the podium at Zandvoort — his first since his feature race win at the Red Bull Ring — so hopefully that will give him the boost he needs to end his season on the form it started.

And lastly there’s Alex Smolyar, who is 15 points behind Novalak in sixth despite having more wins than both Martins and Vesti and more podiums than Novalak. But he’s also missed the points on six occasions and consistency has been his main weakness this year.

However, Smolyar is the only one of this pack of drivers with any racing experience of the Sochi Autodrom, and his last visit during his 2017 SMP F4 days resulted in a double podium. That will surely give Smolyar confidence as he comes into the weekend needing a great result to overhaul the drivers ahead of him.

F2 Sochi: Zhou takes maiden win under red flag

Renault junior Guanyu Zhou was awarded his first Formula 2 win at Sochi, after the sprint race was ended early under the red flag following a heavy crash for Luca Ghiotto and Jack Aitken at Turn 3.

Zhou got a good start from reverse grid pole to hold the lead into the first corner, helped by Nikita Mazepin dropping back from second to third behind Aitken. Championship leader Mick Schumacher shot up from eighth on the grid, passing Jehan Daruvala through Turn 2 to get up into fourth.

Mazepin retook second from Aitken on lap 2, and a lap later Schumacher overtook the Campos for third. Aitken briefly lost fourth as well to Daruvala at the start of lap four, but he retook the place when Daruvala ran wide at Turn 2 and earned himself a time penalty for not rejoining the track correctly.

On lap 6 Ghiotto got past Daruvala and started reeling in Aitken for fourth. But on lap 7 the two made contact as they went wheel-to-wheel through Turn 3 and shot into the TecPro barriers. Both cars ended up between the layers of the barriers with Ghiotto’s car catching fire, but thankfully Aitken and Ghiotto were both unharmed.

Luca Ghiotto, Hitech (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

The race was immediately red-flagged, and the extent of the repairs needed to fix the barriers meant there wasn’t time for it to resume. As a result Zhou was declared the winner, albeit with half points, with Mazepin second and Schumacher third.

Aitken and Ghiotto were able to take the points for fourth and fifth as per red flag rules the race result was counted back to lap 5. Tsunoda, Ilott and Ticktum took the final points, while Mazepin claimed the two bonus points for fastest lap.

Guilherme Samaia and HWA rookie Jake Hughes also retired from the race after making contact on lap one.

After Sochi, Schumacher’s championship lead has extended as he holds 191 points over Ilott’s 169. Schumacher’s Prema team also extends its lead over Ilott’s UNI-Virtuosi with 331 points to 288.5.

Formula 2 returns on 28th November for the first of the double header finale in Bahrain.

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

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Guanyu Zhou UNI-Virtuosi Racing 7.5
2 Nikita Mazepin (FL) Hitech Grand Prix 7
3 Mick Schumacher Prema Racing 5
4 Jack Aitken Campos Racing 4
5 Luca Ghiotto Hitech Grand Prix 3
6 Yuki Tsunoda Carlin 2
7 Callum Ilott UNI-Virtuosi Racing 1
8 Dan Ticktum DAMS 0.5
9 Pedro Piquet Charouz Racing System
10 Robert Shwartzman Prema Racing
11 Jehan Daruvala Carlin
12 Artem Markelov BWT HWA Racelab
13 Christian Lundgaard ART Grand Prix
14 Marcus Armstrong ART Grand Prix
15 Marino Sato Trident
16 Giuliano Alesi MP Motorsport
17 Louis Deletraz Charouz Racing System
18 Juri Vips DAMS
19 Roy Nissany Trident
20 Felipe Drugovich MP Motorsport
Ret. Guilherme Samaia Campos Racing
Ret. Jake Hughes BWT HWA Racelab

 

Russian GP: Hamilton takes pole in an intense qualifying

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lewis Hamilton took his 5th straight pole of the season at Sochi on saturday afternoon to put himself in an excellent position in his bid to equal Schumacher’s record tomorrow (91 wins). The pole position looked set to evade him today after the fiasco in Q2 almost saw him miss out on Q3.

Hamilton failed to register a time in Q2 as he crossed track limits during the first run of Q2 and this meant that the 6 time world champion had only one run under his belt to put a time on the charts. However, a Sebastian Vettel crash during the second run of Q2 brought out a red flag with exactly 2 minutes and 15 seconds to go and Hamilton barely made it to the finish line before the flag fell, setting a lap time good enough to go into Q3.

It is not Valtteri Bottas, but Max Verstappen on the front row this time as the Dutchman put in an amazing lap in the second run of Q3 to go 2nd. Bottas who started the weekend well could not make it onto the front row after hitting the sausage kerb in turn 2 and losing momentum going into the rest of the lap.

Sergio Perez put in a great effort despite not having upgrades on his Racing Point and qualified on the second row alongside Bottas while his teammate Stroll could not make it out of Q2 after getting his lap time deleted in the first run and suffering a temperature issue towards the end of Q2.

Ricciardo’s fine form during the weekend continued after his efforts in qualifying will see him start at 5th on the 3rd row next to Carlos Sainz in the McLaren. The 4th row will be a repeat of the colours in the 3rd row but with Ocon in Renault at 7th and Norris in the McLaren at 8th.  Gasly in the Alpha Tauri is set to line up at 9th next to Albon in the RedVull who will be hoping for a much better race than the qualifying today.

Both the Ferraris crashed out of Q2, one literally of Sebastian Vettel at turn 4 after hitting the kerb and one of Charles Leclerc narrowly missing out and all set to start at P11 as the advantage from the minor upgrades they have got this weekend also seems to be minor. Danil Kvyat is set to line up next to Leclerc at 12th and will look to score some good points in his home race, especially after his car seems to be showing a decent race pace.

George Russell in the Williams made it into Q2 for the sixth time this season  and will line up at 14th after yet another good effort in Q3 but his teammate Latifi will have to be content with 19th. It is going to be a Ferrari powered bottom 6 except Latifi after both the Haas cars and the Alfa Romeos are all in the bottom 5.

Kimi Raikkonen went spinning in the second run of Q1 which will mean that he is set to start 20th on the grid and his teammate Giovinazzi will start 17th. Grosjean and Magnussen in their respective Haas cars are set to start 16th and 18th with Grosjean surprisingly offering some positive feedback at the end of Q1.

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

With Hamilton set to start on the soft tyres thanks to the Q2 drama and with Max Verstappen just next to him, it might not be a straightforward drive to win number 91 for the English driver. It is also worth remembering that Bottas’ last victory at Sochi came from 3rd on the grid, which is where he will line up tomorrow, with a tyre advantage. It is all set to play for, in the Russian Grand Prix.

F2 Sochi preview: focus on 2021

Formula 2 returns this weekend for round 10 of the championship at Russia’s Sochi Autodrom, where all the field will now be driving with one eye on their 2021 plans.

With only three rounds of the season left, the focus of the championship has shifted to who’s gunning for an F1 graduation, and who’s teeing up a campaign for next year’s F2 title. Obviously the driver attracting the most spotlight at the moment is championship leader Mick Schumacher, who is reported to be a firm favourite for one of Alfa Romero’s 2021 seats.

If Schumacher wants to solidify his chances he’ll have to continue to pull away from his title rivals Callum Ilott and Robert Shwartzman. And doing that means having a much better weekend in Sochi than he did last year, when he scored nothing after retiring from both races. A repeat of that this year would be disastrous for his title aspirations.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

For Shwartzman in particular though, a troubled weekend for the title leader would be just what he needs. After two non-scores last time out at Mugello, Shwartzman has now dropped to fourth in the standings behind Schumacher, Ilott and Christian Lundgaard, and is 21 points off the championship lead he’d previously held for so long.

Shwartzman fortunately has a great relationship with the Sochi Autodrom to help him this weekend. As well as being the Russian’s home circuit, it was at this track last year that he wrapped up the Formula 3 title in commanding fashion, with pole position and two podiums to leave him 54 points ahead of runner-up Marcus Armstrong.

If Shwartzman can bring that kind of form again this year, there’s no reason he can’t make up for Mugello and get right back in the title hunt.

Another driver whose 2021 F1 shot is looking in danger after Mugello is Yuki Tsunoda. After his pole and win in the Spa feature race made him a shoe-in for AlphaTauri next year, Tsunoda has only scored once in the five races since. Crucially, he’s dropped from fourth to sixth in the standings, and if he doesn’t improve from there he won’t secure the superlicense points he needs to move up to F1.

What Tsunoda needs most of all is a clean race weekend. He’s shown no lack of speed since Spa, but some scruffy racing like his incidents with Dan Ticktum and Felipe Drugovich at Mugello have kept that speed from translating into the points finishes Red Bull are expecting of him.

Christian Lundgaard, ART (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

What makes things more difficult for Tsunoda is that he’s racing for that fourth spot against Lundgaard and Nikita Mazepin. Both drivers are on excellent form and will almost certainly be title contenders if they remain in F2 next year.

Neither of them had a particularly profitable outing at Sochi last year. Mazepin finished eighth in the F2 feature race but retired from the sprint race, while Lundgaard finished fourteenth and ninth in the two F3 races.

But in terms of their recent results, Mazepin and Lundgaard are both riding high as the winners of the Mugello feature and sprint race respectively. Lundgaard especially has a lot of momentum behind him, as he was on pole for the Mugello feature race as well and scored a double podium at Monza the week before.

Lundgaard’s results have put him back into the championship’s top three after a run of non-scores in the middle of the season knocked him down the order. Although he’s touted as one of next year’s title favourites, the Dane is only 16 points off Schumacher and could be a surprise late contender for the 2020 crown instead.

Giuliano Alesi, MP Motorsport (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

There have been two driver changes ahead of Sochi. Nobuharu Matsushita has left MP Motorsport, saying in a statement that he’s “decided to move on to fresh challenges elsewhere”. He’s been replaced by Giuliano Alesi who moves over from HWA, and in turn HWA have promoted their F3 driver Jake Hughes to take Alesi’s seat.

Alesi will be hoping that MP, who have won three races this year with Matsushita and Drugovich, will provide him with a car more capable of challenging for points than HWA. Alesi’s only points this year came with sixth place in the opening race in Austria.

Finally, Juri Vips will continue to drive for DAMS this weekend. The Estonian was initially only due to replace the injured Sean Gelael for three rounds ending with Mugello, but this has been extended to include Sochi as well.

Jake Hughes, HWA (Bryn Lennon / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

F2 Russia: Ghiotto wins crash-disrupted sprint race

UNI-Virtuosi’s Luca Ghiotto took victory in the second race of the Sochi F2 weekend, after a lengthy red flag period triggered by a worrying opening lap crash.

ART’s Nikita Mazepin started on reverse grid pole but a slow getaway left him vulnerable to Jack Aitken on the run down to Turn 2. Mazepin’s defence of the apex forced both drivers off the circuit, where they then collided attempting to rejoin the track as Mazepin went to the wrong side of the re-entry bollards and clipped Aitken on the inside.

The contact sent Mazepin back across the track and into the path of Nobuharu Matsushita, who started third on the grid, and both cars speared heavily into the barriers at Turn 3.

The race was immediately red-flagged while both drivers were extracted from their cars and taken to the medical centre. Fortunately, both Mazepin and Matsushita were reported to have no serious injuries.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

After a 45 minute delay to assist the drivers and complete barrier repairs, the race was restarted behind the safety car and with the distance shortened from 21 to 15 laps. The opening lap crash left Ghiotto, who started fifth on the grid, in the lead ahead of Callum Ilott and the newly-crowned F2 champion Nyck de Vries.

The safety car pulled in at the end of the first restart lap and Ghiotto bolted to build an early lead, while behind him De Vries passed Ilott for second at Turn 2. Sergio Sette Camara did the same to his DAMS teammate Nicholas Latifi for fourth place, but missed his braking point and completed the move off the circuit, and was given a five-second time penalty for doing so.

Despite holding the lead at the restart, Ghiotto struggled to pull too far ahead of De Vries. But although De Vries continually closed on the Italian through the two DRS zones, he was losing too much grip in the dirty air behind Ghiotto through the corners to be able to make an overtake.

The same was true for Ilott in third, who had the DRS to draw up to De Vries but kept dropping back through the flat Turn 3 and the final sequence of tight corners. In the end, neither De Vries or Ilott were able to make an effective move and finished second and third respectively behind Ghiotto.

Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

Latifi took fourth place as well as the two points for fastest lap, which means he keeps a 10-point lead over Ghiotto for second place in the championship. Sette Camara finished ahead of Latifi on the road but his five-second penalty dropped him down to sixth between Guanyu Zhou and Sean Gelael.

Giuliano Alesi took the final point in eighth, after seeing off a challenge for the position from Mick Schumacher. On lap 5 Schumacher used DRS to close up to Alesi down the back straight and set up a move on the inside of Turn 14, but was too far back to complete it. He continued to fight it on the outside of Turn 15 and into Turn 16, but ended up banging wheels with Alesi and losing out not only to the Trident but MP Motorsport’s Jordan King as well.

Schumacher also picked up damage from the contact and pulled into the pits a few laps later to retire, meaning he leaves Sochi with no points after his terminal engine problem in yesterday’s feature race.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship