While history may not suggest the 2019 Formula 2 season was as thrilling or yielding as many Formula 1 stars as 2018, it was not short of exciting races or future racing professionals.
Nyck de Vries was one of many experienced drivers taking one final shot at the championship. He, along with the likes of Luca Ghiotto and Nicholas Latifi, had watched as star rookies like Charles Leclerc and George Russell had beaten them in the past.
However, 2019 was the year the momentum swung back in favour of the series veterans, becoming the first year since 2012 that a rookie has failed to win a feature race in F1’s leading feeder series.
That’s not to say F2’s 2019 grid wasn’t short of rookies with high potential. Reigning GP3 champion Anthoine Hubert dragged the struggling Arden outfit, with HWA support, to sprint race wins before the tragic events at Spa-Francorchamps.
It’s impossible not to assess the 2019 season without addressing the race that will, unfortunately, define it forever.
Hubert was an outstanding man both on and off track. He was a credit to motorsport, and there’s no telling what he would have achieved in the future. Juan Manuel Correa is continuing his recovery from the Spa crash, and plans an F2 return.
We’ve compiled our list of the top 10 drivers of the 2019 F2 season, taking into account each driver’s team and level of experience within the series.
Key Percentage of team?s points scored (TP), Qualifying average (QA), Feature race average points (R1P), Sprint race average points (R2P)
10. Mick Schumacher GERMANY Prema
12th in standings, 53 points (1 win, 2 fastest laps, 1 podium) – TP 78%, QA 8.3 (9th),?R1P 0.9 (16th), R2P 3.9 (8th)
No driver came into the season with more expectation and pressure than Mick Schumacher. Not only is he the son of F1’s most successful driver, but he was entering as the dominant (albeit controversial) reigning FIA European Formula 3 champion.
The season started well. He was top rookie in Bahrain qualifying and he converted that into reversed-grid pole with a solid debut drive. Pole only led to sixth place in the sprint race, but this was expected given his inexperience of the Pirelli rubber at one of the most tyre degrading circuits.
In Baku, he performed the first of what would become his 2019 party trick. He spun out at Turn 16 in the feature race but blitzed his way through the field to fifth place on Sunday, including a statement move on his Prema team-mate Sean Gelael.
Schumacher was unlucky in nearly every feature race, from been taken out by Gelael at Paul Ricard to his car breaking down in Sochi. He ended the year with a miserable 10 points from the 11 feature races, two fewer than Gelael scored.
His sloppy Monaco weekend was the low point. After a season’s best fourth in qualifying, he caused a red flag in the feature race by clipping Arden’s Tatiana Calderon at La Rascasse.
At the Hungaroring he took an impressive maiden win from pole in the sprint race, and his scintillating charge at the Red Bull Ring from the back to finish fourth was the highlight of his year. He only qualified outside the top 10 twice, and 12th place in the standings is far from representative of the raw speed and racecraft Schumacher demonstrated throughout the year.
Now he’s got a year of experience, he’ll go into 2020 knowing a strong second season will propel him first in line for a 2021 Alfa Romeo Racing F1 seat. Schumacher’s only problem is that he won’t have Gelael alongside him next year, but his main rival for that F1 graduation in Robert Shwartzman, and that the new wheel and tyre sizes will require a lot of learning once again.
9. Nobuharu Matsushita JAPAN Carlin
6th in standings, 144 points (2 wins, 1 pole, 4 fastest laps, 5 podiums) – TP 61%, QA 6.6 (6th), R1P 9.8 (5th), R2P 2.9 (11th)
Nobuharu Matsushita returned to F2 this year after an unsuccessful rookie Super Formula season, with the clear aim of obtaining enough FIA superlicence points – something he would fail to achieve.
It didn’t take him long to adapt to the new F2 car introduced last year, and he took his second-ever series pole just two rounds in. However, reliability woes left him leaving Baku with no race points to go with those earned in qualifying.
His car then blew up in spectacular style in Spain, leaving him with just six points from the first three rounds.
Second place in the Monaco feature race put Matsushita’s year back on track, and he took his maiden feature race success two rounds later at the Red Bull Ring with an example of his exquisite tyre management skills. He would repeat this to take his second win of the year at Monza, fending off Callum Ilott and Luca Ghiotto in brilliant style.
Matsushita wasn’t able to deliver the raw pace or consistency required to mount a serious title challenge. He certainly had the worst of Carlin’s bad luck – for example when he was brutally fired off the road in Sochi – but he quite simply wasn’t quick enough to earn the last few superlicence points he needed.
8. Callum Ilott BRITAIN Sauber Junior Team by Charouz
11th in standings, 74 points (1 pole, 2 podiums) – TP 67%, QA 6.4 (5th), R1P 3.0 (12th), R2P 3.4 (9th)
After a strong debut year, Charouz Racing System (in Sauber colours) seemed to take something of a step backwards in 2019.
Callum Ilott’s team-mate Juan Manuel Correa was the first of its rookie duo to impress, making the Baku podium in his first weekend racing on a proper street circuit. This perhaps served as something of a wake-up call for Ilott, who picked up his own first podium at Barcelona a fortnight later,
Then in Monaco, Ilott put the team on the front row of a feature race for the first time. Unfortunately his car turned itself off on the grid, and Ilott was never able to take the start.
At Paul Ricard, he rose from the back to nick the final point in the sprint race, and at his home race at Silverstone he was on sprint race pole, but inevitably tyre management woes meant he finished in fourth, 0.656 seconds off the podium.
Following Correa being sidelined after Spa, Ilott carried the sole flag for the team in stunning fashion one weekend later at Monza. He was fastest in qualifying, but again he fell to fourth against far more experienced drivers.
Ferrari junior Ilott rounded off his strong end to the season with a podium from ninth on the grid in the Sochi sprint race and a brace of top-five finishes in Abu Dhabi.
Evidently his inexperience with the tyres, as well as his team’s, made it difficult for Ilott to convert his strong qualifying into regular podiums. However, with his speed he should be an outside 2020 title threat with the more competitive Virtuosi Racing.
7. Sergio Sette Camara BRAZIL DAMS
4th in standings, 204 points (2 wins, 2 poles, 2 fastest laps, 8 podiums) – TP 49%, QA 5.4 (3rd), R1P 11.7 (4th), R2P 6.1 (4th)
Sergio Sette Camara was the highest driver on our F2 top 10 list last year not to graduate to F1. Therefore, it was safe to say he was one of the title favourites pre-season.
If you were judging his year off the season opener and closer, you’d expect Sette Camara had been in the title hunt all year. However, that was far from the case.
After a strong double podium in Bahrain, his season quickly derailed. He spun behind the safety car in Baku after apparent contact with Luca Ghiotto, and had to put in a great drive to recover to sixth place from the back in the sprint race.
He scored zero points at Barcelona, but did visit the Monaco podium. At Paul Ricard, he took his first 2019 pole but was beaten by ART Grand Prix’s Nyck de Vries to victory.
It wasn’t until the Red Bull Ring sprint race that he claimed his first win of the year, and even that came a day after clumsily running into the back of DAMS team-mate Nicholas Latifi.
Errors of that kind are not expected from third-year F2 drivers, perhaps a sign of frustration that Latifi had usurped him.
Sette Camara ended the year in stunning style in Abu Dhabi, with an excellent, measured drive to victory from pole in the feature race and a fighting run to third in the sprint.
Had he delivered more performances like that, de Vries might have had a more difficult time. Sette Camara’s 2020 plans are still under wraps, but if he sticks around in F2, he needs to find a way to make every weekend like Abu Dhabi.
6. Nicholas Latifi CANADA DAMS
2nd in standings, 214 points (4 wins, 3 fastest laps, 8 podiums) – TP 51%, QA 5.3 (2nd), R1P 12.8 (2nd), R2P 6.6 (2nd)
You’d be forgiven for wondering why the title runner-up is sixth on our list. Had we made the list after the first three rounds, then Latifi may well have taken #1.
He won three of the first five races, and only started on the front row for one of those. He was demonstrating exactly the type of risk management and racecraft needed to mount a title challenge.
However, his raw pace was never enough to match de Vries or Ghiotto. His last pole position came in British F3 six years ago, and he’s spent 4.5 seasons in GP2/F2 now. He can at least take solace he only qualified outside the top seven once this year.
A barren six-race run mid-season stumped his title challenge, and he just didn’t have enough to take the fight with de Vries to the wire. Going into the summer break he did take a racey Hungaroring win, but didn’t demonstrate that verve enough.
Compared to rivals Ghiotto and Sette Camara, Latifi did suffer a relative lack of bad luck, but part of that has to be a result of him successfully keeping out of trouble.
Once he was confident he was in a strong enough position for a FIA superlicence, Latifi admitted to changing his priority from beating de Vries to the title to securing DAMS the teams’ crown, which he did with Sette Camara in Abu Dhabi not long after signing to drive for Williams in F1 next year. A lot can be read into what that approach says about Latifi.
In total he has amassed 99 starts, the fifth highest in the history of F1’s primary feeder series, and taken six wins in that time.
Importantly he did do a great job beating Sette Camara though, and although he’s got big financial backing, he has earned his place on the 2020 F1 grid. However, going up against George Russell in the same team won’t make for an easy debut.
5. Luca Ghiotto ITALY Virtuosi Racing
3rd in standings, 207 points (4 wins, 2 poles, 2 fastest laps, 9 podiums) – TP 60%, QA 5.6 (4th), R1P 11.7 (3rd), R2P 6.4 (3rd)
In terms of raw race speed, few could match the peaks Virtuosi’s Luca Ghiotto achieved in 2019. That was evident straight away in Bahrain when he came from seventh on the grid to win the sprint race and lead the championship for the first time.
He then ran into the back of Sette Camara in Baku under the safety car, and dropped from pole position to the back in dramatic style at Barcelona when a hit from Campos Racing’s Dorian Boccolacci added to a poor start.
Ghiotto then charged to fourth in one of the drives of the season. He took second in the sprint race, then in Monaco lost a vital podium to a minor technical infringement, and was penalised for a crash with MP Motorsport’s Mahaveer Raghunathan. His title hopes took another blow at Paul Ricard as he was wiped out of the feature race after contact with Correa.
He hit back in style in Austria, taking two second places, and won the Silverstone feature race. It was here where team-mate Guanyu Zhou provided the biggest challenge to his leadership. Virtuosi and DAMS had a clear advantage that weekend. Rookie Zhou took pole, but Ghiotto jad the lead into Turn 1, and went on to triumph in a thrilling battle with Latifi.
There was another star drive at Monza when he bounced back from a season-low 14th in qualifying to finish second on home soil, and won his final F2 race in Abu Dhabi using pace and superb tyre management skills.
His wheel-to-wheel skill will be missed as he moves to sportscar racing in 2020. It’s a crying shame his swansong year in F2 was so fraught with incidents and inconsistency.
4. Guanyu Zhou CHINA Virtuosi Racing
7th in standings, 140 points (1 pole, 2 fastest laps, 5 podiums) – TP 40%, QA 7.2 (7th), R1P 7.5 (7th), R2P 4.8 (6th)
The highest-placed rookie in the standings and the first-ever recipient of the Anthoine Hubert Award, Guanyu Zhou delivered solidly in his debut season.
Champions Russell and Leclerc have increased expectations for rookies, and Zhou is someone who came to F2 with no experience of Pirelli rubber, the weight of a nation on his shoulders, and a new manufacturer backer in Renault.
He had a brilliant barometer in Ghiotto alongside him, who quickly turned from teacher to rival such was his growth.
Even his development over the opening weekend in Bahrain was impressive. He qualified 17th but raced to 10th, then turned that into fourth in the sprint race.
Baku proved to be another learning exercise after some questionable car placement from Correa, but he was already leading races by the third round at Barcelona. He was beaten by Latifi and Aitken, but hung onto third to secure his first podium.
Zhou added two more podiums in successive weekends at Monaco and Paul Ricard, firmly establishing himself among the frontrunners. At Silverstone he then took his first pole, another milestone result for the Chinese driver.
He was back on the front row at Monza but made a rookie error when battling Latifi, which earned him a penalty. Redemption came in the sprint race by charging to fourth place from the back. Moreover, such mistakes were few and far between, and he arguably didn’t make any more of them than his far more experienced team-mate.
Zhou took his third and final feature race podium of the year in Abu Dhabi, and finished seventh in the standings. Satisfyingly for himself, he was well clear of Schumacher and Ilott, who had beaten him as Prema team-mates in F3.
A race win may have eluded him, but he produced numerous drives worthy of the top step of the podium. He’s likely to obtain that elusive victory if he remains with Virtuosi as expected for 2020.
3. Anthoine Hubert FRANCE Arden International
10th in standings, 77 points (2 wins, 2 podiums) – TP 100%, QA 10.2 (11th), R1P 5.1 (9th), R2P 4.5 (7th)
Having Anthonie Hubert in third place on our list, despite his weaker statistical record compared to some of the entries he’s above, might make it seem like his placing is skewed due to the events of Spa.
However, that could not be further from the truth. He was partnered with Arden, a team with a disappointing record in recent years. It was the ninth best scorer in 2018, with a pair of highly-rated drivers only 14th and 17th in the standings.
Despite fruitless pre-season testing, Hubert made an instant impression by storming from 11th to fourth in the Bahrain feature race – without a working radio.
Then there was the maiden win in Monaco, beating Carlin’s Louis Deletraz in a dramatic finish. His momentum appeared to have stopped at Paul Ricard with 14th in qualifying, but Hubert left the weekend with a second successive sprint race win.
One-lap speed wasn’t his or his team’s forte, but he still managed a stunning lap to qualify second in Austria. He fell to fourth in the race but it was another haul of points, while team-mate Tatiana Calderon failed to score or qualify higher than 17th.
Hubert had two pointless rounds at Silverstone and the Hungaroring, but such were the quality of his previous performances, he was already been courted for 2020 by a number of the top F2 teams.
That came as no surprise to anyone who’d followed Hubert not only in 2019 but throughout his career. From his textbook example of how to win a championship in GP3 the previous year to battling with fellow French stars Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly in karting. Anthoine Hubert will never be forgotten.
2. Jack Aitken BRITAIN/SOUTH KOREA Campos Racing
5th in standings, 159 points (3 wins, 1 fastest lap, 7 podiums) – TP 84%, QA 8.6 (10th), R1P 9.2 (6th), R2P 5.2 (5th)
Just like Hubert, Jack Aitken had to make do with a seat in a lesser-fancied F2 outfit. Once a frontrunning force at this level, Campos has lost its way in recent years without the resources of rivals, but the refreshed team was a race winner this year.
Campos wasn’t the only one licking its wounds, because Aitken was convincingly beaten by current Williams F1 driver Russell at ART last year, and in 2017 while they were GP3 team-mates.
But Aitken performed far better in a perceivably weaker team than during his time with ART. Perhaps with Campos’s full effort behind him and free from some top team pressure, he reminded everyone why he’s so highly rated by Renault.
Aitken was responsible for one of the overtakes of the season at Silverstone to pass Deletraz for sprint race victory, which was joined by the Baku feature race and Monza sprint race as wins for the 24-year-old.
The Baku performance, from eighth on the grid, involved Aitken expertly fending off de Vries while in the lead, and at Monza he came out on top in a thrilling tussle with Ilott and MP’s Jordan King, the latter whom is never an easy pass.
A poor final two rounds did little to tarnish Aitken’s stellar second season but did cost him fourth in the standings
Aitken was also consistently better than whoever Campos put alongside him. GP3 race-winner Boccolacci couldn’t match Aitken’s pace, and his successors Arjun Maini and Marino Sato didn’t even get close to the Brit or the points.
As with Sette Camara, it’s unclear but quite likely this is the end of the F2 road for Aitken, and if it proves to be, he can walk onto his next adventure with his head firmly held high.
1. Nyck de Vries?NETHERLANDS ART Grand Prix
1st in standings, 266 points (4 wins, 5 poles, 3 fastest laps, 12 podiums) – TP 96%, QA 2.9 (1st), R1P 15.4 (1st), R2P 7.0 (1st)
The start and end of Nyck de Vries’ title-winning season may have been disappointing, but there was little of that to be found pretty much everywhere else in-between.
Three wins in four races at Barcelona, Monaco and Paul Ricard mid-season gave him a point lead that he never relinquished. It wasn’t even a case of killer consistency or choosing caution in tight spots, just the simple fact that de Vries and ART was the fastest package this year.
Having said that, de Vries made a knack of avoiding incidents and credit must be given to ART for running such a reliable and efficient car and consistently executing strong race strategies.
Contrast this to de Vries’s 2018 season, where he lost potential wins in Azerbaijan, Spain and Monaco due to unforced errors. It’s a real sign de Vries has matured as a driver.
Five pole positions gifted him 20 points alone, and he converted the most important of those into a title-clinching win in Sochi. He was outside the top four in qualifying only twice, making it increasingly difficult for his title rivals to catch him.
The Dutchman has spent the last few years in the shadow of Leclerc, Russell and the likes of Norris who joined McLaren while he was still there, but he left Woking at the start of this year and made the most of it. The dominant way he won the F2 title made him an obvious pick for Mercedes-Benz’s Formula E team, and his LMP2 prototype performances in the World Endurance Championship have made him a Toyota sportscar target too. F1’s loss is definitely FE’s gain.
Jordan King?was millimetres from making this list. Like Aitken and Hubert, he dragged underdog MP to the front of the field several times, taking two podiums on his way to ninth in the points – despite missing Monaco for the Indy 500.
Louis Deletraz was another to just miss out on our top 10 for the second successive year. He’s somehow still yet to win a race, thanks to losing in a photo finish with Hubert in Monaco, a beautiful overtake from Aitken at Silverstone and poor tyre management in Abu Dhabi. He compared well to Matsushita and is returning to Charouz in 2020 for a fourth year of F2.
Juan Manuel Correa put in one of the drives of the season in Baku – getting a podium on his first time racing at a proper street circuit. He followed it up with another second place at Paul Ricard. His plucky if inconsistent style proved effective.
Frenchman Dorian Boccolacci was outshone by Aitken but deserves another F2 chance, considering he spent the first half of this year fighting for his Campos future then dropping permanently off the grid after a Silverstone cameo with Trident.
Ferrari junior Giuliano Alesi?struggled on his graduation from GP3, but got better as the season went on. He ended 2019 with his season-best result of fifth, and was 15th in the standings for Trident. Expect a far better 2020 with HWA Racelab.
He’ll be partnered by series veteran Artem Markelov next year. The Russian made a welcome three-round return after briefly leaving for Super Formula, and earned a double points finish at Monaco with MP.
Sean Gelael?had statistically his weakest year at this level yet with just 15 points, and withdrew from racing at Silverstone.
De Vries’ ART team-mate Nikita Mazepin?was probably the biggest underachiever this year. He ran Hubert fairly close to the 2018 GP3 title but scored just 11 points in his rookie F2 season. He should stay on the grid in 2020, but it won’t be with ART.
As ever,?Ralph Boschung?came on and off the grid when his budget allowed. His string of three top-10 qualifying results to start the season was impressive but continued reliability issues once again limited his rewards to two points finishes.
Against all odds, Mahaveer Raghunathan?scored a point. But he also got enough penalty points to be banned for two rounds. He provided comic relief rather than a worthwhile sporting presence.?On the other hand, his pace had drastically improved by Abu Dhabi from his debut in Bahrain.
Alfa Romeo junior Tatiana Calderon?was poor all year, often only ahead of Raghunathan. A shame considering the flashes of speed she showed in GP3. As with team-mate Hubert, her races were usually stronger than qualifying, but it wasn’t enough.
Why Red Bull should end its Super Formula experiment (October)
How Guanyu Zhou became F2?s surprise star rookie (August)
How Campos and Jack Aitken became a force in F2 (August)
How GP3 champ Anthoine Hubert is enhancing his reputation in the F2 pack (July)
The patience behind Nyck de Vries? long road to the F2 title fight (June)
Five things we learned from the 2019 Formula 2 season opener (April)