The 2021 Formula 2 campaign was a closely contested fight in the early stages until one driver stamped their authority on the title race. Oscar Piastri, Zhou Guanyu and Robert Shwartzman were the trio battling for the Championship that year, the last time the Drivers’ Championship was decided at the final round at Yas Marina.

Zhou and Piastri each led at some stage during the campaign though it was Shwartzman that finished as runner up to the Australian after a hard-fought year.

Early results put the Chinese driver ahead, while it took a sweeping comeback effort from Piastri to overturn the deficit, before going on a run of consecutive winning efforts to put it out of reach. Ahead of the 2023 season concluding in Abu Dhabi, we look back at the last time the battle for the F2 title went down to the final round.

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A run of four consecutive pole positions and three Feature Race wins in a row made Piastri the man to beat ahead of the finale that year. He’d found his best form of the campaign at a vital point in the Championship to become the leading force in the latter half of 2021.

Arriving in the United Arab Emirates, Piastri had a 50.5-point advantage having dominated the previous Jeddah round, taking victory in the second Sprint and Feature Races. Shwartzman was second, just nine points clear of Zhou in third.

With Shwartzman looking to be the one to pull off a dramatic comeback, Zhou hoping to become the first Chinese single seater Champion in the FIA pyramid and Piastri going for three consecutive junior titles, the fight was on.

READ MORE: How Pourchaire, Vesti and Iwasa can win the 2023 Formula 2 Championship

The Australian wasted no time setting the tone, topping Free Practice around a freshly revamped Yas Marina Circuit. His title rivals made more anonymous starts to the weekend, with PREMA Racing teammate Shwartzman ending the opening session ninth while Zhou was 11th for UNI-Virtuosi.

Having made it an historic four consecutive pole positions in Jeddah a week ago, Piastri wasn’t going to be beaten this time either. The PREMA driver surged to pole number five of the campaign, setting a 1:35.077 to wind up 0.2s clear of anybody. Compatriot Jack Doohan separated the title protagonists, with Zhou third and Shwartzman fourth.

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Heading into Saturday and Piastri needed to ensure he held a 42-point advantage by the end of the day to be crowned Champion. Going from 10th on the grid, the Australian wasted no time, surging up the order to sixth by the time the field rounded Turn 1.

Onto Lap 3 and he made quick work of Dan Ticktum to move up to fifth, following teammate Shwartzman through on the Briton. On Lap 7, he cleared the Hitech of Liam Lawson to secure fourth position and kept the PREMA ahead within his sights.

READ MORE: The title contenders: Yas Marina records, current form and Championship experience

Having bided his time, Piastri made his move on Lap 20, diving to the inside of Shwartzman at Turn 6 to claim third place. The pair went wheel-to-wheel on the run to Turn 9 but the Australian held firm, late on the brakes to seal the place.

Up ahead, Jehan Daruvala had held Felipe Drugovich at bay to win the Sprint, but third was more than enough for Piastri to be crowned 2021 Champion in impressive fashion.

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Under the floodlights for Sprint Race 2, Piastri again made a quick start, getting aggressive at Turn 1 to go three-wide with his teammate and Liam Lawson. Unable to clear either of them, Piastri tried a dive to the inside of the New Zealander at Turn 6, but forced Lawson off the road, earning a five-second time penalty as a result.

The lost momentum entering the long backstraight meant Piastri was down in 13th having run P8. More contact later in the race with Jüri Vips left the newly crowned Champion on the sidelines and resulted in a Safety Car ahead of the halfway point.

READ MORE: Pourchaire: “I have nothing to lose, even if I'm leading the Championship”

Having led the race from the start, polesitter Marcus Armstrong was forced to pull to the side and into retirement with an issue on his DAMS at the restart. It allowed Zhou into the lead of the race ahead of Shwartzman and Ralph Boschung.

The top trio remained the same all the way to the end as Zhou took his first win since the Silverstone Feature Race earlier in the season. Ticktum held off Drugovich in a final lap battle to hold onto fourth ahead of the Brazilian.

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Onto the final day of the season, Piastri took up his spot on pole and retained the lead at lights out. Zhou was on the attack and took second from Doohan on the exit of the sweeping Turn 9 hairpin. Eager to fight back, the then-MP Motorsport driver got wide and, upon re-entry to the track, spun off into the barriers at Turn 11 to bring out an early Safety Car.

Piastri raced into the distance at the restart to hold onto the lead but was in on Lap 10 for his mandatory stop and switch to mediums. He retained the effective race lead with only those yet to stop remaining ahead of him on track.

READ MORE: Vesti: ‘Can’t hold anything back to put myself in best possible position for title glory’

Having led for much of the race, Théo Pourchaire was in for his mandatory stop on Lap 28, switching to the supersofts with six laps to go. The Frenchman rejoined in fifth position but handed the lead of the race back to Piastri as he homed in on a fourth consecutive Feature Race victory.

The Australian capped off his title-winning campaign with an emphatic win ahead of Zhou, while Drugovich held off Pourchaire’s late charge in a preview of their 2022 battle for the title. Shwartzman rounded out the top five finishers.

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Piastri, Zhou and Shwartzman each found roles within Formula 1 off the back of their seasons. The former eventually lined up on the 2023 grid as a McLaren driver, Zhou was also F1-bound with a race seat at Alfa Romeo and Shwartzman has completed multiple Practice sessions as Ferrari’s official Reserve Driver.

READ MORE: Iwasa: Title may be out of reach but signing off 2023 with win is the goal

What can Théo Pourchaire, Frederik Vesti and Ayumu Iwasa do come Yas Marina, and might we see them on an F1 grid in the future too?