The title battle looks set to go to the wire as Formula 2 prepares to head to Jeddah for the first time, before a crunch season finale at Yas Marina the following week.
As it stands, Oscar Piastri leads Guanyu Zhou by 36 points after a bumper six rounds of wheel-to-wheel action, but it’s a lot closer than it may appear on first inspection. We take a look at who could win the title in the final six races and when…
WHO IS IN THE DRIVING SEAT? Oscar Piastri (PREMA Racing): 1st - 178 points
Piastri’s rise-up the junior ranks has been remarkable. With two titles in as many years, he’s on course for an unprecedented third, as he looks to add the F2 crown to a trophy cabinet that also includes the 2020 Formula 3 title and the 2019 Formula Renault Eurocup Championship.
As is regularly the case in this category, what has set the Australian apart from his rivals is the level of consistency he’s produced throughout the season. All four of the drivers below Piastri have experienced tough rounds – Zhou went four races without a point between Baku and Silverstone – but Piastri has delivered everywhere he’s been.
Piastri’s lowest haul of points in a single round is 21 – those below him have all scored fewer than 15 at least once. Piastri isn’t just playing it safe and picking up solid top 10 placings either, he’s delivering podiums and wins: he’s finished in the top three in five of the six Feature Races and has been in the top five 11 times, from 17 races.
Those statistics simply haven’t been matched this year.
WHO IS HIS MAIN RIVAL? Guanyu Zhou (UNI-Virtuosi): 2nd - 142 points
Both Zhou and Piastri have sorted out their immediate futures since the last time F2 raced. The UNI-Virtuosi racer has been handed a seat on the Formula 1 grid with Alfa Romeo, while the PREMA driver is set for a season as Alpine’s official F1 reserve. That leaves them to focus on the title race in the final two rounds.
An electric start to the season that included two wins and two podiums saw Zhou head the leaderboard up until Silverstone, when the aforementioned spell out of the points cost him the Championship lead.
However, he’s scored a further three podiums since then, including another Feature Race victory, and is firmly back in form.
The problem for Zhou is that Piastri’s on an even better run. In Silverstone, Zhou scored 25, but Piastri took 35. In Monza, Zhou nabbed an even stronger tally of 31 points, but the Australian went and added 41.
Matching his rival wouldn’t be enough. Zhou needs to find a way to better Piastri in Jeddah and Yas Marina.
ARE THERE ANY OUTSIDERS?
Several, and they’re not quite as far off as you might think. For example, Carlin boss Trevor Carlin recently said that he believes Dan Ticktum’s only real rival in the title fight is Piastri, and Ticktum is currently fourth, 49 points off him.
Outside of Piastri, Ticktum has actually been the most consistent driver on the grid this season, averaging more than a podium a round. His only real downfall is Qualifying. He’s yet to finish higher than fourth on a Friday, but if he can find a way to qualify in the top two in the last two rounds, then he’s in with a chance, although he’d need a lot to go his way.
Each of the top four is in good form: Ferrari junior Robert Shwartzman is third, ahead of Ticktum, but beneath Zhou and Piastri. The Russian is only 43 off his PREMA teammate and on a run of six successive top-six finishes, as well as six podiums, and two wins, in his last 11 races.
The gap is bigger than it was last season, though, when the difference between first and sixth was 51 points with six races (and three rounds) to go – this year it’s 76, with six races and two rounds remaining.
But, with 130 points still up for grabs, a lot can change. Even Felipe Drugovich, in ninth, isn’t mathematically out of the running.
COULD THE TITLE BE DECIDED IN JEDDAH?
Technically yes. Piastri could clinch the Championship as early as Sunday, but that would require him to increase his advantage over Zhou by 30 points and he’s yet to do that this season.
The biggest difference between the PREMA and the UNI-Virtuosi drivers this year was in the previous round at Sochi, where Piastri took 21 more points than his rival, so it would require an outstanding weekend from the Australian.
He’d also need to outscore Shwartzman by 23 points, Ticktum by 17 and Théo Pourchaire by eight – it remains far more likely that the title will go to the wire in Abu Dhabi.