In 2020’s Formula 2 season, twenty-four drivers competed in at least one race. Astonishingly, eleven of these drivers won’t be returning to the grid for 2021. While it is F1 that beckons for Schumacher, Tsunoda and Mazepin, many others are not quite so lucky. Here then, is a roundup of who F2 has said goodbye to over the last few months.
2020 Vice-Champion Callum Ilott will not return
Ilott’s two years in F2 showed exemplary growth culminating in his championship fight with Schumacher last year. Ilott feeling that he has proved himself in the category and the not insignificant issue of not having several million Euros for a seat means he will not be returning to the F2 grid in 2021. Fortunately, his FDA links are still in place and we will see Ilott working as Ferrari test and reserve driver this year.
F2 says goodbye to Sean Gelael in 2021
Sean Gelael has been an ever-present fixture on the GP2/F2 grid since making his debut with Carlin in July 2015. He competed full-time in the series from 2016 scoring driving with Campos, Pertamina Arden and Prema before joining DAMS for 2020. Sadly for Sean, he broke a vertebra in his back during the Barcelona Feature race and missed a large chunk of the season.
Gelael’s performances over the years have been…shocking really. 88 points from four full seasons and two partial ones with only two podiums in all that time. Fans of F2 have often wondered just how deep Ricardo Gelael’s pockets are seeing as he is the Indonesian KFC franchise holder. It turns out his pockets or his patience are not infinite as he pulled the plug on his son’s single-seater career at the end of last year. Geleal will now be competing in the World Endurance Championship in LMP2 as F2 says goodbye for one last time to Sean. Anyone want some fried chicken?
End of the F2 road for Jack Aitken
It’s hard to put a finger on what went wrong for Aitken in F2. You can read our Academy piece on him here. Joining the F2 grid in 2018 as a Renault Academy Driver, Aitken was paired with his 2017 GP3 teammate George Russell at ART. Perhaps suffering from ART’s second driver syndrome, Aitken struggled to match Russell who won the title and moved straight up to F1. Aitken meanwhile moved to Campos for 2019, improving massively. Sadly, 2020 was a dismal year for both Aitken and Campos alike, with just two podium finishes. His one-off drive in his old teammate’s Williams for the Sakhir Grand Prix ultimately but inadvertently cost ex-teammate Russell the Grand Prix victory.
Aitken has announced this month that he continues to be in talks with Williams regarding his 2021 plans. Obviously, both race seats are sewn up for the Grove team. He’s on the record, too, as confirming he won’t return to F2 due to the cost and because he feels he has learned everything that F2 can teach him. Of course, if someone were to dangle a championship-contending seat under his nose….
Pedro Piquet leaves F2
Pedro Piquet has had a very rapid rise up the ladder of single-seater racing despite having had two mediocre seasons in European F3. Joining Trident in GP3 for 2018, he took two wins and two seconds to finish 6th overall. In the re-branded FIA F3 for 2019, he took another win to improve one place to 5th.
Piquet arrived in F2 for 2020 with Charouz only reaching the points twice to score a grand total of three. At the end of the season, he announced that he would be leaving F2 and returning to karting for 2021. Piquet’s leaving statement contained some sharp barbs regarding Latifi and Mazepin buying their F1 seats while the likes of de Vries and Ilott have missed out on an F1 drive.
Would Piquet have made it to the top three of the championship within another two seasons as he has claimed? We’ll never know. Considering teammate and series veteran Louis Deletraz managed 134 points and multiple podiums, it is debatable.
Nobuharu Matsushita gone from F2 in 2021
Matsushita debuted in GP2 for ART Grand Prix in 2015 and continued with the team for the next three years. After a year back in Japan competing in Super Formula, he returned for a decent season with Carlin in 2019.
Matsushita drove for MP Motorsport last year but apart from a somewhat lucky win in Barcelona, the season lacked the magic of 2019. Matsushita abruptly left the championship after Mugello and it was a long time before anyone clarified just what on earth had happened. Surprise, surprise, a lack of budget was the eventual explanation.
F2 says goodbye to Giuliano Alesi
Alesi signed off on his Ferrari Driver Academy role and F2 season with a dream F1 test at Fiorano. The photo of father and son in their Ferrari overalls was pretty magical if you ask us! We’ve written about Alesi before and how famous father Jean had sold his F40 road car to fund his career.
Giuliano is yet to announce his 2021 plans.
It’s farewell to Artem Markelov
I’m going to come clean here. I am a huge Artem Markelov fan. It took him and the old Russian Time team time to bond and produce results. But from that first crazy Feature Race win at Monaco in 2016 to his mesmerising 2017 season, no other driver in F2 has made me roar with delight like Artem. Seriously, go on YouTube and find some of his races. The outrageous overtakes, the barnstorming drives from lowly grid spots to claim unlikely wins and podiums. Markelov’s 2015 to 2017 heyday was the stuff racing fans dreams are made of.
Returning to F2 with HWA in 2019 in the wake of Anthoine Hubert’s tragic Spa accident, it never felt like an easy fit. The modern turbocharged F2 car on tall 18″ rims for 2020 combined with a team struggling to get the setup right, left Markelov looking a pale shadow of his former self. Talent does not disappear though and I cannot wait to see where Artem pops up next.
F2 says goodbye to Luca Ghiotto in 2021
In a perfect world, Luca Ghiotto could have had a decent career as a midfield F1 driver. After a battling season of GP3 where he finished runner up to Esteban Ocon, Ghiotto moved up to GP2 for 2017. He won a race on his debut campaign and it seemed like he would be a title contender for the future. Sadly, it never happened. Bouncing from Trident to Russian Time to Campos to Virtuosi and finally Hitech, Ghiotto was denied that stable two-season team environment he needed. He achieved podiums in every season he competed and wins in all but one year.
It’s hard to quantify just what went wrong with Ghiotto’s career but if 2020 was his final hurrah in F2 as we expect, he will leave a large Luca Ghiotto shaped hole in F2 fan’s hearts.