The number 13 might be unlucky for some, but Felipe Drugovich will be hoping the 13th round of the 2022 FIA Formula 2 season brings nothing but celebrations, as he aims to wrap up the title fight at the earliest opportunity.
His quest is set in the stunning Italian countryside, as Monza's Temple of Speed plays host to the penultimate round of an enthralling campaign and the spectacular historic circuit will certainly leave fans and drivers breathless with excitment this weekend.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Felipe Drugovich stands on the edge of glory with the 2022 FIA Formula 2 title securely within his grasp. The task ahead - he must hold a 66-point lead over Théo Pourchaire by the conclusion of the Sprint Race. Most of the legwork has already been done and with a 69 point advantage already and only 78 points left to play for, all he needs to do is score eight more points than the ART Grand Prix driver by the end of Saturday and he'll be crowned champion with one round remaining.
Just behind them, the fight to finish inside the top three has been blown open further, with five drivers now firmly in the mix. Carlin's Logan Sargeant currently occupies the highly coveted spot on 130 points, nine points clear of fellow rookie Jack Doohan. However, a disappointing Zandvoort Feature Race saw the pair and fifth-placed Liam Lawson all fail to score, giving Ayumu Iwasa and Enzo Fittipaldi the opportunity to close to within 19 points of the American driver.
For the first time since Le Castellet, MP Motorsport have regained their place at the top of the Teams' Championship on 269. However, ART Grand Prix and Carlin remain within touching distance. They'll need to make up 14 and 20-point deficits respectively, if they hope to reign supreme come the season finale at Yas Marina.
Additionally, Luca Ghiotto will return to the F2 grid this weekend for DAMS, filling in for Roy Nissany.
FROM THE GRID – Richard Verschoor, Trident
“It’s a home race for the team, so I’m sure that they look forward to it even more than I do. Last year, I didn’t have such a good race, but this year we’re looking to be a bit stronger in Qualifying. I always like to be at Monza, also the fans are very nice so I’m looking forward to it!
“It obviously does not have that many corners, but that makes it more difficult for the drivers in Qualifying because everything has to be perfect. The slipstream will be very important and playing a bit with downforce, less or more. It’s always a bit of a game. The track is very special with two big chicanes, good overtaking there usually so it’s one of the better racing tracks.
“There are not so many places where you can overtake, it’s Turn 1, Turn 2 and into Ascari. Those are the main places I think everyone will be aiming for. Tyre management should be fine. Usually, we don’t have to save the tyres that much because you have a lot of time to cool down on the straights, so it’s fine to push.”
LAST TIME OUT - ZANDVOORT
Formula 2's debut around the twisty Circuit Zandvoort brought delight for several home heroes and rewards for those brave enough to stick it out our the track's notorious banked turns.
Familiar faces battled it out to claim the 12th pole position of the 2022 season, but it was Felipe Drugovich who triumphed over Jack Doohan. Taking back-to-back poles, the MP Motorsport driver claimed top spot on the timing sheets with a 1:20:713, going 0.226 of the blue #3 Virtuosi Racing car. He was that confident in his performance, the Brazilian was already out of the car keeping an eye on the screens when the session restarted following a second Red Flag appearance. Meanwhile, his nearest title rival Théo Pourchaire's session ended early after the ART Grand Prix driver found the barriers at Turn 3, whilst Logan Sargeant consistent one-lap pace continued with third.
Marcus Armstrong once again proved his strengths on Saturdays by securing his third Sprint Race victory of the year. Lining up alongside reverse pole-sitter Clément Novalak, the Hitech Grand Prix driver didn't hesistate to snatch the lead at lights out and navigate his way through a late Safety Car restart to stand on the top step. While he might not have claimed victory, Novalak's disappointment swiftly turned to joy, with the Frenchman fighting hard to bring home his maiden F2 podium on MP Motorsport's home turf. The pair would be joined on the rostrum by Dennis Hauger, who returned to the top three for the first time since Round 6 in Baku.
Greeted by a sea of orange, Championship leader Drugovich gave his Dutch team something else to celebrate in a Feature Race of survival. Seeing off Doohan's charge off the line, he overcame an early Red Flag and two further Safety Car restarts to put himself within touching distance of the title and helped launch MP back up to the top of the Teams' Standings. Finding himself caught up the chaos of the second Safety Car restart saw Doohan ruled out of the running. This paved the way for Richard Verschoor to take full advantage of the overcut to take second ahead of Ayumu Iwasa - much to the joy of his compatriots in the crowd.
Returning to the iconic Italian circuit, the drivers will have the red-walled soft and yellow-walled medium Pirelli tyres at their disposal.
Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director
“For our home race weekend at Monza we have nominated the P Zero Yellow medium and P Zero Red soft tyres. This is the same combination as in previous years and is well-suited to the unique demands of the Temple of Speed. Teams usually favour a low-downforce configuration to maximise straight-line speed down the long straights, and this increases the reliance on mechanical grip from the tyres. The greatest demands around Monza come under braking and traction, although lateral loads are also significant through corners such as Curva Grande and Parabolica. Dealing with these different demands is therefore important to manage the tyres as well as possible during the races.”