Nikita Mazepin has been one of the surprises of the season in Formula 2. Swapping ART Grand Prix for newcomers Hitech Grand Prix for his sophomore season, Mazepin has gone from struggling in the midfield to fighting for race wins and podiums.
That’s an impressive transformation and is testament to the work that the Russian has put in behind the scenes.
If things go his way in the final two rounds, the title remains just about within reach, although bridging a 51-point gap would be an incredible ask. The top three, or even top two, looks a lot more realistically – he’s just seven points off Yuki Tsunoda in third and only 29 off Callum Ilott in second.
THAT DRIVE IN MUGELLO
Mazepin’s most spectacular moment in F2 is pretty easy to pick out. The Russian’s drive from 14th to first in the Mugello Feature Race was phenomenal. Granted, a Safety Car turned the race on its head after Guiliano Alesi dove into the gravel trap, but the 21-year-old still had a whole lot to do on the alternate strategy.
Fighting his way up to third place, Mazepin dispatched of long-time race leaders Christian Lundgaard and Luca Ghiotto in one fell swoop, firing in-front of them both with a stunning three-wide pass.
Mazepin had already put himself on the map in F2 with a win in Silverstone and two further podiums, but it was his performance in Mugello that truly opened the eyes of those in Formula 1, where he has been linked with a potential race seat for 2021.
If Mazepin can produce more of the same magic in the final two rounds, then a promotion could well be on the cards.
A DIFFICULT START
More than anything, Mazepin will be lamenting his poor start to the season. The Russian has failed to score points on five occasions this season, with three of those of races falling in the opening two rounds alone.
Had he begun the season in the type of form he is currently showing, then it isn’t out of the question to suggest he could be leading the Championship right now. If he can finish the season off with four strong points finishes, then all may well be forgotten.
FROM THE GRID
“It is obvious that we will have to perform in the final two rounds in Bahrain,” said Mazepin. “We have had a strong year as a new team and I am confident that the time that we are having now, between Sochi and Bahrain, is going to benefit us. I am confident that the car and myself will be on a high level of performance.
"Regarding the title battle, it is quite straight forward for me. I have been quite successful this year by not thinking about it. I just focus on every round as it comes, step-by-step, and I am sure that this approach should stay as it has done all year."