The 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship saw its fair share of highs and lows moments over the season. New teams and drivers took the winners’ spot of the course of the season, as well as plenty of outstanding performances from individuals. Whilst the series saw some of its greats, there was also sadness and unity, as the series remembers those who are sadly not with us here today.
The year ended with Dutch driver Nyck de Vries taking the title in his third year in the series with ART Grand Prix, winning the series out of the twenty-seven drivers who had entered the championship. DAMS took the teams’ title in an intense battle with rookies UNI-Virtuosi Racing running until the final round. As the series heads off into the off-season, The Checkered Flag picks out the top ten drivers from this year’s class. We’ve selected these drivers based on their results, performances, consistency, speed, and impression over the course of the year.
10: Callum Ilott (SAUBER JUNIOR TEAM BY CHAROUZ)
Championship Position: 11th (74 Points)
Best Results: 3rd (X2)
We start off our list with the British and Ferrari Driver Academy driver who made his debut season in Formula 2 with Sauber Junior Team by Charouz. Callum Ilott finished third overall in the 2018 GP3 Series, and progressing up the ladder into F2, partnering with a Sauber team who took victories in 2018. Ilott’s start to life in F2 was rocky, crashing heavily at the opening round in Bahrain and scoring no points in the first two rounds. But Ilott’s season changed when he landed his first podium in the Barcelona sprint race and then second place in Monaco Qualifying, only to suffer a mechanical failure before the race. The Brit displayed a show of promise, with outstanding performances at Silverstone and capturing an emotional first pole position at Monza. He ended the season with another podium in Sochi, Russia and finishing the season 11th overall with 74 points.
Ilott’s first full-season at F2 has been a roller-coaster ride, with expectations heavily on him to deliver for both Ferrari and the future of British Motorsport. But the pressure soon eased away when he started to deliver results past the Barcelona round. Ilott found a level of confidence behind the car and delivered points finishes alongside team-mate Juan Manuel Correa. He had a shot of winning the sprint race at Monza, only for a brake failure to occur on the final lap of the race. Ilott’s first year also has been emotionally challenging, with both team-mate Correa and former GP3 partner Anthoine Hubert both involved in the high-speed accident at Spa-Francorchamps. Ilott will return in F2 next year, hoping to fight at the front with the help of UNI-Virtuosi Racing.
HIGHLIGHT: Emotional First Pole At Monza – Days after Spa Tragedy
Days after the tragic events that occurred at Spa, F2 returned racing around Monza. It was an emotional weekend for all with 17 cars just competing for the whole weekend. Ilott was the sole Sauber car running as Correa’s car was heavily damaged in the accident. On Friday in mixed conditions, Ilott managed to deliver the perfect lap at the right time, just before the conditions worsened around the Italian circuit. Nobody could find the grip throughout the session and left Ilott to clinch his first pole position in F2. An emotional moment for the Brit, dedicating to his pole to Correa and Hubert.
9: Jordan King (MP MOTORSPORT)
Championship Position: 9th (79 Points)
Best Results: 2nd (X1)
Jordan King took a year out of F2 in 2018 to race in the United States in IndyCar. But in 2019, he made a surprising return to the series with MP Motorsport, acting as the senior driver of the team compare to rookie team-mate Mahaveer Raghunathan. With little testing done, King started off the season well with a point in Bahrain, before delivering a brilliant drive in Azerbaijan to bring home a podium finish, beating then championship leader Nicholas Latifi. King would miss the Monaco round due to his commitments to the Indy500, but returned in France to continue scoring points for the Dutch team. Despite finishing in the top ten in his first year back, he ended the year disappointingly with no points in the final two rounds but clinched second place in the sprint race at Monza.
King’s return to F2 was surprising as the Brit looked like he had moved on F1’s support series. But King showcased performances from his old self in his GP2 days, delivering points finishes and podiums to an MP squad that was mainly making headlines due to Raghunathan’s troubles with the race stewards. Whilst acting as the veteran within the team, it was no surprise that King would score the majority of MP’s points, clinching 82.2% of the team’s points. It is unclear what King will do next year, having not appeared in the post-season F2 test in Abu Dhabi.
HIGHLIGHT: Returning To The Formula 2 Podium In Azerbaijan
In only his second round back into F2, it was clear that King would have to lead MP Motorsport throughout the season whilst team-mate Raghunathan tried to get up to speed. In the feature race at Baku, King impressed in qualifying with fifth place and kept out of trouble throughout the race. With incidents and a safety car accident occurring, King kept his cool and with minutes of the race left, he made his way passed Latifi to clinch third place, earning his first podium in the series since it was named GP2 back in 2016.
8: Nobuharu Matsushita (CARLIN)
Championship Position: 6th (144 Points)
Best Results: 1st (X2)
Honda often run drivers within F2 to find the next Japanese driver to join the grid in Formula 1. In 2018, both Tadasuke Makino and Nirei Fukuzumi competed in F2, but ultimately were sent to Super Formula, paving the way for the return of Nobuharu Matsushita with Carlin. Matsushita’s return started off slowly as the British team fought an uphill start to the season. The Japanese driver managed to clinch pole in Azerbaijan, but couldn’t deliver in the two races. He made his first podium back in F2 with a second-place in Monaco, before delivering two brilliant feature race wins in Austria and Italy, all thanks to Matsushita’s management of the Pirelli tyres. He ended the year with one final podium in Abu Dhabi, close to clinching a third win. Matsushita finished the season sixth overall, his best season in F2/GP2.
Matsushita’s return to F2 was a second chance to showcase himself to Honda and to the rest of the world that he is capable of racing competitively in Europe and around the world, after his shaky first stint in GP2/F2. His experience and use of the Pirelli tyres played into his hands in races, resulting in him picking up a big amount of points for the Farnham-based team. Matsushita’s end to the season saw him surpass rookie Guanyu Zhou in the drivers’ standings, ending the year on a high. It’s likely to be Matsushita’s final year in F2 having tested in Super Formula’s during the Abu Dhabi test. He developed as one of the most likeable drivers in F2, forming a loving partnership with Carlin team-mate Louis Delétraz.
HIGHLIGHT: Delivering Carlin’s First Win in 2019 At Red Bull Ring
Carlin faced a tough start to the year with both Delétraz and Matsushita. But in Austria, their fortunes turned around when the Japanese driver got ahead of his rivals at the start of the race and after the pit stop phase, looked after his tyres better than anyone. He was able to catch race leader de Vries with laps to spare and in the end, delivered Carlin’s first win in F2 since Lando Norris‘ season opener win in 2018. It would also be Matsushita’s first win in F2 since Hungary 2017.
7: Guanyu Zhou (UNI-VIRTUOSI RACING)
Championship Position: 7th (140 Points)
Best Results: 3rd (X5)
Guanyu Zhou entered the season as one of seven rookies in the field, looking to stand out from the crowd with a seat at UNI-Virtuosi Racing, formally known as Russian Time. Zhou impressed in pre-season testing and took that momentum into the season, delivering a strong debut weekend by scoring in both races – including a flawless drive from tenth to fourth in the sprint race. Zhou’s breakthrough result came in Barcelona when he clinched the lead of the race at the start. Zhou held the lead until Latifi passed him, but the Chinese driver clinched third and his first podium in F2. Further third-place finishes came in Monaco and France before he clinched his first pole at Silverstone. Zhou would finish on the podium two more times at Silverstone and in Abu Dhabi, rounding off his brilliant rookie season seventh overall in the drivers’ table.
A lot of pressure was on Zhou’s shoulders throughout the whole season after a fairly average FIA Formula 3 European Championship campaign in 2018, which saw him be dropped by Ferrari and picked up by Renault to join their academy. But Zhou showcased brilliant results throughout the season that helped Virtuosi’s points tally and their fight against DAMS in the teams’ standings. Zhou’s podium finishes have all been third places, which going into 2020, will want to turn those into second places or wins. Zhou is expected to remain with Virtuosi for a second year, partnering alongside Callum Ilott.
HIGHLIGHT: Clinching First-Ever Pole Position At Silverstone
Silverstone would be a high point for Zhou as going into qualifying, the Chinese driver was one of the quickest drivers in the field, aside from Latifi and team-mate Luca Ghiotto. During qualifying, Zhou managed to place his hot lap in the first and displayed his true pace compare to team-mate Ghiotto. With minutes left of the session, Zhou managed to find more time and clinched pole position. Ghiotto had a chance in his final run, but was slow in the opening sector and encountered traffic during his run, handing pole to his Chinese team-mate. It was the first time a Chinese driver would start on pole in F2 and he delivered in the race, taking home third place in the feature race.
6: Anthoine Hubert (BWT ARDEN)
Championship Position: 10th (77 Points)
Best Results: 1st (X2)
The 2018 GP3 Series champion often gets signed to a highly-placed team like ART Grand Prix or PREMA Racing etc. But with Anthoine Hubert, his road into F2 started with a challenge with BWT Arden – a team that finished ninth in 2018. Pre-season testing was challenging for both Hubert and Arden, but in the first round, Hubert delivered an outstanding drive to go from eleventh to fourth in the opening feature race. The results continued with a double points finish in Spain, including leading the sprint race at the start. But Hubert’s moment came in Monaco when in the sprint race, delivered a great drive to hold back Delétraz for his first win in F2. He would win the sprint race again – this time on home soil at Circuit Paul Ricard. His form blossomed more when he qualified second at Austria and finished fourth in the feature race, picking up more points for Arden. But after the summer break at Spa, Hubert was involved in a high-speed crash during the feature race, which ultimately caused his death at 22 years of age.
Hubert’s stint and his life was cruelly cut short from the events at Spa. His rookie season with two wins with a team that has often struggled in the series for some years is inspiring and worth noting the talent that Hubert held and the connection he placed with that Arden team. His wins at Monaco and France – both French-speaking nations saw waves on emotions from Hubert. His performances in the first half of the season including his drives at Bahrain, Spain, Monaco and France sparked interest with big teams, despite carrying a small budget. Hubert was part of the Renault Academy that season, partnering alongside fellow F2 rivals Zhou and Jack Aitken, who all fought closely in the championship, but great friends outside of the cockpit. With all the points Hubert collected, it was enough to finish him in the top ten of the drivers’ table. He scored all of Arden’s points in what turned out to be their final year in F2 before HWA Racelab take over. His friends, family and colleagues within F2 will forever remember Anthoine.
HIGHLIGHT: Victory For Hubert On Home soil
With reverse grid pole sealed, Hubert aimed to repeat his success that he saw at Monaco – victory from pole to flag. In the race, Hubert got off the line brilliantly and led the opening lap. Whilst he encountered competition with Aitken and Correa, the Frenchman in his Pink Arden handled the pressure and kept out of DRS range from the cars behind. He claimed the win in front of packed grandstands in his home country. His second win in F2 was complete, and doing it at home made it even better.
5: Sérgio Sette Câmara (DAMS)
Championship Position: 4th (204 Points)
Best Results: 1st (X2)
Going into year three of F2, Sérgio Sette Câmara needed to win if he had any shot aiming for a future career within F1. After winning the teams’ title with Carlin, the Brazilian moved to DAMS in search of another title, partnering alongside Nicholas Latifi. Sette Câmara was hailed as one of the title favourites and immediately started his hun with a third and second in Bahrain. A crash whilst behind the safety car in Baku, as well as hitting his own team-mate in Austria was some of Sette Câmara’s low moments in the season but remained a title contender by scoring regular points, and eventually wins. His first win in the sprint race at Austria was his first in two years, breaking a streak that lasted since Spa 2017. Sette Câmara was out of contention for the title by Russia but picked up one final win in Abu Dhabi, scoring a feature race win in a close fight with both Carlin drivers. He ended the season with one final podium with third, concluding the season fourth overall – three points away from Ghiotto.
Sette Câmara may have not delivered the title season that was destined for the Brazilian, but he has continued to showcase his speed and consistency that helped DAMS become the best team in F2, winning the teams’ title – Sette Câmara’s second title in two years. With this year being his first year under the support of McLaren, Sette Câmara impressed but could have done more in the season, with silly incidents like Monza when both Sette Câmara, Ghiotto and Latifi were all involved in a clash together, costing all three points in the title race. What will Sette Câmara do next year remains a question. A fourth-year in F2 could be on the cards but could hinder any shot of making into Formula 1 in the near future. A possible drive in IndyCar for 2020 has been rumoured for the Brazilian, which could serve as an alternative option if an F1 drive fails.
HIGHLIGHT: Winning at Austria – Ending Two Year Winless Streak
Sette Câmara’s luck for victories in F2 has been short. Prior to 2019, he had only taken one win, dating all the way back to 2017 when he won the sprint race at Spa. After finishing the feature race at the Red Bull Ring fifth, Sette Câmara was involved in a four-car tussle for the lead at the opening stages of the race. The Brazilian came out on top and faced pressure from Delétraz behind. But the Swiss driver retired due to a brake failure, resulting in a safety car. But Sette Câmara kept his cool and brought home the win, breaking the streak at last. He would taste victory again in 2019, delivering a brilliant drive in Abu Dhabi in the feature race, securing DAMS’ title in the teams’ championship as a result.
4: Jack Aitken (Campos Racing)
Championship Position: 5th (159 Points)
Best Results: 1st (X3)
Last year, Jack Aitken was part of an ART Grand Prix squad that consisted of F2 2018 champion George Russell, who was hard to match over the course of the season. Aitken ended the year tenth overall and was in need of a year to bounce back. 2019 would prove to be that year with Campos Racing, delivering a season where he was an outsider in the title fight. After a decent start in Bahrain, Aitken delivered one of the best weekends by any driver in F2 this year, winning the feature race in Baku in dominant fashion. He soon followed that up with a third place in the sprint race and then second in the feature race at Barcelona. A stressful weekend at Monaco followed when he encountered Raghunathan multiple times. Two more wins followed for Aitken: A brilliant home win at Silverstone and an emotional third win of the year at Monza, days after his fellow academy member Hubert passed away. Aitken ended the season fifth overall.
In a year that was important for Aitken, he delivered with a team that was not known for consistent success in modern F2. After the disappointing rookie season, Aitken needed a breakthrough to cement himself as a name in the F2 grid. He did just that with three wins and seven podiums to back it up, as well as pulling off a number of impressive overtakes along the way – his race-winning pass at Silverstone being one of them. Whilst a title fight was ambitious, Aitken tried and did enough to impress the paddock. Whilst year three could be possible for the Anglo-Korean driver, it is not clear where. Aitken didn’t take part in the post-season test but is still firmly a member of Renault’s academy. With fifth place this year and finishing second in GP3 back in 2017, Aitken has enough Super Licence points to qualify for one, whether he will take it remains a question.
HIGHLIGHT: Home Victory For Aitken At Silverstone
Whilst Aitken’s brilliant weekend in the streets of Baku was a standout moment, it was his brilliant fightback to the win on home soil at Silverstone that was a highlight to his season. Starting in fourth, Aitken was on a mission to bring home a podium finish in front of his home fans. He started his attack by passing pole sitter Ilott and was on the pounce for de Vries, who he passed in a diving effort down the inside at Brooklands. He was up to second, chasing down race leader Delétraz. With a few laps to go, Aitken managed to eat away Delétraz’s lead. Aitken, with eyes on victory, made an outstanding pass for the win down the inside at Brooklands, catching Delétraz unaware. He brought home the race win in front of the British crowd – arguably his best win in 2019.
3: Nicholas Latifi (DAMS)
Championship Position: 2nd (214 Points)
Best Results: 1st (X4)
2019 was going to be a very important year for Nicholas Latifi. Partnered with Williams Racing, retaining his seat at DAMS, this was the year that the Canadian can mount a title charge, and he did just that in the opening rounds. At the opening race of 2019, Latifi claimed the win in Bahrain, despite his pit crew making an error during the pit stop. The Canadian would win further races in Azerbaijan and Spain, mounting a strong lead in the championship after the first three races. But at Monaco, Latifi suffered a bad weekend, costing him points to fellow rival de Vries. After the French round, Latifi lost the championship lead to de Vries, and would never get the lead back as the ART driver delivered consistent podium finishes and points to continue his lead, whilst Latifi saw mediocre results. His final win in F2 came in the feature race at Hungary, where he passed de Vries on the opening lap. A poor weekend at Monza ended his title bid as de Vries wrapped up the title in Russia. Latifi ended the season with a final podium appearance in the Abu Dhabi sprint race.
Coming off a disappointing 2018 season, Latifi made massive gains in 2019 and showcased what he can do in a season. Whilst his experience in F2 might be an advantage compared to his rivals, he used to good effect at the start of the season but exposed himself with small and silly errors that hindered his championship hopes. His Monaco weekend was his lowest point of the year, with further non-point finishes at Monza – including incidents with Zhou and Ghiotto ended his title aspirations. Despite this, Latifi won DAMS the teams’ title and did enough to earn a call into F1 in 2020, signing with Williams full-time to partner George Russell. It’ll be interesting to see how Latifi will do under the spotlight that is F1.
HIGHLIGHT: Opening 2019 Campaign With Win in Bahrain
Latifi started off the 2019 F2 season in the best way possible. With a win. The Canadian made strong efforts at the start of the race, capitalising on the bad start from pole-sitter Ghiotto. He soon caught the likes of de Vries and then race leader Delétraz and took the lead of the race. Using the alternative strategy to his favour, Latifi pulled away from the field to build a gap. But when it came to his pit stop, the DAMS team suffered a slow stop, costing him time. But the Canadian re-gained the lead of the race with the tyre advantage appose to those who run the normal strategy. As a result, Latifi came home to win the first race of the year in dominant fashion.
2: Luca Ghiotto (UNI-VIRTUOSI RACING)
Championship Position: 3rd (207 Points)
Best Results: 1st (X4)
After a quiet 2018 season with Campos, Luca Ghiotto aimed to make 2019 a year where he exploded onto the scene. Reunited with UNI-Virtuosi Racing, the team once known as Russian Time and a squad where Ghiotto helped the team won the teams’ title in 2017. At the first round in Bahrain, Ghiotto started the season strong with pole position, a feature race podium and a sprint race win. A spring of mixed results in Baku and Spain saw him within the championship picture against Latifi and de Vries. In Monaco, he clinched a podium, only to be disqualified from the race hours later. A tough period began for the Italian as no points from Monaco and France came, but he bounced back with two second-place finishes in both races in Austria. He returned to the winners’ circle with a win at Silverstone, battling with team-mate Zhou and Latifi. It would be his first win on a Saturday in F2. Further wins came at Russia and in his final ever race in F2, he won in dominant fashion in Abu Dhabi, rounding off his F2 career in style and finishing third overall in the drivers’ table.
Ghiotto needed to impress in his fourth year in the series in a bid to impress the Motorsport and secure a future outside of F2. With the help of Virtuosi, a squad the two gelled throughout the year, Ghiotto delivered results and performances similar to his 2015 GP3 series title bid. His standout moment was in Bahrain in the sprint race, where he gambled on new tyres whilst leading the race. He delivered to take home the win, passing both DAMS cars to win. Whilst he never secured the title, Ghiotto with his four wins can depart the series feeling proud. With a future in sportscars ahead for the Italian, Ghiotto will be remembered in F2 for his excellent driving and fighting against some of the best within the F2 field.
HIGHLIGHT: Replicating Leclerc’s Masterclass in Bahrain Towards Win
After losing the chance to win in the feature race in Bahrain, Ghiotto aimed to make it back in the sprint race the following day. Starting from sixth, Ghiotto immediately was on the charge, taking the lead of the race away from Sette Câmara. But on Lap 13, Ghiotto made a gamble to pit, switching to the super soft tyres with ten laps to go. The Italian attempted to replicate a similar call from Charles Leclerc back in 2017, where he went from the back of the field to the win thanks to the fresh rubber. Ghiotto did exactly the same. Passing cars, left, right and centre until with three laps to go, he was left with two DAMS cars to pass. He swept passed Latifi at the start of the lap and by the end, passed Sette Câmara for the lead of the race. The gamble worked and with it, the race win was his.
1: Nyck de Vries (ART GRAND PRIX)
Championship Position: 1st (266 Points)
Best Results: 1st (X4)
Last year, Nyck de Vries missed out on finishing in the top three against a strong line-up consist of George Russell, Lando Norris and Alexander Albon. Whilst he may have clinched more wins than Norris and Albon, he didn’t win an F1 seat. That meant in 2019, he would have to go all out. Joining ART Grand Prix, de Vries would mark himself a title favourite. And he delivered expectations. After a shaky start in Bahrain, de Vries got off the mark with a podium in Baku, before he clinched the sprint race win in Barcelona. In Monaco, he delivered a masterclass performance to win in the streets of Monte-Carlo, 12 months on after losing the chance thanks to a clash with Albon. Another win in France followed, but de Vries didn’t stand on the top step again until Russia. Instead, he delivered podium finish after podium finish, consistently scoring points to keep his points lead going. By Russia where he clinched his final F2 win, he wrapped up the title with ease, joining the likes of Charles Leclerc and George Russell in being crowned F2 champion.
This was the year that de Vries needed to prove himself that he was a capable driver and can deliver under the highest of stakes. Whilst wins in his rookie year in 2017 and with PREMA in 2018 showcased he had talent, bad luck and inconsistently plagued those seasons. In 2019, de Vries had his season under control. He delivered in qualifying, wrapping up the most pole positions with five in total and finishing in the points in 19 out of 22 races. Whilst he ended the season poorly with no points in Abu Dhabi, the job was done and had moved on already from F2 at that stage. Despite being crowned F2 champion, he will not step up to F1 in 2020. Instead, de Vries will make the transition into FIA Formula E, joining Mercedes-Benz in their debut season in the series. Already impressing in his first weekend in the series, taking sixth in the first race in Diriyah. Whilst he may have not dominated the year like Leclerc and Russell, de Vries has carved his name into the history books by becoming F2 champion.
HIGHLIGHT: Comeback From Last To Double Podium In Monza
Going into the feature race at Monza, de Vries was expected to start the race near the front of the grid. However, he was later disqualified from qualifying and had to start the race from the back of the grid. But in the race, de Vries delivered an outstanding drive to claw his way back into the points. Despite a scary moment on Lap 2 where he was pushed off the track and had to take the escape road at the opening chicane, de Vries was on the pace. Whilst his championship contenders slipped up, de Vries pounced, even making his way up to second place before a hard-charging Ghiotto demoted him to third. de Vries finished the race in third place and kept his momentum going into Sunday, where he clinched another podium thanks to Ilott’s retirement on the final lap, promoting the Dutch driver onto the rostrum.
There were a few drivers who didn’t make the cut in our top ten. A few who displayed some outstanding performances in the year, but not enough to join our ten. A few honourable mentions include Juan Manuel Correa. The Ecuadorian-American impressed in his rookie year with two podium appearances in Azerbaijan and France. We hope Correa will make a return to racing when he completes his recovery.
Louis Delétraz for Carlin missed the cut despite a top ten finish in the championship. Eighth-place rounds off what has been a very tough season for the Swiss driver, who suffered multiple retirements and bad luck along the way. He’s yet to achieve his first win in the series, coming so close in Monaco, Silverstone and Abu Dhabi. He’ll hope to make it right in 2020.
A popular name within Motorsport made his way into F2 and saw a glimpse of his father’s ability. Mick Schumacher with PREMA was a recipe for a fairytale season as the reigning F3 champion made his first step into F1’s support series. But the German suffered a shaky season with a few highs, but a lot of lows. His highlight will no doubt be his maiden win in the series at Hungary, winning the sprint race and sparking the Schumacher name back onto a podium within the F1 paddock. Next year will be a big year for Mick as he’ll aim to impress alongside FIA Formula 3 champion Robert Shwartzman.
He may only have raced in six races, but Artem Markelov deserves a shoutout for his stand-in drives with both MP Motorsport and Arden. The Russian, a former GP2 and F2 racer for five years left the sport in 2018 but made a comeback in Monaco to fill in for King, who was racing in the Indy500. He scored in both races, nearly bagging a podium finish and impressed after months not being behind a wheel of an F2 car. He made a second comeback in 2019 with Arden, racing for the team as a stand-in for Hubert. Markelov will race in F2 full-time once again next year, this time with the new HWA Racelab team.