In less than two weeks it is finally that time again. The FIA Formula 2 Championship will start its fifth season in Sakhir, Bahrain. It is high time that we look at the upcoming 2021 F2 season. Besides the teams, drivers, tracks and the new race format, we will also take a look at the pre-season tests of the last week. Plus, I will give you my predictions for the season at the end of the preview.
Robert Shwartzman & Oscar Piastri
Prema managed to win both championships last season. Mick Schumacher became only the second Prema Formula 2 champion. His teammate from last year, Robert Shwartzman, has exactly the same goal this year. After four race wins and a convincing first season in Formula 2, the Russian is the main favorite for the drivers title this year. However, he does not have an easy-to-beat colleague in the team this year in the form of reigning FIA F3 champion Oscar Piastri. The Aussie scored two race wins and six podium finishes in FIA Formula 3 last year.
Guanyu Zhou & Felipe Drugovich
For Guanyu Zhou it will be already the third year in Formula 2 with UNI-Virtuosi. So far he has been on the podium eleven times and won his first race last year. This third year will be a decisive one for the Alpine Junior. So far, he has never been able to defeat his teammate over a full season in F2. His teammate for the 2021 season is Felipe Drugovich. The Brazilian was the most surprising driver of the past season. With MP Motorsport he managed to win three races in his first Formula 2 year.
Dan Ticktum & Jehan Daruvala
Last season Carlin won the Anthoine Hubert Award for Rookie of the Year with Yuki Tsunoda. The young Japanese driver, who made the move up to F1 to join Alpha Tauri, will be replaced this year by the Brit Dan Ticktum. The 21-year-old finished eleventh overall in his F2 debut year with DAMS. He managed to win one race in the process. Red Bull Junior Jehan Daruvala stays for a second year with Carlin, where he won the last race of the year last season.
Hitech Grand Prix
Liam Lawson & Jüri Vips
The Hitech Grand Prix drivers of this year both are members of the Red Bull Junior Team. And for both this season will be their full-time Formula 2 debut. While Jüri Vips already replaced Gelael for four race weekends at DAMS last year, Liam Lawson was able to fight for the drivers title in FIA Formula 3 with Hitech for a long time. A lot is expected from both of them at Red Bull, and so far, the two have always been convincing. With their talent and two fast Hitech cars, anything can be possible for them.
ART Grand Prix
Christian Lundgaard & Théo Pourchaire
Christian Lundgaard starts into his second full Formula 2 season with the team. Last season he finished seventh overall with two race wins. His teammate this year is Théo Pourchaire. The high-flyer and runner-up in last year's FIA F3 season will make his full-time debut in Formula 2 this year. In the past years ART Grand Prix had always had performance deficits on one of the two cars. We can only hope that both talents will be spared from problems this year.
TBA & Lirim Zendeli
After MP Motorsport could celebrate four victories last year with Felipe Drugovich and Nobuharu Matsushita, Lirim Zendeli, a very successful FIA F3 driver from last year, joins the team. He won the first FIA F3 race on Saturday in Spa-Francorchamps. His teammate for the upcoming season has still not been announced. Richard Verschoor tested with the team last week. It is quite possible that the Dutchman will be in the car for the first weekend.
Charouz Racing System
David Beckmann & Guilherme Samaia
Charouz also has two new faces in the cars. German David Beckmann makes his Formula 2 debut with the Czech team this year. Last season he won two sprint races with Trident in FIA F3. His teammate this year is Guilherme Samaia. The Brazilian Formula 3 champion will start his second Formula 2 season after failing to convince last year with Campos.
Roy Nissany & Marcus Armstrong
French team DAMS also has two new drivers for this season. Williams test driver Roy Nissany starts his third Formula 2 season this year. An eighth place finish from last year's feature race at Spa-Francorchamps is his best race result to date. The second driver in the team is Ferrari Junior Marcus Armstrong. After enduring a tough rookie year with ART Grand Prix last year, the Kiwi is venturing a fresh start in F2 in his second year with DAMS.
Gianluca Petecof & Ralph Boschung
Campos has signed two new drivers for this season. While Ralph Boschung has driven for the team once before in 2017 and returns to Formula 2 after a break last year, Gianluca Petecof will make his F2 debut in Bahrain. The reigning Formula Regional EU champion has yet to find the budget for the full season. But as it was one of the last wishes of the recently deceased team founder Adrián Campos that Petecof sits in one of his F2 cars, the team take this financial risk with pleasure.
Matteo Nannini & Alessio Deledda
With Matteo Nannini and Alessio Deledda HWA Racelab has a completely new duo for this season. For both it will be the first year in Formula 2. While Nannini took his first FIA F3 race win with Jenzer last year, Deledda has not been able to achieve much in motorsport so far. Nannini will also be the only driver ever to compete with the team in both F2 and FIA F3.
Bent Viscaal & Marino Sato
At Trident, Marino Sato returns for his second year with the team in F2. After a rather sobering first year, the 21-year-old Japanese is hoping for a bigger points haul. The second cockpit next to him will be piloted by Bent Viscaal, at least for the first race weekend in Bahrain. For the time being, the 21-year-old Dutchman only has a contract for the first three races. However, the F3 race winner from last year should have a good chance of staying in the car for longer.
Due to the new race format, some circuits have been dropped compared to previous years. Besides the Red Bull Ring, Hungaroring or Circuit de Catalunya, Spa-Francorchamps will not be visited by Formula 2 this year.
Round 1: Bahrain (26-28 March)
The 2020 season finale will again mark the season opener as usual this year. The race will be held on the Grand Prix Circuit Layout. The Feature Race last year was won by Felipe Drugovich with MP Motorsport. The winner of the Sprint Race was Robert Shwartzman (Prema).
Round 2: Monaco (21-23 May)
Last year the Monaco Grand Prix unfortunately could not take place due to the Corona Pandemic. This year, it is planned to return to the street circuit in the Principality. In 2019, the F2 Feature Race was won by ART Grand Prix driver Nyck De Vries. The winner in the Sprint Race at that time was Anthoine Hubert.
Round 3: Baku (4-6 June)
No races could be held on the street circuit in Baku last year either due to the worldwide pandemic. At the last event in 2019, Jack Aitken won the Feature Race with Campos and Nicholas Latifi won the Sprint Race with DAMS.
Round 4: Silverstone (16-18 July).
After four races took place at Silverstone last year, there are still three this year. Last year at the 'Home of British Motor Racing' Nikita Mazepin (Hitech) and Callum Ilott (UNI-Virtuosi) won the Feature Races. Dan Ticktum (DAMS) and Yuki Tsunoda (Carlin) secured wins in the two Sprint Races.
Round 5: Monza (September 10-12)
The fifth round this year will take place at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza. Last year's 2020 season also saw racing at the famous high-speed circuit. Saturday's Feature Race was won by Mick Schumacher with Prema. Callum Ilott triumphed with UNI-Virtuosi in the Sprint Race on Sunday.
Round 6: Sochi (24-26 September)
The Sochi Autodrom is hosting Formula 2 for the fourth time in a row this year. Last year, Mick Schumacher won his second and final Formula 2 Feature Race here with Prema. Victory in the shortened Sprint Race went to Guanyu Zhou with UNI-Virtuosi. ART Grand Prix and DAMS have also celebrated victories here in the past.
Round 7: Jeddah (3-5 December)
With the race weekend in Jeddah, we have a completely new circuit in this year's calendar. The street circuit in Saudi Arabia was designed by Hermann Tilke.
Round 8: Abu Dhabi (10-12 December)
After Formula 2 did not compete in Abu Dhabi last year, this year's season finale will be held at the Yas Marina Circuit as usual. At the last event in 2019, Sérgio Sette Câmara won the Feature Race with DAMS. The Sprint Race on Sunday was won by Luca Ghiotto in the UNI-Virtuosi car.
For the 2021 season, the race format has been adapted. The aim is to relieve the financial burden on the teams who often compete in F2 and F3 at the same time. Therefore, F2 and F3 will run on separate F1 weekends. In addition, three races will be held on one weekend instead of two. The weekend will start as usual on Friday with Free Practice in the morning and Qualifying in the afternoon. On Saturday, there will be two Sprint Races. In the first race, the top 10 from Qualifying will start in reverse order. For the second race, the top 10 of the first race will then start in reverse order. For the main race on Sunday, the actual Qualifying result will be used for the starting grid. For the two Sprint Races on Saturday, there will be points for the top 8 as usual (15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1). For the Feature Race on Sunday, there will be points for the top 10, as in F1. There are also four extra points for pole position in Qualifying. In addition, there are two points for the fastest race lap in each race, if you rank in the top 10. This means you can earn a maximum of 65 points per weekend.
From March 8 to 10, the only three days of testing were scheduled. Two sessions were run per day. Four hours in the morning & four hours in the afternoon. In between there was one hour lunch break each.
On the morning of the first day of testing on Monday, March 8, the fastest lap was set by Dan Ticktum in the Carlin. Behind him were Liam Lawson in the Hitech and Ticktum's Carlin teammate Jehan Daruvala. In the second session in the afternoon, David Beckmann in his Charouz car burned the fastest lap time of the day into the asphalt. He was followed by Christian Lundgaard and Théo Pourchaire in their ART Grand Prix cars. With 77 laps, Richard Verschoor set the most laps of the day in his MP Motorsport car.
Christian Lundgaard opened the second day with a best time in the first session. His 1:41.697 was going to be the fastest lap time of the entire test. Second fastest was Bent Viscaal in the Trident ahead of DAMS driver Marcus Armstrong. In the afternoon, Dan Ticktum set the best lap time. Jehan Daruvala and Guanyu Zhou in his UNI-Virtuosi car lined up in first place behind. Guilherme Samaia turned 90 laps, setting the best mark of the day.
On the third and final day of official pre-season testing, Marcus Armstrong set the fastest time of the day in the morning. He was followed by Liam Lawson and Jüri Vips. The fastest time in the last and clearly slowest session of the week went to Campos and Ralph Boschung. The busiest on the last day was Guanyu Zhou with 97 laps.
P1: Christian Lundgaard (ART GP) / 1:41.697
P2: Bent Viscaal (Trident) / + 0.331 sec
P3: Marcus Armstrong (DAMS) / + 0.341
P4: Dan Ticktum (Carlin) / + 0.488
P5: Liam Lawson (Hitech GP) / + 0.521
P6: Jüri Vips (Hitech GP) / + 0.527
P7: Guanyu Zhou (UNI-Virtuosi) / + 0.537
P8: Robert Shwartzman (Prema) / + 0.560
P9: Théo Pourchaire (ART GP) / + 0.650
P10: Lirim Zendeli (MP Motorsport) / + 0.659
P11: Roy Nissany (DAMS) / + 0.722
P12: Ralph Boschung (Campos) / + 0.730
P13: Oscar Piastri (Prema) / + 0.765
P14: Richard Verschoor (MP Motorsport) / + 0.825
P15: Felipe Drugovich (UNI-Virtuosi) / + 0.873
P16: David Beckmann (Charouz) / + 0.890
P17: Jehan Daruvala (Carlin) / + 0.922
P18: Marino Sato (Trident) / + 1.223
P19: Guilherme Samaia (Charouz) / + 1.432
P20: Matteo Nannini (HWA) / + 1.462
P21: Gianluca Petecof (Campos) / + 1.522
P22: Alessio Deledda (HWA) / + 3.379
As every year I dare to make a little prediction for this year's Formula 2 drivers and teams championships.
Drivers Championship Prediction
P1: Robert Shwartzman
P2: Jüri Vips
P3: Théo Pourchaire
P4: Christian Lundgaard
P5: Dan Ticktum
Overall, the starting field this year is probably a bit more talented than it already was last year. The new race format and the resulting extra set of tires will certainly also play their part in a tight and unpredictable battle for the drivers' title. For me, the biggest favorite for the title is Prema driver Robert Shwartzman. After finishing his rookie season in fourth place overall last year, and with Mick Schumacher, Callum Ilott, Yuki Tsunoda and also Nikita Mazepin not on the grid this year, he is the logical favorite for me. However, there are some interesting names that will certainly challenge him for this title. Especially Prema, UNI-Virtuosi, Hitech GP, Art Grand Prix and Carlin seem to have both fast cars and talented drivers. Christian Lundgaard and Théo Pourchaire will push themselves to top performances at ART. I see it similarly at Hitech GP with Jüri Vips and Liam Lawson. At UNI-Virtuosi I also expect two teammates on par. While Felipe Drugovich is looking to consistently establish himself at the top, Guanyu Zhou has an important third year in the championship ahead of him. Carlin was already at the top last year, especially with Yuki Tsunoda. I expect similar results from Dan Ticktum this year. Jehan Daruvala will certainly not be an easy opponent for him in the internal team duel. The reigning F3 champion Oscar Piastri and DAMS driver Marcus Armstrong are also expected to fight for wins and podiums.
Teams Championship Prediction
P1: ART Grand Prix
P2: Prema Racing
P3: Hitech GP
Like last year, we can expect an exciting battle for the team championship again this year. I think there will be a three-way fight at the top between Prema, ART Grand Prix and Hitech GP, closely followed by Carlin & UNI-Virtuosi. But in the end ART Grand prix will win by a narrow margin, provided both of their drivers are spared from defects as far as possible.
In a few days the new Formula 2 season will finally start. Enjoy it!
written by Claudio Graf (youngdriversmonthly) / 14th March, 2021