F2: Five Takeaways from the Austrian Grand Prix

F2 - Logan Sargent - Austria
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What a weekend in Austria. F2 once again manages to surprise and throw up some of the most exciting racing anywhere!

The F2 racing on track was exciting as ever. Yet, there were so many incidents after the race which meant the final results weren’t known until hours after the chequered flag had been shown. Eventually, Logan Sargeant was vaulted into title contention and we had one of the best substitute performances in Formula 2 history.

1 – Track Limits Nightmare

Very early in Saturday’s Sprint Race it became apparent that the Stewards were really punishing track limits.

It’s a good thing as any other sport has to play within the pitch limits and so should F2 but often it’s only policed at a few corners. In Austria, the whole track was being policed and within a few laps, drivers were getting warnings about going beyond.

This led to drivers being shown black and white flags for driving standards. Effectively a final warning. Before some drivers even received time penalties for further infringements.

Obviously, no driver thinks they’ve gone over the limit. Quite a few were clear from the camera angles and so they will have little to complain about later.

It became so serious over the Sprint Race and the Feature Race that in the end it helped decide the race results. Drivers kept receiving 5-second penalties for track limit infringements. This resulted in drivers dropping down or being promoted compared to where they finished on track.

Yes, it appeared rather over the top in Austria but hopefully, this will set a precedent for the drivers and we’ll not see such extremes again.

2 – Strategy is King

The F3 race before the Feature Race had been completely wet but it had started to dry before the F2 Feature Race. This put the teams in a very awkward position.

In F2 they don’t have intermediate tyres. It’s either wets or slicks. Unlike Silverstone last week, the track wasn’t clearly wet at the start. This led to the strange sight of the first seven drivers playing it safe on wet tyres. However, those behind were either on the soft or hard slick tyres, gambling that the track would dry.

When you’re at the front it’s nearly always best to play it safe. Those behind didn’t know if the slicks would warm enough to give the grip but had to try. In the first 2 laps it became clear that safety was best.

Then we had the safety car which bunched the field up. The track continued to dry and now it looked like the wet tyre drivers might not be able to pull the gap again. In the F2 Feature Race you have to make at least one pitstop and it has to be after lap 6.

That meant when the race restarted on lap 4 the wet tyre drivers were sitting ducks. The slicks fired up straight away and before lap 6, the mandatory pit stops, the eighth-place starter Verschoor was already leading on track!

The slick tyre cars were overtaking those ahead all over the track at every corner. It was chaos as positions changed constantly. The wet tyre cars were straight into the pits but now had the issue of getting to the end on tyres and so might not have the pace to compete.

This is where Sargeant came into his own. He pushed right from the off with his new tyres. Deciding he would rather risk getting as far up as possible and then have to defend or hope for a safety car to pit again.

Other drivers were more cautious but Sargeant’s strategy really paid off. Getting himself up to the front, way ahead of those he started with and eventually taking the race win due to penalties.

It shows that in motorsport, strategy really is king. However, it was the risky strategy that paid off this time and lead to one of the most exciting races of the season.

3 – Logan Sargeant Wins Another Feature Race

The Feature Race was won, on the road, by Richard Verschoor. Having an absolutely blinding race starting from eighth on the grid. However, after the race, the team were unable to provide the required fuel sample amount from the car. This resulted in a technical infringement and he was subsequently disqualified from the race.

That should have promoted Daruvala to being the winner. But F2 is never that simple!

Video evidence was produced that appeared to show the Prema Team drying the track around his grid spot. Daruvala subsequently received a penalty. Dropping him out of the points.

That meant, incredibly, Logan Sargeant took his second feature race victory in a row! His momentum is really building and sitting second in the standings, while still 39 points back, he is now Drugovich’s closest challenger.

4 – Bad Weekend for the Championship Leader

While Sargeant took the Feature Race win. The leading drivers coming into the weekend both remained out of the points on Sunday. And only picking up small points from the Sprint Race on Saturday.

Pourchaire actually outscored Drugovich by 2 points and was hopeful he could further close the gap on Sunday.

Too cautious an approach stopped that from happening and Pourchaire is now in third in the standings. With half of the season gone then it is game on for the second half of the year as Drugovich looks to hold on.

5 – Super Sub Merhi

Before the weekend the news broke that Roberto Merhi was stepping in to join the Campos Racing team while Ralph Boschung recovers from an injury. As is the case for any substitute driver. The team was not expecting miracles from Merhi. Just keep it clean, consistent, and finish the race.

That’s basically how the weekend started. Merhi qualified on the back row of the grid and in the Sprint Race he finished dead last.

Then came the Feature Race. Like those in front, Merhi didn’t have much to lose so gambled on starting on the slick tyres. As became apparent in the race, this was the correct strategy and those drivers really made moves.

As Sargeant made moves ahead, so did Merhi actually finishing second on the track ahead of Logan on the final lap. What a return to the sport that was!

Unfortunately, a track limits penalty took him off the podium but it was still an impressive drive. Then came the post-race penalties for the leaders changing the official classifications. Merhi in his first weekend back in F2 had finished in third position in the Feature Race!

It will be interesting to see if this performance level continues in France.

F2 Championship Standings

Drivers

  1. Felipe Drugovich – 154 points
  2. Logan Sargeant – 115 points
  3. Theo Pourchaire – 114 points
  4. Jehan Daruvala – 80 points

Teams

  1. MP Motorsport – 176 points
  2. Carlin – 175 points
  3. ART Grand Prix – 170 points
  4. Prema Racing – 147 points

Next up is France from July 22nd to 24th.

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