SEASON REVIEW: Top Ten FIA Formula 2 Drivers Of The 2018 Season

by Aaron Gillard
FIA Formula 2 Class - 2018

The 2018 FIA Formula 2 Season was a thrilling year for the series. A new generation car made its debut, drivers made their and along the journey, some amazing races took place.  Throughout the year drivers made their mark and a name for themselves in a bid to chase for the drivers’ championship. But there was only one winner in the end and that went to George Russell. The ART Grand Prix driver was the best out of the twenty-four drivers who entered the series throughout the year and earned himself a spot in the history books as he makes the step up to Formula 1 next year.

As we head into the off-season, The Checkered Flag counts down our Top Ten drivers from the 2018 season. We’ve selected the ten drivers who’ve made the best impression, results, surprises, consistency and performances throughout the 2018 season.

10TH: Jack Aitken (ART GRAND PRIX)
Championship Position: 10TH (63 Points)
Best Result: 1st (X1)
Podiums: 2

Jack Aitken - Portrait - F2

Credit: Zak Mauger/LAT Images

We start off our list with ART’s Jack Aitken. Stepping up from finishing second in the GP3 Series the year before, Aitken remained with the ART Grand Prix team by being promoted to their F2 team along with George Russell. Aitken’s year started off strongly with an impressive drive in the Azerbaijan Feature Race, where he stalled his car at the start of the race but recovered to finish in second place. In the Spain Sprint Race, he captured his first ever win in the series under mixed conditions. But the Brit went on a seven race non-scoring streak, whilst his team-mate Russell would make a big charge for the championship. Aitken did recover some points in Budapest, a weekend where he nearly clinched his first F2 pole. A fourth place would be his best result in the second half of the year, with further points were scored in Sochi and at the final round in Abu Dhabi.

Aitken had tough competition in the ART camp, competing with a driver who beat him to the GP3 title the year before. But the Anglo-Korean driver showed impressive signs early on in the year that he has some talent and performance for the series. After a stint where bad luck and failures left him with no points, Aitken managed to recover and get back to scoring. It will be interesting where he’ll go next year having tested with Charous Racing Systems and Campos Vexatec Racing in the post-test in Abu Dhabi, opening the door for some drives in 2019. Having shown some foundation on what he can do this year with a top team, I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a jump up the order come next year.

9TH: Tadasuke Makino (RUSSIAN TIME)
Championship Position: 13TH (48 Points)
Best Result: 1st (X1)
Podiums: 1

Tadasuke Makino - Portrait - F2

Credit: Joe Portlock / FIA Formula 2

Number nine on our list is filled by a driver in his rookie year in the series and made an unexpected surprise in one of the twenty four races in the year. Tadasuke Makino joined the Russian Time squad after a year in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship and was partnered with the experienced Artem Markelov. Makino’s start to his F2 life was rocky, but a breakthrough in the points in Baku helped him gain some consistency and rhythm into the series. He was involved in an incident with the halo in Spain, that ultimately saved his life when Nirei Fukuzumi‘s car launched over Makino’s Russian Time car, striking the cockpit area of the car. The Halo prevented from part of Fukuzumi’s car striking his head, potentially saving his life. He would occasionally break into the points in Feature Races during the midway stage of the season. But after the summer break and into the weekend around Monza, something unusual happened. Makino in fourteenth place, stormed his way through the field on the alternative strategy in the opening laps, taking the lead of the whole race before everyone made their stop. Makino’s rapid pace helped him clinch a surprising first win in F2, one of the highlights of the 2018 series. His victory pushed him up the championship rankings, where he ended the year down in thirteenth place.

Whilst Makino’s overall results throughout the year may seem mediocre at first, his win was one of the biggest surprises in the F2 series. Nobody saw it coming and nobody was expecting it, especially from that far back down the grid. He also led Russian Time’s only one-two of the year with Markelov following behind his Japanese team-mate. Makino ended the year ahead of fellow Japanese driver and friend Fukuzumi, who last year was among one of the title competitors in GP3. It’s a shame that next year he won’t return for second run as he’ll compete in Super Formula. The Honda-backed driver enjoyed a brief stint in F2 and will take that victory in Italy as a personal highlight to his young racing career.

Championship Position: 7TH (141 Points)
Best Result: 1st (X2)
Podiums: 6

Antonio Fuoco - Portrait - F2

Credit: Zak Mauger / FIA Formula 2

Antonio Fuoco had an impressive season with Charouz, clinching the teams’ first win in F2 around the streets of Monte-Carlo and taking the final win of the season. After a shaky first year in F2 with Prema, Fuoco was able to double his wins in his second season and ended the year seventh overall in the championship. After a disappointing start in Bahrain, the tables quickly turned when he found himself on the podium in the Baku Feature Race, finishing in third and grabbing the Czech teams’ first podium. It wasn’t long until he captured the teams’ first win and one-two with team-mate Louis Delétraz around Monaco, performing well under pressure with Lando Norris following behind him throughout the race. Three podium finishes at the Red Bull Ring, Silverstone and Hungaroring soon followed, pushing him up the championship order. He ended the year with a victory at the final race at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.

In Charouz’s first season in F2, Fuoco was their leading man and he did the job well. He was able to bring home multiple podium throughout the year for the team and helped push them up the teams’ standings during the mid-stage of the season. The team ended the year in sixth, only a few points shy away from Prema in fifth which is impressive in their first campaign. Fuoco’s future in F2 in unknown yet, as he has been given a role as a test driver with Dragon Racing in Formula E. It wouldn’t be surprising if he returns for a third year and make a push for a title in 2019.

Championship Position: 8th (111 Points)
Best Results: 3rd (X3)
Podiums: 4

Luca Ghiotto - Portfrait - F2

Credit: Zak Mauger / FIA Formula 2

Luca Ghiotto‘s 2018 season may have been a year where it lacked victories compare to 2017 and his debut year in 2016, but the year for the Italian he can reflect on with a high. After helping Russian Time win the Teams’ title in 2017, Ghiotto made the move to Campos, a team that in the previous season finished in ninth. Ghiotto didn’t lose much pace in the opening rounds of the series, but could only leave the opening four races with four points after some mixed resulted hindered his start of the year. A opening lap crash in the Azerbaijan Feature Race whilst at the front prevented him from clinching a potential podium. But the Italian did make a trip to the rostrum four times throughout the year, his best coming in Hungary when he lost the race win to Alexander Albon. Another potential race win came in the final round at Abu Dhabi when Ghiotto was on the alternative strategy and was pulling away from Russell in the lead. But the Italian made a mistake at the chicane, locking up and cutting the corner. The Stewards felt he gained an advantage and was handed a five-second penalty added in his eventual pit stop. He ended the race down in third. Ghiotto rounded off his third year in F2/GP3 eighth overall with 111 points.

Compare to 2017, Ghiotto’s 2018 campaign was less active and didn’t feature much trip to the podium. But his year was impressive as he was able to lead Campos into seventh place in the teams’ standings, whilst he had to deal with team-mates who struggled to find a points finish consistently in Roy Nissany and Roberto Merhi. Whilst Merhi did pick up points in the final few races with the Spanish team, Ghiotto was the main man and could have won races on two separate occasions. However, luck wasn’t on his side and he ended the year with no winners trophies to take him. He will be back for another season of F2 in 2019, as he joins UNI-Virtusoi Racing who takeover from Russian Time. This move should see the Italian make a charge for the title next year.

6TH: Artem Markelov (RUSSIAN TIME)
Championship Position: 5TH (186 Points)
Best Results: 1st (X3)
Podiums: 7

Artem Markelov - Portrait - F2

Credit: Zak Mauger / FIA Formula 2

Second place was Artem Markelov’s championship position in 2017, first place was the clear goal in 2018. Unfortunately for the Russian, the year was plagued with inconsistency and mixed results as he could only end the year down in fifth. In his fifth season, Markelov stuck with his Russian Time team for a crack at the F2 title. In the first round, Markelov managed to turn around a bad qualifying session, into a podium finish in the Feature Race after stalling on the grid. That podium finish set him up for a race win in the Sprint Race at Bahrain. A double retirement in Azerbaijan and a lack of points in Spain pushed him down the championship order as he struggled to adapt to the new F2 car. But a miracle win at Monaco fell on his lap when Albon and Nyck de Vries crashed out of the lead under the safety car. His last ever win of 2018 came at the Red Bull Ring in the Sprint Race, after he clawed his way through the field in the Feature Race where he passed three cars in one corner on the final lap. Markelov ended the year in fifth place, three places down from his 2017 championship result.

Markelov couldn’t find the consistency with the new F2 car to make a title push and was left fighting among the midfield for most of the season. In some races he would find himself up the front and fighting for podiums or wins, but it wasn’t as frequent as his 2017 title challenge. 2018 would be the Russian’s last chance at winning the series he has competed in since 2014, as he announced that he would move on to new adventures in 2019. Russian Time followed him as their F2 entry is taken over by UNI-Virtusoi Racing. F2 will miss the Russian next year as his overtakes, speed and race craft created some iconic moments in the series.

Championship Position: 4TH (202 Points)
Best Results: 1st (X3)
Podiums: 6

Nyck de Vries - Portrait - F2

Credit: Joe Portlock / FIA Formula 2

In his second season in F2, Nyck de Vries‘ move to Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing could have been the move that would see the Dutch driver challenge for the championship. But in his first year with a title winning team, de Vries was able bring home trophies as he ended the year in fourth. Consistent results and scoring points throughout the year helped him clinch fourth overall in the drivers’ championship, only ten points away from Albon in third. After scoring points in Bahrain, victories could have been on the cards for the Dutch driver in Baku. After a safety car restart, de Vries was too ambitious at Turn 1 and an attempt to pass Russell turned into a disaster, forcing the pair to take avoiding action and dropping them down the field. He came back the following day to finish second behind Russell in the Sprint Race. He lost out at a potential win in Monaco when he attempted to pit under the safety car, only for race leader Albon to crash into him. He finally got a win in 2018 when he clinched victory at Paul Ricard, but his most memorable one will be in the mixed conditions at Budapest. In an epic battle between himself and Norris, de Vries was faster in the dry conditions and managed to capatalise the extra confidence and speed to take win number two. He also claimed his third win at the following round in Belgium.

The Dutch driver ended the year down in fourth but a potential title charge could have happened if it wasn’t for some races where he finished outside of the points or suffered retirements. He was the main man for Prema as team-mate Sean Gelael didn’t deliver the same results as de Vries, leaving Prema down in fifth in the teams’ title. de Vries’ wins and podiums is a big jump to 2017 and in 2019, he’ll hope to make a strong push for the title. He joins ART for 2019, the same team he raced with during the 2016 GP3 Series.

4TH: Sérgio Sette Câmara (CARLIN MOTORSPORT)
Championship Position: 6th (164 Points)
Best Results: 2nd (X4)
Podiums: 8

Sergio Sette Camara - Portrait - F2

Credit: Zak Mauger / FIA Formula 2

Sérgio Sette Câmara‘s 2018 season with Carlin Motorsport had plenty of highs and a few lows over the year. Despite not winning any races, the Brazilian was one of the most consistent drivers on the grid and he ended the year in sixth, despite missing a round due to injury. A strong start to the year at Bahrain where he helped Carlin claim a one-two result in their first race in F2, with team-mate Norris taking the win in the Feature Race. Sette Câmara on the following day appeared on the rostrum again with third in the Sprint Race. Monaco proved to be his lowest point of the season when after a crash during qualifying, the Brazilian injured his wrist which put him out of the weekend. He returned at Paul Ricard and was close to claiming a win against Russell, but felt short at the end. After podium appearances at the Red Bull Ring, Hungaroring, Spa-Francorchamps and Sochi Autodrom, Sette Câmara rounded off the year sixth overall, with the best result of second place occurring four times.

Having missed a round, equivalent to two races, Sette Câmara did an impressive job to remain consistent throughout the season and contribute to Carlin’s team title championship. Whilst no wins came for the young Brazilian, he gained experience running at the front majority of the time which he hopes to use next year with DAMS. His speed and consistency even got the attention of the McLaren F1 Team, who picked him up as their development and simulator driver.

3rd: Lando Norris (CARLIN MOTORSPORT)
Championship Position: 2nd (219 Points)
Best Results: 1st (X1)
Podiums: 9

Lando Norris - Portrait - F2

Credit: Zak Mauger / FIA Formula 2

Near everyone had money on that Lando Norris was one of the favourites to win the championship in 2018 in his first full-season. He has won a championship every year since 2015 and is coming off a successful season in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship. At the first race in Bahrain, Norris executed a perfect race by winning from pole position and setting the fastest lap ahead of Carlin team-mate Sette Câmara. His Sprint Race performance was compromised when a mechanical gremlin hindered his performance for a brief moment, dropping him down the field. He recovered to end the race in fourth. He started that weekend as the championship leader and remained that way until in Austria, where he lost it to Russell. Norris kept collecting podium finishes and high point scoring positions, but couldn’t get back on the winners step again throughout the whole year. A double DNF ended his title hopes in Russia, but a strong final weekend in F2 at Abu Dhabi ensured he finished second in the championship.

Norris’ sole F2 season was successful but lacked a consistency of winning. A single win throughout the year and multiple issues hindered his chance of leaving F2 as a champion. His performances and drives were great as he made bold overtakes at Silverstone and Paul Ricard, but he also made a few mistakes. Monaco was a messy weekend where he crashed during qualifying, losing a chance to compete at the front. It soon followed by a clash with Ralph Boschung which sent him into the barrier, but Norris was able to recover that whole weekend by finishing in third in the Sprint Race. He helped Carlin contribute to their first teams’ title in their return to F2 and showed why he’s worth the hype, but a single win will be disappointing for the Brit. He will head to Formula 1 next year with McLaren as he hopes to bring the British team back to the top.

2nd: Alexander Albon (DAMS)
Championship Position: 3rd (212 Points)
Best Results: 1st (X4)
Podiums: 8

Alexander Albon - Portrait - F2

Credit: Zak Mauger / FIA Formula 2

At the beginning of the season, it was unknown whether Alexander Albon could do a full season having only agreeing a race-by-race contract with DAMS. By Abu Dhabi, Albon was in a shot for the title. Compared to last year in his first season in F2, Albon had pace early in the season but struggled in the final rounds, ending the season in tenth. After a mediocre start in Bahrain, Albon started to show his talent in Baku where he clinched pole and the race win. He continued his good form with pole positions at Spain and Monaco, but couldn’t transform them into wins. He led the Monaco Feature Race until he crashed into de Vries whilst behind the safety car as he attempted to pit in. A strong second half of the season saw him take victory on home soil at Silverstone and Budapest, putting him as a championship contender. A win and a podium at the penultimate round at Sochi saw him jump up to second place and a chance to become champion in Abu Dhabi against his friend Russell. However, Albon struggled and ended the year in third in the championship.

Probably the surprise of the season was the rise and competitiveness of Albon. Going from a lack of funding for a full season to compete for the title is a big turnaround and a massive improvement from where he was last year. Albon showed pace and promise throughout the season, cementing himself as a dark horse in the title run and was the last driver standing to battle with Russell for the title. His performances attracted the attention of DAMS’ FIA Formula E team as he initially signed with them, but a big offer from Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda to race in F1 emerged, and Albon took that opportunity, cancelling his Formula E contract to race in F1. It’ll be exciting to see how he will fair in F1 next year.

1st: George Russell (ART GRAND PRIX)
Championship Position: 1st (287 Points)
Best Results: 1st (X7)
Podiums: 11

George Russell - Portrait - F2

Credit: Zak Mauger / FIA Formula 2

Number 1 on our list is the champion himself. George Russell. The British driver arrived into the series as the GP3 Series Champion and was looking to follow Charles Leclerc‘s footsteps in winning GP3 and F2 in his rookie seasons, eventually making the step into Formula 1. He did just that. He scored in his first race of the series with fifth place, opening his account in F2. He lost out on a potential race win in the Baku Feature Race when de Vries attempted to pass him, forcing the pair off the track. But the next day Russell was able to fight back the next day in the Sprint Race to grab his first ever win. That victory set him off on his title hunt as wins in Spain, France and Austria came as he cemented his title charge. Rough weekends in Monaco and Hungary held him back in terms of points but he still produce solid performances in the latter stages of the season as he looked to lead the race for the title. He won at least one race in the final three rounds to win the drivers’ title in Abu Dhabi ahead of Norris and Albon.

Russell was the man to beat for most of the season and always produced solid drives in nearly every round to keep himself within the championship picture. Aside from his bad weekend in Monaco and Hungary where he scored no points and his debut weekend in Bahrain, Russell at least made an podium appearance in every round, scoring 11 podiums all season. His consistency, ability to race and pace attracted the attention of Williams Martini Racing to sign him up for the 2019 Formula 1 Season. He joins Leclerc in winning GP3 and F2 back-to-back, placing himself in the history books in the series. He’ll be a driver to watch next year in Formula 1 alongside his F2 colleagues in Norris and Albon

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