F2: 5 Takeaways from the Belgium Grand Prix

Formula 2 Championship - Round 11: Spa-Francorchamps - Feature Race
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A potentially pivotal weekend in the F2 title fights sees a champion’s drive from Drugovich who outscores his main rivals.

The final race before the summer break in Hungary saw the momentum in the title battle shift to Theo Pourchaire. In Belgium, Felipe Drugovich hit back in style to lay down a marker for those trying to overhaul him. After this race weekend, no one in the chasing pack will be leaving without an element of disappointment. They now only have three more weekends to bounce back.

1 – Champions Drive

Coming into this weekend, the pressure felt like it was mounting on Drugovich. Since Barcelona and his incredible double-win, Drugovich’s performances have not been outstanding and his championship lead was being whittled away. In Belgium, he came back swinging and showed everyone why he’s the favorite for the title. There were mixed weather conditions in Qualifying but Drugovich was in a class of his own. Setting fastest lap after fastest lap, his final run was 0.4 seconds quicker than anyone behind him.

Getting pole always hurts you in the Sprint Race but that wasn’t stopping Drugovich this weekend. Starting in eighth, Drugovich quickly dispatched those in front of him to be on the tail of rival Pourchaire. And it didn’t take long for Drugovich to pass him as well, quickly into fifth. A bold call under the safety car to pit sent him down the order. But with fresh rubber, he quickly set about his task. In only a few short laps he had fought himself back up to fourth.

Pitting in the Sprint is not standard practice in F2 and was a huge risk. Bringing back memories of Charles Leclerc in 2018. This could be the pivotal moment that swings the championship his way after pulling this gamble off.

It was a quieter Feature race as he pulled off from pole and built an early lead. Only to be undercut by Jack Doohan during the pitstops. He wasn’t able to attack at the end but a fourth and second this weekend along with points for the pole position is a good return. A champions drive? We don’t know yet but it’s hard to argue with his performance this weekend.

2 – Bad Weekend for Chasing Pack

While Drugovich looked comfortable all weekend his title rivals struggled to keep it together. Pourchaire had the momentum coming into the weekend but after a scrappy qualifying session knew he had it all to do. The Sprint Race wouldn’t have been seen as an awful result, making progress and picking up 4 points. However, he was overtaken by Drugovich and therefore lost further ground to the Brazilian.

The Feature Race was always a big ask to beat his rival. An issue ended his race early on and caused him to retire. A huge blow for his title hopes as he saw Drugovich having such a strong weekend.

Logan Sargeant didn’t fare much better over the weekend. A mistake on Lap 11 of the Sprint Race put him into a spin and into the wall, ending his race. This was the cause of the safety car which ended up helping out Drugovich further.

The Feature Race was better but nothing spectacular. Bringing the car home in fifth place after an aggressive strategy left him struggling to defend at the end.

3 – Lawson’s Big Weekend

Liam Lawson’s season has gone from strength to strength. Earlier this season, due to Juri Vips’ removal from the Red Bull junior program, he became Red Bull’s main driver in F2. This weekend he made the step up to an F1 car for the first time. Taking the Alpha Tauri out in FP1 and apparently acquitting himself very well.

He followed that up with a Sprint Race victory and a third place in the Feature Race. Not an easy feat at all. Often the drivers stepping up for FP1 struggle in qualifying which takes place the same day.

It was a very strong performance in the Sprint Race, jumping from fifth to first on lap 1! From there he was in a league of his own and despite a late safety car never looked troubled. The Feature Race was a little less exciting but steady progress was made to gain another podium.

With rumors circulating that Alpine are negotiating with Alpha Tauri to release Gasly from his contract. Could this upturn in form be just at the right time for Lawson to stake a claim for an F1 seat next year?

4 – Strategy is King

This is a team sport and the team need to call the strategy correct to allow the driver to perform.

In F2 there is no mandatory pitstop in the Sprint Race and the time lost for one is likely to end any hopes in a race. Imagine the surprise when Drugovich gave up a strong fifth in the Sprint (ahead of his rivals) to come into the pits. Under the safety car the time lost isn’t as bad but that did drop him out of the points.

On the restart he had an offset of nearly four seconds to go about making back those places. In the end, he got one place further up the order than his original position when he pitted. Rolling the dice can work, but only Drugovich managed to make this strategy pay off. The others who pitted with him lost tire grip much earlier and struggled to make the same progress. Team and driver working perfectly to get the maximum in the Sprint.

In the Feature Race, there is a mandatory pitstop to make but it’s important to make it at the right time for your strategy. Virtuosi Racing were the big winners here. They saw how powerful the undercut was around Spa once you got your tires up to temperature and they used that.

Bringing Doohan in from second place for a relatively early stop got him on fresh tires and into clean air. It was then down to the driver who set the fastest sectors on his first flying lap. MP Motorsport tried to cover this off by bringing in Drugovich. Too little, too late for the man who was leading. Doohan blasted past and took the net lead of the race, a position he maintained to the end. Giving Doohan his first Feature Race win of the season.

5 – Female Drivers in the Spotlight

Last week it was announced that Tatiana Calderon would be returning to F2 to race for the first time since 2019.

There are a lot of eyes currently on W Series and especially on their runaway leader Jamie Chadwick. The performances of these drivers have led to calls for seats further up the motorsport ladder. Couple that with some unfortunate comments from the F1 CEO. This presented a great chance for Tatiana to show what women can do.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite the fairy tale return many had hoped for.

Qualifying at the back was always likely to make it difficult to score points and she wasn’t able to. Though in the races, Tatiana kept out of trouble and managed to make a few passes. Hopefully, over the final three F2 races her performance will improve.

Championship Standings

The F2 championship standings show the scale of the challenge for anyone to beat Drugovich to the title now:

Drivers

  1. Felipe Drugovich – 205 points
  2. Theo Pourchaire – 162 points
  3. Logan Sargeant – 127 points
  4. Jack Doohan – 121 points

Teams

  1. ART Grand Prix – 253 points
  2. Carlin – 241 points
  3. MP Motorsport – 232 points
  4. Hitech Grand Prix – 168 points

Read Next: F3: 5 Takeaways from the Belgium Grand Prix

Featured Image Credit: Joe Portlock – Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images