Guanyu Zhou reclaimed some vital ground in the Championship battle with his third win of the season, triumphing over Carlin’s Dan Ticktum and PREMA Racing’s Oscar Piastri in the Silverstone Feature Race.
Starting from second, Zhou got the jump on polesitter Piastri when the lights went out and went on to control the race, surviving a failed attempt at the undercut from Piastri, which cost the Championship leader second place at the flag.
It was Ticktum who benefitted from the PREMA’s pitstop, overtaking the Australian shortly after his return to clinch second on home turf.
Piastri survived a late challenge from Richard Verschoor for third, as Robert Shwartzman kept pace with the Championship leaders thanks to a P5 finish, although the Russian does drop back to third in the standings, below Zhou.
AS IT HAPPENED
35-degree track heat meant that the grid were heading out into different conditions for the third time in as many races, with the temperature sitting between what it was for the two Saturday races.
After a disastrous couple of days that saw him lose the Championship lead and drop to fourth in the title fight, Zhou desperately needed to claw back some points off the leaders, including the man lining up alongside him, polesitter Piastri.
And the UNI-Virtuosi ace got off to a great start, bolting in front of the PREMA ahead of the first turn with a mega launch. Piastri simply couldn’t keep up and settled into second, as Ticktum stole third from Verschoor.
Théo Pourchaire suffered a difficult opening stint, losing places to Shwartzman and Felipe Drugovich off the line. Shwartzman wasn’t enjoying the medium tyre, though, asking his team for a pitstop at the first opportunity. Ticktum joined the Russian in ditching the options straight away, with the softer tyres suffering in the blistering heat.
Piastri tried the undercut on Zhou, pitting a lap later from P2, but ended up getting jumped by Ticktum on warmer tyres. Zhou dove in on the following tour and returned directly in front of the Carlin, but with a handy 2.9s buffer.
Verschoor was the final driver to change his mediums, handing Jüri Vips the lead on an alternate strategy, as Zhou put Marino Sato between himself and Ticktum.
With 10 laps to go, Vips decided it was time for fresh rubber and returned in 11th on the medium. Zhou reclaimed the lead on Lap 24 when Jehan Daruvala finally headed into the pitlane from P1. Following the Virtuosi was Ticktum, while Oscar Piastri was struggling down in fourth, stuck behind Matteo Nannini on the hard tyre.
The Campos driver finally pitted, but Piastri had already lost significant time and was 14s behind the front two. He also had Verschoor hounding the back of him from fourth. Although the MP Motorsport man was struggling to find a way through, and the duo came within an inch of kissing tyres. After narrowly avoiding contact, the battle waned, and they crossed the line in P3 and P4.
Back at the front, Ticktum ran out of road in his chase of Zhou and settled for second at the line, 4s behind the Virtuosi racer.
Shwartzman, Drugovich and Vips took fifth, sixth and seventh, with Pourchaire claiming P8. Lirim Zendeli and Daruvala took the final two points’ places.
KEY QUOTE – GUANYU ZHOU (UNI-VIRTUOSI)
“Another Feature Race win and I am extremely happy. I have made up for yesterday’s mistake. After a good start, I tried to keep Oscar (Piastri) behind me without DRS and then he and Dan (Ticktum) were starting to fight a bit behind me, so I knew I was safe.
“It was a little bit difficult to catch the backmarkers with the prime tyre, but I managed to make my way through reasonably quickly, so I could continue on till the finish. I want to say a huge thanks to the team for handing me such a good car after a difficult weekend at the beginning.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP VIEW
Piastri has the Drivers’ Championship lead at the halfway point of the season, with 108 points. Zhou is up to second with 103, with Shwartzman in third on 91. Ticktum is fourth with 89 and Vips fifth with 85.
In the Teams’ Championship, PREMA Racing are first with 199, ahead of UNI-Virtuosi in second on 162 and Carlin in third on 145. Hitech Grand Prix are fourth with 143, ahead of ART Grand Prix on 93.
The Championship heads into a summer break with a new leader in Oscar Piastri, but Zhou will be determined to return to the top when action resumes in Monza, 10-12 September.