As Formula 2 prepares to come back to racing, after over a month away, the class of 2021 will be hungrier than ever to impress team bosses for drives in 2022.
But how well did they get on in the first half of the season?
Headmaster Spencer reveals which members of the class of 2021 are the a-star students and who will be requiring more homework.
1-Robert Shwartzman/PREMA 3rd 91 points
Coming into the 2021 season, Robert Shwartzman was arguably the championship favourite; with a superb rookie season under his belt, which included four race wins, many expected the Russian to go three places better and become the first Russian to win the Formula 2 championship.
But Shwartzman’s first half of the season hasn’t been the rosiest, with a disappointing 11th on the grid for the Feature Race in Bahrain along with a collision in the second Sprint Race with Dan Ticktum setting the tone for what was a difficult opening weekend for the Russian.
Worse was to follow at Monte Carlo when Shwartzman went too hot into Beau Rivage on the opening lap of the first Sprint Race ending his race early and putting him on the back foot for the second Sprint Race in what was a testing first visit to the streets of the principality.
A much-needed win in the first Sprint Race in Baku and third in the Feature Race put Shwartzman back into the championship fight before securing another win in the first Sprint race at Silverstone to put himself firmly back in the championship hunt.
Final Grade- B+ The Silverstone meeting was the first sign that the Shwartzman of 2020 was coming back, but the Russian will need to work harder in the Feature Races and iron out his, at times, rookie-esque errors to claw back any chance of winning the drivers championship.
2.Oscar Piastri/PREMA 1st 108 points
Out of all the rookies in the class of 2021, Oscar Piastri‘s class has shone brightest, with the Australian showing no sign of teething troubles when he made the jump from Formula 3 to Formula 2.
Piastri quickly hit the ground running, winning the second Sprint Race in Bahrain followed by an unlucky retirement in the Feature after coming off second best in his battle with Ticktum.
A pair of second places in Monte Carlo did his championship hopes a world of good and despite a retirement in the first Sprint race in Baku, Piastri picked up another Feature race podium, which helped cut the points gap between him and championship leader Guanyu Zhou from 16 points down to five.
His consistency finally paid off at Silverstone with his fifth podium of the year in the Feature race and, with it, the championship lead. However, despite securing pole position with a blistering lap, Piastri would have been kicking himself after being beaten off the line by Zhou in the Feature race.
Final Grade-A In a rookie class that’s rich with talent, Piastri has stood out with his consistency, and he is a worthy leader of the championship. But at some point, he needs to win another race if he wishes to extend that championship lead over Zhou.
3.Guanyu Zhou/UNI-Virtuosi 2nd 103 points
Despite winning the inaugural Anthoine Hubert award for an excellent rookie season in 2019, Guanyu Zhou failed to deliver the expected title in 2020 and knew full well that 2021 would be his last chance to become Formula 2 champion.
So far, Zhou has risen to the challenge ahead of him and took victory in the opening Feature race of the season in Bahrain before making it back to back race wins with victory in the first Sprint race in Monte Carlo, leading home a UNI-Virtuosi 1-2.
But as soon as the Chinese star looked comfortable out in front, Zhou threw it away after a brake issue into Turn 1 at the start of the second Sprint race saw him plough into Ticktum as well as putting him out on the spot.
Zhou salvaged some much-needed points with a dominating Feature race win at Silverstone, but at the end of the weekend, Zhou had lost the championship lead to Piastri, who now holds a five-point lead over his Alpine Academy teammate.
Final Grade- A The opening half of the season has been kind to Zhou, with three wins already secured in dominating fashion. However, his performance in Baku cost him points, and although he took victory in the Feature race in Silverstone, he still has a five-point gap to make up on Piastri going into Monza.
4.Felipe Drugovich/UNI-Virtuosi 7th 59 points
After an excellent rookie season which saw him become the find of the season, Felipe Drugovich move to UNI-Virtuosi looked to set to be a match made in heaven. But things haven’t gone the Brazilian’s way, with Bahrain only producing one points finish after two poor Sprint races ruined his weekend.
Drugovich rebounded in Monte Carlo with two podium finishes, including a third in the Feature race, after UNI-Virtuosi’s alternative strategy paid dividends.
But Baku started badly with Drugovich back in the spotlight for the wrong reasons after tapping Liam Lawson on the opening lap of the first Sprint race earning himself a 10-second penalty. But the Brazilian once again regained his form in the Feature race with fourth place after starting 11th on the grid.
Three points finish at Silverstone ended a challenging first half of the season on a high for Drugovich with a best finish of fourth in the first Sprint race.
Final Grade- C The first half of the season has been a challenge for Drugovich, who has been overshadowed by his more experienced teammate Zhou. He is showing some consistency, but realistically he needs to start winning races in the second half of the campaign.
5.Dan Ticktum/Carlin 4th 89 points
The first half of the season has been a mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous for Ticktum.
The sublime included a win on the streets of Monte Carlo when the Brit took advantage of the wet-dry conditions to take second on the road from fifth on the grid before being declared the winner after Lawson was disqualified.
The ridiculous, however, include shunts in multiple races where Ticktum has come off second best in wheel to wheel combat, in particular his battle with Piastri over third place in the Feature race at Monte Carlo.
But despite these mixtures of two extremes, Ticktum has been consistent when things have gone his way with five podiums to his name as well as a race win in Monte Carlo. He has completely outshined Carlin teammate Jehan Daruvala and is still an outside bet for the championship if luck continues to fall his way.
Final Grade- B- You can’t deny that Ticktum gives his all every time he sits in a Formula 2 car. But his over-exuberance has cost him dearly at times, and his at times rather agitated team radio rants have raised a few eyebrows. Nevertheless, it’s been a good first half of the season for the Brit, who will hope to maintain his form.
6.Jehan Daruvala/Carlin 9th 56 points
After a tough rookie season, Daruvala had hoped to kick on in 2021, with the season starting well with three top-six finishes at Bahrain, including a second-place at the kickoff, but things have been more tricky for the Indian since then.
Daruvala’s Monte Carlo weekend was compromised after being squeezed out by Campos’s Gianluca Petecof in the Feature race before the Indian bounced back in Baku with his second podium of the year with third place in the second Sprint race.
But Silverstone was an unmitigated disaster for Daruvala as he failed to score in both Sprint races and was in the firing line after colliding with Bent Viscaal sending the Dutchman out of the race, with Daruvala picking up a single point in the Feature race after a late charge on fresh rubber.
Final Grade- B- Daruvala needed to up his game after a difficult rookie season with three Red Bull juniors alongside him on the grid. So far, he has struggled to match messers Vips and Lawson for outright pace and will need to up his game once when the series rolls into Monza.
7.Liam Lawson/Hitech 8th 58 points
Lawson got his rookie Formula 2 campaign off to a dream start with a win in the first Sprint race in Bahrain, but a few hours later, the Kiwi came back down to earth with a bang in the second Sprint race after being tapped from behind by Drugovich sending him into retirement.
A day later, Lawson finished back with third in the Feature and left Bahrain second in the championship; however, the Monte Carlo meeting was a disappointment with a messy qualifying and a disqualification from the second Sprint race after dominating in the damp conditions seeing Lawson fall back in the championship race.
Baku got off to an excellent start for Lawson with pole position in the Feature race, but his weekend was quickly compromised in the first Sprint race was ended early after being taken out on Lap 1 by Drugovich, putting the Kiwi on the backfoot for the second Sprint race where Lawson would show his class with a drive to seventh after starting 20th.
Silverstone saw him claw back some points, with seventh and fifth in both Sprint races, but Lawson failed to score in the Feature finishing his first half of the season with a whimper.
Final Grade- B- Results and luck haven’t gone Lawson’s way since his disqualification from the second Monte Carlo Sprint race, with the Kiwi’s championship, hopes seemingly falling by the wayside. He has the class to dominate on his day; however, luck and consistency in the qualifying are still deserting him.
8. Jüri Vips/Hitech 5th 85 points
After a successful cameo appearance replacing the injured Sean Gelael at DAMS in 2020, Jüri Vips finally arrived in Formula 2 for a full season with Hitech.
But his horrifically bad luck that wrecked his 2020 season followed him into the opening round of the 2021 season after being disqualified from fifth on the grid in Bahrain, effectively condemning his weekend to the back of the grid as teammate Lawson won on his debut.
Vips got on the board with three points finishes at Monte Carlo, including a third in the second Sprint race at the expense of teammate Lawson.
But the Estonian shined brightest on the streets of Baku with a dominating double which saw him take victory in the Feature race and the honour of winning Formula 2’s 100th race. Second, at the first Sprint race at Silverstone, along with a sixth and a seventh in the final two races of the weekend, bookended Vips first half of the season with a flourish.
Final Grade- A- Although his first half of the season has been plagued with bad luck, Vips has proven to his Red Bull bosses that a season in Formula 2 was the right decision after a year of hibernating on the sidelines. Moreover, his outstanding performance in Baku was proof that the Estonian is one of the hardest drivers to beat on the 2021 grid.
9.Christian Lundgaard/ART 12th 28 points
After an excellent 2020 season, Christian Lundgaard‘s second year in Formula 2 has so far been nothing short of a disaster.
The season started well enough with second in the second of the Sprint races. Still, Lundgaard quickly lost the podium after picking up a 10-second penalty courtesy of a collision with MP Motorsport’s Lirim Zendeli.
Lundgaard got his podium reinstated shortly afterwards, but the Dane’s luck failed to improve as he lost ninth place in the Feature race after picking up a five-second time penalty for a safety car infringement, and from Bahrain onwards, Lundgaard’s dreadful luck has snowballed.
The Dane picked up a pair of retirements in Monte Carlo and only picked up two points from the Baku weekend after coming off second best in a battle with Drugovich and Lawson.
Final Grade- D Despite finishing the first half of the season on a high with a third place in the first Sprint race at Silverstone, Lundgaard will be far from happy with his first half of the season, with Pourchaire now effectively the number one driver at ART, Lundgaard will need to massively up his game to secure his future for 2022.
10.Théo Pourchaire/ART 6th 65 points
Although he arrived into Formula 2 as one of the youngest drivers on the grid, Theo Pourchaire has taken to the series like a duck to water and got his 2021 campaign off to an excellent start with a double points finish in Bahrain.
But it was at Monte Carlo where Pourchaire dazzled most with an outstanding pole lap that was just under four-tenths quicker than Shwartzman, followed up by a dominating Feature race win that saw Pourchaire control the race from lights to flag.
However, a couple of weeks after Pourchaire’s finest hour, the Frenchman was in a Baku hospital with his wrist in plaster after a first lap incident in the Feature race with Ticktum and Armstrong potentially ruling him out for the Silverstone weekend.
But Pourchaire recovered quickly, and despite not having a fully repaired wrist, he was back in time for Silverstone, picking up a brave fifth in the first Sprint race and an eighth place in the Feature.
Final Grade- A- It’s been an excellent first half of the season for Pourchaire; with his performances throughout the first half being nothing short of consistent, he has also proven that he can still compete at the top even when he’s not at 100%. A great start to a new school for the young Frenchman.
11.Richard Verschoor/MP Motorsport 10th 50 points
Heading into the Bahrain weekend, Richard Verschoor didn’t know whether he would have a drive in this year’s Formula 2 championship. So far, the Dutchman has so far repaid MP Motorsport’s trust after they signed him up to drive just hours before the Bahrain weekend began.
Verschoor qualified well in Bahrain with fifth on the grid and wrapped up two top-five finishes on his first weekend in the championship, including a superb comeback drive from 22nd on the grid to finish 4th in the second Sprint race.
Monte Carlo and Baku were compromised by poor qualifying sessions, which saw Verschoor line up 16th on the grid on both occasions, yet he managed to fight his way through the field in the second Sprint race and the Feature in Monte Carlo to bring home some points.
But Silverstone was where it all came together for Verschoor, as he qualified an excellent third on the grid and then took his maiden Formula 2 win in the second Sprint race after holding off DAMS’s Armstrong all the way to the checkered flag.
Verschoor finished the weekend well with fourth in the Feature race after a race-long fight with Piastri, which went all the way to the checkered flag.
Final Grade- B Considering that he didn’t have a guaranteed drive for the rest of the season, Verschoor is driving the wheels off his MP and has surely guaranteed himself a drive till the end of the season on merit alone. His performances at Silverstone and Bahrain were outstanding and helped him earn his high grade.
12.Lirim Zendeli/MP Motorsport 17th 7 points
After an excellent 2020 Formula 3 season, Zendeli got off to a good start to his maiden Formula 2 season by securing the fastest lap in the first Sprint race in Bahrain; however, Zendeli’s big chance to secure a podium was ruined after getting punted by Lundgaard in the second Sprint race forcing the German into retirement.
A poor qualifying in Monte Carlo put Zendeli on the backfoot for the Feature race, and despite picking a seventh-place finish in the second Sprint race, Zendeli crashed in the Feature after going too hot into La Rascasse, ending his weekend early.
His qualifying continued to hinder him when the series moved to Baku, although Zendeli rebounded with a single point in the Feature race, with Zendeli repeating the trick in Silverstone to cap off a fairly low key first half of the season with points in the Feature race.
Final Grade- D It’s been a mixed first half of the season for Zendeli as his qualifying has let him down, and although he’s managed some solid comeback drivers in the Feature races, Zendeli needs to up his game in order to increase his points tally.
14.David Beckmann/Charouz 13th 25 points
David Beckmann‘s Formula 2 campaign couldn’t have started better with an excellent third place in the first Sprint race, which he then added a seventh in the second sprint.
But since then, Beckmann’s first half of the season has been inconsistent as an average qualifying session in Monte Carlo put him on the back foot, with the German’s weekend getting worse after he was nudged into the barrier at Ste Devote by Bent Viscaal, in the second Sprint race.
Baku saw more woes in qualifying, but Beckmann drove well in the first Sprint race after going from 13th to ninth, putting him second on the grid for the second Sprint race alongside Viscaal. Beckmann then led the race until Lap 11 before getting past by eventual winner Vips to finish second.
Silverstone saw Beckmann pick up another point in the second Sprint race, but another poor qualifying put him out of contention for points in the Feature.
Final Grade- C Beckmann’s first half of the season has seen him visit the rostrum twice, but he needs to work on his qualifying if he wants to visit more often. Nevertheless, he’s comfortably outperforming his more experienced teammate and can only improve.
15.Guilherme Samaia/Charouz 21st 0 points
After a turbulent rookie campaign with Campos, Guilherme Samaia was expected to have a better second season in the series with Charouz after a good winters testing which saw near the front of the timesheets.
But that winter form later turned out to be a mirage as Samaia hit the crossbar twice in the Sprint races with two 11th place finishes in Bahrain, with the Brazilian’s first visit to Monte Carlo being plagued by a poor qualifying and being lapped in two of the three races.
Samaia’s qualifying once again put him on the back foot at Baku as he struggled on the tight streets, with the race pace being not much better as the Brazilian could only manage a best result of 14th in the second Sprint race.
Another dreadful qualifying at Silverstone gave Samaia plenty of work to do, with a spin into the gravel trap in the first Sprint race, in what would turn out to be yet another pointless weekend.
Final Grade- F With a year of his experience under his belt, Samaia really should have been regularly challenging for points, but so far, he’s been outpaced and regularly out-qualified by his rookie teammate. The performances haven’t been good enough, and he needs to badly up to his game.
16.Roy Nissany/DAMS 15th 12 points
Roy Nissany is a difficult driver to rate as you never quite know what you’re going to get from him.
Nissany has shown flashes of brilliance this year, with the Israeli finally securing his first Formula 2 podium after two seasons of struggle with a third in Monte Carlo. But just twenty-four hours later, Nissany crashed out of a points-paying position in the second Sprint race before finishing 9th in the Feature.
But Baku was one weekend to forget, after a massive shunt in practice ruled him out of qualifying; Nissany didn’t help his cause after slamming into the back of Verschoor in the second Sprint race, putting the Dutchman out of the race.
At Silverstone, Nissany was too eager into Arena and slammed into the back of Lundgaard on Lap 1 of the first Sprint race damaging the steering arm. In the Feature race, he spun on the exit of Chapel, although this time, he managed to keep going.
Final Grade- D+ It seems after some years of struggling with inferior machinery, Nissany can finally start to make some progress at DAMS, but he still makes clumsy errors which have cost him points.
17.Marcus Armstrong/DAMS 14th 24 points
It seems that if Armstrong didn’t have bad luck, he would have no luck at all, as the Kiwi’s second season in Formula 2 has been nothing short of luckless.
In the first Sprint race of the season, Armstrong was out after two laps with a power failure, putting him out on the back foot for the second Sprint race, yet Armstrong clawed his way from 13th on the grid to finish 5th in the Feature.
Armstrong’s luck took a turn for the worse in Monte Carlo when on the way to the grid for Sprint race two, where he was set to start from pole position, his DAMS car ground to a halt forcing him to start from the pitlane where he would retire after two laps with a driveshaft failure.
Then, in the Feature, Armstrong’s charge through the field was ended after being pushed into the wall by Vips.
Baku started well with sixth on the grid and seventh in the first Sprint race, but Armstrong’s bad luck continued after crashing out of the second Sprint race and being squeezed out in the Feature costing him more points. But the first half of the season ended on a high with second in the second Sprint race at Silverstone, as Armstrong returned to the Formula 2 rostrum for the first time since Styria 2020.
Final Grade- C- Armstrong’s notorious bad luck has played a major part in why he’s so far down the order, but he hasn’t helped himself by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His class shines through when everything goes right for him, but sadly that doesn’t happen enough in what has been a tough first half of the season.
20.Ralph Boschung/Campos Racing 11th 36 points
Despite spending a year on the sidelines where he became a part-time businessman and part-time racing driver Ralph Boschung has been one of the surprises of the first half of the Formula 2 season.
After a low-key start to his comeback season in Bahrain with a best result of 15th in the Feature in Bahrain, Boschung has flourished on street circuits, with the Swiss ace having an excellent Monte Carlo weekend with a hattrick of top-six finishes.
Boschung carried this momentum into Baku and followed up on his Monte Carlo heroics with another pair of top-six finishes on the streets of the Azerbaijan capital although he was eliminated on the opening lap of the second Sprint race after contact with Theo Pourchaire into Turn 1.
The momentum didn’t continue into Silverstone as Boschung came away from the Northamptonshire based circuit with zero points and a hefty damage bill after spinning into the pathway of Alessio Deledda in the second Sprint race eliminating both cars.
Final Grade- B- Prior to this season, Boschung had been only able to show glimpses of his talent in previous Formula 2 campaigns, but this year has finally seen him showcase his potential in particular on street circuits and has already scored more points in the first half of the 2021 season then he did in his first three seasons in Formula 2. A great term’s work.
21.Gianluca Petecof/Campos Racing 23rd 0 points.
After taking the 2020 Formula Regional championship, many had expected Petecof to graduate to Formula 3 rather than Formula 2.
But after the shock news that he had parted company with the Ferrari young drivers academy, the Brazilian took a major gamble and moved up to Formula 2 with Campos. Unfortunately, the gamble didn’t pay off as Petecof struggled for results.
Bahrain and Monte Carlo were nightmarish weekends for Petecof; as he retired from half of the races he started, with mechanical issues and the Brazilian found the Monte Carlo barriers too often.
For now, Baku would be the end of Petecof’s Formula 2 adventure as Campos parted company with the young Brazilian leaving Petecof to return to his native Brazil to race in the Porsche Cup Brasil.
Final Grade- E A frankly turbulent two-weekend spell at Campos was hardly money well spent for Petecof; whether Monte Carlo was the last time that he raced a Formula, 2 car remains to be seen.
21/22. Matteo Nannini HWA Racelab/Campos Racing 1 point
Doing one championship is hard enough, but two is bordering on impossible, yet Matteo Nannini elected to take on the challenge with HWA-Racelab.
Nannini quickly got on the board with a point in the Feature race in Bahrain after a superb drive from 19th on the grid, but as soon as he made his mark, he was dropped by HWA for Monte Carlo due to budgetary reasons.
But when Petecof lost his drive, Nannini was parachuted in to replace the Brazilian at Campos, but the Italian’s return was a quiet one with a best result of 11th in the second Sprint race and a non-start in the Feature after a technical problem on the grid.
Silverstone was another tough weekend as both Campos cars struggled for pace, with the team’s strategy of pitting Nannini late into the race failing to pay off.
Final Grade- C Despite a disrupted season and doing Formula 3 on the side Nannini has acquitted himself well in Formula 2 and has already shown promise at both HWA and Campos. Whether he will do Monza and beyond is difficult to say.
22.Jack Aitken/HWA Racelab 0 points
Many thought that they had seen the last of Jack Aitken in Formula 2 when he received the call up to Williams to replace George Russell at last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix.
But when Nannini was dropped for Monte Carlo, Aitken was called up by HWA-Racelab for Monte Carlo to replace the Italian.
Despite no testing, Aitken nearly got a point in the second Sprint race with ninth, but since then, things haven’t gone the Brit-Korean’s way.
An early retirement in the first Sprint race in Baku after being hit up the rear at the start and suffering technical issues before the Feature race cost Aitken points in Baku, with Silverstone being not much better.
With Aitken injured in a crash at this year’s Spa 24 Hours, it’s possible to think that Silverstone was the last time that Aitken will race a Formula 2 car.
Final Grade-D An underwhelming cameo for Aitken, who could have scored some points in Baku if it weren’t for his car developing technical gremlins.
23.Alessio Deledda/HWA-Racelab 22nd 0 points
Already a controversial figure before a wheel had been turned, Deledda has far from impressed this season, with some questioning whether he’s out of his depth in Formula 2.
In Bahrain, he was over three seconds off the pace of polesitter Guanyu Zhou and in the only race he finished, he was over a minute behind on race winner Lawson.
In Monte Carlo, he didn’t even qualify for the race and was only allowed to start all three races after receiving special dispensation from the stewards. As a result, Deledda was miles off the pace in all three races and was lapped in all three to add to the Italian’s cup of misery.
Deledda made it inside the 107% rule in Baku and Silverstone, but results haven’t improved, and the questions about his ability have only increased since Bahrain.
Final Grade F Expectations were low going into the season for Deledda, but the results have been worse than expected with a DNQ in Monte Carlo, with Deledda not even looking close to scoring points this season. He needs to urgently find some pace, or he will face the fury of the stewards and his fellow drivers again.
24.Bent Viscaal/Trident 16th 8 points
Another late arrival to the grid, Viscaal, has found his feet in Formula 2 with Trident and has already shown glimpses of his talent.
In practice for Bahrain, Viscaal was ninth quickest, but gremlins in qualifying cost him a chance of repeating that form, with Viscaal picking up penalties in the first Sprint race and the Feature race.
Viscaal missed out on points in Monte Carlo but after finishing 10th in the first Sprint race in Baku, Viscaal found himself on pole position for the second Sprint race where he managed to finish fourth to bring home Trident’s best result in GP2/F2 since Luca Ghiotto won for the team in Malaysia in 2016.
A year after his Formula 3’s heroics, Viscaal had a disappointing return to the Northamptonshire circuit with no points and an early retirement from the second Sprint race after being sent into the gravel trap by Jehan Daruvala.
Final Grade C Although he may not have a seat for the second half of the season, Viscaal has surely done enough to impress a team for a full-time drive in 22 after getting Trident a good haul of points which has seen the team move off the foot of the team’s table.
25.Marino Sato/Trident 18th 1 point
With one and a half seasons under his belt, Marino Sato needed to start getting results in his second full year of Formula 2 with Trident.
The season got underway with points in the second Sprint race in Bahrain but things haven’t improved since then.
A mixture of no point finishes, mechanical issues and driver errors in Monte Carlo and Baku cost Sato dearly, and with Viscaal bringing home a good haul of points in Baku, the Dutchman quickly became the number one driver at the Italian team.
No improvement in Silverstone saw Sato fall further behind his teammate in the drivers’ standings, with Sato struggling for pace Northamptonshire based track.
Final Grade E Sato should be getting his act together after over a year’s experience under his belt; however, the results haven’t been coming in the first half of the season, and with Viscaal managing a top-six finish after just three rounds, Sato’s excuses may have run out.
Credit: Formula Motorsport Limited