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Ahead of the resumption of the 2020 Formula 2 season, we’ve decided to start a 3 part mini-series covering the drivers & teams of the 2020 Formula 2 Grid. Part 1 covers Hitech, Trident, Prema, HWA.

If you are new to Formula 2, do check out this article to learn more about it!
An Introduction to Motorsport: Formula 2

Hitech Grand Prix

Hitech announced it would be joining the Formula 2 grid in January 2020. According to Autosport, rumours emerged in the paddock during the 2019 season finale that Hitech could join the grid, as the squad spoke to prospective personnel about staffing a possible entry. The British team’s promotion comes after the team successfully pulled ahead of the other teams behind Prema to finish second in the 2019 FIA Formula 3 Championship.

Founded in 2003, Hitech Grand Prix has a proven track record of success, which notably includes a second-place finish in last season’s FIA Formula 3 Championship, with four wins, one pole position and six podium finishes.

The team made its first F2 appearance in official pre-season tests at the Bahrain International Circuit and has limited running compared to other teams on the Dallara F2 2018 chassis. Despite this, the team looked to have come to grips with the Dallara F2 2018 chassis fairly rapidly, with Luca Ghiotto topping testing times in Bahrain.

A top 7 finish would be a good target for the rookie team

#24: Nikita Mazepin

Nationality: Russian.
Year in Formula 2/GP2: 2nd
F1 Team Affiliation: None
Prediction: P10 & Above

Sophomore Success?

The Nikita Mazepin we saw last year alongside Nyck De Vries at ART Grand Prix, was entirely unrecognisable as the driver who challenged Antoine Hubert for the 2018 GP3 Series title throughout the season the previous year. Compared to his teammate, who was eventually crowned champion, Mazepin languished in 18th with just 11 points to the 266 of his teammate.

Prior to the 2018 GP3 Series, the Russian had a spotty junior single seater record, with a win in Junior Single seaters from the 2016 BRDC British Formula 3 Championship. He raced with Hitech Grand Prix in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship in 2016 & 2017, finishing down in 20th for 2016, and the 2017 season in 10th.

Will Mazepin see a return to his 2018 GP3 form for the 2020 season? It’s an interesting thought to ponder, and his success or failure this season will likely have implications for his career moving forward.

#25: Luca Ghiotto

Nationality: Italian.
Year in Formula 2/GP2: 5th
F1 Team Affiliation: None
Prediction: P6 & Above

Fifth time’s the charm?

Luca Ghiotto made a surprise return to Formula 2 in the off-season with Hitech Grand Prix, following his hugely successful 2019 season, where he found himself reunited with Uni-Virtuosi, whom he had previously raced for under the Russian Time name.

In 2019, it had been suggested that he would make the switch from Single-Seaters to Sports Cars, given the lack of opportunities with Formula 1 teams, in addition to his lack of funding, according to Autosport. Ghiotto participated in the WEC Prologue pre-season tests in Barcelona with Team LNT, and made his Sports Car debut with the team at the 2019 6 Hours of Fuji in the #5 Ginetta G60-LT-P1, finishing in 11th place overall.

Ghiotto’s record in Formula 2 has been impressive, with the Italian coming in 8th in the overall standings in his rookie season in 2016 with Formula 2 backmarker team Trident. (Since Ghiotto’s departure, Trident has not had a driver that finished in the top 10) His sophomore season in 2017 with the Virtuosi-run Russian Time outfit saw much success, with Ghiotto coming in 4th overall, behind Charles Leclerc, his teammate Artem Markelov and Oliver Rowland. His third season in 2018 saw him move to Campos, where he would decimate his teammate for the majority of the season, Roy Nissany, while coming in 8th. His 4th season in 2019 saw him return to the team now known as UNI-Virtuosi, where Ghiotto was in title contention throughout the season.

Will the 2020 season see Ghiotto finally bring home the Formula 2 title which has constantly eluded him? I have my doubts. Ghiotto is an extremely capable driver, and it is an absolute travesty that he is not in Formula 1, but even if Hitech are unable to engineer or execute race strategy as well as UNI-Virtuosi, I would expect to see him in the top 6.

Trident

Trident Racing returns to Formula 2 for the 2020 season, which marks its 14th year in the second highest tier of European Single Seater racing. Established in 2006, the team has completed almost exclusively in the GP2/F2 and GP3/F3 categories, with much success in the later seasons of GP3.

However, the F2/GP2 side of the operation has not had the same level of success, with a highest finishing position of 5th throughout the team’s history. It was achieved in 2015, with the next highest finishing position being 6th in 2006. Recent years have also seen the team return home with the wooden spoon at the end of the season, since 2017. No driver for the team has successfully made it to the top 10 of the Series/Championship standings, or scored any wins since Luca Ghiotto in 2016.

#22 Roy Nissany

Nationality: Israeli.
Year in Formula 2/GP2: 2nd (1st season from R1-10 only)
F1 Team Affiliation: Williams – Williams Racing Driver Academy
Season Prediction: P18 & Above with a few points scoring finishes

Roy Nissany is the son of Chanoch Nissany, the Israeli businessman who famously remarked that his Minardi PS05 had too much grip after spinning out at the Hungaroring in FP1 of the 2005 Hungarian Grand Prix.

The 2020 season marks his return to racing following a training injury at the beginning of 2019 , which led to him not racing in any series. 2018 was his first season in Formula 2, where he drove for Campos Racing, alongside Luca Ghiotto. Nissany did not complete the season, and was replaced by Roberto Merhi for the final 2 rounds. Ghiotto crushed Nissany, with the Italian scoring 94 points including 4 podiums in their time together as teammates. Nissany, by contrast, had only scored a single point in that time.

Nissany’s pre-Formula 2 single-seater results were similarly unremarkable, with him spending 3 years in the former Formula Renault/V8 3.5 Series, finishing 13th in his rookie season, before coming 4th in 2016 and 5th in 2017. Both 2016 and 2017 saw depleted fields in the series, especially in the latter, which only had 8 drivers completing the full season. His 2 seasons of European Formula 3 prior to FR3.5 also saw him finish down the order in the championship standings, with 22nd & 17th for Mucke Motorsport.

Canadian billionaire Sylvan Adams has backed Nissany to be a World Champion. However, we disagree. Nissany’s racing record has been spotty and we regret to say that the only Super License Nissany will receive is a Free Practice Super License at the moment. Owing to his team and previous racing record, a couple of points finishes without podiums appear to be the most likely outcome for his 2020 season. A realistic championship target would be between P14 to P18.

#23 Marino Sato

Nationality: Japanese
Year in Formula 2/GP2: 2nd (1st Season Round 10-12 only)
F1 Team Affiliation: None
Season Prediction: P18 & Above with a few points scoring finishes

Marino Sato returns to Formula 2, following a short stint at the end of the 2019 season. The 2019 Euroformula Open Champion, who is of no relation to ex-F1 driver Takuma Sato, has a spotty junior racing record.

Prior to his 2019 Euroformula Open crown, Sato had completed 2 seasons of the Formula 3 European Championship, after minimal success with the highly successful Motopark F3 team. Both seasons saw Sato finish in lowly positions, with P19 in 2016 (1 Point) and P16 in 2017 (31.5 Points).

It is based on his generally unremarkable and unsuccessful junior career, alongside the historical performances of the Trident team, it is unlikely Sato will be contending for podiums. A realistic championship target would be between P14 to P18. Points finishes are unlikely to be regular, and podiums do not appear likely.

Prema Racing

Prema returns to Formula 2 once more in 2020, following a difficult 2019 season that saw the team slip from the sharp end of the Formula 2 grid, to the tail end of the grid. For 2020, Prema has retained 2018 European Formula 3 Champion Mick Schumacher, and promoted 2020 Formula 3 Champion Robert Shwartzman to its Formula 2 team.

Prema will be looking to return to the head of the pack once more, with Schumacher being expected to contend for the title. Shwartzman, who finished 3rd to Schumacher in the 2018 European Formula 3 Championship in his rookie season will be looking to bring the fight to Schumacher once more.

#20 Mick Schumacher

Nationality: German
Year in Formula 2/GP2: 2nd
F1 Team Affiliation: Ferrari – Ferrari Driver Academy
Season Prediction: P3 & Above

A Make or Break Year

Schumacher is staying with Prema for his sophomore Formula 2 season with a new teammate. In the wake of Sean Gelael’s departure, Prema have promoted his 2018 Formula 3 teammate, and fellow Ferrari junior, the reigning Formula 3 Champion Robert Shwartzman.

In 2019, Schumacher had a disappointing rookie campaign in Formula 2, which saw him shine in Qualifying, but struggle on race day. He had a relatively decent start at Bahrain with an 8th placed finish in the feature race, but it would be the highest he would finish in the feature race for the rest of the year. Saturdays often saw him involved in several incidents on Saturday, most notably one which saw him taken out by his teammate Sean Gelael at Paul Ricard. Across the season, he gradually grew accustomed to Pirellis, allowing him to showcase his race pace.

Success has often evaded him in his Rookie seasons, but he has shown to bounce back in his sophomore season. 2020 will be a critical year for Schumacher, who will be pitted against 5 of his fellow Ferrari Driver Academy drivers. Last season, he finished 12th, behind fellow FDA driver Callum Ilott, who drove for a far less fancied team, Charouz. Ilott has since moved up the grid to UNI-Virtuosi, and is set to be Schumacher’s main rival within the FDA, Shwartzman aside. Schumacher must beat his rookie teammate convincingly while fending off a title challenge from Illot to demonstrate he is worthy of the second Alfa Romeo seat.

#21 Robert Shwartzman

Nationality: Russian
Year in Formula 2/GP2: 1st
F1 Team Affiliation: Ferrari – Ferrari Driver Academy
Prediction: P6 & above

A Golden Opportunity to Shine

Following his successful 2019 Formula 3 campaign with Prema which saw him clinch the title, Shwartzman was promoted to the Prema Formula 2 team. His promotion to Prema’s F2 squad sees him reunited with his 2018 Formula 3 teammate, and fellow Ferrari junior, Mick Schumacher, who had a difficult rookie campaign the previous season.

Shwartzman’s placement next to Schumacher presents a golden opportunity for him to make the leap to Formula 1. If Shwartzman is able to beat Schumacher across the season, he could find himself in the coveted Ferrari seat at Alfa Romeo, which is currently occupied by Antonio Giovinazzi.

In 2019, Shwartzman showed strong race pace in Formula 3, with an enviable finishing record that showed the amount of consistency he had. Barring a solitary retirement in Hungary, he finished every race inside the top eight, with all but one race in the top five. In a series with 30 cars and reversed grid races, it was certainly an impressive record. However, his qualifying pace left much to be desired. While he scored 2 poles, he failed to make it to the front row on other occasions. For Shwartzman to beat Schumacher across the season, he will need to address this weakness, which has been Schumacher’s strength.

If Prema is able to be competitive once more, expect to see a top 6 finish, and should he fix his qualifying weaknesses, expect a title challenge.

BWT HWA Racelab

HWA enters Formula 2 as an independent entry for the first time in 2020, taking over Arden International’s Formula 2 operation, purchasing Arden’s entry, cars and equipment. Former Arden F2 team boss Kenny Kirwan was transferred to HWA to lead the F2 operation. HWA was in a technical partnership with Arden in 2019, with HWA engineers assisting the team. The partnership saw 2 wins, courtesy of the late Anthoine Hubert.

HWA will be looking to consolidate and build upon the 7th place finish delivered by Arden last season to move further up the grid. The team set competitive times in testing, and there is hope that the times will be reflected in results across the season.

#16 Artem Markelov

Nationality: Russian
Year in Formula 2/GP2: 7th (6th season from R1-10 only)
F1 Team Affiliation: None
Season Prediction: P5 & Above, with a few race wins or podiums

Markelov returns to Formula 2 for the 2020 season, after a single year in Super Formula, and a short 2 round stint at the end of the F2 season. Markelov continues with the team after driving in the final rounds of the 2019 F2 season, in what will be his 6th Full-season campaign in the Formula 2 Championship.

Markelov is a fast and consistent performer in F2, partly down to his experience in the category, with his experience allowing him to be effective in tyre management during races.

#17 Giuliano Alesi

Nationality: Russian
Year in Formula 2/GP2: 1st
F1 Team Affiliation: Ferrari – Ferrari Driver Academy
Prediction: P5 & Above, with a few race wins or podiums

A Make or Break Year

Schumacher is not the sole FDA driver who is finding himself in a make-or-break year. Giuliano Alesi is also another driver to watch. Last season, he was 15th overall, with 20 points, although in all fairness, he was driving for Trident. Alesi has moved to a new team for his sophomore Formula 2 season, and expectations are high.

In 2019, the opening rounds of the season saw Alesi struggle, with the Italian driver only scoring a single point in the Paul Ricard feature race prior to the summer break, alongside several retirements. Post-summer break, however, Alesi saw an uptick in form, with the Italian driver scoring in all races, bar the Sochi Feature Race.

Based on his past GP3 results, which showed some consistency but a lack of pace, Alesi is unlikely to be in contention for the title or second seat at Alfa Romeo. What Alesi is fighting for in 2020 is his future in Motorsport. With there being seemingly no route to Formula 1 for him, Alesi has to consider other options, and his performance in F2 this year will be vital for his future plans.

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