Round 5 of the 2021 FIA Formula 2 Championship gets under way this weekend at Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Italy.
WHEN TO WATCH All times local (GMT +2)
Friday Free Practice: 11:20 Qualifying: 16:50 Press Conference: 19:05
Saturday Sprint Race 1: 08:50 (21 laps) Press conference: 10:00 Sprint Race 2: 14:45 (21 laps) Press conference: 15:55
Sunday Feature Race: 10:25 (30 laps) Press conference: 11:55
THE STORY SO FAR
The second half of the FIA Formula 2 Championship starts at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza this weekend, with the title battle set to resume as a mere five points separate current Championship leader Oscar Piastri from second-placed Guanyu Zhou.
Another impressively consistent weekend for Piastri last time out in Silverstone saw the PREMA Racing rookie move up into the Championship lead, after securing pole, collecting points in all three races, and claiming two fastest laps to boot. The Alpine junior’s weekend got off to a flying start in Friday’s Qualifying session after setting the fastest lap of the afternoon to beat then Championship leader Zhou to pole by 0.221s.
Saturday morning saw Robert Shwartzman claim victory in Sprint Race 1 for the second time in as many rounds. A spectacular start from Shwartzman saw him jump from fourth to first going into Turn 1, with the Russian eventually finishing ahead of Hitech Grand Prix’s Jüri Vips, and reverse polesitter Christian Lundgaard. Meanwhile, Zhou spun out of contention on Lap 1, handing a narrow Championship lead to Piastri who finished P6.
It was Richard Verschoor who saw the chequered flag first in Sprint Race 2 to claim not only a maiden Formula 2 victory but also a maiden podium in the second tier. The MP Motorsport rookie enjoyed a lights-to-flag victory beating out DAMS’ Marcus Armstrong and Carlin’s Dan Ticktum who took home second and third respectively. A last-minute move earned Piastri fourth and strengthened his position in the title fight.
Saturday was a day to forget for Zhou, but the Chinese driver didn’t have to wait long for redemption, reclaiming vital ground in the Championship battle with a win in Sunday’s Feature Race. The Alpine junior triumphed over Ticktum, who made a second visit to the podium on home ground, and Piastri who took home his fifth rostrum of the season to maintain a hard-fought Championship lead.
Enzo Fittipaldi makes his Formula 2 debut this weekend, replacing David Beckmann at Charouz Racing System. Fittipaldi makes the step-up from the Czech outfit’s Formula 3 team, after securing for them a first-ever second-place finish in the third tier at Budapest.
Beckmann moves across to Campos Racing, where the German replaces Matteo Nannini in car #20 for Round 5 in Monza.
Meanwhile, Jake Hughes steps into car #22 for HWA RACELAB, with the Briton replacing Jack Aitken for Round 5 in Monza. Hughes made his debut in the second tier at Sochi last season and enjoyed two years with HWA’s Formula 3 outfit, scoring three wins and eight podiums across 2019 and 2020.
After four rounds the title race remains nose to nose, with PREMA Racing’s Oscar Piastri (108) just a mere five points ahead of academy-mate Guanyu Zhou (103). Robert Shwartzman (91) sits in third, just two points ahead of Carlin’s Dan Ticktum (89). Hitech Grand Prix’s Jüri Vips (85) is just five points back in fifth, meaning less than 25 points currently separate the top five.
PREMA Racing (199) continue to lead the Team’s Championship and are 37 points ahead of second-placed UNI-Virtuosi (162). Carlin (145) and Hitech Grand Prix (143) are neck and neck in third and fourth respectively, while ART Grand Prix (93) sit in fifth place.
FROM THE GRID – CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD (ART GRAND PRIX)
"What do I like about Monza? It’s the temple of speed, simple as that. It's going to take consistency and pace to be able to replicate my two podiums from last year, and a bit of intelligence too. We'll need to avoid the traffic, and I think what we did last year was pretty good: we went for the undercut to have a clear track ahead. We need to focus on ourselves, I think that paid off last year.
"The Sprint Race podium was more about luck. We saw some other drivers with issues, but we were there when it counted and we took advantage of that, so we got the points and the podiums. That was the only race last year where we had a double podium so it's going to be hard to beat.
"Tyre management at Monza is not that difficult. It's more the thermal degradation when the tyres get too warm that's difficult. Then obviously there’s the slip steam at Monza, which is a completely different side of things to manage.
"Racing around there is quite interesting because we reach some really high speeds but at the same time there's some big braking zones. The racing is quite fun because you get a chance to do something. I hope this year is going to be a bit like the Formula 3 races in Austria, with some excitement and some good moves. The overtaking zones are going to be pretty much everywhere, in all the big breaking zones. Even into Ascari I think we'll be able to overtake so it's going to be interesting."
TYRE TALK – MARIO ISOLA (PIRELLI’S HEAD OF F1 AND CAR RACING)
“Monza is actually the first and only time that we’ve nominated the P Zero Yellow medium and P Zero Red soft tyres for Formula 2 this year. This particular selection has been to cater for all the different demands of Monza. If the weather is warm in Italy, as can often be the case at this time of year, thermal degradation could become a factor as well. So there will definitely be a few things to think about for the drivers when it comes to managing the tyres this weekend. The 2021 medium Formula 2 compound offers more performance compared to its 2020 equivalent, bringing it closer in outright performance to the soft, which is unchanged in specification from last year”.