Feature image: @Formula2 on Twitter
The new Sprint Race format for the Formula 2 championship was a huge hit amongst the rookies, with the Formula 3 graduates of Liam Lawson and Oscar Piastri taking the chequered flags in the afternoon and evening races respectively. With Guanyu Zhou taking pole position for the feature race in qualifying yesterday afternoon, the top ten of the grid was flipped putting Theo Pourchaire and David Beckmann on the front row.
Lawson was fastest off the line when the lights went out, and secured himself into P1 where he stayed for the remainder of the race. Beckmann and Pourchaire then went wheel-to-wheel for second position over a few corners, with the Frenchman taking the position before having to retire a few laps later.
It wasn’t the most comfortable afternoon for the young Kiwi, as he did have to fend off the charging Carlin of Jehan Daruvala, who was looking very pacey as he got himself up into second place. The Indian driver felt the consequences of his early charge when he found it difficult to get past Lawson and eventually settled behind him.
Richard Verschoor’s race was cut short after a dive from Dan Ticktum clattered into the back of him at turn one, sending him into a spin and was forced to retire shortly after. Ticktum was handed a five-second penalty for the infringement and ended up in P8.
The second race of the evening was a thriller, won by the reigning Formula 3 Champion, Oscar Piastri. The action started at the very first corner, with a Virtual Safety Car being called out after Dan Ticktum and Robert Shwartzman collided and sent themselves out of the race.
Guanyu Zhou found himself in first place after he overtook Juri Vips at turn 4, the same place he overtook Liam Zendeli only a few laps prior. In the rest of the pack behind Zhou, Theo Pourchaire had made his way from 19th to 11th, and Marcus Armstrong jumped from 20th all the way up to 8th!
The race was turned on it’s head on lap 15 when Drugovich and winner of the first race, Lawson collided at turn 4. Going three wide into the right-hander with Christian Lundgaard taking the position and Lawson subsequently being collected by Drugovich as he turned in. The stewards swiftly handed the Brazilian a ten second penalty for the incident.
With the Safety Car leading the pack, Oscar Piastri and a few others made a bold move and opted for fresh rubber, diving into the pits. Zhou, who started on the softer compound of tyres, didn’t pit and instead stayed out hoping to keep everyone behind him before the chequered flag.
The Australian, who is mentored by F1 hero Mark Webber, instantly felt an advantage and set his sights on the Chinese driver in P1. It came down until the final lap, with Piastri taking the lead over Zhou who ended up finishing in P6.
The young Australian could emerge as a title favourite in his rookie season as he looks very comfortable at PREMA while partnering Robert Shwartzman, who retired early in the race.
The Feature Race is live tomorrow with maximum points available for the drivers. Guanyu Zhou starts on pole position and will hope to finish the job properly on the track.