CEO Bruno Michel looks back at an eventful fourth round of the 2021 season and picks out his key topics from Silverstone.
At the halfway point of the season, Michel discusses his standout performers so far, as well as those who haven’t quite hit the heights. He also talks about what he would like to see in the second half of the season.
STAND OUT PERFORMER
Oscar Piastri has adapted quickly to Formula 2. Already in the opening round, the reigning F3 Champion was able to claim a first win. He arrived at Silverstone last week in second place in the Drivers’ Standings, just five points behind Guanyu Zhou. Second in Free Practice, Piastri then took a maiden pole position ahead of his title rival.
In the races, his driving skills were on full display, attacking to move up the field or defending from a charging Richard Verschoor. He was quite disappointed to have failed to take victory in the Feature Race, having to settle for third, but at the end of the fourth round of the season, the Australian leads in the Drivers’ Championship, five points ahead of Zhou. Piastri has been fast, focused, consistent and quite solid since the start of the season. It’s only natural that he is now the man to beat.
A NEW RACE WINNER
Richard Verschoor became our eighth race winner this season, in Sprint Race 2 at Silverstone. I must say that it is well deserved both for him and MP Motorsport. The Dutch team proved last year that they have the expertise to fight at the front of the field. As for Verschoor, he had already proven in Round 1 in Bahrain that he possesses speed and skills to race for big points.
In Silverstone, he qualified third – his best result to date - and he started from reverse pole in the second race. From there, he kept his head cool, even through two Safety Car restarts, to cross the line first. He is also our fourth rookie race winner. Let’s see if he and MP will be able to keep the momentum in Monza.
A POINTLESS SATURDAY FOR ZHOU
Guanyu Zhou must have been under pressure at the start of the Feature Race. The Chinese driver was in the lead of the Championship by just five points before last week. He was then defeated in Qualifying by title rival Oscar Piastri, but he was still happy with P2. Saturday, however, was a day to forget: a spin in the opening lap of the first race led to an early retirement.
In Sprint Race 2, he carved his way from last to 11th, which was quite impressive, but this also meant zero points for Zhou. Starting from the front row on Sunday morning, he got off the line perfectly and made no mistakes to claim a second Feature Race win in 2021, and the 25 points that go with it. We will have to see how much of an impact a pointless Saturday will have when the season ends.
A LOOK AT THE STANDINGS
Like I said, Piastri leads Zhou by five points, which is almost nothing at this stage, but it does give the Australian a little bit of a mental advantage over the Chinese ahead of the summer break. Robert Shwartzman remains close to the top two, with the Russian just 17 points behind his teammate Piastri, thanks to another win in the Silverstone Sprint Race 1, which Shwartzman has labelled as redemption from last year’s disappointment. He scored another 10 points on Sunday. That’s 25 points in total added to his tally – the same amount as Zhou.
Of course, Dan Ticktum was always going to feature on at least one podium on home soil. To the huge crowd’s satisfaction, the Briton took two rostrums in total, which moves him up to fourth in the Championship, two points behind Shwartzman, but four points ahead of Jüri Vips. 23 points cover the top five, while 58 points cover the top 10. We have four more rounds to go, and the title chase is still wide open.
WHAT I’D LIKE TO SEE IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON
There are still drivers who are yet to fully deliver, starting with Christian Lundgaard. The Dane opened his season with 16 points, but this was followed by seven pointless races in a row, which is a nightmare for a driver whose ambition is to fight for the crown. Things looked brighter in Silverstone Sprint Race 1, with a podium finish, but the remainder of the event went from bad to worse, notably with a terrible pit stop. I hope that he will be able to bounce back and join the battle at the front of the pack.
Added to the list of drivers who need to perform better in the second half of the season are DAMS’ Marcus Armstrong and Roy Nissany. Both have a podium finish to their names in 2021, but to their own admission, it is not enough.
Sitting seventh, eighth and ninth in the Championship, Felipe Drugovich, Liam Lawson and Jehan Daruvala have been scoring podiums and points rather regularly, with Lawson even taking a maiden win in the very first race of the season, however, I am convinced that there is definitely more potential. They should be fighting at the front more often than they have.
Finally, Théo Pourchaire’s strong run was halted in Baku’s Feature Race. He came back from a wrist injury in Silverstone, but he admitted that he was still struggling with pain. The gap between Round 4 and Round 5 should allow him to fully recover, so I believe he will take more silverware in the second half of the season.
On the Teams’ front, I expect UNI-Virtuosi to close the gap to PREMA Racing even if the latter look mighty strong at the moment. The Italian squad stand 37 points ahead of the British side. Carlin in third on 145 points should not only look ahead, but also in their rear mirrors with Hitech GP just two points behind. They are both within reaching distance to PREMA.
In fifth, ART Grand Prix should most likely be back on true form once Pourchaire is fully recovered and if Lundgaard’s luck turns. I also believe that MP Motorsport and DAMS can take wins before the season ends, while Campos Racing and Charouz Racing System could surprise the rest of the field at some point.
It’s been an extremely tough season on both Trident and HWA RACELAB so far. I’d really like them to find more pace to be able to fight for points more regularly.