That’s right, it’s nearly here! FIA Formula 2 has provided us with entertainment in bucket loads in recent years and 2020 could well be the closest and most fiercely competed season yet. Now with 22 cars on the grid, and a new track to contend with, 2020 guarantees excitement.
I’ll be honest, I wrote the rest of this piece in March before the season was due to start and this section looked a lot different to what it’s going to!
After finally being given the green light to get back to racing and we will do in the Styrian Mountains of Austria for a double header at the Red Bull Ring on July 5th.
Following the two rounds in Austria, the series will hop across the border to Hungary for round three on July 17th before arriving on the shores of Britain for another double header at Silverstone. Single races at Catalunya, Spa and Monza complete the first eight rounds of the season with further dates likely to be confirmed in the near future.
Car and Regulation Changes
Well, I put ‘changes’ but there is only one change for the 2020 season as F2 become the first series on the road to F1 to implement the new 18-inch tyres which will grace the F1 grid from 2021. A majority of testing has been focused on getting a handle of the new tyres with the season opener at Bahrain traditionally hard on the Pirelli rubber.
Everything else remains the same though. Two races in a weekend, the feature on a Saturday with points down from 25-1 for 1st through 10th, and a sprint race on a Sunday morning with the top eight drivers from the feature race reversed on the grid. Points are given to the top eight drivers from 15 down to 1. There is also four points available for feature race pole position and two for the fastest lap in each race.
Now this is what you’ve come to see, who’s gone where and who could be the main contenders in 2020. Buckle up, here we go!
We begin with 2019’s team champions DAMS, the French outfit lost both of their drivers from last year as Nicholas Latifi graduates to F1 with Williams and Sérgio Sette Câmara who is now Red Bull’s F1 reserve.
It’ll be a mix of experience and exuberance with Indonesian Sean Gelael driving the number one car as he moves across from PREMA where he underwhelmed in 2019. His teammate will be Dan Ticktum (#2) who never seems too far away from controversy. The Brit will be a rookie in 2020 and there’s no doubting his speed, but has he matured enough to compete at this level?
2019 was fantastic for this team in the debut year, and 2020 could well be just as fruitful as they keep hold of the Renault Academy driver Guanyu Zhou (#3) for a second season after the Chinese driver placed as the best rookie in 2019.
Luca Ghiotto won four races for the team last season but he moves on to create room for Ferrari’s own academy driver Callum Ilott (#4) to join. Ilott and Zhou have been teammates previously in the European Formula 3 Championship in 2017 and will be hoping to pick up where they left off and help take UNI-Virtuosi to glory.
ART Grand Prix
ART’s drivers must be confident after seeing the French team take Nyck De Vries to the drivers’ title in 2019. The only reason they ended the season third in the teams’ standings was because it became something of a one-man team at times, but not this season.
A pair of rookies but both are more than quick enough to turn a few heads. Marcus Armstrong (#5) moves up and across from PREMA’s FIA Formula 3 team where he finished as runner-up to Robert Shwartzman (more on him later) and he’ll be joined by fellow F3 graduate Christian Lundgaard (#6) who raced for the ART F3 team last year. This pair have talent falling out of their ears and despite a lack of experience at this level, they will be quick, trust me.
British squad Carlin are in a similar boat where they’ve ditched the experience and gone for a pair of rookies. Yuki Tsunoda (#7) was the first to be announced after the Japanese driver impressed in both FIA F3 and Euroformula Open Championships in 2019, so much so he is now a Red Bull junior.
And he’s not the only one, his teammate Jehan Daruvala (#8) has also been added to the Red Bull stable as he returns to Carlin after two seasons with them in European Formula 3 in 2017-18. The Indian finished 2019 third in the FIA F3 standings for PREMA to earn his seat.
It’ll be weird not seeing the classic Carlin blue on the gird but I guess the Red Bull livery isn’t a bad replacement.
The Spaniards are high on the list largely thanks to one man, Jack Aitken (#9). He had a stellar 2019 as his multiple teammates struggled to adapt as was required as the Brit took three wins in a fifth placed championship finish.
And now he’s back for another go, now as Williams’ official reserve and test driver after leaving Renault’s academy following Esteban Ocon’s deal to race for the French F1 team.
He’ll be joined by another rookie, this time Brazilian Guilherme Samaia (#10) will try his hand at F2 after racing 2019 in the Euroformula Open series where he scored one podium in the eight races he entered.
Last season saw the Czech team partner with Sauber to create a junior team but they are back on their own in 2020 and have recruited well to snap up Swiss Louis Delétraz (#11). The 22-year-old raced for Carlin and was inches from a win in a photo finish at Monaco with the late Anthoine Hubert.
He’ll be joined by F3 graduate Pedro Piquet (#12) after the Brazilian showed promise in the post-season test in Abu Dhabi. And that continued into the Bahrain test at the start of March as he topped the opening days’ time sheets.
2019 was a difficult one for the Dutch team as Mahaveer Raghunathan struggled to keep pace all year, it was left to Jordan King to drag the team to seventh overall with two podiums.
It’s another all-new line-up with Nobuharu Matsushita (#14) providing the experience after moving from Carlin and he’ll be joined by Brazilian Felipe Drugovich (#15) who wasn’t particularly outstanding in F3 last year, so the signing was surprising but he’s shown good pace throughout testing at could well shock a lot of people.
One of two new teams for 2020, HWA replace Arden on the F2 grid and bring in a pair of new drivers to lead their assault.
Again, it’s a tail of experience meets youth. Artem Markelov (#16) provides the know-how, the always entertaining Russian returns after a year out of the series which he provided so much excitement during his career with outlandish overtakes and amazing comeback drives. He’ll be joined by Guiliano Alesi (#17) who had an average 2019, being involved in the fatal crash at Spa didn’t help as he was forced to sit out of the following round as his car remained with Belgian authorities.
By there own very high standards, 2019 was simply awful for the Italians’. With the exception of a sprint race win for Mick Schumacher (#20) at Hungaroring PREMA never looked like troubling the podium places.
2020 could be a different story though. Schumacher remains and has a track record of big improvements in his second season in a series and he’ll have reigning FIA F3 champion Robert Shwartzman (#21) for company who will no doubt be hitting the ground running when the season begins.
This team finished bottom of the 2019 standings and that could well happen again in 2020 as the team look, on paper, to have the weakest driver line-up.
Roy Nissany (#22) is back in the series but never set the world alight in his previous seasons despite the backing of Williams. And Marino Sato (#23) will be embarking on his debut season but hasn’t been a standout driver in his previous seasons in other series. I anticipate another tough year ahead for Trident.
Hitech Grand Prix
And finally, F2’s new boys Hitech GP who’s entry sees the series expand to 22 cars for the first time and they’ve got themselves a rather tasty driver pairing to boot.
Luca Ghiotto (#24) joins from UNI-Virtuosi and will be aiming straight for the title heading into his fifth season at this level after four wins last year and he’ll have Russian Nikita Mazepin (#25) alongside him in his sophomore year after debuting for ART in 2019.
It wouldn’t be a preview without some predictions would it? Let’s go.
Drivers’ Champion: No doubting it will be closely fought with no obvious front runner as in previous years, but for me, Guanyu Zhou is my choice. After such a good rookie season and being back in the same team again this term, I fancy him to take home the crown and earn himself an F1 seat in 2021.
Teams’ Champions: If Zhou is the champion, UNI-Virtuosi have to be up there and when Callum Ilott is the second driver in the team, I struggle to see how anyone can beat them. There’s no surprise they both have F1 teams’ providing support.
Anthoine Hubert Award (rookie of the year): There’s an awful lot of them this year so getting this bang on will be tricky. It may come down to whether Carlin or ART will be the better team with their all-rookie line-ups. It’ll be close, but I’m going with Christian Lundgaard.
Pleasant Surprise: As mentioned above, Felipe Drugovich didn’t make headlines in F3 but has been matching his more tenured teammate during testing and I think could be on for a pleasantly surprising good season with MP.
Disappointing Season: I’m not going with a driver this time; I think it’ll be DAMS who have a less than impressive year. The quality of drivers has declined massively from last year and I can’t see the French team towards the front again this season.
And that’s all you need to know. Keep this handy for reference throughout the year, but don’t take your eye off the action, you’re guaranteed to miss something.