PREVIEW: 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship – Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya

by Aaron Gillard
Ilott - Barcelona - F2

Round 3 of the 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship takes us to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for the first European round of the season. The series returns to Barcelona, one of two locations from this year’s pre-season testing after the opening two rounds in Azerbaijan and Bahrain. Spain has shown its fair share of dramatic races and after a chaotic round in Baku, the series will be hoping for more breathtaking racing. Here’s what to expect this weekend in Barcelona:

WHAT HAPPENED LAST TIME OUT IN AZERBAIJAN?

Both Feature and Sprint races in the Azerbaijan capital produced its fair share of drama, incidents and chaos. The first race of the weekend fell to Campos Racing‘s Jack Aitken, who claim the win after starting from eighth place on the grid. The Anglo-Korean driver improved on from last year’s second place to get his Spanish team their first win the series. Nyck de Vries led for majority before Aitken passed the ART Grand Prix driver. MP Motorsport‘s Jordan King managed to grab third place, after overtaking Nicholas Latifi with less than three minutes of racing remaining. The race was filled with incidents with both Trident drivers crashing into each other at Turn 1, Mick Schumacher spinning and two separate safety car restart incidents involving Luca Ghiotto, Sérgio Sette Câmara and Louis Delétraz.

In the Sprint race, Latifi secured the win despite multiple safety car restarts eating away his gap at the front. The Canadian driver jumped to the front of the pack and avoided the opening lap incidents towards his second win of the season. Sauber Junior Team and rookie driver Juan Manuel Correa claimed his first ever podium in F2, rounding off a strong weekend. Aitken continued his strong performance and captured the final podium position with third place. The race was once again filled with accidents, particularly down at Turn 2. Delétraz and Ralph Boschung were all caught up in an accident with Tatiana Calderón on the opening lap, sending all three cars out of the race. A second incident occurred at the corner after the second safety car restart, when Ghiotto crashed into the wall at Turn 2 and collected Nikita Mazepin and King.

You can read the reports from the races here: Feature | Sprint

Baku - Feature Race Podium - 2019

Credit: Joe Portlock/LAT Images/FIA Formula 2

WHAT HAPPENED AT LAST YEAR’S ROUND IN BARCELONA?

In the Feature race last year, George Russell claimed the win in a brilliant-executed race, which saw the ART driver jump ahead of de Vries following the first Virtual Safety Car. The Brit pulled clear away after a late attack by the then Prema Racing driver. Carlin‘s Lando Norris rounded off the podium places with third place.

The Sprint race proved to be a thrilling episode as mixed conditions threw the race on its feet. But in the end, it was Jack Aitken who kept his car on track after three VSCs and one Safety Car came out to take his first ever win in the series. Alexander Albon in the DAMS claimed second place ahead of Norris. Japanese drivers Tadasuke Makino and Nirei Fukuzumi made contact with each other, with Fukuzumi being sent up on the side of Makino’s Russian Time. The damage saw that the car scrapped alongside the side of the halo on Makino’s car, potentially saving his life.

You can read last year’s race reports here: Feature | Sprint

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR THIS WEEKEND?

Jack Aitken arrives into the weekend a man on form. The Anglo-Korean driver performed superbly around the streets of Baku, where he claimed first and third in both races. He heads into Barcelona with a lot of momentum and potential for a good result, as he returns to a track where he claimed his first ever F2 win. Aitken won the Sprint race last year by performing well in mixed conditions and rounded-off a ART Grand Prix lock out, with team-mate George Russell winning the Feature race the day before. If Aitken can replicate the performance from last year and from Baku, he will no doubt be considered to be a possible title contender. Aitken’s Campos team will also be racing on homesoil and hope to get a decent result with both Aitken and Dorian Boccolacci.

DAMS’ Nicholas Latifi arrives into Barcelona with a healthy points advantage at the top of the championship. After winning two of the last four races, the Canadian driver is hoping to continue the consistency and pace that has led him to surpassing title rival Ghiotto in Baku. Barcelona has been a track where Latifi has performed well in the past, claiming two podiums finishes in 2016 and 2017. In the 2017 Sprint race, Latifi led majority of the race before going off track at Turn 5, throwing away the race win. He finished second that race, but lost a potential win and giving the victory to Nobuharu Matsushita as a result. This year he’ll be hoping for a better result than his 14th and eighth place last year.

Luca Ghiotto lost the championship lead in Azerbaijan and now, the chase is on to re-claim first place back. The Italian driver was on course for a promising result in the Feature race, until a crash with Sette Câmara in the safety car restart saw him get a time penalty, demoting him to ninth place and handing the lead to Latifi. The Sprint race fared no better as a crash whilst battling for a podium finish closed off a disappointing weekend for the UNI-Virtuosi Racing driver. Now heading into Barcelona, Ghiotto will be hoping to bounce back and heads to good hunting ground, having finished second here in the 2017 Feature race.

Latifi - DAMS - Baku PC

Nicholas Latifi arrives into Barcelona with two wins out of four races. Credit: Joe Portlock/LAT Images/FIA Formula 2

Baku presented a mixed weekend for Prema’s Mick Schumacher, who saw his first DNF of the season. But a remarkable comeback drive in the Sprint race saw him start from nineteenth place and ended in fifth. The German lies ninth overall in the championship, lacking two points behind eighth place driver Delétraz, but Schumacher has impressed in his opening two rounds in F2 with his pace and maturity in the series. The twenty year old will have to continue these performances and hope podiums and maybe a possible race win comes soon if he wants to jump up the championship order. But for Schumacher, so far so good.

Last year in the GP3 Series saw Nikita Mazepin and Giuliano Alesi claim victories around the Barcelona circuit. Now, the two rookies will tackle the circuit once again, hoping to kick start their season after a disappointing opening two rounds. Mazepin landed an eighth place in the Feature race in Baku and started the Sprint race on pole position, but the ART driver wasn’t able to turn that into victory, retiring on Lap 12 after being collected in an accident with Luca Ghiotto. Alesi however, has struggled to perform in the series, finishing only in one out of the four races. The Italian crashed in both races in Baku, colliding with his Trident team-mate and hitting the wall rounded off a frustrating weekend. Both drivers will hope the Barcelona circuit, where they took victory around last year will be the location they can get their season going. Mazepin took the Feature race win and has recently started to show pace, so a positive result maybe on the horizon for the Russian driver. As for Alesi, the transition from GP3 to F2 has been a challenge for the Italian driver, but the weekend in Spain could be the round that things start to turn around, and potentially land Trident’s first points of the season.

Carlin have suffered a mixed start to their season as they defend the teams’ title in their second year of F2. The British team lie sixth overall, falling down the order after both Delétraz and Matsushita scored no points. The Japanese driver of Matsushita clinched pole position in Baku, but a mechanical failure during the Feature race dropped him out of points contention. Delétraz retired from colliding with the rear of Boccolacci during the safety car restart. Both drivers will be hoping to bounce back and capture points in their defense for the teams’ title. Matsushita won the Sprint race in 2017, back when he was racing with ART and will hope he can repeat his efforts again and claim his first win since returning to F2.

Carlin - F2 - Baku

Carlin captured pole in Baku, but left the second round with zero points from both drivers. Credit: Joe Portlock/LAT Images/FIA Formula 2

WHAT IS THE SCHEDULE THIS WEEKEND?

FRIDAY 10TH MAY

Practice: 12:00PM (UK Time)/1:00PM (Spain Time)
Qualifying: 3:55PM (UK Time)/4:55PM (Spain Time)

SATURDAY 11TH MAY

Feature Race: 3:40PM (UK Time)/4:40PM (Spain Time)

SUNDAY 12TH MAY

Sprint Race: 10:30AM (UK Time)/11:30AM (Spain Time)

WHERE CAN I WATCH FIA FORMULA 2 THIS WEEKEND?

You can watch the session lives from the FIA Formula 2 championship on Sky Sports F1 throughout the weekend in the UK and Ireland. Re-runs of the races will be shown over the week.

HOW CAN I KEEP UP WITH ALL OF THE NEWS OVER THE WEEKEND?

The Checkered Flag will provide the latest news and updates from 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship this weekend and throughout the season.

Campos - Aitken - Test Barcelona

Can Jack Aitken continue his Baku momentum and win in Barcelona for a second year in a row? Credit: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Images/FIA Formula 2

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