PREVIEW: 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship – Red Bull Ring

by Aaron Gillard
MP - Austria - F2 2018

Round 6 of the 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship takes us to the Styrian mountains in Spielberg, Austria, where the Red Bull Ring will host the second race in two consecutive weekends. The F2 teams and drivers will tackle the fast flowing circuit that consists of only nine corners, but fast straights and multiple elevation changes. With the championship now having a new leading in the drivers’ standings, competition is heating up as we start the summer stage of the season. Here is what to expect from this weekend in Austria.

WHAT HAPPENED LAST TIME OUT IN FRANCE?

The Feature race saw Sergio Sette Câmara claim pole position but in the race towards Turn 1, it was ART Grand Prix‘s Nyck de Vries in fourth place who jumped into the lead, passing Jack Aitken, Guanyu Zhou and Sette Câmara to claim the lead of the race. The two Prema cars collided with each other, taking both out of the race whilst various number of drivers dropped out of the race, leaving twelve cars on track. de Vries controlled the race from the front and took victory ahead of Sette Câmara and Aitken. The Dutch driver’s win puts him in the lead of the championship ahead of previous leader Nicholas Latifi.

In the Sprint race, it was an emotional home victory for Arden‘s Anthoine Hubert, who converted reverse grid pole to the win in front of the French supports. Hubert suffered no trouble or opponents in the race as he stormed away into the lead. Hubert rounded off his second win in F2 with an all-rookie podium as Sauber Junior Team‘s Juan Manuel Correa and UNI-Virtuosi Racing‘s Zhou joined him on the podium.

You can read the reports from the last round here: Feature | Sprint

ART Grand Prix’s Nyck de Vries arrives into Austria with the championship lead. Credit: Joe Portlock/LAT Images/FIA Formula 2

WHAT HAPPENED AT LAST YEAR’S ROUND IN AUSTRIA?

Last year’s races saw the series revert to a rolling start procedure after complains were made with the new F2 car regarding its clutch and saw numerous drivers stall on the grid. Last year saw ART’s George Russell dominate from pole to the win ahead of Carlin‘s Lando Norris and Charouz Racing System‘s Antonio Fuoco. On the final lap of the Feature race, Artem Markelov had a lap for the ages, passing three cars into one corner and then passing one final driver to claim reverse grid pole.

In the Sprint race, Markelov controlled the race from the front and took his last F2 victory to take with the Russian Time team. Russell, who started the race in eighth stormed his way through the field to get back into second place within the opening laps, increasing his championship lead whilst Norris struggled with mechanical issues. Norris’ team-mate, Sergio Sette Câmara rounded off the last podium spot of the weekend.

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

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR THIS WEEKEND?

The F2 series heads into Austria with a new championship leader in Nyck de Vries. The former McLaren junior driver captured his third win in three successful rounds, overtaking DAMS‘ Nicholas Latifi in the Feature race at France. Latifi had a somewhat challenging Feature race with a fifth place result, but recovered some points after de Vries finished outside of the top eight. Both drivers will be hoping to leave the Red Bull Ring with a victory as the series reaches the half way stage. Both drivers’ share three wins each, but the Canadian driver in the DAMS hasn’t won a race or been onto the podium since his win in Spain during the Feature race. de Vries and Latifi look to certain be title contenders and both will want to start their second half of the year with positive points and trophies.

Round six will welcome two drivers onto the grid. Arjun Maini returns to the series as a replacement for Campos Racing‘s Dorian Boccolacci. Boccolacci’s time with Campos ends after his five-race contract expired and failed to negoiate a new deal with the Spanish squad. With the Frenchman now on the sidelines, Maini will take his first F2 race since the last round of the 2018 championship in Abu Dhabi, where it ended in the Feature race as the Indian crashed into the back of the stalled Latifi. MP Motorsport will welcome IndyCar and Red Bull Junior driver Patricio O’Ward for one race as a substitute driver for the now race banned Mahaveer Raghunathan. This will be O’Ward’s first time racing in F2, nor racing in Europe. But the Mexican will have an easy track to learn as the Red Bull Ring’s short corners list will make life easier in getting settled within the F2 car. Practice will be vital for both drivers to get to grips with the car and use to the F2 procedures again, but no doubt both drivers will be pushing to deliver the best result for their teams.

France was a weekend to forget for Prema as both drivers’ weekend ended in tears and with no points. Mick Schumacher‘s race ended when Sean Gelael lost control of his car and collided with his team-mate, putting both drivers out of the race. It caused Schumacher to fall down the grid for the Sprint race, after performing well in Qualifying with eighth place. But both retirements to the German leaves him now six races without scoring a point, and puts him in fifteenth place. The rookie who won the 2018 FIA European Formula 3 championship has had a shaky start to live in F2 and will need to change this in order to keep Prema and the Ferrari Drivers’ Academy happy. The son of the seven-time Formula 1 world champion has a lot of expectations and pressure under his shoulders, destined to reach F1, but the German heads to a track where last year, he finished in the top two in all races, so there is a glimpse of hope the German can end his streak of no points and get his season back on track.

It is now four consecutive races since Virtuosi’s Luca Ghiotto has last scored points in F2, which has hindered his championship aspirations from the beginning of the season. The Italian started the year strong with victory in Bahrain during the Sprint race and podium appearances in both races in Spain, but since then he has been disqualified from his second place at Monaco, which started a run of no points in all races. His title aspirations are starting to slip as he falls down to sixth place in the drivers’ standing, overtaken by his rookie team-mate Zhou and 54 points away from leader de Vries. He is also two points ahead of Hubert, who has won two in the last four races. Ghiotto will hope the Styrian mountains will be the location he can put his season back on course and going into the second half of the year, mount a late title charge.

Rookie team-mate Guanyu Zhou has now surpassed F2 veteran Luca Ghiotto in the drivers’ table. Credit: Joe Portlock/LAT Images/FIA Formula 2

WHAT IS THE SCHEDULE THIS WEEKEND?

FRIDAY 28TH JUNE

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

SATURDAY 29TH JUNE

Feature Race: 3:45PM (UK Time)/4:45PM (Austria Time)

SUNDAY 30TH JUNE

Sprint Race: 10:00AM (UK Time)/11:00AM (Austria 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.

Who will be the victors in the Styrian mountains in F2 this year? Credit: Joe Portlock/LAT Images/FIA Formula 2

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