Home Featured Assessing the 2019 Formula 2 field after the summer break

Assessing the 2019 Formula 2 field after the summer break

by Josh Suttill

All photos: Jerry Andres, Glenn Dunbarr & Joe Portlock / FIA Formula 2

The 2019 Formula 2 field is not the strongest grid that the series has ever produced, but the excitement and unpredictability remain at the usual high level.

It’s unlikely to yield three Formula 1 graduates like last year’s grid provided, but the drivers that were beaten by those stars in 2018 have upped their game to fight one another, alongside some impressive new rookies.

Formula Scout picks through the 24 drivers to have raced in the first two-thirds of the 2019 season to see who’s performed.

Key Feature race points (FR), Sprint race points (SR), Average qualifying result (QA),?Percentage of team?s points scored (TP)

Nyck de Vries?NETHERLANDS?ART Grand Prix
1st in standings, 196 points (3 wins, 3 poles, 3 fastest laps) -?FR?129 (1st),?SR 55 (1st),?QA?2.9 (1st),?TP 97.0%

Nyck de Vries

Pre-season title favourite?Nyck de Vries has overcome a stumbling start to the season to build a healthy points advantage.

Bahrain, something of a bogey track for de Vries, exemplified that his tyre-management woes were still present. He was outshone by ex-ART Grand Prix driver Jack Aitken in Baku and had to wait until the Barcelona sprint race before winning.

In Monaco he made it back-to-back wins from feature race pole, and made it three wins in four races in the Paul Ricard feature race after an excellent start from fourth on the grid.

This handed him the championship lead, which he has extended since. Although he failed to convert pole into victory at the Red Bull Ring and Hungaroring, he’s done everything needed in his target of winning the title, including improving tyre management.

Whether winning the title is enough to secure de Vries a solid future is another question. It’s his third year, and being in the car of reigning champion and Williams F1 driver George Russell makes for a perceived advantage, whether or not it exists in reality.

Nicholas Latifi?CANADA?DAMS
2nd in standings, 166 points (4 wins, 1 fastest lap) -?FR?117 (2nd),?SR?49 (3rd),?QA?4.6 (3rd),?TP?54.1%

Sergio Sette Camara?BRAZIL?DAMS
3rd in standings, 141 points (1 win, 1 pole, 2 fastest laps) -?FR?85 (5th),?SR?53 (2nd),?QA?6.4 (4th),?TP 45.9%

There have been differing fortunes for DAMS’ duo in 2019:?Nicholas Latifi?raced into an early points lead after winning three of the opening five races before a series of wobbles handed the lead to de Vries, while?Sergio Sette Camara began with a double podium but suffered two nightmare weekends immediately after, leaving him playing catch up.

Sette Camara ended a near two-year win drought at the sixth round Austria, but is still waiting for his maiden feature race win, something he rather obviously needs if he still has title aspirations. It’s Latifi who has seemed the more champion-like, often not the fastest over a weekend, but clinically effective at getting into the right position and holding it.

After matching Lando Norris for most of last season at Carlin, it’s surprising to see Sette Camara trailing Latifi in qualifying more often than not. Both have F1 connections, but it’s only Latifi who is doing enough to make a 2020 seat a likely prospect.

In this particular year, third in the standings with one sprint race win simply isn’t good enough for Sette Camara, who ahead of the season was held in similar regard to de Vries in terms of ability.

Luca Ghiotto?ITALY?Virtuosi
4th in standings, 135 points (2 wins, 2 poles, 1 fastest lap) -?FR?87 (4th),?SR?40 (5th),?QA?3.5 (2nd),?TP?55.8%

Guanyu Zhou?CHINA?Virtuosi
6th in standings, 107 points (1 pole, 1 fastest lap) -?FR?65 (6th),?SR?38 (6th),?QA?8.1 (8th),?TP 44.2%

What’s effectively a master and apprentice driver line-up has ensured that Virtuosi has continued the frontrunning status of its predecessor Russian Time.

Luca Ghiotto has at times looked unstoppable. He took the first pole position of the season by over three-tenths and emphatically won the Bahrain sprint race from seventh on the grid.?Only de Vries has qualified better on average, but when it comes to the races that has translated to a 60-point advantage.

A minor technical discrepancy meant Ghiotto was stripped of second place in the Monaco feature race, and crashed twice while trying to recover from the back in the sprint race.?He didn’t fare much better a month later at Paul Ricard, with a slew of bad luck – broken steering, a five-second penalty for pitlane speeding and a clumsy collision with Juan Manuel Correa.

Ghiotto has little chance of winning the title if this inconsistency continues, and he’s also got the challenge of fending off fast-learning rookie team-mate and Renault junior?Guanyu Zhou. At Silverstone, the Chinese driver took his first pole, having started the season with an excellent charge from 10th to fourth in the Bahrain sprint race.

Zhou is comfortably the top rookie in the standings but does benefit of being alongside an experienced and talented team-mate, unlike fellow rookies Anthoine Hubert and Mick Schumacher. A race win will surely be Zhou’s main target for the rest of the season, and to set himself up for a 2020 title challenge.

Jack Aitken?BRITAIN?Campos Racing
5th in standings, 134 points (2 wins, 1 fastest lap) -?FR?92 (3rd),?SR?42 (4th),?QA?8.5 (9th),?TP?81.7%

Jack Aitken has been the underdog of the 2019 season, arguably putting in the drive of the season to win the Baku feature race from eighth on the grid. His disappointing rookie season last year must seem like a distant memory, and Aitken has reminded the doubters why he’s still rated by Renault.

His qualifying performances have been inconsistent but he’s usually ahead of whichever driver is in the sister car, suggesting it’s more a case of Campos Racing continuing to find its feet at the front of the field rather than Aitken’s shortcomings.

Having a switch of team-mates mid-season may also have hampered Campos’s progress, and over 80% of the team’s points have come from Aitken. The fact that it could finish third in the standings belies its dependence on its lead driver.

To propel himself into title contention would take an even greater push from both team and driver. Based on the evidence so far, those inconsistencies may just negate those outstanding drives and prevent a title push.

Nobuharu Matsushita?JAPAN?Carlin
7th in standings, 85 points (1 win, 1 pole, 4 fastest laps) -?FR?57 (7th),?SR?24 (11th),?QA?6.9 (5th),?TP?58.6%

Louis Deletraz?SWITZERLAND?Carlin
9th in standings, 60 points -?FR?28 (10th),?SR?32 (9th),?QA?8.5 (10th),?TP 41.4%

Nobuharu Matsushita didn’t require much time to get used to the new F2 car, taking his second series pole in the second round at Baku. A technical issue meant he left that race empty-handed, and then his engine set on fire in the Barcelona round.

In Monaco he was stunning, despite losing most of free practice, and he took second place from Sette Camara in the feature race with a superb pass. Matsushita also took his first feature race win at the Red Bull Ring with supreme tyre conservation.

However, he was unable to carry that momentum into Silverstone and perhaps should have beaten Schumacher to sprint race victory at the Hungaroring.

More often than not he’s bettered Louis Deletraz,?whose race-leading start to the season proved to be a false dawn. He’s still struggling to convert good grid slots in races, and has scored more points in reversed-grid sprint races than the feature races.

Considering their relative experience levels, better has to be expected of both drivers, especially if they still have F1 aspirations.

Anthoine Hubert?FRANCE?Arden International
8th in standings, 77 points (2 wins) -?FR?41 (9th),?SR?36 (8th),?QA?9.9 (11th),?TP?100%

After an abysmal 2018, Arden appears to be back on the right track with Anthoine Hubert, the most impressive rookie of 2019.

He kicked things off with an excellent charge from 11th to fourth in Bahrain, putting his knowledge of Pirelli rubber from two years in GP3 to good use and coping without a working radio. At Barcelona he went from 15th to sixth, which could’ve been higher were it not for a slow pitstop.

Hubert then finished eighth in the Monaco and Paul Ricard feature races, putting him on pole for the respective sprint races, both of which he won. In the latter, he had started the weekend with 15th in qualifying. Arden still has a way to go before its consistently among the frontrunners again but it’s encouraging to see one of the original GP2 teams enjoying success again.

Hubert has to take a lot of the credit and will be one of the 2020 F2 title favourites if he joins a team further up the grid.

Mick Schumacher?GERMANY?Prema Racing
11th in standings, 45 points (1 win) -?FR?8 (16th),?SR?37 (7th),?QA?7.9 (6th),?TP?80.4%

Mick Schumacher

On qualifying alone, Prema’s Mick Schumacher is the highest-placed rookie this year with the sixth-best average position.

However, the races tell a completely different story – 11th in the standings with 45 points, less than a quarter of championship leader de Vries. Moreover, he’s accumulated a measly eight points from the eight feature races.

There’s been a huge amount of bad luck for Schumacher, including being hit by team-mate?Sean Gelael in the Paul Ricard feature race and picking up a puncture in the sprint race. At the next round in Austria, a clutch issue forced a pitlane start.

Schumacher recovered excellently in the sprint race when he charged from 18th to fourth place, ending a seven-race pointless streak. But while he’s suffered from a lot of bad luck, he’s also made a number of errors. He made a mess of the Monaco F2 feature race with a clumsy collision and in Bahrain turned sprint race pole into sixth place. Albeit, it was his second F2 race.

He didn’t make the same mistakes at the Hungaroring, with a well-executed reversed-grid win, even though the difficulty of overtaking there made it unlikely that he would lose it. Schumacher?knows Spa well from FIA European Formula 3, and it would be a great place for his first feature race podium.

Just like Hubert, Schumacher is learning this year ahead of a 2020 title assault. But with his fellow Ferrari junior Robert Shwartzman likely joining him on the grid, he’s going to have to raise his game to remain front of the queue for F1 graduation.

The rest…

Jordan King?has pretty much picked up where he left off with MP Motorsport. He only has the 15th best qualifying average but sits a solid 10th in the standings despite skipping Monaco to take part in the Indianapolis 500.?His season highlight was unquestionably earning an excellent third-place finish in a typically frantic Baku feature race – only his second-ever feature race podium in his four years at this level.

Few would have predicted that?Juan Manuel Correa would outscore fellow rookie and Sauber Junior Team by Charouz team-mate?Callum Ilott, but the American has been quick and effective enough on two weekends to score 36 points, eight more than Ilott. Qualifying tells a more one-sided story, with Ilott seven-one up on Correa, with average qualifying position of eighth compared to Correa’s average of 14th.

Ferrari junior Ilott’s most impressive moment was placing second on the grid in Monaco, but a technical problem pre-race leaves that race as a large ‘what if?’. Correa’s season highlight came in the form of the Baku sprint race where he robustly defended his position to earn second place in his first weekend on a street circuit.

Dorian Boccolacci?excelled on the streets of Baku and Monaco but otherwise looked a comfortable second-best to his Campos team-mate Aitken. Budget meant he was replaced by?Arjun Maini, who has failed to shine, or score.

Trident probably thought it couldn’t any worse than a 2018 season riddled with controversy, disqualifications and the wooden spoon in the teams’ championship. However, after 16 races in 2019, it’s accumulated just four points. Ralph Boschung’s tremendous bad luck has continued, meaning he could do little to convert his impressive three-top 10 starting positions for the first three feature races into anything more than a single point.

He added two more points in a hectic Monaco feature race but his team-mate Ferrari junior?Giuliano Alesi has?contributed just one point, courtesy of 10th in his home race at Paul Ricard. Alesi is currently on course to match his points tally from his tough maiden GP3 season in 2016, but considering he has three years on Pirelli rubber, it’s nothing but disappointing.

GP3 race-winner Nikita Mazepin has just six points to show for his rookie F2 season. He’s yet to qualify in the top 10, and yet to show the benefit being team-mate to de Vries at ART or his running in Mercedes F1 cars.

Tatiana Calderon?sits as the lowest of the full-time drivers in standings and has been no match to GP3 champion team-mate Hubert. Ahead of her, courtesy of a 11th place finish, is?Mahaveer Raghunathan. It’s not?surprising he’s looked out of his depth on pace, more so that he has struggled to show a clear grasp of the basic rules and customs of the championship.