There is a lot to be said about the third round of our 2019 Formula 2 season, but one of the most important topics is probably the rookies. They did a great job in qualifying with four of them making it into the top 10: Guanyu Zhou took P3 with a laptime just two tenths slower than his teammate Luca Ghiotto, whose Friday pace was stunning. That is definitely no small feat! Callum Ilott, Dorian Boccolacci and Mick Schumacher also rose to the occasion qualifying in sixth, ninth and tenth respectively.
In the Feature Race, I was impressed by Zhou: he really held his own at the start and claimed a maiden F2 podium with third place. Once again, Anthoine Hubert displayed maturity on the alternate strategy to finish sixth from P15 on the grid, whilst Ilott took P8 and thus reverse pole for Sunday’s Race. Hubert’s start in the Sprint Race was one to remember, but it was Ilott who featured on the podium, becoming the third rookie to do so after his teammate Juan Manuel Correa last time in Baku and Zhou.
As always, I kept a close eye on the Standings and four drivers have made a claim that they’re most definitely in the hunt for glory, starting with Nicholas Latifi. The DAMS driver has done everything right since the start of the season, claiming a third win in Spain on Saturday and more points on Sunday to extend his lead in the Championship. Over the course of the past six races, he has become more than a title contender; he is currently the man to beat. You can add Luca Ghiotto into the crown chase, but he will really rue his poor start from pole in the Feature Race… His speed this season has been quite impressive and if all of the stars align then he could be Latifi’s most dangerous menace.
Nyck de Vries and Jack Aitken scored big in Spain: the Dutchman finally claimed a first victory this season, which felt like it had been a long time coming, whilst Aitken carried his good form from Baku to Barcelona and made the Championship all the more exciting.
Finally, we took an important step towards the future when it was announced that F2 will race on 18’’ Pirelli tyres next season – a year before Formula 1 does. This is a great opportunity for our Championship and our drivers on the road to the next generation of F1 cars.
Barcelona also hosted the inaugural FIA Formula 3 weekend. It was the first time that the FIA pyramid was complete at a Formula One weekend with F1, F2 and F3 running at the same track. It strengthens even further the partnership between the promotor and the FIA.
Moreover, it’s quite remarkable nowadays to have a grid of thirty cars. I have been quite impatient to see them in race mode and I was not disappointed! I was particularly impressed with how Race 1 unfolded: there were not many incidents which is quite the accomplishment for such a big field… We could already see from free practice that it was close, but that was confirmed in qualifying with fifteen cars running within the same second.
There is a lot of talent throughout the grid therefore it is too early to predict what will happen this season, but it is undeniable that PREMA Racing and ART Grand Prix have been very strong in Round 1. The Italian squad was definitely the strongest in Spain with pole position, both wins and another podium finish to add to their tally, but that is not to say that they don’t have some serious competition in ART Grand Prix. The French team were really close to claiming victory in Race 1, but a 5s time penalty following a VSC infringement demoted Lundgaard from P1 to P2. Still, both PREMA and ART are the only two teams that placed all three of their cars in the points in both races.
Robert Shwartzman, Christian Lundgaard, Marcus Armstrong, Jehan Daruvala, Jüri Vips and Niko Kari made the headlines: they all finished on the podium, making it six different drivers on the rostrum last week. That’s what I like to see: different race winners and new faces in the parc fermé. Four out of the six Barcelona podium finishers are linked to Formula 1 teams, from Ferrari, to Renault and Red Bull. Shwartzman came out on top and was very strong in all sessions, but the level is extremely high and I expect that Round 2 at Le Castellet will once again deliver some intensive fights on track!