It was a much shorter break between rounds this time in the world of Formula 2. Just two weeks after racing in Monaco, F2 returned to Azerbaijan this weekend after a two-year absence. Here are the key takeaways from the weekend of racing that you need to know…
SMP driver Robert Shwartzman was having a rough 2021 campaign until arriving in Baku. But the reverse grids for the sprint races benefitted the Ferrari Academy driver brilliantly this weekend. After qualifying in tenth, he received reverse grid pole for Sprint Race 1.
But in Baku, being in pole position never guarantees you the win. That being said, Shwartzman drove superbly and dominantly, leading the race from start to finish. This was a much-needed boost for the Russian and has finally set his Championship campaign alight.
A fifth-place finish in Sprint Race 2 was also great for him. To then go on to claim another podium, this time for third place, in Sunday’s Feature Race. Robert showed he’s back hungry for the championship.
A good weekend can completely change your title hopes, and Baku definitely seems to have changed it for the better for Mr Shwartzman.
Consistency is Key – Daruvala Flying Under the Radar
Jehan Daruvala has had a mixed season so far. He currently sits in sixth place in the Drivers’ Championship, only a handful of points behind everyone except Zhou. Fourth place in Sprint Race 1 and a third-place podium finish in Sprint Race 2 are just what Daruvala needed.
Like with many of the drivers on the grid this season, it’s a make or break year for Jehan. As long as he can keep performing like this and bring home the bacon consistently, then hopefully a strong (if not successful) bid for the championship should catapult his future in the right direction.
A seventh place in the Feature Race might not have been the best he was hoping for but it was still a solid number of points for him as he continues to fly under the radar in the championship battle. Only time will tell if it’s unwise for everyone to not pay him too much attention.
Baku Bites Back
The Baku Street Circuit is a beast of a track. You only need to look at the F1 Qualifying Session to see how brutal it can be – especially Turn 15.
This was also the case in Formula 2 all weekend. Liam Lawson and both HWA cars were taken out of Sprint Race 1 on the opening lap due to in-race incidents of the narrow, twisty nature of the track.
Zhou and Zenedeli were then out of Sprint Race 2 on the opening lap with Verschoor, Boschung, Armstrong and Lungaard joining them throughout the rest of the race.
The Feature Race also claimed a few victims, demonstrating that there’s always plenty of drama at Baku. It’s also a great reason why Baku deserves to be on the calendar – its unforgiving nature is a great way to test these young drivers and see if they really cut the mustard.
Victories for Vips
After coming close but not getting the cigar thus far in the season in terms of race wins, not one but two came along for Vips this weekend.
He took the win in Sprint Race 1 and then turned his second-place qualification into a Feature Race win on Sunday. This gives the Red Bull Junior Team driver a nice stack of points that put him right into contention for the Drivers’ Championship.
The Heat is On!
Guanyu Zhou didn’t have the best weekend in Baku overall. Whilst he collected some points, he wasn’t up to his usual standards and his competitors weren’t going to be caught napping on the track.
Piastri has closed the gap to him to just five points. Shwartzman and Vips have also made solid progress as they close up the ranks too.
Zhou will want to make sure he can maximise each race in Silverstone if he doesn’t want to lose the momentum he’s been on since the start of the season. The Driver’s Championship has come alive all of a sudden – and we’re loving it.
Trouble for Lawson and Piastri
Despite both drivers having a decent performance apiece over the weekend, it was definitely not what Liam Lawson or Oscar Piastri would have wanted overall. Both drivers were out within the first few laps of Sprint Race 1, and seventh and eighth was the best they could do for Sprint Race 2.
Piastri finished second in the Feature Race which was a nice little comeback for him but Lawson finished down in sixth – not ideal given that he started from Pole Position after an excellent qualifying session on Friday, Neither one of these drivers will want a repeat of Baku next time out in Silverstone.
What did you think of the Baku Round of Formula 2? Let me know in the comments below.
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