Top 5 Drivers across the Weekend
1. Guanyu Zhou
Guanyu Zhou, the inaugural recipient of the Anthoine Hubert Award in the previous year, came into 2020 with a challenge. To prove his doubters wrong. Last year, the Chinese driver had performed a successful career turnaround, enjoying much success with the UNI-Virtuosi team, which was a stark contrast to the dismal form he had displayed in the preceding years. In Austria, Zhou was on the pace right from the get-go, placing 4th in Practice, before storming to Pole with a gap of 4 tenths to the next driver.
The feature race, however, undid all the good work he had put in thus far. Zhou had led the opening stages of the feature race, and continued to do so after his mandatory pitstop was completed. When Zhou was leading the race, he suddenly experienced issues, losing power, but making it back to the pits, plummeting down the order. He eventually finished 17th, while setting the fastest lap of the race. The Sprint Race saw Zhou score no points once more, finishing in 14th place. Zhou may have walked away from the weekend with just 4 points, and he was certainly in the frame for more, clearly outpacing his teammate Ilott, but he can take pride in his overall performance across the weekend.
2. Felipe Drugovich
Drugovich came into Formula 2 looking set to be the underdog of the season. His racing career had a somewhat decent list of achievements, with 2017-18 MRF Challenge Formula 2000, Euroformula Open Championship and Spanish Formula 3 Championship titles. However, he came to F2 after a 2019 campaign that had been nothing short of a disaster, with the MP Motorsport squad, a team that has seen little success in the category over the years.
Drugovich was on the pace right from the start of the weekend, coming in 6th in Practice, and sensationally qualifying on the front row of the grid. On Saturday, he fell back during the Feature Race, but finished in 8th, granting him pole for the Sprint Race. Drugovich dominated the sprint race, surviving 3 safety car restarts and setting the fastest lap en-route to victory. Drugovich outpaced his teammate, the vastly experienced Nobuharu Matsushita, over the weekend and could be one driver to watch closely this year.
3. Callum Ilott
Callum Ilott came into the 2020 Formula 2 Championship with a goal. To secure that Alfa Romeo seat. Last year, Ilott had emerged as the top FDA driver in the Championship, beating out the highly-rated Schumacher in the mid-tier Charouz team. 2020 saw him moved to the front-running UNI-Virtuosi squad to partner ex-FDA driver Zhou, who had previously been teammates with him in Formula 3.
Unlike Zhou, Ilott had a relatively slower start to the weekend, finishing 14th in practice, but he rose to the occasion in later sessions, coming 3rd in Qualifying. Saturday saw Ilott rise to the occasion, profiting from Zhou’s misfortune to take the victory, leading home an FDA 1-2-3. However, Ilott failed to score points in the Sprint race, after a late mistake saw him concede 8th to Jack Aitken. Overall, it was a solid weekend for Ilott, but he needs to work on his pace if he is to seal both the title, and his claim to the Alfa Romeo seat.
4. Marcus Armstrong
Marcus Armstrong was another stand-out for the weekend. Of the 5 FDA drivers, Armstrong was the only one coming up against a rookie teammate, in the form of Christian Lundgaard. Armstrong had a solid start to the weekend, coming in 3rd in practice.
However, he had a dismal qualifying session, coming in 13th, but he fought back during the Feature Race, coming in 2nd. Armstrong was unable to build upon the momentum on Sunday however, retiring the car with a gearbox issue, just shy of the halfway mark. Had Armstrong not encountered the gearbox issue, it is likely that he would have scored more points in the weekend, establishing himself as a title contender early on.
5. Robert Shwartzman
Shwartzman’s Formula 2 debut could be described in a single word. Solid. Despite a lack of experience in the category, Shwartzman demonstrated that he is on the level of his Prema teammate and fellow FDA driver Mick Schumacher. He outpaced Schumacher in Practice, and was later out-qualified by him, but emerged with a bigger share of points following both races. Shwartzman barely made a mistake throughout the weekend, and profited from the misfortune of Zhou, alongside his teammate’s mistake to net a podium on his debut.
Should Schwartzman carry his form throughout the season, he could become a credible threat to Schumacher’s title and F1 ambitions…