F2 Silverstone: Zhou strikes back at Piastri with feature race win

Guanyu Zhou ran away to victory in the Silverstone Formula 2 feature race, beating polesitter Oscar Piastri after losing the championship lead to the Australian yesterday.

Zhou started alongside Piastri on the front row but got the better launch and was already ahead before they made it to Abbey. Behind them, Dan Ticktum also made a move off the line to take third from Richard Verschoor, while Robert Shwartzman jumped past Felipe Drugovich and Theo Pourchaire for fifth.

At the front of the field, Zhou set the pace with early fastest laps as the top four pulled away from Shwartzman, Drugovich and Pourchaire behind. By lap 4 Zhou had pulled out of DRS range of Piastri, who was starting to come under pressure from Ticktum.

That pressure was relieved when Ticktum pitted for hard tyres on lap 6 to try the undercut. Piastri covered him off on the following lap, but despite coming out ahead of Ticktum he didn’t have the tyre temperature to keep the Carlin behind on the outlap, and Ticktum was able to pass him for P13 and net second.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

Zhou pitted from the lead a lap after Piastri, but was able to come out comfortably ahead of Ticktum despite his undercut strategy. That left Verschoor out in the lead for a few laps, but his own pit stop was slow and left him well down on Piastri when he rejoined the track.

At the front, Juri Vips now lead from Lirim Zendelli, Jehan Daruvala, Jack Aitken and Matteo Nannini. They had started on the hard tyre instead of the mediums and were trying to prolong their first stint to jump up into the points. Meanwhile, Zhou had joined the back of this group after passing Marino Sato on lap 12.

Ticktum and Piastri picked off Sato a lap later. Ticktum was held up by the Japanese driver and lost a lot of time to Piastri, who had considerable pace on his first laps on the new hard tyre. But that pace seemed to flip around on lap 16, as Ticktum passed the long-running Nannini for sixth but Piastri couldn’t find a way around the Campos.

Piastri stayed behind Nannini until the Italian finally pitted on lap 24. By this point Piastri was more than nine seconds adrift of Ticktum, while Verschoor was closing rapidly to put pressure on for the final podium position.

Verschoor got within a second of Piastri by lap 27, and finally launched his assault around the outside of Stowe on the penultimate lap. Piastri managed to hold him off then, almost cutting the corner at Club to stay ahead. On the final lap, Verschoor tried the same move at Stowe, but was too far back this time to get alongside the Prema.

Richard Verschoor, MP Motorsport (Lars Baron, Getty Images / FIA F2)

 

Zhou took the chequered flag with four seconds in hand over Ticktum, and Piastri completed the podium with Verschoor on his gearbox. Shwartzman led Drugovich over the line in fifth and sixth, and Vips picked up seventh place from ninth on the grid after his alternate strategy. Pourchaire, Zendelli and Daruvala completed the top ten, with Daruvala taking another two points for the fastest lap.

Zhou’s victory puts him back up to second in the championship standings, just five behind Piastri and twelve ahead of Shwartzman.

Formula 2 now takes a long break, returning at Monza for the Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix on 10–12 September.

F2 Silverstone: Verschoor controls sprint race for first win

MP Motorsport’s Richard Verschoor took his first Formula 2 win in the second Silverstone sprint race, with a calm performance from reverse grid pole.

Verschoor got a good launch from reverse grid pole to enter Abbey ahead of Marcus Armstrong and Dan Ticktum. But as the top ten settled their positions through the opening corners, Ralph Boschung spun at the rear of the field and collected Alessio Deledda, bringing out the safety car before the end of lap 1.

At the restart on lap 5, Verschoor bolted clear of Armstrong and Ticktum to see off any potential move for the lead. Just behind them, Oscar Piastri initially took fourth place from Liam Lawson, but Lawson fought him back on the following lap to retake the position.

Liam Lawson, Hitech (Red Bull Content Pool)

The green flag racing only lasted for another few laps, as the safety car was again brought out on lap 7 when Jehan Daruvala hit the back of Bent Viscaal at Vale and put the Trident into the gravel.

When the safety car pulled in on lap 11, Verschoor was again able to jump clear of Armstrong, while Ticktum was close enough to put pressure on the DAMS ahead. By the end of the first racing lap, Verschoor was more than a second clear of Armstrong, but six tenths separated Armstrong and Ticktum.

Meanwhile, the fight between Lawson and Piastri resumed with just half a second splitting the two. Piastri tried several times to squeeze his way past Lawson, first up the inside of Vale on lap 15 and again around the outside of Woodcote on lap 16.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Bryn Lennon, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

But after Lawson was able to close the door each time, Piastri was finally close enough to dart to the inside at Brooklands on lap 18 and take fourth place. And once freed from behind Lawson, Piastri set the fastest lap as he tried to reel in Armstrong and Ticktum in the final laps.

But despite Piastri’s pace, the gap was too large to overhaul before the chequered flag, and Verschoor led home Armstrong and Ticktum for the podium. Piastri came home fourth with the fastest lap to add another ten points to his new championship lead. Lawson finished fifth, ahead of Juri Vips, Felipe Drugovich and David Beckmann.

F2 Silverstone: Shwartzman commands sprint race as Piastri takes title lead

Prema’s Robert Shwartzman dominated the opening Formula 2 sprint race at Silverstone for his second win of the season, while championship leader Guanyu Zhou retired on lap 1 and lost the points lead to Oscar Piastri.

Shwartzman started the race from fourth on the grid behind Christian Lundgaard, Juri Vips and Roy Nissany. But a rapid launch saw him pass third-placed Nissany off the line, then beat Vips and Lundgaard into first place down to Turn 1.

As Shwartzman assumed the lead from Vips and Lundgaard, Nissany found trouble at Turn 3 as he was hit from behind and then tagged the rear of Lundgaard too. Lundgaard’s car was undamaged, but Nissany was spun around and out of the race.

Almost simultaneously, Zhou was spun around at the same corner while fighting up into the points. The longtime championship leader retired on the spot, and the safety car was deployed.

At the restart, Shwartzman was able to jump clear of Vips, while Lundgaard locked up and dropped back towards Felipe Drugovich in fourth. Meanwhile, Shwartzman’s Prema teammate Oscar Piastri put the attack on Liam Lawson for sixth while Dan Ticktum behind tried to join the battle.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Michael Regan, Getty Images / FIA F2)

Piastri’s assault on sixth was briefly halted at the end of lap 4 as Alessio Deledda was spun out of the race and the safety car was redeployed. But at the restart on lap 7, Piastri was able to get up the inside of Lawson and take sixth place away.

A third safety car came out on lap 12 when Guilherme Samaia found himself beached in the gravel. With ten laps to go, Richard Verschoor, Jack Aitken, Bent Viscaal and Matteo Nannini chose to pit from outside the points and take on fresh medium tyres.

At the restart on lap 15, Shwartzman again shot clear of Vips to protect first place, and went on to ease his gap up to over a second. Over the final laps, Vips couldn’t find a way to close the gap to Shwartzman and came home second where he started.

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

Lundgaard briefly came within half a second of Vips but couldn’t get close enough to make a move for second before the end. Drugovich took fourth behind Lundgaard, while Theo Pourchaire and Piastri were fifth and sixth. Lawson held on to seventh place despite not having the pace to stick with Piastri, and Ticktum finished eighth for the final point.

Verschoor was able to put his fresh mediums to good use in the closing stages. After making his way past Ralph Boschung and David Beckmann early after the restart, he made his way up to the back of Lirim Zendelli by lap 18, and took tenth place from his teammate to start the second sprint race from reverse grid pole.

With Zhou retiring from the race, Piastri’s sixth place and Shwartzman’s win moves the two Premas to the top of the standings on 83 and 81 points respectively.

F2 Baku: Vips wins feature race as Piastri slashes championship lead

Juri Vips took his second Formula 2 victory in a row in the Baku feature race, while Oscar Piastri finished second to close in on championship leader Guanyu Zhou.

Vips started from second place alongside Hitech teammate Liam Lawson, but a quicker launch saw the Estonian take the lead into the first corner. Lawson then dropped behind Piastri as well, and only held third place over Theo Pourchaire with an aggressive move that pushed Pourchaire onto the pit exit and almost into the wall.

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

Pourchaire’s challenge then unravelled further at Turn 3 as he was caught between Dan Ticktum on the inside and Marcus Armstrong on the outside. The three drivers made contact, which put Armstrong and Pourchaire out of the race and left Ticktum with a broken front wing and a 10 second penalty for causing the collision.

Pourchaire later confirmed after the race that he also suffered a broken wrist in the crash.

The safety car was brought out to clear the incident at Turn 3. At the restart on lap 3, Lawson immediately put the pressure on Piastri for second, and battled his way past the Prema by the third corner. However, Lawson then fell out of contention for the win as he was given a 10 second penalty for his first lap defence against Pourchaire.

When Lawson served his penalty at his pit stop, Vips then had to hold off a rapid Piastri for the lead. But Vips responded with a series of fastest laps after his stop to open up a gap on the Prema. He was then given some more breathing room as Piastri was given a 5 second penalty for an unsafe release from his own pit stop.

Piastri continued to put the pressure on Vips to try and nullify his penalty. He gained a second on the leader as Vips was held up lapping Alessio Deledda, who was given a drive-through penalty for ignoring blue flags. But despite Piastri closing to within eight tenths in the final laps, Vips was able to keep his car ahead to beat the Australian on the road as well as the timing screen.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Dan Istitene, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Piastri’s second place briefly came under threat from his own teammate Robert Shwartzman. Starting tenth, Shwartzman had made charging progress to get up to fifth before his stop on lap 8. The Russian then kept up his pace in the second stint to reach third, although he wasn’t quite able to get within the necessary five second window behind Piastri to inherit second.

Felipe Drugovich followed Shwartzman through the field to go from eleventh to fourth at the flag, ahead of fifth-placed Ralph Boschung. Lawson ended up sixth after his penalty ahead of Jehan Daruvala.

Ticktum took on medium tyres on the opening lap when he pitted to replace his front wing, and ran long on his stint to cover off the 10 second penalty he had to serve later.

Finally making his mandatory stop on lap 21, Ticktum emerged in eleventh but with a clear pace advantage on supersoft tyres. He finished the race eighth ahead of Christian Lundgaard and David Beckmann, and took the fastest lap as well.

Championship leader Zhou started the race eighth but struggled for pace throughout and eventually finished outside the points in P13. With Piastri scoring 18 points for second, the gap between them is now only five points. Shwartzman’s podium moves him into third in the standings, and Vips is now fourth after his two wins this weekend.

Formula 2 returns on 17th and 18th July in support of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

F2 Baku: Shwartzman takes dominant win in first sprint race

Robert Shwartzman took his first win of 2021 with a dominant performance in the opening Baku sprint race, while championship leader Guanyu Zhou extended his lead with another podium.

Shwartzman started the race from reverse grid pole ahead of Jehan Daruvala and Zhou, and held first place off the line. Marcus Armstrong jumped Ralph Boschung for fourth, while Theo Pourchaire passed Dan Ticktum for sixth.

As Shwartzman lead the field away, there was big championship drama at the second corner as Felipe Drugovich ran into the back of Oscar Piastri. Piastri was then knocked into Liam Lawson on the outside, and both cars were put out of the race while Drugovich received a ten-second penalty.

Liam Lawson, Hitech (Francois Nel, Getty Images / FIA F2)

With two of his closest title rivals out of the race, Zhou then began putting pressure on second-placed Daruvala, who was struggling to keep pacing with the leading Shwartzman. As Shwartzman pulled three seconds clear of the field, Zhou took second from Daruvala on lap 9 with a DRS move into Turn 1.

But after clearing Daruvala, Zhou wasn’t able to catch up to Shwartzman either. Instead, he and Daruvala then came under attack from Ticktum, who had recovered from losing a place at the start to overhaul Pourchaire, Boschung and Armstrong for fourth by lap 8.

On lap 11 Ticktum got onto the podium with a Turn 1 move on Daruvala, and then moved up to second a lap later by passing Zhou. The Carlin driver looked to have the most pace of anyone on track and started chipping away at Shwartzman’s 4.5 second lead by setting the fastest lap.

But as Ticktum made gains, Shwartzman responded with fastest laps of his own and not only kept clear of Ticktum but eased the gap over 5 seconds by lap 19. Ticktum therefore had to settle for second place, while Zhou completed the podium for his fourth top three finish of the year.

Theo Pourchaire, ART (Dan Mullan, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Pourchaire struggled for pace early on, losing positions to Ticktum and Juri Vips, but recovered in the closing stages. After repassing Vips at the halfway stage, Pourchaire then cleared Boschung and Armstrong in the final four laps to finish fifth behind Daruvala, and snatched the fastest lap on the last lap of the race.

Boschung finished sixth for his fourth consecutive points finish of the year ahead of Armstrong and Vips, and Bent Viscaal finished tenth to start the second sprint race from pole.

F2 Baku preview: Piastri and Pourchaire on the title hunt

Formula 2 returns this weekend for the third round of the season in Azerbaijan, where championship leader Guanyu Zhou will be looking to keep his rivals at bay with another win.

Zhou took his second victory of the season in the opening Monaco sprint race two weeks ago. What’s more, Zhou moved 32 points clear of Liam Lawson after the Hitech rookie was disqualified from his own win in race two following a technical regulations breach.

But that doesn’t mean Zhou’s now in the clear. While Lawson dropped from second to fifth in the standings, Oscar Piastri moved up to replace him with a pair of second place finishes putting him 16 points behind Zhou. Meanwhile, Theo Pourchaire claimed his first F2 win in the feature race, and is now third in the standings.

Momentum is key in a series like F2, so Zhou will have to make sure he keeps his while stopping his rivals from building their own. But given what we’ve seen in the races so far, it’ll be a hard task for anyone to stop Piastri and Pourchaire once they get going.

Can Lawson bounce back?

Liam Lawson, Hitech (Dan Istitene, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

On social media, Lawson understandably said his Monaco disqualification was a “tough one to swallow”, so he’ll be gunning to return to the top step this weekend. And luckily for him, Baku could be just the track he needs.

Lawson hasn’t raced at Baku before, so theoretically he could be at a disadvantage compared with Zhou, who raced there in 2019. But at the same time, Lawson excels at keeping up a blistering pace without destroying his tyres, and that trait should be perfectly matched with Baku’s mix of blasting straights and slower technical corners.

In particular, Lawson ought to be a threat for the win in the two pit stop-free sprint races, but don’t rule him out of pulling off an audacious strategy in the feature race too.

Lundgaard looking for a reset

Christian Lundgaard, ART (David Ramos, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Christian Lundgaard came to Monaco needing to score big after a mixed opening round in Bahrain. But instead he had an engine failure while fighting for the lead of the first sprint race, retired from the second sprint race as well, and finished P12 in the feature.

While Monaco was only the second round, the new F2 format means that a quarter of the season is now gone. That means Lundgaard can’t afford any more problems in Baku if he’s to get himself back into championship contention.

But just like Lawson, Lundgaard is another driver who thrives on high-speed tracks, so Baku should be much more suited to his style. What’s more, Baku isn’t as dependant on track position as Monaco, so he’ll have more opportunities in all three races to fight through the field and challenge for the podium positions.

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 Monaco preview: can Zhou extend his championship lead?

Formula 2 will take to the streets of Monaco this weekend, as the second round of the 2021 championship gets underway.

This weekend, the action will run from Thursday to Saturday rather than Friday to Sunday. Instead of both sprint races taking place on Saturday, the first will be at midday local time on Friday and the second at 8:20am on Saturday, with the feature race then at 17:15 on Saturday evening.

Alpine vs Red Bull

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

The opening round of the season left us with a fascinating picture of the Alpine and Red Bull junior stables battling it out at the top of the standings.

Alpine came away with the upper hand, with Oscar Piastri and Guanyu Zhou taking two of the three wins in Bahrain and Zhou leading the championship.

But Red Bull’s juniors aren’t far behind, as Liam Lawson sits just 11 points behind Zhou with a sprint race win and a third place under his belt already. And then there’s Jehan Daruvala, who was rapid across the Bahrain weekend and is 7 points clear of Piastri in third despite not taking a victory last time out.

Monaco presents a great chance for Zhou to make up some ground on his less-experienced rivals. As one of only three drivers on this weekend’s grid to have raced in Monaco in F2 before, Zhou has some crucial experience around the tricky track — not only that, but he scored a third place on his last outing at the principality.

Inconsistency has been the bane of Zhou’s campaigns in the past. So if he can notch up more big points and top three finishes in Monte Carlo, he’ll be well on the way to turning a strong start into a strong year.

Second chance at a first impression

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

While Lawson, Piastri and Zhou left Bahrain with winners’ trophies, their teammates ended the first round of the season with some regrouping to do.

Robert Shwartzman, the championship favourite before the season, only sits five points behind Piastri in the standings, but he seemed a long way off the Australian’s pace throughout the Bahrain weekend. Meanwhile, Felipe Drugovich managed only 2 points to Zhou’s 41, and Lawson’s Hitech teammate Juri Vips had a torrid weekend of penalties and points-free finishes.

But with Bahrain almost two months in the rearview mirror now, those three have had plenty of time to pick themselves up and look to Monaco as a second chance to start off their season well.

And as Monaco is such a difficult circuit to master, Shwartzman, Vips and Drugovich will know that all it takes is one error for their teammates while they score decent points themselves, and Bahrain will just be a minor blip rather than an omen for the season.

Return of the Jack

Jack Aitken (Courtesy of Williams Media)

Together with Zhou and Ralph Boschung, one other driver will head to Monaco with F2 experience of the principality: Jack Aitken. He’ll be returning to F2 this weekend and at Baku with HWA, replacing Matteo Nannini who’s left the series after sponsorship trouble to focus on his Formula 3 campaign.

Aitken hasn’t had the best history at Monaco, with a highest finish of 7th in the 2018 feature race. But he does bring a wealth of experience at this level to help HWA move forward, and his record as a multiple F2 winner and audacious overtaker will make him someone for the rest of the field to beware.

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.