The 2019 Formula 2 season gets underway with this weekend in Bahrain, with 20 drivers beginning the battle to win Formula 1’s main feeder series.
The top three drivers from 2018 have graduated to F1, leaving a number of experienced returning drivers to face off against a bunch of new, exciting rookies from across the Formula 3 spectrum.
Pre-season testing suggested this season could be wide open, with both the experienced drivers and rookies among the title-favourites.
We asked nine of our writers to compile their predicted top 10 in the drivers’ championship, with the following list representing our picks.
Key: Initials of the writer, with where they predicted the driver to finish in brackets.?
Contributions from Josh Suttill, Peter Allen, Elliot Wood, Jack Amey, Joe Hudson, Bethonie Waring, Craig Woollard, Kyran Gibbons and William Brierty.??
10. Callum Ilott?Sauber Junior Team by Charouz
14th in Jerez testing (101.066%), 11th in Barcelona testing (101.147%)?2018: 3rd in GP3, 7th in Macau GP
JH (7th):?The Ferrari Driver Academy member needs to perform well this year to remind the prancing horse that it isn?t all about Mick Schumacher in the young driver stakes. While there is stiff competition, including from the two drivers who finished ahead of him in GP3 ? Anthoine Hubert and Nikita Mazepin ? he will be hungry for success. Decent pace in pre-season testing has given the Brit a decent platform to build on.
EW (10th):?Ilott added consistency to his game last year, but it appeared he then didn’t have the outright pace to match, which is needed for a title challenge. It was his most complete season though and he’ll be trialling an F1 car in Barcelona once the season gets underway. The Charouz team is relatively new to F2 and has recently moved to a new base. It’s exciting to think how good the package it could provide Ilott with.
JS (8th):?Ilott has a point to prove after a mediocre rookie GP3 season. The less-pressured environment at Sauber should suit the Brit’s style, and while a title campaign is a long shot, I fully expect him to be a regular podium visitor. It may not be enough to reassert himself within Ferrari up against the likes of Schumacher, but he can begin to plan for alternative future options.
BW (4th):?Ilott has been going from strength to strength since being dropped by the Red Bull junior programme and I expect that to continue. On the one hand, the addition to Mick Schumacher to the Ferrari Junior programme will put pressure on Ilott to perform against the new star. On the other, it?s going to take pressure off the Brit as Schumacher draws attention away from him. Either way, Ilott is going to be looking to prove himself this year.
9. Anthoine Hubert?Arden International
19th in Jerez testing (101.469%), 18th in Barcelona testing (102.105%)?2018: GP3 champion
CW (6th):?Succeeding George Russell and Charles Leclerc as GP3 champions into F2 is not going to be an easy challenge for Anthoine Hubert. But, in a field featuring many rookies, he comes in with experience on Pirelli tyres and with arguably the strongest pedigree of the lot with his recent title success. Arden is a team that has slipped down the order in recent years, but Hubert is one of the more impressive full-time signings in recent years.
JA (6th):?Hubert comes into F2 after claiming the GP3 title in 2018 for the all-conquering ART Grand Prix outfit. The pressure will be on Hubert after claiming the title but his inexperience of F2 will hold him back at the start of the season, which will impact his overall standings.
JH (4th):?Charles Leclerc and George Russell both took the GP3 and F2 titles back-to-back, but I?m not sure Hubert will repeat the feat in 2019. Facing off against a number of series veterans ? namely Nyck De Vries and Sergio Sette Camara ? and Prema hotshot Mick Schumacher, Hubert will be a race winner but I think the title is out of his reach ? for this season at least.
JS (12th):?Arden looked nothing short of woeful during testing, and its 2018 was proof that even with two talented drivers, it couldn’t propel its drivers anywhere near the top 10 in the drivers’ championship. The influence of its new partner HWA can’t come soon enough. Despite this, I still expect Hubert to be a good team leader, and perhaps pick up a reverse-grid win or two.
8. Nikita Mazepin?ART Grand Prix
11th in Jerez testing (100.863%), 7th in Barcelona testing (100.812%)?2018: 2nd in GP3
BW (3rd):?Mazepin joins F2 off the back of a strong GP3 campaign, taking the title fight down to the final round of the season. Sticking with ART GP for a second season will no doubt be a benefit, giving him some continuity as he moves to a different championship ? albeit racing the same tracks he competed and won at last year.
JH (9th):?Perhaps more of an outside bet for a place in the top ten this season, but he comes into the season with a point to prove as the Russian hit his stride in GP3 last year. Despite four wins to Hubert?s two, three finishes of P10 or below cost him the title by 16 points. Stamp out those poor results this year and good consistency could be the making of the 20-year-old. Running with defending champions ART doesn?t hurt any either.
EW (6th):?There’s still signs of the old, risk-taking Mazepin but his GP3 title challenge proved when he dials it down the results will come. At a top team, and one he knows well, the same approach should prove effective in F2 and his various preparatory tools will mean he’ll be on the pace straight away. As for getting the tyres working, no round will be as difficult as Bahrain.
PA (8th):?Mazepin’s GP3 title challenge surprised just about everybody, but the move up to F2 ought to be a bigger test of his ability. His resources give him just about everything he needs to succeed, including (but not limited to) a top team in ART and an ideal team-mate in de Vries to help him get up to speed. Oh, and he’s privately testing a Mercedes F1 car this year. He had no problem adjusting to the Pirelli tyres last year.
7. Jack Aitken?Campos Racing
2nd in Jerez testing (100.252%), 8th in Barcelona testing (100.911%)?2018: 11th in F2
WB (4th):?Despite suffering a bruising couple of years at the hands of ART team-mate George Russell, Aitken is well-placed to do some damage in 2019. A stunning recovery drive in Baku last year and an assured win in Barcelona were glimpses of the Brit?s excellent potential before his mid-season tail-off.
JA (8th):?Renault F1?s test driver will be hoping his experience of the F2/18 car will count as he switches from ART to Campos Racing. One win and one podium showed what he can do. The switch to a team that finished seventh in the standings in 2018 may make it a challenging season for Aitken but his results over his GP3 and F2 campaigns show he can mix it at the front.
JH (6th):?After a rookie year filled with incidents and car troubles, I?m confident Aitken will bounce back in his second year. Learning the hard way is never the easiest, but his career to date suggests he?ll have no trouble in improving from his 11th place finish last season. It will be a new environment moving to Campos, but I?m sure he?ll thrive.
KG (9th):?After taking until his second year in GP3 to become a title contender, the precedent is there to suggest that Aitken will have a better second season in F2 compared with his inconsistent first year. The caveat is that unlike in his second year of GP3, he is switching from the title-winning ART Grand Prix team and instead driving for Campos Racing. Expect victory opportunities, but a title challenge may be a bridge too far.
6. Louis Deletraz?Carlin
3rd in Jerez testing (100.261%), 4th in Barcelona testing (100.456%)?2018: 10th in F2
EW (1st):?After watching and talking to Deletraz during pre-season testing at Barcelona, it looks like the Swiss driver is in the best position possible to take the title. Like de Vries he’s had some significant career highs and lows, but now looks super relaxed with Carlin and old Fortec ally Stuart King. His one-lap pace in testing was consistently good, and his long runs looked even better. He only has two podiums to his name, but don’t be surprised to see that first win come at Bahrain.
WB (5th):?As a third-year driving for the reigning teams? champions, there are certainly big expectations on Deletraz?s shoulders going into 2019, but there is little to suggest he will have the raw pace to regularly depose the frontrunners. Nonetheless, it will be a surprise if he doesn?t score his first F2 win in 2019.
KG (6th):?After narrowly missing out to Tom Dillmann in the battle for the 2016 Formula V8 title, Deletraz entered GP2/F2 with elevated expectations. However, he is yet to hit his stride in F2 and now heading into his third full year in the category and with the 2018 teams? title-winning Carlin squad, Deletraz has to become a regular fixture at the front of the pack.
PA (6th):?In two years in F2, Deletraz has yet to make a significant impact, but past form suggests he has the potential to take a big step forward in his second season in this car. If Carlin is still affected by the qualifying struggles that Lando Norris suffered last year, he could be in trouble, but pre-season testing pace looked promising.
5. Nicholas Latifi?DAMS
4th in Jerez testing (100.317%), 13th in Barcelona testing (101.281%)?2018: 9th in F2
CW (4th):?Williams reserve driver Nicholas Latifi enters his fourth full season (and sixth in total) at this level, and fourth with frontrunners DAMS. 2018 was very disappointing from Latifi?s side, finishing lower than he did the previous year and some way off team-mate Alex Albon?s points tally. But he has proven that he can win races at this level. With some consistently stronger results, he can finish high up the standings in 2019.
JA (4th):?Latifi is another going into his third year of F2 and does so on the back of an inconsistent 2018. He picked up one win and two further podiums across the season en route to ninth in the standings (he was fifth in 2017). Providing he can find the consistency he had in 2017 with the DAMS outfit ? where he remains for 2019 ? Latifi should be more competitive.
BW (9th):?After two years of middling performances for Latifi, this year is really going to be the make or break for him. He had some stand out races over the last couple of seasons but really lacked the consistency to be able to challenge at the front of the field as much as his team-mates. He?s proven he is capable of winning races, but now he needs to prove he can perform regularly, something he?s so far not been able to do. No doubt something that will also come to play will be his role at Williams, and the potential for a race seat with them in 2020, should be obtain the required superlicence points.
KG (7th):?Having made his GP2 debut in 2014, Latifi has become part of the furniture at this level. He has managed to score a reserve driver role at Williams, but risks career stagnation after having been in the second-tier series for so long. Entering his fourth year with DAMS, this is a critical year in the context of Latifi?s career and he needs to be nothing short of a championship challenger in order to stand out.
4. Luca Ghiotto?UNI-Virtuosi
8th in Jerez testing (100.581%), 2nd in Barcelona testing (100.275%)?2018: 8th in F2
KG (4th):?Entering his fourth year at F2 level, Ghiotto is one of the most experienced drivers on the grid this season. During his campaign with Russian Time in 2017, he was the series? most consistent points-scorer, bagging points finishes in all but two races and picking up a win along the way in an impressive Monza weekend. With Virtuosi Racing now Russian Time in all but name, we should expect similar consistency for Ghiotto this year.
BW (10th):?Like Latifi, Ghiotto has had some good performances, but has so far lacked the consistency to mount a strong challenge for the title. He?s shown he is capable of finishing higher up the order ? having finished fourth in 2017 ? but since switching to Campos has too regularly finished outside the points to be a championship player.
JA (5th):?Ghiotto?s experience should count a lot more in 2019 than in 2018. He has moved from Campos Racing to Virtuosi Racing, who ran Russian Time in GP2/F2. His best F2 season came with Russian Time, picking up one win and seven podiums as he finished fourth in the championship. This move should help Ghiotto be competitive across 2019.
EW (5th):?The Italian didn’t plan to race in F2 this year, but he’s seized the opportunity to return to Virtuosi with both hands and has proven himself with excellent jobs in cars that are from the best. But in a championship where ART, Carlin, DAMS and Prema are unquestionably the best, any driving shortfall on Ghiotto’s part will quickly put him out of title contention.
3. Mick Schumacher?Prema
1st in Jerez testing (100.000%), 11th in Barcelona testing (101.147%)?2018: European F3 champion, 5th in Macau GP
JS (1st):?Obviously Schumacher arrives in F2 with heaps of expectation. People were quick to dismiss his F3 title, but the way in which he dominated the latter half of the Euro F3 cannot be ignored. With Gelael alongside him, he’ll have the entire team built around him. His pre-season testing programme has been lengthy and goes far beyond the two official pre-season tests.?If Prema can provide him with the type of machinery they provided Pierre Gasly and Charles Leclerc with in 2016-17, I see no reason why Schumacher can’t defy the odds and become the third rookie to win the championship in as many years.
CW (7th):?There is no surprise that, given the name, many eyes will be on Mick Schumacher in his first F2 season. With an absolute powerhouse in Prema and with the growing hype behind him after his Formula 3 success last year, there is an expectation that he will make it two major titles in two years. That is perhaps asking a bit much given he has so far shown that he needs time to adapt to machinery, and this is his first season on Pirelli?s complex tyres. Podiums and a sprint race win may be possible in his first F2 season, but the championship is a stretch.
WB (7th):?Having skyrocketed to the F3 title amid quiet controversy from within the F3 paddock, F2 promises to be the ultimate litmus test of Schumacher?s abilities. With a big step up from European F3 and under an all new level of public scrutiny it would probably be unwise to expect too much from Mick in the early races.
JH (3rd):?Riding the crest of a wave from a phenomenal European F3 season, I?m certain Schumacher will be starting the season with the aim of continuing his winning ways. Despite being with the ever-dominant Prema squad, the adjustment to what is most kindly described as a ?tricky? F2 car will likely leave the German staring at a deficit to his more experienced rivals.
PA (4th):?I remain to be convinced that Schumacher has the talent to justify – and crucially, live up to – the huge expectations being built up around him. Only being rapid straight out of the blocks in F2 would really change that, and that feels unlikely given it took him a year-and-a-half to win in F3, he’s new to the Pirelli tyres and lacks a team-mate he can really learn from. However, with doubts around all of this year’s potential champions in one way or another, his undoubted maturity could have him on top again come Abu Dhabi.
2. Sergio Sette Camara DAMS
13th in Jerez testing (100.982%), 3rd in Barcelona testing (100.423%)?2018: 6th in F2
CW (1st):?Sette Camara was someone whose 2018 results did not necessarily reflect the performances he put in. He went without winning last year but was often the more impressive driver at returnees Carlin over his former team-mate Lando Norris. He has shown consistent upward trajectory through his F2 career and if he strings it together with DAMS, McLaren backing, and two years? experience at this level, that could be the combination to beat this season.
EW (2nd):?Sette Camara is arguably the fastest driver on the grid, but a switch to DAMS rather than building on his 2018 relationship with Carlin may be a wrong move. His one car racing win has come in F2, and he has no experience of a title challenge. He could string together a few mega weekends, but we have no barometer of whether he could absorb season-long pressure from the other title favourites. The last time he had a lot on the line he binned it out of second place at the final corner of the Macau Grand Prix.
WB (2nd):?The Brazilian perhaps doesn?t start 2019 as the outright title favourite, but Sette Camara certainly has some potent tools at his disposal. Having compared favourably to an F1 driver-in-waiting last year, there could be big opportunities for the 20-year-old if he can follow Alex Albon in fully exploiting the DAMS career springboard.
PA (2nd):?After lots of talk that he was as good as Lando Norris while they were together at Carlin last year, Sette Camara must now prove that with a strong title challenge – particularly with the DAMS package being proven in the hands of Alex Albon last year. The raw talent is there, both in one-lap speed and in great racecraft, but this year will be a huge test of how well he can manage situations under big pressure.
JS (2nd): 2018 showed that he’s one of the quickest drivers on the grid, if not the quickest, but I’m not certain he’ll be able to string together a season-long title campaign. DAMS is a great team, but it provided the grid with the runners-up not the title winners in recent years, and I can’t see that changing this year.
1. Nyck de Vries?ART Grand Prix
5th in Jerez testing (100.392%), 1st in Barcelona testing (100%)?2018-19: currently 8th in WEC LMP2?2018: 4th in F2
BW (1st):?De Vries has to be one of the favourites this year, going into his third season in the championship. He put in some solid performances last year and was only a few more podium finishes away from challenging fellow McLaren junior Lando Norris for second. The move to ART could also be beneficial, with the team having run champion George Russell last year.
PA (1st):?It’s been a long and tough road to this point for de Vries, but this could finally be the year when it all comes right. Many of his struggles have simply been a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, including replacing Charles Leclerc at Prema just when the new car wiped out its advantage. McLaren and its relentless politics have also done more harm than good. Now free of those pressures and jumping into an ART car he can have full confidence in, he should fly, especially in qualifying.
JA (2nd):?De Vries will be competing in F2 for the third year and it is this experience that will count for the Dutchman. He took to the new Dallara F2/18 very well and picked up three wins on route to seventh in the championship. With George Russell, Alex Albon and Lando Norris graduating to F1, de Vries has a very good shot at the title.
JS (3rd):?I would love to be proved wrong by de Vries this season, but unfortunately his past record of disappointment is hard to ignore. When things are going his way, de Vries is unbeatable, but when things aren’t going his way, he has failed to pick up big points from bad weekends unlike previous series champions. He cracked in big pressure races at Baku and Monaco last year – he can’t afford to make those kinds of mistakes again this year. Stepping into the shoes of a champion doesn’t guarantee success, as he showed when he took over from Leclerc last season.
KG (1st):?De Vries was expected to be a title contender in 2018, but four retirements in the first 11 races stunted his campaign. Four top-five finishes to end the year suggested that the Dutchman is beginning to develop his consistency and his blistering pace in testing supported the assertion that behind the wheel of an ART Grand Prix-prepared car, de Vries is this year?s championship favourite.