Coming into 2021, the FIA announced a new and somewhat confusing weekend format that both F2 and F3 would adopt.
This revision, coupled with the fact that F2 and F3 will no longer appear on the same weekend was announced in December as a range of cost-cutting measures in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Many fans questioned the format given the success of the previous iteration after the announcement.
Despite my initial doubts, the proof is in the proverbial pudding. Formula 2 served up a spectacle that left our mouths watering for the next 15 events across the two series.
How the 2021 F2 format works
The Friday portion of the event remains unchanged with a 45-minute free practice session followed by the usual half hour qualifying session.
In previous years, qualifying set the grid for the Saturday feature race. The top eight would then be reversed for Sunday’s shorter sprint race.
For 2021, this has changed somewhat. Qualifying sets the grid for the feature race as usual. This now takes place prior to the F1 Grand Prix on Sunday mornings.
Our sprint race offering has doubled. The first being a reverse top 10 of the qualifying result. The second, a reverse top 10 of the first sprint race result.
Was it a success?
It took me a few days to grasp the new inflated format. Even when I did, I had my doubts.
As there was one extra race per weekend, I harboured fears that drivers would be a bit more conservative in race one. The effects of damage, for example, would be heavily extenuated.
My fears grew slightly after a somewhat subdued opening in the first sprint race. But temperatures in excess of 49 degrees on track may have been the reason.
Despite not being the greatest spectacle, the race wasn’t without incident. Liam Lawson won Sprint Race 1 as he fought off fellow Red Bull protégée Jehan Daruvala.
The theory of drivers sacrificing a lowly points finishing position in favour of a preferential grid slot for race two had been mooted. However, with every point vital in what appears to be the tightest season yet, I didn’t see much evidence of that.
The drivers shook off their shackles in race two and we saw no fewer than four DNF’s due to collisions. That’s three more than in the opening round of the F2 last year in Austria.
I think this may be a common theme that develops over the course of the season. Race one being used to test the waters with the second race providing fireworks we saw on Saturday night under the lights.
The stature of the main feature race remains unchanged with the results of the previous two races having no bearing on the result.
The fact that the support series weekend ends with the feature race is ideal as much like the Grand Prix, the main race is what the weekend should be building up towards.
It will take few weekends to fully assess the new format. With the series heading to Monaco next, the format faces a few tests where overtaking is nigh on impossible.