F2 Russia preview: title in De Vries’ hands

The 2019 Formula 2 Championship could be decided at this weekend’s penultimate round in Sochi, Russia, as points leader Nyck de Vries has his first chance to wrap up the title.

De Vries has been the runaway title leader this year, having amassed three wins, seven further podiums and four pole positions, and finishing in the points in every race bar one. This has put the ART driver on 225 points going into the penultimate round at the Sochi Autodrom, 59 clear of nearest rival Nicholas Latifi.

Mathematically speaking, there are still four drivers that can take the title away from De Vries: Latifi, Luca Ghiotto, Jack Aitken and Sergio Sette Camara. But such is the gulf between De Vries and his challengers, that if those four fail to score even in the feature race, De Vries can wrap up the title by finishing anywhere in the top five—or as low as seventh, if he also secures the four points for pole position.

But while it’s unlikely that all four of De Vries’ rivals will finish outside the top ten in Saturday’s feature race, they can’t afford to squander any opportunities this weekend as at least one of them needs to outscore De Vries by 12 points or more to take the fight down to the wire in Abu Dhabi.

Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

With the top five focusing on the championship this weekend, those drivers sitting just behind them in the standings will be hoping that preoccupation will give them a chance to steal some major results before the end of the season.

Nobuharu Matsushita currently sits sixth in the championship, out of title contention on 116 points. The Honda junior driver said earlier in the year that his goal was to finish in the top four in the standings, to earn him the necessary superlicence points to graduate to F1 with Toro Rosso.

But although he has two feature race wins to his name this year, Matsushita is still 37 points adrift of fourth-placed Aitken—perfectly achievable with 96 points still up for grabs, but a tall order given Aitken’s form this year.

And as if Matsushita’s goal of fourth place wasn’t already far enough away, he may yet drop another place in the standings this weekend with Renault junior driver Guanyu Zhou only one point behind him in eighth.

Zhou, who recently tested Renault’s 2017-spec F1 car, has been F2’s standout rookie this year, accumulating four third-place finishes and a pole position at Silverstone. However his maiden win at this level still eludes him, and he will be hungrier than ever to claim it this weekend and tee himself up as a 2020 title contender.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

BWT Arden and the Sauber Junior Team by Charouz will once again field full entries this weekend, after both entered just one car each at Monza following the tragic loss of Anthoine Hubert and injury of Juan Manuel Correa at Spa last month.

GP2 and F2 veteran Artem Markelov has been brought in to take over Arden’s second car alongside Tatiana Calderon. He will carry the number 22, as Hubert’s number 19 has been officially retired for the rest of the season.

Meanwhile, Sauber have signed Matevos Isaakyan to fill Correa’s place for the final two rounds. The 21-year-old drove for SMP in the World Endurance Championship last year, and finished runner-up in the 2017 Formula V8 3.5 series. Together with Markelov and ART’s Nikita Mazepin, Isaakyan will make it three Russians on the grid for their home event.

Last week, Correa’s family issued an update on his condition that said he had been removed from his induced coma and no longer needed an ECMO machine to assist his breathing. However, he remains in a serious condition in intensive care and is awaiting major surgery to his right leg, which is being delayed until his lungs are capable of withstanding the operation.

Carl Bingham, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

Formula 2: 2019 Season Preview

The 2019 Formula 2 season kicks off this weekend in Bahrain with some new faces on the grid and a lot of surprises after an unusually unpredictable silly season. Normally, it is possible to figure out who is going to be where after the post-season test in Abu Dhabi, but this time what deals seemed to be done in December changed completely in January.

Some big names from last year are missing. Lando Norris and Alex Albon followed the 2018 champion George Russell in securing a Formula One seat, while Artem Markelov, who has become a fan favourite throughout the years, joined the Super Formula field in Japan. These departures could lead to a discussion on whether the talent in the grid has decreased, but we have to bear in mind that excellent drivers will make their debut in Bahrain even if they are not so well-known.

Anthoine Hubert (BWT Arden) / Glenn Dunbar, FIA F2 Championship

Among the youngsters approaching their first Formula 2 weekend we have last year’s GP3 Series top three. The champion Anthoine Hubert will enter the championship with BWT Arden in association with Mercedes’ feeder categories brand HWA despite the fact that he is a member of Renault Sport Academy. Nikita Mazepin, who has already tested in Formula 1 with Force India, will take part in the series with last year’s champions ART, and Ferrari Driver Academy member Callum Ilott will compete for the renamed Sauber Junior Team by Charouz. Even if they have proved their talent in the past, none of them are expected to be in the hunt for the big trophy after pre-season testing results, but for sure they will put on a good show and aim for podiums, even victories.

On the contrary, there is one man who is expected to fight for the championship from the beginning: Mick Schumacher. The son of the Formula One legend Michael Schumacher will drive for Prema, a team who won twice since they entered in 2016. Mick must not crack under pressure and confirm the speed showed last year in an outstanding second-half of the season which crowned him as FIA F3 European Champion. If he delivers, a seat in the 2020 Formula One grid is almost guaranteed for him.

Furthermore, Tatiana Calderón will be the first woman to race in the GP2 Series/FIA F2 since they started back in 2005. Partnering Hubert in BWT Arden, the Alfa Romeo Racing test driver will try to keep her momentum going to continue taking points as she did in the last five GP3 races.

Louis Deletraz (Carlin) / Glenn Dunbar, FIA F2 Championship

Looking now at the battle for the championship, four F2 veterans are expected to fight the already mentioned Mick Schumacher. They are Nyck de Vries (ART), Sérgio Sette Câmara (DAMS), Luca Ghiotto (UNI Virtuosi Racing) and Louis Delétraz (Carlin). All of them were pace-setters in testing and are capable of performing at any track—only reliability issues or race incidents would prevent them from having a chance to become champions.

We should also keep and eye on Jack Aitken. If it is true that he struggled a lot during his maiden season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him challenging for race wins throughout the year. However, the fact that he drives for Campos Racing may keep him away from the championship battle.

Regarding this first weekend in Bahrain, it may bring some surprises given that qualifying conditions are not the same as race ones. Qualifying is scheduled in the night while races are in the afternoon when temperatures are their highest. Tyre degradation is set to play a very important role, allowing different strategies as we already saw in the past. In 2017, Charles Leclerc decided to pit during the sprint race when he started to suffer with his tyres and he was able to make an impressive comeback overtaking 14 cars to win the race on the last lap. Will we see something like that again this year? We will know on Sunday!

Giuliano Alesi (Trident) / Glenn Dunbar, FIA F2 Championship

Calderon completes Arden F2 lineup

BWT Arden has announced that Tatiana Calderon will complete their lineup for the 2019 Formula 2 Championship.

Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team

Calderon, who has raced for Arden previously in the 2016 GP3 Championship, graduates to F2 on the back of a breakthrough year in 2018.

After joining Sauber as a development driver in 2017, Calderon developed into a regular points-scorer during last year’s GP3 campaign with Jenzer. Later in the year she drove Sauber’s C37 Formula 1 car during a filming day in Mexico, before completing a two-day test at Fiorano in the team’s 2013 C32.

She has also since taken part in two tests with the DS-Techeetah Formula E team, in Ad Diriyah and Marrakesh, as well as the post-season F2 test in Abu Dhabi at the end of last year.

Speaking about her maiden F2 season, Calderon said: “I’m very excited to compete in the FIA F2 Championship with BWT Arden. It’s a new challenge in my career and a step closer to my ultimate goal to reach Formula 1.”

Arden team principal Garry Horner said he is “delighted to welcome Tatiana back into the Arden fold” after her “very impressive” results in her F2 and Formula E test outings.

Calderon will partner 2018 GP3 champion Anthoine Hubert, as BWT Arden enters a new technical partnership with HWA Racelab for 2019.

FIA Formula E

Tatiana Calderón for International Women’s Day 2018

2018 could be a busy year for Tatiana Canderón. The Colombian driver will continue driving in GP3, as well as becoming a member of the FIA Women In Motorsport Commission, which was revealed earlier this year. Also this week she was announced as the Sauber F1 Team’s official Test Driver. As part of International Women’s Day Tatiana answered questions asked by Julia Paradowska.

Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP3 Series Media Service.

Julia Paradowska: You became a member of FIA Women In Motorsport Commission. What does it mean for you?
Tatiana Calderón: It’s an honor for me to be able to represent Women in Motorsport, I love this sport so much and the FiA WIM together with D2BD are doing a great job promoting it that I also want to be part and help out wherever I can.

JP: Do you want to take a part of the Dakar rally or 24 Hours of Le Mans in the future?
TC:Absolutely, two of the most demanding races of the sport!

JP: Lella Lombardi is first and only woman to score points in F1. Do you think in 10 years time a woman driver will have scored in F1?
TC: Yes! Hopefully I can be next one to be giving a chance.

JP: What do you like the most in driving a GP3 car?
TC: I love racing any car really but I think what I love is pushing myself to the limit every lap. Trying to improve and GP3 because of the high level of competition and the peak performance of the tyre pushes you to do find those limits in one perfect lap.

Photo: Jed Leicester/GP3 Series Media Service.

JP: You were 9 yeras old when you entered your first karting race. Why did you decide to be a racing driver?
TC: I love the adrenaline, the competition and the speed and once I tried karting it was like I found my real passion. I’m lucky to have discover what I love doing so early in life.

JP: What car is your favourite and what car is your dream car?
My favorite it’s hard to choose, I would for sure would love to have a Ferrari at home and my dream car at the moment the C38
JP: What are your goals for 2018?
TC: I want to challenge for wins and podiums wherever I end up racing and of course drive a F1 car.

JP: What track is your favourite?
TC: Spa is my favorite track because it has all kind of corners. It has some blind corners that bring your adrenaline levels even higher. I just love to go through Eau Rouge!

JP: What do you think about US tracks?
TC: You can’t speak about the US tracks in general because between them they are all different but of course I would like to have more races there. The fans make also a great atmosphere. A great come back to the US tracks could be in Cota hopefully in the near future .

JP: What advice would you give young girls dreaming of being a part of Motorsport?
TC: That they should follow they’re passion, no matter what. There are no limits. If you are patient and work hard you’ll get there!