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: Piastri snatches last lap sprint race win from Zhou

Prema’s Oscar Piastri became Formula 2’s second rookie winner in as many races after a strategy gamble and a hectic race helped him to overhaul Guanyu Zhou on the final lap.

The race started with an incident at the first corner. As Juri Vips led away Lirim Zendelli and Zhou from pole, Robert Shwartzman hit Dan Ticktum at Turn 1 as he challenged for fourth place. Ticktum spun out and Shwartzman pulled over with terminal damage, and the safety car was deployed for the opening lap.

When the safety car pulled in at the end of lap 3, Zhou immediately took second from Zendelli. Once ahead, Zhou then started reeling in Vips, setting the fastest lap at the end of lap 4 and taking the lead from the Hitech on the following lap at Turn 4.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Clive Mason, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA Formula 2)

Meanwhile, Liam Lawson and Felipe Drugovich joined the podium battle. After moving past Piastri and Christian Lundgaard for fourth and fifth respectively at the restart, the pair then demoted Zendelli to fifth on lap 5 with Lawson ahead moving into the podium positions. Zendelli’s race then took another hit, as contact from Lundgaard at Turn 1 left the German with a puncture and dropped him to the back of the field.

At the front of the field, Zhou continued to stretch out a gap over Vips, and was running 2.5 seconds clear by lap 11. Behind them, Lawson and Drugovich were much closer in the battle for third, and on lap 15 Drugovich made a move to the inside of Turn 1. Lawson managed to hold off the Brazilian, but they were both passed instead by Lundgaard. Lawson and Drugovich continued battling through the next couple of corners, until they made contact at Turn 4 and Lawson was spun out of the race.

The safety car was deployed again while Lawson’s car was recovered, and Vips, Lundgaard and Piastri all took the opportunity to gamble on a switch to soft tyres. Despite dropping down the order, the trio had an immediate pace advantage over the rest of the field on hards or worn softs when the race resumed on lap 18.

After carving back through the field on the first green flag lap, Vips, Piastri and Lundgaard were back up to second, third and fourth respectively by the end of lap 19, and Vips had the gap to Zhou down to a second.

Juri Vips, Hitech (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

But Vips’ hard work came undone just a few laps later when he lost power and started dropping through the field. Piastri assumed second and the pursuit of Zhou, and at the start of the final lap he and Lundgaard both lunged past their fellow Alpine junior at Turn 1.

As Zhou battled to repass Lundgaard, Piastri was free to pull away in the lead and take his first Formula 2 victory. Lundgaard finished second on the road, but a ten-second penalty for his collision with Zendelli dropped him back to ninth. Zhou therefore finished second, and Jehan Daruvala scored his second podium of the weekend in third.

Richard Verschoor finished fourth for MP Motorsport, ahead of Theo Pourchaire, David Beckmann, Marino Sato and Matteo Nannini.

UPDATE: Lundgaard’s second place finish was reinstated following the race, after the FIA confirmed he had already served his 10 second penalty during his pit stop. The updated result means that Zhou drops to third and Daruvala fourth, and Nannini loses his point as he drops to ninth,.

F2 Bahrain preview: New season, new format, same goal

The Formula 2 grid will take to the track this weekend in Bahrain, for the opening round of the 2021 championship.

It only feels like yesterday that Mick Schumacher was crowned the 2020 F2 champion, but a lot has changed since the series left Bahrain last December. For starters, there’s a new race weekend format for the teams and drivers to get their heads around this year.

Instead of a Saturday feature race and Sunday sprint race, the F2 weekend will now feature three races — two sprint events on Saturday, and a feature before Sunday’s F1 Grand Prix. Friday qualifying will still determine the feature race grid, while the first sprint race grid will be set by reversing the top ten from qualifying. The starting positions for the second sprint race will then be a reverse of the first race’s top ten finishers.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

The weekend format might be different though, but for the eleven drivers returning to F2 this year, the goal of winning the championship and reaching F1 remains the same. And of those drivers, Robert Shwartzman is going to come to Bahrain with the most expectation on his shoulders.

In his rookie season last year, Shwartzman took the most wins of the field, helped Prema to the teams’ title, and was in championship contention himself for most of the season. He’s already proven he’s quick in Bahrain — one of his four wins last year came in the sprint race there — so Shwartzman will be the one with the target on his back in the opening round.

But there are plenty more drivers from the class of 2020 who will be out to prove this weekend that it’s not all about Shwartzman. Jehan Daruvala and Dan Ticktum have a great chance of opening the year with a win, as their Carlin team had rapid pace in Bahrain last year. Watch out for Marcus Armstrong too, who was also quick here last year and is starting a new partnership with DAMS.

And lastly, Felipe Drugovich will be a driver with plenty of attention on him in the opening round. After being one of last year’s revelations, the Brazilian has earned himself a move to UNI-Virtuosi alongside Guanyu Zhou and the perfect chance to prove he can challenge the likes of Shwartzman for the title.

Dan Ticktum, Carlin (Michael Regan, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / Courtesy of FIA Formula 2)

But while the returning field is strong, they’ll have a real fight on their hands to keep ahead of an equally impressive crop of rookies.

One of those new faces will be the 2020 Formula 3 champion and Alpine F1 junior Oscar Piastri. Coming into F2 with Prema, Piastri is expected to be a natural title contender this year — and if his F3 days are anything to go by, he won’t be taking any time at all to get his campaign underway.

Piastri isn’t the only rookie looking to impress an F1 academy, though. Hitech is fielding an all-Red Bull junior lineup this year with Juri Vips and Liam Lawson, both of whom were consistently rapid in pre-season testing.

A lot of the spotlight will fall on Vips after he made his F2 debut last year substituting for Sean Gelael in four rounds, and scored a podium at Mugello. But Lawson is no slouch either — he was a multiple race winner with Hitech in F3 last year, and is every bit as quick as Vips.

And then there’s Theo Pourchaire. Like Vips, Sauber F1 junior Pourchaire made his F2 debut in a handful of rounds last year — including Bahrain — before a full campaign for 2021. He came within three points of snatching the F3 title away from Piastri last year and has been widely tipped as a future F1 star. Driving for ART this year, he’ll be with a team capable of challenging for podiums and wins right from the off.

But as Drugovich showed last year, it’s not just the F1 juniors to watch for. Between Formula Regional European champion Gianluca Petecof, F3 race winners Lirim Zendelli, David Beckmann and Bent Viscaal, and F3 podium finishers Richard Verschoor and Matteo Nannini, there are plenty of lightning-fast rookies coming in under the radar this weekend.

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

Pourchaire joins ART for full-time F2 move

ART have confirmed that Theo Pourchaire will reunite with the team for his full-time move to Formula 2 in 2021.

Sauber junior Pourchaire led ART’s Formula 3 charge in 2020. He took two wins early on in the season and the most podiums of anyone in the field, and came within three points of taking the title from Oscar Piastri at the Mugello finale.

Following his impressive F3 campaign, Pourchaire then stepped up to F2 with HWA in place of Giuliano Alesi for the final two rounds in Bahrain.

Theo Pourchaire, ART F3 (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

“I’m very happy to be able to continue with ART Grand Prix,” Pourchaire said. “This team gave me the opportunity to drive in F3 last year and now accompanies me to the gates of Formula 1, in F2.

“This year my aim does not change, I’m still aiming for the top. I feel perfectly ready for this new season.”

ART team principal Sébastien Philippe added: “Theo’s progress has been remarkable since his debut in motorsports. [In F3] he impressed the team by his evolution in a delicate context and with an extremely competitive field.

“Theo had nothing to gain by doing a second season in F3 and his move to F2 is the next logical step of our collaboration. The step is high, but between his talent, his determination and his thirst for learning, I’m sure he can make this transition a success.”

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 Bahrain: Shwartzman wins sprint race as Ilott crashes out of points

Robert Shwartzman took his fourth win of the season and first since Spa in the Bahrain sprint race, while Callum Ilott’s championship hopes took a big hit after a collision with Jehan Daruvala.

Shwartzman got a clean launch from reverse grid pole to hold the lead from Yuki Tsunoda, who jumped Marcus Armstrong for second off the line. Nikita Mazepin was slow away, allowing Daruvala and Mick Schumacher to take fourth and fifth respectively.

Tsunoda had strong pace to pressure Shwartzman through the opening sequence of corners, but before the end of the lap the Carlin driver picked up a right rear puncture and was forced to pit.

Without Tsunoda to defend from, Shwartzman was able to start putting in fastest laps and pull out a gap over Armstrong. Further back, Mazepin recovered from his slow start by taking fourth from Schumacher on lap 4, then demoting Daruvala off the podium a lap later.

Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images

Shwartzman had a gap of almost three seconds over Armstrong at the start of lap 6. But this was wiped out when Theo Pourchaire stopped on track after his fire extinguisher went off in the cockpit, and the safety car was deployed.

The race restarted on lap 7, with Mazepin putting immediate pressure on Armstrong and Schumacher battling to hold fifth over title rival Ilott.

Schumacher had a big lockup going into Turn 10 and looked to be heading off the track. Ilott took advantage of the error by diving to the inside of his rival, but ended up locking his own tyres and spearing into Daruvala ahead.

Daruvala retired on the spot while Ilott tumbled out of the points with damage to his front wing and nose. Schumacher managed to get away without any contact, although he lost position to Pedro Piquet, who navigated the incident to emerge in fourth before the virtual safety car was called.

When the VSC was withdrawn on lap 9 Armstrong reacted well to put pressure on Shwartzman, but was unable to make a move for the lead stick. Armstrong ended up losing second instead to Mazepin after locking up at T1, then was passed for third by Piquet on lap 12.

But although Mazepin had much more pace than Piquet and Armstrong behind him, he didn’t have enough to make any impact on Shwartzman’s lead. Having been able to conserve his tyres out front while Mazepin hurt his fighting through the field, Shwartzman continued to pull away over the second half of the race and took the chequered flag with five seconds in hand over Mazepin.

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

Behind the podium battles Schumacher was running in fifth but didn’t have the tyre life to take any more advantage of Ilott dropping out of the points. On lap 15 he was dropped to sixth by Guanyu Zhou, then immediately came under fire from Christian Lundgaard.

Schumacher got some brief respite on lap 17 when an unsuccessful move from Lundgaard at Turn 4 left the Dane instead defending from Felipe Drugovich in eighth. But shortly after the trio were caught by Louis Deletraz, who had taken the chance to pit under the earlier safety car and had the advantage of much fresher tyres.

Over the next five laps, Deletraz picked off Drugovich, Lundgaard, Schumacher, Zhou and Armstrong to run fourth behind his Charouz teammate Piquet. This then became third on lap 22, when Piquet pulled to the side of the road with a mechanical problem.

Armstrong managed to hold on to fourth ahead of Zhou, while Lundgaard pipped Schumacher for sixth on the final lap and Drugovich took the final point in eighth.

Shwartzman’s win means the Russian moves to fourth in the championship and is still mathematically in contention for the title. With Ilott failing to score, Schumacher now has a 14-point lead over his nearest rival going into the final round next week.

Full race result:

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

 

F2 Bahrain preview: title in Schumacher’s grasp

Formula 2 returns to the track this weekend at the Bahrain International Circuit for the penultimate round of the 2020 championship.

It’s been a while since September 27th, when we last saw F2 action at the Sochi Autodrom. Guanyu Zhou left Russia an F2 winner at last, having taken victory from Nikita Mazepin in the curtailed sprint race, but it was championship leader Mick Schumacher who made the most of the weekend.

After taking his second win of the season in the feature race, Schumacher came back through the field on Sunday to finish third on the sprint race podium as well. As a result, Schumacher comes to Bahrain with a healthy 22-point lead over his nearest rival Callum Ilott.

In fact, Schumacher could wrap up the title this weekend, perhaps even as early as the feature race. With two rounds remaining, Schumacher would have to outscore Callum Ilott by 26 points across the weekend—a feature race win with either pole or the fastest lap would do it.

But although Schumacher has one hand on the championship trophy, the margin between him and Ilott is still close enough that it wouldn’t take much for the tables to turn. All Ilott needs is a pair of strong results and some bad luck for Schumacher, and we could be looking at a very different picture for next weekend’s Sakhir finale.

Callum Ilott, UNI-Virtuosi (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

As ever in F2, there plenty more tight championship battles right through the field than just the one at the front.

Yuki Tsunoda is currently third in the championship but only seven points separate him from Mazepin in sixth. With Red Bull open about wanting Tsunoda to race in F1 with AlphaTauri next year, he’ll be wanting to open that gap a little more to make sure he scores the necessary super licence points.

Tsunoda’s Carlin team didn’t have the most competitive outing in Bahrain last year, with Louis Deletraz’s pair of fifth places their best result. However, the British team does know how to prepare a good car for the circuit, as was seen by Lando Norris and Sergio Sette Camara scoring a win and two podiums respectively in 2018.

Further back again, Felipe Drugovich will be one to keep an eye on this weekend. The Brazilian has been one of the surprise stars of the season, taking two sprint race wins and a pole at Silverstone, and he’ll be well aware that any more great results this weekend will be a big help as he looks for a 2021 seat further up the grid.

Finally, Bahrain will see Formula 3 driver Theo Pourchaire make his F2 debut with HWA. Pourchaire, who finished runner-up in this year’s F3 championship, will take over the #17 HWA from Jake Hughes, who raced at the last round in Sochi following Giuliano Alesis’s mid-season switch to MP Motorsport.

Alesi will continue with MP Motorsport this weekend, despite reports earlier this month that he was in danger of losing his seat and backing from the Ferrari Driver Academy.

Theo Pourchaire, ART F3 (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

F3 2020 season review

The 2020 FIA Formula 3 season ended with a bang last weekend at Mugello. ART’s Theo Pourchaire came within touching distance of flipping the championship on its head after title contender Logan Sargeant crashed out on the opening lap, but ultimately it was Prema’s Oscar Piastri who came through to be crowned the 2020 drivers’ champion.

With all the prizes now handed out, it’s time to look back on what will go down as a memorable season—not just for the circumstances surrounding it, but for the brilliant racing seen all year long.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Courtesy of FIA Formula 3 media)

The fight at the top

Obviously, any review of this year’s F3 season has to start with its champion Oscar Piastri and his rivals for the crown.

From his win in the first race of the season, there was little doubt that Piastri would be one of the major players in the title battle right through to the end. Although it took him until the Barcelona sprint race to win again, Piastri’s podiums and strong points finishes kept him in the championship lead right up until round five at Silverstone, when Logan Sargeant’s first F3 win set up a close title fight between the two Premas.

His season wasn’t perfect. Considering he won the title, it’s surprising that Piastri did so with fewer wins than Frederik Vesti or Liam Lawson, and fewer podiums than Theo Pourchaire. More surprisingly, Piastri scored no pole positions at all this year—by comparison, Sargeant took three and qualified ahead of Piastri in almost every round.

All of which must make the final result of the 2020 season tough to swallow for the four drivers above. Despite all outperforming Piastri by one metric or another, the Australian’s consistency meant he was still able to come out on top.

But hopefully, they’ll all come away from the season emboldened by their performances, and the knowledge that the championship could have so easily swung in any of their directions. Pourchaire, Sargeant, Vesti and Lawson would all have been just as deserving a champion as Piastri, and will surely be contenders once again if they stay in F3 next year.

Alex Peroni, Campos (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Who else impressed?

While much of the focus this year was on the battle for the championship, there were still plenty more standout performances from drivers up and down the grid.

Alex Peroni was one such. His 2019 F3 debut didn’t start particularly strongly with only two lower points finishes, but it was his vertebrae fractures sustained at Monza that defined it. But Peroni came back a different driver in 2020, taking his maiden podium in the first round with two more to follow at Silverstone and Barcelona, and scoring all of Campos’ 64 points.

Another impressive podium challenger was ART’s Aleksandr Smolyar. While the Russian was a long way off teammate Pourchaire’s results, he showed serious pace all season with a pole position at the Hungaroring and a win at Silverstone, although the latter was taken away by a post-race penalty.

Smolyar’s results wobbled a little after his lost win, but two fourth places at Spa and a podium he could keep at Monza put him back on track and will hopefully set up an even stronger sophomore year in 2021.

Mention should also be made of Ben Barnicoat, Michael Belov and Pierre-Louis Chovet, who all managed to score points acting as last-minute stand-ins for Carlin, Charouz and Hitech respectively. No easy feat by any means, given the steep learning curve of Formula 3.

Jack Doohan, HWA (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

Who needs to improve?

As for drivers who’ll need to step up their game if they return to F3 next year, the easy answer is the likes of Cameron Das, Sophia Floersch, Lukas Dunner and Alessio Deledda. Each of these stood out for the unfortunate reason that they scored no points all season, while their respective teammates were able to take frequent points and occasional podiums.

Another driver with the same distinction is Jack Doohan, who finished 26th in the championship while his HWA teammate Jake Hughes took two wins and two further podiums to finish 7th. Doohan is one of a trio of Red Bull juniors along with Dennis Hauger and Igor Fraga who will need to find new form next year after being significantly overshadowed by Lawson this year.

And speaking of F1 junior drivers, there’s also Ferrari’s Enzo Fittipaldi. The Brazilian showed some good speed at certain races this year, and particularly found his form at Mugello where he finished fifth and fourth in the two races. But over the whole season Fittipaldi only finished in the points six times in 18 races.

With highly-rated Ferrari juniors like Gianluca Petecof and Arthur Leclerc potentially targeting F3 next year, Fittipaldi will need to flip this ratio around to avoid falling behind them in the FDA pecking order.

While we won’t know for a while who’ll make up Formula 3’s 2021 grid, the talent and potential seen throughout 2020 gives us a lot to look forward to. In the meantime, F3 will be back on track next month for two post-season tests, at Barcelona on October 5th–6th and Jerez on October 27th–28th.

Igor Fraga, Charouz (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

F3 Mugello: Piastri beats Pourchaire to title after Sargeant crash

Oscar Piastri was crowned the 2020 Formula 3 champion after the Mugello sprint race finale, overcoming a late charge from outside contender Theo Pourchaire after main rival Logan Sargeant retired from a first lap collision.

Sargeant started the race as the highest title contender in fifth on the reverse grid, while Pourchaire started in eighth and Piastri outside the points in 11th. But Sargeant’s title challenge was ended at the second corner of the race when he was squeezed by Sebastian Fernandez into Lirim Zendelli. Sargeant and Zendelli both went off into the gravel, and despite Sargeant’s efforts he couldn’t make it back to the track and was out of the race.

As the safety car came out to recover Sargeant and Zendelli’s cars, Piastri looked set to take the title as he ran seventh with his only remaining rival Pourchaire behind in eighth. But at the restart on lap 4 Pourchaire immediately leapt past Piastri and then Jake Hughes for sixth as he tried to turn his nine-point deficit into an unlikely championship steal.

Theo Pourchaire, ART (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

As the opening phase of the race unfolded, everything seemed to fall into place for Pourchaire’s title hopes. As he passed his ART teammate Aleksandr Smolyar for fifth and targeted the podium positions he needed to become champion, Piastri struggled for pace and was shuffled down to tenth by his own teammate Frederik Vesti.

But after Pourchaire passed Enzo Fittipaldi and Sebastian Fernandez to reach third place in the second half of the race, Piastri’s pace started to recover. The Australian took ninth from the struggling Smolyar at the same time as Pourchaire passed Fernandez, meaning that Piastri would still have enough points to win the championship if Pourchaire couldn’t improve to second.

With 1.5s between Pourchaire and second-placed David Beckmann on lap 17, it looked far from unlikely that Pourchaire would be able to take the position. But while Piastri’s pace was improving, Pourchaire’s earlier charge took its toll on his tyres and he was unable to make up much of the gap between him and Beckmann.

Meanwhile, Piastri continued picking off the lower top ten to make Pourchaire’s job even more difficult. On lap 18 Piastri passed Vesti for eighth place, then caught Fernandez as the ART dropped back through the field and took seventh place in a drag race to the line on the final lap.

Finishing seventh with Pourchaire third, Piastri won the championship by three points, while Pourchaire took the runner-up position from Sargeant by one point.

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

The sprint race was won by Liam Lawson, who put in a commanding performance from pole to win by almost seven seconds from Beckmann. The win gave Lawson fifth place in the championship ahead of Beckmann, although both were kept out of the top four by Vesti.

Fittipaldi took his best result of the season just behind the podium in fourth, ahead of Richard Verschoor and Hughes. Behind Piastri and Fernandez, the final points were taken by Vesti and Smolyar, with Vesti also earning the bonus two points for the fastest lap.

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Liam Lawson Hitech Grand Prix 15
2 David Beckmann Trident 12
3 Theo Pourchaire ART Grand Prix 10
4 Enzo Fittipaldi HWA Racelab 8
5 Richard Verschoor MP Motorsport 6
6 Jake Hughes HWA Racelab 5
7 Oscar Piastri Prema Racing 4
8 Sebastian Fernandez ART Grand Prix 3
9 Frederik Vesti (FL) Prema Racing 4
10 Aleksandr Smolyar ART Grand Prix 1
11 Jack Doohan HWA Racelab
12 Dennis Hauger Hitech Grand Prix
13 Alex Peroni Campos Racing
14 Clement Novalak Carlin Buzz Racing
15 Matteo Nannini Jenzer Motorsport
16 Olli Caldwell Trident
17 Lukas Dunner MP Motorsport
18 Roman Stanek Charouz Racing System
19 David Schumacher Carlin Buzz Racing
20 Bent Viscaal MP Motorsport
21 Calan Williams Jenzer Motorsport
22 Federico Malvestiti Jenzer Motorsport
23 Michael Belov Charouz Racing System
24 Sophia Floersch Campos Racing
25 Cameron Das Carlin Buzz Racing
26 Alessio Deledda Campos Racing
Ret. Logan Sargeant Prema Racing
Ret. Lirim Zendelli Trident

F3 Mugello: Vesti wins feature race as Sargeant levels championship

Frederik Vesti beat Jake Hughes and Lirim Zendelli to victory in the Mugello feature race, as Logan Sargeant drew level with Oscar Piastri in the title standings.

With plenty of championship positions on the line, the race began with a relatively cautious start. Zendelli, Hughes and Vesti, starting from the top three, held their positions into the first corner, while most of the top ten behind them followed through more or less in order. However, Enzo Fittipaldi was shuffled down from his starting position of fourth off the line by Sargeant and Theo Pourchaire.

Zendelli and Hughes, battling for seventh in the standings, began to pull away from the rest of the pack in the opening phase of the race as both set fastest laps early on. While Zendelli initially held a one-second gap over Hughes, a mistake on lap 4 gave the HWA driver a chance into Turn 1 at the start of lap 5.

Zendelli held the position around the outside, but was unable to keep Hughes behind for long. After trying another move on lap 6, Hughes finally got by for first a lap later, hanging on around the outside to take Zendelli into the chicane after Turn 1.

This began a game of cat and mouse between the Trident and the HWA, as Zendelli came back at Hughes on lap 7 to retake the lead before being passed by Hughes again on lap 13.

Jake Hughes, HWA (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

This close fighting for the lead allowed Vesti to draw up enough to join the battle in the second half of the race. On lap 14 Zendelli went deep into Turn 1 trying to repass Hughes, and this put Vesti within a few tenths of the Trident. A lap later, Vesti moved around the outside into Turn 1 and moved ahead of Zendelli into second.

Vesti wasted little time in going after Hughes, and he tried to take the lead at the start of the next lap. Hughes held the inside into Turn 1 to see Vesti off, but a mistake from Hughes later in the lap gave Vesti the opportunity to take first place on lap 17.

Hughes briefly retook the lead on the penultimate lap with another overtake around the outside of Turn 1, but Vesti came back at him at the same corner on the final lap and got back ahead. With few overtaking opportunities later in the lap, Vesti was able to hold on and beat Hughes to his third win of the year.

Zendelli had held on to third for most of the race after dropping behind Vesti. But the consequences of his hard battle with Hughes earlier on meant that he ran out of tyre life in the later stages, and ended up losing third place to Pourchaire on the final lap.

Logan Sargeant, Prema (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

While Vesti battled for the race win, his Prema teammates Sargeant and Piastri were fighting hard to better their respective championship positions going into tomorrow’s title-deciding sprint race.

After getting up to fourth at the start, Sargeant was unable to keep pace with the top three and ended up fifth behind Pourchaire by the end of the second lap. As Pourchaire then set off in pursuit of the podium, Sargeant’s race settled into one with Fittipaldi to hold fifth place.

Sargeant stayed ahead for most of the race, but Fittipaldi got ahead on lap 17 as Sargeant struggled with oversteer from his fading tyres. Sargeant retook fifth on lap 19, but was unable to hold on to the place and Fittipaldi got back through on the final lap for his best finish of the season so far.

Finishing in sixth wasn’t such a loss to Sargeant, however, as his main rival Piastri failed to score at all. Relegated to 16th on the grid due to a penalty from the Monza sprint race, Piastri’s job was to make as many moves as possible and try to salvage reverse grid pole for tomorrow.

But despite making early progress, picking off the likes of Matteo Nannini, Alex Peroni and Dennis Hauger in the early phase of the race, Piastri’s pace slowed after passing Richard Verschoor for 12th on lap 13. It took Piastri another five laps to take 11th place from Jack Doohan, by which point tenth-placed Liam Lawson was too far ahead for Piastri to reel in by the chequered flag.

Jack Doohan, HWA (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

With Sargeant scoring eight points for sixth, the two Premas are level on 160 points in the championship. Piastri is still ahead on results countback, but he will start tomorrow’s crucial reverse grid race just outside the points, while Sargeant will start from fifth place.

As for the other outside title contenders, only Pourchaire is still able to win the championship tomorrow. His podium has in fact bettered his chances, as the ART driver is now only nine points behind Piastri and Sargeant on 151.

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Frederik Vesti Prema Racing 25
2 Jake Hughes HWA Racelab 18
3 Theo Pourchaire ART Grand Prix 15
4 Lirim Zendelli (FL) Trident 14
5 Enzo Fittipaldi HWA Racelab 10
6 Logan Sargeant Prema Racing 8
7 Aleksandr Smolyar ART Grand Prix 6
8 David Beckmann Trident 4
9 Sebastian Fernandez ART Grand Prix 2
10 Liam Lawson Hitech Grand Prix 1
11 Oscar Piastri Prema Racing
12 Richard Verschoor MP Motorsport
13 Jack Doohan HWA Racelab
14 Dennis Hauger Hitech Grand Prix
15 David Schumacher Carlin Buzz Racing
16 Matteo Nannini Jenzer Motorsport
17 Olli Caldwell Trident
18 Federico Malvestiti Jenzer Motorsport
19 Calan Williams Jenzer Motorsport
20 Alex Peroni Campos Racing
21 Lukas Dunner MP Motorsport
22 Sophia Floersch Campos Racing
23 Cameron Das Carlin Buzz Racing
24 Clement Novalak Carlin Buzz Racing
25 Alessio Deledda Campos Racing
26 Roman Stanek Charouz Racing System
27 Michael Belov Charouz Racing System
28 Bent Viscaal MP Motorsport