F2 Bahrain Quali: 2021 begins with Zhou on pole and FIA investigations

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Guanyu Zhou Alpine Driver
Image: Groupe Renault

The 2021 F2 season kicks off this weekend in Bahrain with its new format. With only one competitive session run, the series is already causing drama.

UNI-Virtuosi looks incredibly strong. Felipe Drugovich took the fastest time in practice. Guanyu Zhou then followed in the Brazilians footsteps in qualifying. Zhou snapped up pole position for round one once again after doing so in 2020.

The gap from Zhou’s pole was just 0.003s from fellow Alpine Academy member, Christian Lundgaard. Drugovich in the other Virtuosi sandwiches the Dane in third. A strong start for Felipe at his new team.

Behind the top three were Dan Ticktum, Richard Verschoor on debut in F2, Jüri Vips, Jehan Daruvala, 2021 F3 champion Oscar Piastri, Liam Lawson, and David Beckmann in tenth. Or so it seemed.

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F2 2021 starts with Bahrain confusion

Confusion reigned over Bahrain after the flag fell. The FIA stewards summoned what seemed like half of the grid to see them. Including pole-sitter Zhou. The accused drivers had entered the wrong pit lane after the race ended meaning they had crossed the finish line twice. Hours after Guanyu Zhou set the fastest time there was no news whether he’d start the Feature race on pole.

To add to the chaos, Jüri Vips found himself under investigation, too. Not for the same offence, but for a technical infringement. Vips secured a solid P6 time but his Hitech did not comply with the regulations. More specifically:

“…the Stewards determined that the undertray fins of Car 8 are not in compliance with Article 4.3.13 of the 2021 FIA F2 Technical Regulations. Specifically, even after the 5mm tolerance allowed in the Article is applied, the fins still extend 1.5mm below the reference plane rather than being no lower than the reference plane as required by the Article.”

As such, Vips was disqualified from the session. He would face a last-place start for both Sprint Race 1 and the Feature Race.

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The disruption continued on with all drivers under investigation aside from Zhou being cleared of wrongdoing with regards to the pit lane infringement. It took a further 20-minutes for Zhou to get the all-clear. No explanation as to why the delay.

By nightfall, the starting gird would see Zhou on pole for Sunday. Theo Pourchaire, who took P11, would start on reverse grid pole for Saturday’s first race. Vips would begin P20 in both.

A different day, a different story?

Things weren’t so clear on Saturday morning, however. Hitech lodged an appeal against the Vips decision. The lateness would mean any punishment would be suspended. In other words, Vips would reclaim his P6 time from qualifying.

Heartbreak for Theo Pourchaire. He would now drop back to P11 from P1 for Sprint Race 1. David Beckmann would be the polesitter instead. However, Vips would run the weekend with a cloud over him. Should the stewards reject the appeal, he’d be disqualified from races, not just qualifying.

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Then as the rollercoaster continued, within an hour of the race start, Hitech removed their appeal! Vips to start from last place for at least two races.

An awful way to start the season for the Red Bull Junior Team member. In contrast, the see-sawing ends (at the time of writing) in Pourchaire’s favour. The Frenchman will begin the 2021 season in pole position for the first race.

2021 F2 Bahrain Qualifying Results

  1. Guanyu Zhou
  2. Christian Lundgaard
  3. Felipe Drugovich
  4. Dan Ticktum
  5. Richard Verschoor
  6. Jehan Daruvala
  7. Oscar Piastri
  8. Liam Lawson
  9. David Beckmann
  10. Theo Pourchaire
  11. Robert Shwartzman
  12. Ralph Boschung
  13. Marcus Armstrong
  14. Roy Nissany
  15. Bent Viscaal
  16. Lirim Zendeli
  17. Guilherme Samaia
  18. Marino Sato
  19. Matteo Nannini
  20. Gianluca Petecof
  21. Alessio Deledda
  22. Juri Vips

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