CEO Bruno Michel looks back at an eventful opening round of the 2021 season and picks out his key topics from Sakhir.
Michel discusses the new format, the exciting crop of rookies who debuted in Bahrain and talks up Guanyu Zhou’s impressive performance.
NEW FORMAT, THRICE THE FUN
One of the biggest talking points from the opening round of the 2021 season has been our new weekend format. It is safe to say that it was a success: we saw two amazing races, Sprint Race 2 and the Feature Race. To be honest, there was less show in the first Sprint Race, but having talked to some drivers, they all said that the high temperatures made it difficult for them.
The following two events, which took place in cooler conditions, delivered some incredible fights throughout the field. Fifteen drivers have already scored points. People were worried that the grid system may be too complicated, but now that we have gone through one race weekend, they can see that it is quite simple and brings a lot of fun on the track!
ROOKIES ROCKET AT THE TOP
As you know, I always keep a close eye on the rookies. F2 is a very demanding championship, so when a newcomer immediately does well, it speaks volume of their talent and ability to adapt quickly on their road to F1.
Looking at the results from Round 1, the first two races were won by F3 graduates Liam Lawson and Oscar Piastri. We already knew that they were both very talented, with Piastri claiming the 2020 F3 crown, but it is never easy to win in F2 so that was a great achievement on their part.
A total of seven rookies have scored points in Bahrain, and four of them are featured in the Top 10, while Lawson currently lies in second with a win, as well as a podium finish in the Feature Race. The more experienced drivers had predicted that the rookies would be competitive straight away. They were right!
ZHOU IS ON A MISSION
2020 was not an easy season for Guanyu Zhou for a number of reasons. He is in his third year and has a lot of pressure on his shoulders. He remained composed and has already made an impact on the Championship: pole position, a podium in the second race and a Feature Race win.
He enjoys an 11-point lead over Lawson in the Drivers’ Championship. He is clearly on a mission, and I must say that I was pleased to see him claim a second F2 victory, but this time at the end of a full race, unlike his first win last year in Sochi in a red-flagged event.
A total of 11 drivers on our grid are part of junior academies. We know the F1 teams watch F2 closely, but even more so when a driver who is part of their programmes does well.
Alpine must have been the proudest last weekend, in Sprint race 2, when all three of their protégés were on the podium, finishing first, second and third (Piastri, Lundgaard and Zhou). The same could be also be said for Red Bull thanks to Lawson and Daruvala. Williams also saw one of their junior drivers claim a podium finish, as Ticktum finished second in Sunday’s race.
It was a less successful weekend for Ferrari Academy drivers Shwartzman and Armstrong, and for Sauber Academy’s Pourchaire, but we could already see in Bahrain that they can fight at the top of the field which should make this season very interesting.
TEAMS ON POINT
The teams done an incredible job last weekend to keep up with the new rhythm of three races per weekend. Carlin have taken the lead ahead of UNI-Virtuosi and reigning Champions PREMA Racing. All three were expected to be quick last weekend, but it was interesting to see that the competition is already high with Hitech and ART.
Add to the mix MP Motorsport, who, with two rookies, have scored points in all three races, and Charouz, who claimed a podium with newcomer David Beckmann in the opening race.
DAMS struggled a bit, solely scoring points in the Feature Race, but we all know what they are capable to do, so I expect them to fight at the front again very soon. I was also pleased to see Trident and HWA finish in the points in the opening round. It was a very tough season for both teams in 2020, and I know how hard they have worked over the winter to up their games.
WE MISS YOU, ADRIAN
I would like to end this debrief with a few words for my friend Adrian Campos. It was so weird to start this new season without seeing his cheeky smile and without him entering my office to discuss the latest gossips of the paddock, or come up with new ideas… I was really rooting for Campos Racing to do well in Bahrain for their first event without their founder, father, boss, and friend. It wasn’t the case this time, but they all have at heart to make Adrian proud so I am sure that the results will come soon…