The FIA Formula 2 grid is taking shape, following the announcement from the rebranded Alpine team, with Guanyu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard returning to the series for another season, with UNI-Virtuosi and ART Grand Prix respectively. With only one seat left vacant, there are still a whole host of drivers vying for a chance to get a step closer to F1. As it stands, plenty of promising rookies are already on the grid, Oscar Piastri teams up with a sure-fire title contender in Robert Shwartzman at Prema Powerteam and fellow FIA Formula 3 star Théo Pourchaire making his full-season debut in the series.
One name that many in the motor racing world didn’t expect to be taking part in the 2021 F2 campaign was Gianluca Petecof. The Brazilian is set to accompany F2 stalwart Ralph Boschung at Campos Racing after the Swiss driver took a year out from racing. The announcement that the São Paulo native had secured the seat was made and met with contrasting views.
The nature of the move was surprising in that Petecof hadn’t followed the usual route of progression to reach the series, having only finished his debut season in the Formula Regional European Championship last season, all be it with some dominant displays, to say the least. He would finish 2020 with the title of champion, following a season that would see him claim the title with four wins and three hundred and fifty-nine points to his name.
He faced many other talented young drivers in the category too, facing off against Jüri Vips and Matteo Nannini, both racing with Petecof in F2 for 2021, and Jamie Chadwick who was announced as one of the Veloce drivers for the debut season of Extreme E. He was also team-mates with Arthur Leclerc, the younger brother of current Scuderia Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, who has been tipped to follow his sibling into Formula 1.
It is not unheard of for a talented driver to take a jump into a more difficult class, Max Verstappen made the move from Formula 3 to Formula 1 in the space of a season, following a successful campaign with Van Amersfoort Racing, an identical move to Lance Stroll, who would make the same step-up two years after Max.
Getting results is something that comes naturally in the case of Petecof, having competed in both Italian F4 and the ADAC Formula 4 Championship in both 2018 and 2019, with promising showings in both. In 2018 he would complete his debut season in both Italian F4 and the ADAC Formula 4 Championship, finishing 4th and 10th place respectively, bettering himself in his sophomore season, gaining a second place and a fifth place finish. Throughout his time in junior formula, Petecof had been a part of the famed Ferrari Driver Academy, being part of their set up since his karting days in 2017 until early 2021, when he announced that he would no longer be a part of the team.
Given the record of the eighteen-year-old, it should be an interesting season. The team that he will be joining, Campos Racing, had a tough season In 2020. Both Jack Aitken and Guilherme Samaia struggled for pace throughout the calendar, with the highlights being two third-place finishes at Silverstone for Aitken, who would later go on to make his F1 debut at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Samaia would have an uneventful year, his best result coming in the sprint race at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, finishing fourteenth place. Coming into the team with Boschung as his team-mate will give the rookie a challenge, given Boschung’s tenure in the junior formula sphere, competing since 2017 in GP2 and F2.
With Petecof’s inclusion on the 2021 grid, the future for Brazilian motorsport is continuing to gain momentum. It has been four years since the Brazilian flag was represented in Formula 1 on a full-time, with Felipe Massa being the last driver to represent the country at the top level in 2017 with Williams Racing. Pietro Fittipaldi raced twice for the Haas F1 Team at the end of last year but has reverted back to the role of reserve driver again in 2021.
FIA Formula E and FIA World Endurance Championships have been a home for many of the talented drivers that Brazil has offered in recent years. Sérgio Sette Câmara and Lucas Di Grassi both currently drive in the Formula E, with Penske Dragon Autosport and Audi Sport ABT respectively. In the 2021 WEC season, Andre Negrao and Pipo Derani will be battling it out for Alpine and Glickenhaus, as the new Hypercar era comes into view.
Petecof won’t be the only Brazilian in F2 for 2021, with him facing off against UNI Virtuosi driver Felipe Drugovich. Drugovich has an additional year of experience In the category and could be touted as one of the dark horses for the title. The twenty-year-old had a strong first outing in F2, finishing ninth place in the championship with Dutch outfit MP Motorsport. It is unclear what the expectations of Petecof are in his debut season in F2, however, if he can mimic the success of his fellow countryman, he will surely be touted for further success in the future.
For now, it is unclear if it is the right move for his progression, whether a move to the F3 championship would have given him a better route into the series, however, given previous results, Gianluca Petecof will surely be one to watch out for when the lights go out in Bahrain.