Championship winner Oscar Piastri finished off his Formula 2 career on the top step of the podium, beating UNI-Virtuosi pair Guanyu Zhou and Felipe Drugovich in a strategic Feature Race at Yas Marina.
With Drugovich and Théo Pourchaire on the alternate strategy, Piastri and Zhou worked hard to retain enough life in their medium Pirellis for a late duel, but in the end, they’d not need the extra rubber as a late Virtual Safety Car gave them some breathing space, with a 4.9s gap separating the two Virtuosi’s at the flag.
PREMA Racing’s Robert Shwartzman couldn’t hold on to a podium spot and finished behind Drugovich and Pourchaire in fourth following late overtakes.
Dan Ticktum’s medium tyre held off Marcus Armstrong’s supersofts for sixth, with Jüri Vips, Ralph Boschung and Richard Verschoor completing the top 10.
AS IT HAPPENED
Piastri aced his final F2 getaway, scampering off into the distance on the supersofts as Zhou put pressure on Jack Doohan for second, the MP Motorsport driver the odd one out in the top five on the alternate strategy.
Doohan managed to cling on after three corners of wheel-to-wheel battling, but Zhou wasn’t relenting and continued to harry the MP Motorsport rookie, who clipped the curb, picked up a chunk of marble and went spinning into the barriers.
The Safety Car was called out as Doohan clambered out of his MP and headed back to the pitlane. Meanwhile, Liam Lawson had also lost control of his Hitech during a battle with Shwartzman for fourth, falling to seventh, behind Ticktum, Pourchaire and Boschung.
Racing resumed and Lawson was the first man to ditch the supersofts on Lap 7, returning in 20th. Piastri had built up a 2.4s buffer between himself and Zhou by the time they headed in for fresh boots, returning in 12th and 13th, as Pourchaire assumed the lead on the alternate strategy.
Pourchaire had a long way to go on the mediums, but he was taking lumps out of them in a bid to keep Drugovich behind him. The Brazilian tried the up and under, but the ART Grand Prix driver shrugged him off and carried on. With a 26s difference between himself and Zhou, the Frenchman still needed to find a bit more pace before his pitstop if he was going to come out ahead of the Virtuosi.
The crossover between prime and alternate strategies arrived with seven laps to go, as Armstrong headed in to collect some Super Softs and began to pick off those on the mediums, taking places from Boschung and Lawson within a lap.
Pourchaire dove into the pits with five laps to go and returned in fifth behind Shwartzman after a slow stop, but with rubber to burn. Drugovich waited another lap and briefly made the overcut work, re-joining ahead of Pourchaire in fourth, but the Frenchman got back through within a matter of corners.
Lapping two seconds quicker than Shwartzman, Pourchaire began to close the gap with just three laps to go, but Drugovich shocked him with a late send and grabbed fourth.
Lawson pulled to a stop on the side of the road with a problem, which brought out a Virtual Safety Car, but it only briefly halted Drugovich’s charge to the podium, as the Virtuosi lunged down the side of the helpless PREMA for third as soon as racing resumed.
Pourchaire had to wait another lap before following Drugovich past Shwartzman to complete the podium, behind winner Piastri and second-placed Zhou. Ticktum remained in sixth at the flag, in front of Armstrong and Vips. Boschung finished in ninth, ahead of Verschoor.
KEY QUOTE – OSCAR PIASTRI (PREMA RACING)
“The final race of F2 for the year is done and we managed to win the race, which his fantastic. It is a great way to end the year and a great way to end my junior career.
“Thank you everyone for your support and all of your messages after winning the Championship. I have still got thousands unopened. It was very good to end the season on a high, I’ll hopefully see you at some point on a grid in the future.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP VIEW
Piastri ends the season with 252.5 points, ahead of runner-up Shwartzman on 192 and Zhou on 183. Ticktum finishes fourth with 159.5 points, with Pourchaire fifth on 140.
In the Teams’ Championship, PREMA Racing finish the year with 444.5 points. UNI-Virtuosi are Vice-Champions on 288. Carlin drop to third with 272.5, with Hitech fourth on 223 and ART Grand Prix fifth with 190.
The action isn’t over just yet as a new look-grid will take to the Yas Marina Circuit for post-season testing on December, 16-18.