FIA F2 / Spielberg Race report

Red Bull Ring F2: Ilott wins opener after heartbreak for Zhou

Briton Callum Ilott won a dramatic opening race of the FIA Formula 2 Championship season at the Red Bull Ring to lead home a 1-2-3 for Ferrari Driver Academy youngsters.

Red Bull Ring F2: Ilott wins opener after heartbreak for Zhou

But the victory came thanks to heartbreak for Ilott’s Virtuosi teammate Guanyu Zhou, who had just emerged atop an enthralling three-way post-pitstop lead battle with Ilott and Mick Schumacher before his car slowed with what appeared to be an electronics glitch affecting the gearbox.

Poleman Zhou got beaten away by Ilott, who made a stunning start from third on the grid, but the Chinese Renault F1 Junior pulled off a spectacular move around the Turns 6 and 7 left-handers on the opening lap to assert himself at the front.

Zhou took a few laps to get Ilott out of DRS range, while Ilott in turn was shadowed by the Prema Racing car of Schumacher all the way to the pitstops.

Most of the leading runners pitted much later than usual in F2 as the softer Pirelli gave consistent performance, and it was lap 17 before Zhou surrendered a 1.1-second advantage over Ilott and pitted.

Ilott stopped the following lap and emerged in front of Zhou, while Schumacher went one lap further and rejoined ahead of both Virtuosi machines.

But Zhou, with his hard tyres up to temperature, passed Ilott into Turn 3, and then, with Ilott breathing down his neck, got ahead of Schumacher one lap later on the run to Turn 4.

Zhou quickly built a gap of over 1.0s to Schumacher, before Ilott got past the German into second place.

Then Zhou’s car slowed, and now Ilott took over from Schumacher and Marcus Armstrong, who qualified 13th but made his pitstop as early as lap seven in order to get into clear air.

Shortly afterwards the safety car was called, after Artem Markelov ground to a halt by the side of the track, and following two laps under caution there was a 10-lap dash to the finish.

A mistake from Schumacher at the Turn 7 left-hander on the first lap of the restart sent him flying into the gravel, from where he re-emerged 13th.

And, with Armstrong struggling on his fading tyres and holding up the pack behind, that allowed Ilott to build a healthy advantage to take the flag by 8.8s.

Armstrong came under attack from Prema’s Robert Shwartzman, who felt he lost time at the pitstop with the left-front wheel taking longer than expected to change.

But the reigning FIA Formula 3 champion couldn’t probe an opening, despite his tyre advantage, and did not want to try anything too risky.

This also allowed ART’s Christian Lundgaard and the DAMS machine of Dan Ticktum to latch onto the train, and Ticktum tried an audacious move on the Dane for fourth on the final lap at Turn 4 that narrowly failed to come off.

The safety car massively helped Giuliano Alesi, who along with HWA Racelab teammate Markelov had gone for an alternative strategy of starting on the hard tyres and switching to the softs.

Alesi was 11th at the safety car, but burned through to sixth, passing Louis Deletraz (Charouz Racing System) with three laps to go.

MP Motorsport pair Felipe Drugovich and Nobuharu Matsushita converged from the front row and the back of the grid respectively to take eighth and ninth, with the final point going to Trident’s Roy Nissany, who held off Schumacher. 

Luca Ghiotto failed to even make it to the grid before his Hitech GP car failed, while Zhou finished one lap down.

F2 feature race results:

shares
comments
Load comments

About this article

Series FIA F2
Event Spielberg
Drivers Callum Ilott
Author Marcus Simmons
The F1 hopeful living two lives to keep his dream alive Prime

The F1 hopeful living two lives to keep his dream alive

Having lost his backing from Red Bull, Richard Verschoor has had to graft to continue his ascent up the single-seater ladder. An impressive Formula 2 debut in Bahrain, despite the lateness of his deal, shows his unorthodox approach is paying dividends.

FIA F2
Apr 22, 2021
Was Formula 2’s radical format switch a success? Prime

Was Formula 2’s radical format switch a success?

Going into the 2021 Formula 2 season the biggest talking point wasn’t about any drivers or teams, but the new race weekend format. Created partly out of financial necessity but also to spice up the action, the Bahrain opener provided a snapshot of the positives and negatives to come.

FIA F2
Apr 4, 2021
Why 2021 is make-or-break for the driver F1 needs Prime

Why 2021 is make-or-break for the driver F1 needs

He was tipped for glory in FIA Formula 2 last year, but was hampered by reliability woes at inopportune moments. Guanyu Zhou knows he won't get too many more chances if he is to become China's first F1 driver, with fierce competition within the ranks of Alpine's junior stable

FIA F2
Mar 25, 2021
Ranked! Carlin's greatest F1 graduates Prime

Ranked! Carlin's greatest F1 graduates

Carlin has helped guide enough drivers to Formula 1 to fill out an entire grid, plus a handful of reserves, to create a remarkable alumni list. With Yuki Tsunoda set to join that group, Motorsport.com has ranked its graduates to grace the grand prix scene...

Formula 1
Feb 22, 2021
How Mick Schumacher earned his Haas F1 chance Prime

How Mick Schumacher earned his Haas F1 chance

Michael Schumacher may have won seven Formula 1 titles, but he didn't even compete for a crown at the second tier. Son Mick put that right in 2020, and proved to Ferrari that he was deserving of a shot at motorsport's elite category in 2021…

Formula 1
Jan 9, 2021
How Aitken’s fortunes turned around for his shock F1 chance Prime

How Aitken’s fortunes turned around for his shock F1 chance

As a consequence of George Russell's step up to Mercedes to cover for the COVID-positive Lewis Hamilton, Jack Aitken will make his Formula 1 debut for Williams at the Sakhir Grand Prix. Long on F1's peripheries, Aitken finally has a chance to shine.

Formula 1
Dec 3, 2020
How F1's foundation has responded to the coronavirus threat Prime

How F1's foundation has responded to the coronavirus threat

While Formula 1 felt the public brunt of the coronavirus pandemic, the virus also put the Formula 2 and Formula 3 categories on hiatus. But their roles in feeding F1 with drivers meant their survival was crucial to their parent series' long-term future

FIA F2
Jun 11, 2020
The year Leclerc fully revealed his star status Prime

The year Leclerc fully revealed his star status

In the latest feature in our series looking back on the 2010s, we revisit Charles Leclerc's sensational Formula 2 season - where he strode among on-track highs and lows, as well as tragedy away from motorsport, to earn a place on the Formula 1 grid

Formula 1
Dec 26, 2019