There has been a whole lot of action to soak up as Formula 2 heads for its conclusion with a double-header at Jeddah and Abu Dhabi. From Guanyu Zhou’s spirited Sakhir fight back to Théo Pourchaire’s strategic Monte Carlo victory, we’ve been blessed with several contenders for race of the season.
Ahead of the final two rounds, we’ve picked out five of the best…
SPRINT RACE 2 - SAKHIR
Oscar Piastri started with a bang in the second tier, winning for the first time at just the second time of asking, and it was a cracker.
Since the opening round, the 2020 Formula 3 champ has gone on to overtake long-time leader Zhou in the standings, but he first got the jump on the UNI-Virtuosi racer in the Sakhir Sprint Race 2.
The Australian had begun the day in sixth but found himself up to second after three Safety Cars, sandwiched between his Alpine Academy teammates Zhou and Christian Lundgaard.
The trio went three-wide on the final lap and Piastri narrowly edged ahead, with Zhou’s heavily degraded hards struggling for grip. Lundgaard daringly launched down the outside, but he overcooked the overtake and skidded wide. The ART Grand Prix driver managed to recover for second, ahead of Zhou, but had to watch on as Piastri collected a maiden win.
FEATURE RACE – SAKHIR
The opening round of the season proved to be a scorcher both on and off track, with three races all worthy of this list, but it was Zhou’s maiden Feature Race win that is arguably most worthy of a spot.
After starting from pole, the Chinese tumbled down the order in the opening laps and found himself in fourth, with Lundgaard, Piastri and Felipe Drugovich going three-wide in front of him for the lead.
Piastri came out on top as Zhou fell further down the order, but the Australian then lost the lead to Richard Verschoor as a Safety Car shuffled the field in amongst a flurry of pitstops.
Zhou benefitted from the shake-up and had scythed his way back to second, ahead of Piastri, with nine laps to go.
Verschoor desperately tried to retain the lead, but couldn’t match the Chinese driver’s experience, who got himself better track position and launched in front for both the win and the Championship lead.
FEATURE RACE – MONTE CARLO
The Monte Carlo Feature Race was historic for the age of its winner, with Théo Pourchaire becoming the youngest ever F2 victor, at 17-years-old, but it was also fascinating from a strategic point of view.
Starting from pole, Pourchaire won at a canter, even returning from his pitstop in second, behind the yet-to-stop Zhou. This was largely thanks to the timing of his stop, with each of the teams deep in discussion down the pit wall as to when they should make the change, all wary of the overcut.
Ralph Boschung was amongst the very first to stop, pitting on Lap 21. The Campos racer returned in 12th, with 21 laps to go on the Super Soft, and although it initially looked like the wrong decision, as he was jumped by Drugovich, it didn’t prove to be an awful move as he finished where he started, in sixth.
Looking to get P3 from Piastri, Carlin attempted the undercut with Dan Ticktum and the British driver returned in sixth on the Super Softs. PREMA Racing reacted by sending their man in a lap later and he came out ahead of Ticktum, retaining track position.
Robert Shwartzman, meanwhile, went all the way to Lap 30 on softs, pitting one lap before Pourchaire, but the PREMA driver suffered a nightmare stop and returned in fifth, losing track position to both Ticktum and Piastri, all but confirming the win for Pourchaire.
SPRINT RACE 2 – BAKU
Formula 2’s 100th race proved to be extremely eventful, with multiple stoppages and six retirements, as Jüri Vips emerged from chaos unscathed, keeping his nose clean to finish ahead of Charouz Racing System’s David Beckmann and Carlin’s Jehan Daruvala.
Zhou and Ticktum locked up and spun at the first corner, before Boschung was caught by Pourchaire in a manic start to the race, as Beckmann bravely threw his Charouz around the outside of reverse polesitter Bent Viscaal at Turn three, getting the overtake done just in time to avoid the Safety Car.
Vips made it through from third to second at the restart, before another Safety Car stint after Roy Nissany struck the back of Verschoor and dumped the Dutchman’s MP Motorsport into the wall.
There was yet more drama when racing resumed as both Lundgaard and Marcus Armstrong were thrown into the wall. By this point, Ticktum was P6, despite dropping to last after his opening lap crash, while Liam Lawson was up to eighth, after starting in 20th. Daruvala had also snuck into the podium positions, nestling into third, four places up from where he started.
With the help of DRS, Vips dove down the side of Beckmann on the main straight for the lead shortly after the restart, and from there, never looked like conceding the win.
SPRINT RACE 1 – MONZA
The sheer fact that Lundgaard clinched his third podium of the season from a starting position of 19th tells you everything you need to know about the opening race in Monza.
It was Pourchaire from fourth that took victory over Zhou, who was up six places from P8. Meanwhile, the front two starters, Beckmann and Vips, were back in eighth and 10th by the flag.
Beckmann had lost the lead to Vips at lights out, with Pourchaire clambering up to third. Two Safety Cars later and Zhou had crept up to P3, with Lundgaard in seventh. The lead changed hands at the restart as Vips and Beckmann both struggled for grip and tumbled down the order.
Pourchaire crossed the line with a 4.3s advantage over Zhou, as Lundgaard completed the podium, taking third off Shwartzman who was handed a five-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.