Round 6 of the 2021 FIA Formula 2 Championship gets underway this weekend at Sochi Autodrom, Russia.
WHEN TO WATCH All times local (GMT +3)
Friday Free Practice: 10:05 Qualifying: 16:25 Press Conference: 18:00
Saturday Sprint Race 1: 10:30 Press conference: 11:40 Sprint Race 2: 16:45 Press conference: 17:55
Sunday Feature Race: 11:20 Press conference: 12:45
THE STORY SO FAR
The FIA Formula 2 Championship resumes this weekend at the Sochi Autodrom, just a fortnight after a dramatic fifth round in Monza which saw Championship frontrunners Oscar Piastri and Guanyu Zhou continue to spar over points and podiums in what is proving to be a fiercely contested campaign.
Not content with securing PREMA Racing’s first pole in two years at Round 4 in Silverstone, Piastri went on to clinch a second successive pole position last time out at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza. His main title rival, Zhou was a mere 0.051s off pole but was forced to settle for third, with Jehan Daruvala putting in an impressive late lap to claim his first front-row start of the season.
Sprint Race 1 saw Théo Pourchaire put on a masterclass in composure during a chaotic first outing of the weekend to take his second win of the season from fourth on the grid. The Frenchman waited patiently for an opportunity to snatch the lead from Jüri Vips, who eventually succumbed to heavy tyre degradation. Zhou made up an impressive six places to finish second, while Pourchaire’s ART Grand Prix teammate Christian Lundgaard carried off an astonishing recovery drive from 19th on the grid to take the final podium position.
It was triumph for Daruvala in Sprint Race 2, with the Carlin driver snatching the lead from reverse polesitter David Beckmann into Turn 1 and going on to seal his first victory of the year in assured style. Trident rookie Bent Viscaal crossed the line in P2 to collect his and the Italian outfit’s first-ever podium finish in Formula 2. PREMA’s Robert Shwartzman completed the afternoon’s rostrum, making his fourth visit to the podium this season.
After three consecutive rounds of finishing on Sunday’s podium in second and third, Piastri finally secured his maiden Feature Race win in dominant style at Monza. The Alpine junior looked to have learned from experience, having lost out to Zhou from pole in Silverstone, this time confidently keeping his academy mate at bay for 30 laps. The pair were joined on the podium by Dan Ticktum, who had made up eight positions in just five laps on fresh soft tyres after opting to go for the alternative strategy.
Campos Racing’s David Beckmann received a five-place grid drop penalty for a late incident with Trident’s Viscaal in the Feature Race. The penalty will be applied at the next race the German driver participates in.
After five rounds, the battle for the title remains fierce, with PREMA Racing’s Oscar Piastri (149) narrowly extending his advantage to UNI-Virtuosi’s Guanyu Zhou (134). Robert Shwartzman (113) remains in third and continues to lead Carlin’s Dan Ticktum (104), who sits in fourth. ART Grand Prix’s Théo Pourchaire (94) moves up into fifth after his win in Sprint Race 1 at Monza.
PREMA Racing (262) have almost doubled their lead in the Team’s Championship and are now 69 points ahead of second-placed UNI-Virtuosi (193). Carlin (185) added 40 points to their tally last time out in Monza, and lead Hitech Grand Prix (162) by 23 points. ART Grand Prix (133) sit in fifth place.
FROM THE GRID – JEHAN DARVUALA (CARLIN)
“Sochi is still a relatively new track for me. I've only been there twice, but I think considering how we performed there last year, qualifying P1 and P2, shows our car is strong there and that it suits the characteristics of the track. I'm looking to racing there again for sure!
“All the sectors at Sochi are a bit different to one another. In the first sector, you need to be good on the brakes because it's just Turn 2 to worry about. In the middle sector, you have a lot of 90° left and right turns so it's all about how well you can rotate the car. The final sector is about surviving because the tyres go through so much in Sector 2 it's hard to nail all the corners in Sector 3. I think the fewer mistakes you make in Sector 3, the more your lap time can jump forwards.
“There are definitely some opportunities for overtaking at the Autodrom: Turn 2 has a long DRS zone before it and if you manage to follow the car in front close through the last sector, there's always a chance to overtake. Normally with the tyre compounds we take to Sochi we also see some degradation, so if you have a quick car and you're fast in the races you can definitely move forwards.
“The season started off well for me in Bahrain, but there's no hiding that it's not gone as well as I would have wanted it to go. Hopefully, in Sochi we can finish well again and get some more points before the break to Jeddah and Abu Dhabi.”
TYRE TALK – MARIO ISOLA (PIRELLI’S HEAD OF F1 AND CAR RACING)
“We’re bringing the P Zero Yellow medium and P Zero Purple supersoft to Russia: the same nomination that will be used for the final two rounds of the championship, and also the same nomination as F2 in Russia last year.
"Sochi isn’t the most demanding circuit on the calendar due to relatively low-speed corners and mild weather conditions: this allows us to bring the softest compound to maximise grip and performance, especially during qualifying. When it comes to the race, managing the life of the supersoft will still be important, so this forms an integral part of the race strategy.”