This weekend, Formula 2 returns, after a break of nearly 2 months. The Bahrain GP weekend marks the final 2 weekends where Formula 2 will run a Feature & Sprint race. The Championship had announced that it would switch to running a 3 race weekend from 2021, as part of cost-cutting measures, which would see 8 race weekends instead of 12 race weekends.
Last time out in Russia, Mick Schumacher scored victory on Saturday’s Feature Race, , while Sunday saw Guan Yu Zhou won the shortened Sprint Race. The Sprint Race victory was the Chinese driver’s first Formula 2 race win.
This weekend, we find ourselves at the Bahrain International Circuit, located in Sakhir, Bahrain. For the Formula 2 Feature Race, Callum Ilott starts from pole, while his championship rival and points leader, Mick Schumacher started from 10th on the grid.
At the end of the race, Felipe Drugovich took the flag, while pole sitter Ilott finished 2nd, and championship leader Schumacher finished 4th.
For the Sprint Race, Robert Shwartzman starts from pole.
The Circuit – Bahrain International Circuit
This weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix will be held on the Grand Prix Circuit of the Bahrain International Circuit. The track, also set to host next week’s Sakhir Grand Prix, on the Outer Circuit, is a permanent race track in the Sakhir desert, located in outskirts of the Bahraini capital, Manama. Construction on the track began in 2002, with the track being fully complete in 2004.
The track features 6 configurations, alongside a Drag Strip (Dark Grey) . The layouts are as follows:
Track maps by Serkan Demirbaş / CC BY-SA 3.0
Aside from the Test Oval & Drag Strip, all configurations meet the FIA Grade 1 standard. The Test Oval & Drag Strip are unrated. As of time of writing, Formula One has used mostly used the Grand Prix Circuit for the Bahrain Grand Prix, bar the 2010 edition, which used the longer Endurance Circuit.
The 5.412km long Grand Prix Circuit features a mix of long straights, alongside a diverse variety of corners, ranging from high-speed to slow corners, and the resultant heavy braking zones. The circuit features 3 DRS zones, located on the pit straight, the straight between Turns 3 & 4, alongside the straight between turns 10 & 11. The 3 DRS detection points are placed 50 metres before Turn 1, 10 metres before Turn 9 and 110 metres before Turn 14.
This means that the circuit remains relatively unchanged, with the sole change being the DRS detection point ahead of Turn 14 being moved back by 2 metres.
Pedro de la Rosa holds the official lap record, a 1:31.447 set in the 2005 Bahrain Grand Prix in the McLaren MP4-20. Charles Leclerc holds the absolute lap record with a 1:27.866 set in Qualifying for the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, in the Ferrari SF90. The Formula 2 Lap Record is held by Charles Leclerc, who set a 1:38.907 in 2017.
Formula 2 Sprint Race – Things to look out for:
Following a disasterous qualifying, Mick Schumacher rebounded to finish 4th for the Feature Race. The German driver had a terrific start, jumping from 10th on the grid to 5th in the opening lap.
While Schumacher was unable to ultimately reach the podium, he can perhaps take consolation in the fact that Ilott failed to win the race, having lost the lead to Drugovich at turn 2 on the opening lap. Had Ilott won, all that separated both drivers would have been a 5 point gap. Despite this, Schumacher still saw his points lead to Ilott cut from 18 to 12 points.
Ilott’s second placed finish will also mean that he will be starting from 7th, behind Schumacher in 5th. With Schumacher’s trademark starts, Ilott could potentially find himself lagging behind Schumacher in the opening stages of the race, especially if he is caught in traffic on the opening lap.
Behind the duo in the driver standings is Yuki Tsunoda, who will also be a driver to watch. The Honda protege had looked set to take P2 in qualifying on Friday, until he spun and stalled the car on his hotlap. As a result, Tsunoda started the Feature Race dead last, in 22nd. Despite this, the Japanese driver carved his way through the field to finish 6th at the end of the race. The Japanese driver trails Schumacher by a 46 point gap, but he could well be a factor in the Sprint Race, given the strong pace he showed in the Feature Race.
Renault Academy Drivers
Both Renault Academy Drivers Guan Yu Zhou & Christian Lundgaard had a Feature Race to forget. On Friday, both drivers had performed decently. In Free Practice, they were 8th & 5th, in Qualifying they were 5th & 9th. When the Feature Race rolled around however, things changed dramatically.
On Lap 1, Schumacher tagged Zhou, forcing the Virtuosi driver to dive into the pits on Lap 3 after dropping back from the damage on his front wing. This early pitstop did not count as a mandatory pitstop; the mandatory pitstop can only be fulfilled after Lap 6. This compromised Zhou’s strategy, resulting in him being the sole driver to pit twice. At the end of the race, Zhou finished down in 14th.
For Lundgaard, things were even worse. The Dane slid back from 9th on the grid, to 19th at the chequered flag. Lundgaard later stated that there had been an issue on the car, in an Instagram post.
With both drivers set to start the race in the bottom half of the field, there will be a long battle once the lights go off, to claw their way up.