Round 3 of the FIA Formula 2 Championship is finally back in Baku. Going into the weekend Guanyu Zhou was leading the championship with Oscar Piastri, Dan Ticktum, and Jehan Daruvala not far behind. In terms of driver changes, Jack Aitken was back with HWA replacing Matteo Nannini; however, Nannini secured a seat with Campos this weekend after Gianluca Petecof was unable to get the money to race this weekend.
Practice sessions in Baku are essential for drivers as the layout of the track can lead to mistakes. In the first few minutes of the session, Marino Sato broke his front-year suspension and could not participate for the rest of the practice. The VSC (Virtual Safety Car) came out when Lirim Zendeli drove into one runoff area. He couldn’t get his car working again, so he had to retire and lose valuable practice time. The session ended with a red flag as Nissany hit the wall before turn 15, which was also a problem area in F1, and then went a few meters along the straight. He was ok, but because qualifying was later that day, the team had to work quickly to be ready in time for qualifying. The top 3 in practice were: Vips, Boschung, Pourchaire.
Qualifying was later in the day, and even though the Dams team was working hard to get Nissany ready, they were unable to fix everything in time, and he could not participate. Drivers were struggling with avoiding the run-off area, but luckily most managed to get back on track. With 15 minutes to go, Armstrong was on provisional pole for the feature and Boschung for the first sprint race. This changed later when the Hitech teammates, Liam Lawson and Juri Vips, started battling for pole. Lawson came out on top with Vips behind him, giving Hitech its first front-row lock-out of the season. Robert Shwartzman qualified 10th, so he had reverse-grid pole for the first sprint race. There were a few penalties handed out after the session. Sato got a 3 place grid penalty for returning to the pits when his suspension broke instead of driving to a run-off area. Lundgaard, Aitken, and Samaia also received 3 place grid penalties for impeding other people’s laps.
Sprint Race 1 brought all the drama and action expected in Baku. Aitken had to retire in the first lap after making contact at turn one. Drugovich, Vips, Piastri, and Lawson all made contact with each other leading to the retirements of Lawson and Piastri. This was a blow for the two championship contenders. Drugovich got a 10 second time penalty and 2 points on his license for the incident. Alessio Deledda was also out on Lap 1. Zhou was hunting down leader Robert Shwartzman after overtaking Daruvala in turn 1 for P2. Zhou’s fight didn’t last long as Ticktum moved past him a few laps later. There was a solid fight between Pourchaire and Boschung for 6th, with the young Frenchman coming out on top. He then overtook Armstrong for 5th, which led to Armstrong eventually finishing 7th. Shwartzman dominated the race and was able to win after leading every lap. The two drivers who ended up on the podium with him were Ticktum and Zhou. Bent Viscal, who finished 10th, had reverse-grid pole for the second sprint race.
Sprint Race 2 marked the 100th ever race in F2. Contact at turn one between Zhou, Ticktum, and Zendeli started the race. Ticktum was able to make it back on track, but the other two were forced to retire, contributing to Zhou’s lousy weekend. The safety car came out, and Pourchaire took the opportunity to pit for a new wing, as he suffered damage in the incident. After the safety car, Juri Vips was flying, he passed Daruvala for P3 and eventually overtaking Beckman for the lead. The safety car came out for a few laps, and Pourchaine pitted for a new front wing as he was involved in the incident. Vips overtook Daruvala for p3, then on lap 10 he went into the lead by passing Beckman. Verschoor and Nissany made contact, taking Verschoor out of the race and earning Nissany a drive-through penalty. Lundgaard and Armstrong both retired from the race after crashing at turns 1 and 3, respectively, on the same lap. Both Lawson and Piastri had standout races, helping the championship contenders make up for their DNFs in race one; Lawson started P20 and ended P7, and Piastri started P19 and ended P8. The top 3 were: Vips, Beckman and Daruvala.
In typical F2 fashion, the feature race was filled with penalties left, right, and center. When Aitken and Nannini stalled on the grid, a second formation lap was required. Both drivers were able to fix their problems and made it through the whole race. On lap 1, Armstrong, Ticktum, and Pourchaire were involved in an incident. Pourchaire was later sent to the hospital as he fractured his arm in the incident. Ticktum was the only driver who carried on and got a 10-second penalty that he served on his second pitstop. On the safety car restart, Lawson passed Piastri for P2, but he would later be handed a 10 second time penalty for pushing Pourchaire into the pit lane exit. He served it during his mandatory pit stop and ended up in P13. Drugovich, Beckman, and Piastri were investigated for unsafe pit stops, and Piastri ended up getting a 5-second penalty. He hunted down Vips for the remainder of the race, but lapped cars getting in between them meant the Australian couldn’t take the lead. Lawson made his way through the pack for the second race in a row, ending up 6th. The last penalty of the race was given to Deledda, who received a drive-through penalty for ignoring blue flags, which held up the leader. Vips became the first double winner in F2, with Piastri and Shwartzman rounding out the podium.
Zhou struggled a lot this weekend, and the gap between him and Piastri in the championship shrank to 5 points. It was an excellent weekend for both Prema and Hitech, who both had multiple podiums. Juri Vips brought himself into championship contention after a standout weekend. After his DNF in the first race, Piastri recovered and kept his place as P2 in the standings.
Onwards and upwards to Silverstone next month.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I am Emily Cary, I am 18 years old, and I am from the United Kingdom. I have a strong passion for Formula 1. My favorite drivers are George Russell, Alex Albon, Charles Leclerc, and Max Verstappen. I am in my final year of Six Form before going to university to study PE with teacher training. I like to spend time with my friends, family and playing sports like dance and cricket. My passion for Formula 1 comes from the thrill and the excitement of watching the drivers drive and fight for their position on the track, also seeing the competitiveness and the drive that the drives have. Also, seeing the drivers doing the best they can to succeed and prove themselves within the sport.
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