Round 7 of the 2021 FIA Formula 2 Championship gets under way this weekend at Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Jeddah.
WHEN TO WATCH All times local (GMT +3)
Friday Free Practice: 13:45 Qualifying: 18:20 Press Conference: 19:20 Saturday Sprint Race 1: 15:30 Press conference: 16:40 Sprint Race 2: 21:40 Press conference: 22:50 Sunday Feature Race: 17:25 Press conference: 18:50
THE STORY SO FAR
It's curtains up on the final act of the 2021 FIA Formula 2 Championship; a highly anticipated double-header that will see the field contest the brand-new Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Saudi Arabia this weekend before heading to Yas Marina Circuit for the final round of the season in just over seven days.
Oscar Piastri’s string of poles continued last time out at the Sochi Autodrom, with the PREMA Racing rookie sealing a third successive pole position, making him the first driver to do so since George Russell and Alex Albon in their 2018 Championship campaign. Piastri once again denied Carlin’s Jehan Daruvala of a pole, dropping the Red Bull Junior to P2 for the second time in as many rounds, with a margin of just 0.188s.
Carlin’s Dan Ticktum skilfully navigated drying conditions to convert reverse grid pole to victory in Sprint Race 1, after torrential rain on Saturday morning caused a delay to the first outing of the weekend and Sprint Race 2 to be cancelled. Ticktum sustained pressure early in the race from Hitech Grand Prix’s Jüri Vips, but with only one dry line, opportunities to overtake were few and far between and the Estonian driver had to settle for second at the chequered flag.
Meanwhile, PREMA Racing’s Robert Shwartzman enjoyed a strong performance in front of his home crowd, taking the final podium position. It was a trickier race for the Russian’s teammate with Piastri, who started 10th, only able to make up one position to P9. The Aussie’s main title rival, Guanyu Zhou, also finished outside of the points after a spin on the lap to the grid meant he was unable to take the start.
After disappointment on Saturday, Piastri claimed his second consecutive Feature Race win and extended his lead in the Drivers’ standings with a commanding drive on Sunday afternoon. The Alpine junior retained his lead off the line. Meanwhile, ART Grand Prix’s Théo Pourchaire lunged into P2 ahead of Daruvala. A fast-starting Ralph Boschung then quickly dropped the Carlin driver to fourth.
Pourchaire briefly moved ahead of the Piastri after pitting a lap later than the PREMA driver, but the championship leader swiftly regained the net lead before storming to his second Feature Race victory of the season. Pourchaire came home second, picking up his third podium of the campaign, while late drama saw a retirement for Boschung handing the final position on the rostrum to Daruvala. Championship-contender Zhou crossed the line in 6th, picking up eight points in the process.
Clément Novalak makes his Formula 2 debut this weekend, replacing Lirim Zendeli at MP Motorsport for the final two rounds of the season. Novalak graduates from Formula 3 after finishing 3rd with Trident in the 2021 campaign, collecting four podium finishes and helping to seal the Teams’ Championship for the Italian outfit.
Joining Novalak at the Dutch outfit is Jack Doohan, who takes steps into car #11 in place of Richard Verschoor. The young Red Bull Junior finished the 2021 Formula 3 season as vice-Champion, having raced alongside Novalak at Trident.
Meanwhile, Olli Caldwell steps into car #20 at Campos Racing, replacing David Beckmann. The young Briton graduates from PREMA Racing’s Formula 3 team, having finished 8th and claiming a win, and a further three podiums in the most recent campaign.
The fourth F3 graduate stepping up to the second tier this weekend is Williams Development Driver Logan Sargeant. In 2021 Sargeant led Charouz Racing System to their highest ever points finish in Formula 3, as well as their first victory in the third tier.
Following his Feature Race win in Sochi, PREMA Racing’s Oscar Piastri (178) has extended his advantage to second-placed Guanyu Zhou (142). Robert Shwartzman (135) remains in third after a strong home performance and continues to lead Carlin’s Dan Ticktum (129). ART Grand Prix’s Théo Pourchaire (120) is now just nine points behind Ticktum having finished in the points in both races in Sochi.
PREMA Racing (313) remain at the top of the Team’s Championship, with Carlin (225) moving up into second place after a strong weekend for the British team last time out. UNI-Virtuosi (201) dropped down to third after adding just eight points to their tally in Sochi, and lead Hitech Grand Prix (182) by 19 points. ART Grand Prix (163) round out the top five.
FROM THE GRID – MARCUS ARMSTRONG (DAMS)
“It's a long wait between Sochi and Jeddah, but I've been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time on a simulator, both in Maranello and in Le Mans at DAMS. So, it hasn't really been a relaxing time. We've kept our foot on the gas so to speak. Obviously, it's a new track for everyone so we've needed to do as much preparation as possible and try and hit the ground running there because it's going to be a tough circuit, so we need to prepare well and that's exactly what we've been doing.
“I'm looking forward to racing on a new track. It seems like a difficult one and it’s always rewarding when you're racing on a difficult circuit. It's one of my favourite things racing on a street circuit so personally, I'm really looking forward to it. It seems like it's going to be a massively fast circuit, with only a handful of braking points. We've only done the simulator at this point, so we never really know what it's like, but it seems like a really smooth circuit and generally quite satisfying to drive. It's quite a unique track; I've never seen anything quite like it. It will be very rewarding to those who are brave.
“In terms of tyre management, we don't know exactly what the track surface is going to be like and obviously that makes a big impact on the tyre degradation, but in terms of layout, it's very high speed so that puts a lot of energy into the tyres. In theory, it should be quite a high degradation track. We’re using the super softs and mediums as well, so I expect the races to be reasonably high deg.
“There are three DRS zones and two of them are very decent. There's also a good overtaking opportunity on the last corner, so I imagine they'll be some last lap, last corner moves going on, which will be cool. In terms of overtaking, I'm not entirely sure how it will be, street circuits are generally quite difficult to overtake. But you never know with these modern street circuits, they are specifically designed for overtaking, like Baku for example, although I think this one will be somewhere in the middle, between a Baku and a Monaco. It's not going to like Monaco, but it's not going to be as easy as Baku.”
TYRE TALK – MARIO ISOLA (PIRELLI’S HEAD OF F1 AND CAR RACING)
"With the circuit only just being completed, Jeddah represents something of an unknown as there has been little opportunity to collect data in advance. For Formula 2 we’re bringing the P Zero Yellow medium and P Zero Purple supersoft. As usual, the F2 drivers have six tyre sets in total (four mediums and two supersofts) available for the weekend's three races.
“They can use their tyre allocation in any order they like throughout the weekend. The three Formula 2 races will be taking place at different times of the day and night, with different patterns of track temperature, and this will provide an additional challenge in terms of how the drivers manage their tyres as the weekend evolves – particularly with free practice likely to take place on a ‘green’ and slippery track.”