F2 – 5 Takeaways from Circuit Paul Ricard

F2 - Paul Ricard Podium
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A very hot weekend in France created some great races and threw up a few surprises!

The title battle got that bit closer after the weekend. Some drivers’ momentum came to an abrupt halt while others look to be hitting a rich vein of form. The most competitive motorsport series out there has no intention of slowing down anytime soon!

1 – First Time Winner

Ayumu Iwasa took his first win in F2 with a dominant performance in the Feature Race. Iwasa has shown flashes this season of his pace, none more so than in Silverstone when the track was drying up. At that point, Iwasa was by far the quickest driver on track, rapidly closing the gap to Sargeant who took the win. He couldn’t quite close the gap enough but showed that given the chance he would be right up there.

Iwasa was disappointed in qualifying not to be on pole. He didn’t quite get the lap together at the end but was still surprised he would start second, that’s how much pace he had.

In the Feature Race, he had a reasonable start getting past pole-sitter off the grid. However, Doohan behind him had a far better start and took the lead into turn 1. Iwasa stayed with him and coming down the rear straight was far quicker taking the race lead from Doohan.

At that point, the domination began. Iwasa started to pull a gap to those behind and was relentless in his pace. He had a huge gap before he pitted and had a clean stop, something that is never guaranteed in F2, which meant no one undercut him. That provided him with a clean track where he just continued to pump out lap after lap.

By the end of the race, he had an almost 9-second lead on those behind and it was one of the most comfortable victories in F2 history.

2 – Tyre Warm Up – Make It or Break It

Usually, after the race, we’re talking about tyre degradation and how drivers struggle at the end. It’s just important to get the tyres working before the race even starts. The Feature Race showed that clearer than most races. Sargeant struggled to get the tyres in their proper working window and it meant off the start he was a sitting duck.

Iwasa got a better start but Doohan nailed it! Starting in fourth he had a terrific reaction time off the line and going into turn 1 he had the lead. He couldn’t quite hold it as the pace of Iwasa was beyond what anyone else could manage.

The early safety car was another shot for the drivers to get the preparation right and again Iwasa nailed it. Jamie Chadwick in the W Series race showed the advantage of an early restart and Iwasa clearly had been taking notes. He went early and having the tyres prepared meant he had over a second lead before green flag conditions even started.

The chosen strategy for most drivers was to go soft to hard but drivers who did pit seemed to struggle with the hard tyre warm-up. Drivers came out of the pit and just didn’t have the grip for a lap or two. The drivers who pitted earlier had such an advantage on warm tyres it made overtaking look easy.

3 – Reliability A Huge Factor

As we’ve said before, F2 is a team sport and it requires everyone to be pulling in the same direction. You might have the fastest drivers but as the famous saying goes ‘to finish first, first you have to finish’.

Logan Sargeant’s momentum was brought to an end in a disappointing fashion in France. After taking pole for the Feature Race, it looked ominous for his rivals who didn’t seem to have the same turn of speed. The reversed grid Sprint Race went ok with him scoring a point and looking strong throughout Saturday.

The Feature Race came around and Sargeant seemed quietly confident. He had a poor start falling back but that was down to tyre warm up and he was not quite out of the race yet. Sometimes a champion has to take points when they can get them and that’s probably a thought he’d had. That was until his pitstop on lap 13. Dropping the clutch, the engine just gave in and he had no power to get going.

That left us with heart-breaking images of a despondent Sargeant with his head in his hands after he had to retire.

Sargeant wasn’t the only one, super-sub Merhi also had reliability issues at his pitstop and had to retire from the race as well. Something we certainly never want to see is reliability issues deciding a championship. Hopefully next week in Budapest, Sargeant will be back up fighting with his title contenders.

4 – Home Race Redemption

Home race favourite Theo Pourchaire came into the weekend not quite having the highs of earlier this season, losing a little momentum. He needed a strong weekend to take some more points and get himself back in the fight. In motorsport, it seems that a home race can often be more of a hindrance than a help. In the Sprint Race, Pourchaire had a lot of pace and was in a really competitive mood. Clearly wanted to put a show on for the home fans.

On the track, Pourchaire finished on the podium, sending the fans wild. But post-race he was given a penalty for pushing a driver off track in battle, rightly to be honest. That dropped him down to seventh and behind Drugovich who he had beaten on track.

Coming into the Feature Race he had the bit between his teeth with some elbows out racing to get ahead of Drugovich this time. He couldn’t get past his teammate, so he took an early pitstop, a strategy decision I was surprised his team allowed considering the lead driver usually gets priority. That early stop worked wonders getting him way up the grid after all the pitstops.

Come the end of the race, Pourchaire put the Sprint Race demons to rest and finished second with a good haul of points.

5 – Championship Battle

Mixed results for the top 4 in the championship this weekend.

Drugovich leading coming in looked to be taking it steady in the Sprint Race with others messing up giving him a podium. All the big points are scored in the Feature Race though.

Surprising to see Drugovich on the offset strategy of Hard then Soft tyres. You’d expect championship leaders to play it safer and start on the softs like most of those around him but he made it work. Finishing fourth in the Feature Race was a great return as he had to make several overtakes along the way. Yes, he got lucky with other people’s misfortune and finished only one place behind Pourchaire but better than he might have expected.

Pourchaire as we’ve said had a low in the Sprint Race and a high in the Feature Race. Most importantly for him is that over the weekend he outscored Drugovich. Only slightly but by the end of the season it could be enough.

Sargeant coming into the weekend had the momentum, but it was brought to an end. The Sprint Race was average, but he finished and scored. The Feature Race and a DNF is where it will hurt but with only a week to wait till the next race he’ll be hoping for a quick bounce back!

Daruvala kept within touching distance of the leaders with a second in the Sprint and seventh in the Feature. However, considering the widening gap to the leaders, you have to think it’s becoming a three-horse race now.

For the teams, a double podium for ART saw them take the lead in the titles championship. This is F2, so don’t count out a few more surprises happening before the season ends!

F2 Championship Standings

Drivers

  1. Felipe Drugovich – 173 points
  2. Theo Pourchaire – 134 points
  3. Logan Sargeant – 116 points
  4. Jehan Daruvala – 94 points

Teams

  1. ART Grand Prix – 209 points
  2. MP Motorsport – 199 points
  3. Carlin – 195 points
  4. Prema Racing – 161 points

Next up for F2 is Budapest from July 29th to 31st.

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