Robert Shwartzman won the FIA Formula 2 Feature Race for the second round in a row in sensational circumstances, at the Hungaroring today. Starting from 11th, the PREMA racer crossed the line with an unassailable lead of 15s over Nikita Mazepin in second.
This was thanks, in part, to the decision to place him on the Prime/Option strategy, which handed him fresh soft tyres at the end of the race, when the majority of the field were running on heavily degraded mediums.
Mazepin was another to enjoy the same luxury and took his first podium in F2. The Hitech racer begun the afternoon way back in 16th, but he made light work of charging through the pack in the closing laps, once he switched to the soft tyres.
Shwartzman’s teammate Mick Schumacher had initially looked set for his first Feature Race win, but he was lucky to cling on to third at the end of the race. The German was the final driver to change from softs to mediums and managed his tyres as best he could to hang on at the end.
Polesitter Callum Ilott wasn’t as lucky. The UNI-Virtuosi racer made his change early on, and by the end of the race, had nothing left to give, finishing eighth.
AS IT HAPPENED
There were several strong starts when the lights went out. Ilott was one of those, getting away cleanly from first. Behind him, Dan Ticktum darted into second, while Schumacher surged down the middle for third.
Shwartzman’s getaway was the most eye-catching. The Russian was starting from 11th after a really tough Qualifying session, but he fired up to sixth by the end of the second corner.
Guanyu Zhou’s start was much more sluggish, and the UNI-Virtuosi racer was swallowed up by the field, falling from third to seventh, while Luca Ghiotto dropped from P2 to fifth, below Christian Lundgaard.
The safety car made its first appearance of the race early on as Roy Nissany locked up at Turn 1 and collided with his teammate. Marino Sato was forced to retire, and the marshals worked quickly to remove his machine and allow racing to resume.
Ghiotto attempted to claim fourth from Lundgaard and the duo battled all the way from Turn 1 to Turn 3, with the Hitech racer inching narrowly ahead. In his attempts to fight back, Lundgaard caught the rear wing of Ghiotto and suffered a puncture.
In his attempts to avoid Lundgaard, Marcus Armstrong clattered into Artem Markelov which ended the BWT HWA RACELAB driver’s race. This brought out another safety car.
At the re-start, Ticktum immediately dived into the pits to change from the soft tyres and onto the mediums, leaving Schumacher to race with Ilott for P1.
Ilott pitted himself for a change a lap later, whilst Schumacher was attempting to run longer on the soft Pirellis. When the German did eventually pit, he returned ahead of the UNI-Virtuosi driver and led those who had already changed tyres.
Behind them, Ticktum was fast losing grip on his tyres, and dropped below Ghiotto, Zhou and Louis Delétraz.
The DAMS driver wasn’t the only one to struggle. The Feature Race was the first dry session of the weekend and the field were learning on the job, with the medium Pirellis. This boosted the chances of a race win for Shwartzman, who was on the alternative strategy, along with Mazepin, and Felipe Drugovich.
The Russian opted to pit with 10 laps to go and knew that a solid stop would return him in seventh, with a strong sniff of the podium. The pitstop was flawless, and the PREMA racer re-joined in fourth.
On cold tyres and maybe a bit too eager, Shwartzman locked up hard which allowed Ghiotto to pass him at the first corner. The PREMA ace quickly warmed up his tyres and got back in-front, and then fired ahead of Ilott. The remainder of the grid pitted for their change and this handed Shwartzman second, with only his teammate Schumacher to beat.
Also on the alternative strategy, Mazepin was on the charge as well. The Hitech racer had started the day in 16th, but returned from his pitstop in ninth and almost instantly dispatched of Jehan Daruvala and Ticktum for seventh in one cool move.
Mazepin slid into fifth with two further overtakes on the next lap, and as he did so, Shwartzman thundered into first and began to quickly pull away from Schumacher, whose tyres didn’t have anywhere near enough fight left in them to defend.
Only five laps remained but there was plenty more action to be played out. Mazepin continued his ascent and flung his Hitech around the side of Ilott, before diving ahead of Schumacher for second. By this point, Shwartzman had increased his lead to a jaw-dropping 15s.
Felipe Drugovich managed to make the fresher tyres work himself and clawed his way up to fifth, but didn’t have quite enough time for any further overtakes.
Shwartzman crossed the line with a 15.5s advantage over Mazepin, who had more than 7s on Schumacher in third. Ghiotto managed to retain fourth ahead of Drugovich, with Daruvala sealing sixth, ahead of Delétraz.
Polesitter Ilott plummeted down the order to eighth in the final few laps, with seriously degraded medium tyres. The Briton will start on reverse pole in the Sprint Race on Sunday. Ticktum and Zhou took the final points’ positions, having struggled with their rubber as well.
Shwartzman’s second victory increases his Championship lead to 22 points over Ilott. Lundgaard is third with 43, ahead of Ticktum and Armstrong. In the Teams’ Championship, PREMA Racing lead with 102 points, ahead of UNI-Virtuosi on 79 and ART Grand Prix on 77. DAMS are fourth and MP Motorsport fifth.
KEY QUOTE – ROBERT SHWARTZMAN (PREMA RACING)
“The win was a little bit unexpected again. I started P11 with a completely different strategy, and to be honest, I was expecting to get some good points, but I did not expect to be first.
“My start was mega, one of the best starts I have done. The launch was good, and I think that I passed five cars in the first two corners, something like that. It was really impressive, and I was like 'oh my god, I am in P6 now.'
“Everyone on the other strategy pitted and I stayed out on track. I was quite surprised because my front left started to degrade: I was losing a lot of time and I felt really slow. But in actual fact, I wasn't that slow and my pace was more or less the same as them.
“I tried to stay out as long as possible and the guys gave me a mega pit stop. I went out and had a big lock up, which was a big mistake, because the tyres were really, really cold. After that, I had a lot of vibration, but the tyres were still a lot better than the guys in front of me.
“In the end, there was a good gap and we finished first, so a big thanks to the team, to SMP racing and the FDA.”
Callum Ilott will be hoping for a better time of things in the Sprint Race, when he starts from reverse pole tomorrow at 11.10am (local time).