Home Featured The Top 10 Formula 2 drivers of 2020

The Top 10 Formula 2 drivers of 2020

by Formula Scout

Photos: Formula Motorsport Limited

Mick Schumacher beat Callum Ilott to emerge victorious after 24 races of a thrilling 2020 Formula 2 season. It was a championship full of title twists and brilliant racing. Who stood out most among it all?

The season was crammed full of chaotic races, unreliability, strategic battles and brilliant racing.

Formula Scout’s Craig Woollard and Josh Suttill attempt to unpack the 2020 season – from Guanyu Zhou’s misfortune in Red Bull Ring opener to that thrilling title finale in Bahrain – in the latest episode of the Formula Scout Podcast.

Among the discussion points is their explanation of Formula Scout’s top 10 drivers of the 2020 F2 season – taking into account each driver’s team and level of experience within the series. The below is a transcript of the discussion.

Listen to the podcast here, and also find it on Breaker, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, Castbox, Apple Podcasts and Spotify. At the bottom of article is a link to the video version of the review on YouTube.

Honourable Mentions

Josh Suttill: Juri Vips was solid on his debut. He’s going to be really strong next year when we’ll see a lot more from him. Luca Ghiotto was absolutely brilliant on certain weekends, and really reminded us why he’s been one of the top drivers over the last couple of years in the championship. It has never really worked out for him, he should have won the GP3 championship, should have got a bit more success over the past few years but it is what it is.

Jehan Daruvala was held back by engine issues for the majority of the season but finished the year with a well-deserved maiden F2 race win, which sets him up nicely for his sophomore year in 2021. A Formula 1 debut was a welcome reward for Jack Aitken, who had a torrid third F2 year with Campos Racing.

Ferrari junior Marcus Armstrong will be hoping his 2021 season delivers more than his miserable rookie F2 campaign in 2020 yielded. It started strongly with two podiums in the first two weekends, but he failed to register another top-three finish thereafter.

Key Percentage of team’s points scored (TP), Average qualifying pace (QA), Feature race points (R1P), Sprint race points (R2P)

10. Louis Deletraz SWITZERLAND Charouz Racing System
8th in standings, 134 points (2 fastest laps, 5 podiums) – TP 98%, QA 100.704% (13th), R1P 64 (10th), R2P 70 (3rd)

Photo: Getty Images

Craig Woollard: Took several podiums, really impressive at times with Charouz, who we didn’t necessarily expect a huge amount from this year. He was totally on top of Pedro Piquet, his team-mate as well. But a lack of a win or strong performances in qualifying, justifies him squeezing the top 10 but being no higher.

JS: I think it’s the first time he’s appeared on our end-of-season top 10 list in the past four years that he’s been in F2. It’s richly deserved, one of the best racers in the field, fantastic racecraft and some brilliant overtakes this year. But like you said, a little bit let down by his one-lap pace and Piquet levelling up [to him on pace] a little bit towards the end of the year. Brilliant elsewhere too outside of F2.

9. Guanyu Zhou China Virtuosi Racing
6th in standings, 151.5 points (1 win, 1 pole, 4 fastest laps, 6 podiums) – TP 43%, QA 100.425% (3rd), R1P 93 (6th), R2P 54.5 (5th)

Photo: Formula Motorsport Ltd

CW: Took a win at Sochi, had the pace to win at the Red Bull Ring as well. But I think having all of the pace in the world, but effectively going missing for half of the year justifies him only being ninth and no higher. Really should have been a lot more effective, especially on the weekends where Ilott made mistakes and simply wasn’t there at the end.

JS: Incredible to think that this was the driver who was not only the preseason favourite but also the one who followed that up properly in the first race. Then all just went away from him really. Struggled to put everything together, something always seemed to be lacking. A shame for Zhou, but let’s see next year, maybe it will be third time lucky.

CW: I think it will be a last-chance saloon for Zhou next year.

8. Nikita Mazepin RUSSIA Hitech GP
5th in standings, 164 points (2 wins, 2 fastest laps, 6 podiums) – TP 61%, QA 100.546% (8th), R1P 118 (4th), R2P 51.5 (6th)

Photo: Formula Motorsport Limited

CW: This position isn’t defined by his off-track “activities”, but more defined by the fact that – whilst he was very strong in the races at times – his aggression on the circuit overstepped the mark a few times. Lack of strong qualifying results at times as well, although I do think a much improved second year as a whole. There are drivers higher-up on this list who performed better, either with lesser machinery or much less experience.

JS: Yeah he would be last [on our list] if this was off-track conduct. But he takes a place in the top 10, deservedly so because it was a solid year. Really good drives; his wins at Silverstone and Mugello were very good. He took defensive driving to the limit, over the limit but he seemed to getaway with it for the most part. Very lucky to not get a race ban. These 11 penalty points he’s got from F2 won’t mean anything when he’s in F1. He hasn’t changed his driving style at all, as we saw from the final round, so I guess what we’re going to see in F1 is much the same driver as we saw throughout this year.

7. Dan Ticktum BRITAIN DAMS
11th in standings, 96.5 points (1 win, 1 fastest lap, 4 podiums) – TP 84%, QA 100.639% (10th), R1P 45 (11th), R2P 51.5 (6th)

CW: This might be a surprising addition to this list. Incredibly effective in sprint races on weekends where DAMS didn’t have the outright pace. Was unlucky to not win more than once, with the fuel issue at Monza. Generally just had a quietly effective campaign, and was able to really extract the most from the DAMS package.

JS: I wouldn’t say it was a quiet year for him! But I know what you mean, he’s been impressive in ways which can’t always be seen in the results or the TV. People tell him to change, get his head down and focus on driving, that’s just not him. Ticktum wouldn’t be Ticktum if he did. Unfortunately, the frustration did get to him at times, but a very good season. Difficult to judge with not a strong – nor reliable – barometer alongside him at DAMS. But when Vips was thrown in, Ticktum held his own very well and we’ll see what he can do next year at Carlin. It could be quite a formidable force.

6. Christian Lundgaard DENMARK ART Grand Prix
7th in standings, 149 points (2 wins, 1 pole, 2 fastest laps, 6 podiums) – TP 74%, QA 100.519% (6th), R1P 73 (8th), R2P 72 (2nd)

Photo: Formula Motorsport Limited

CW: At times, he was absolutely sensational, able to extract performances out of the ART package that simply didn’t seem feasible. Obviously took a couple of wins, some really strong qualifying performances as well. Seemed a little bit at sea at times in some of the lower-speed circuits. I think that was more down to the ART package. Simply crushed the highly-rated Marcus Armstrong in the other car. I said at the start of the year that this is the year where Lundgaard really starts to come onto the F1 radar. Obviously missed out on an F1 drive, but in the future, who knows, especially if Esteban Ocon doesn’t perform next year.

JS: Yeah so we’ve got [Oscar] Piastri coming in next year in F2, another Renault junior, but Lundgaard has set himself up very well to lead the Renault charge in the series next year. He’s stamped his authority over Zhou, he’s the next-in-line now. If we did a live top 10 ranking during the season, he’d be no’1 at times and drop outside the top 10 at others. Very up and down, but I feel like those lows will be ironed out during his second year, and he’ll come on pretty strong.

5. Felipe Drugovich BRAZIL MP Motorsport
9th in standings, 121 points (3 wins, 1 pole, 1 fastest lap, 4 podiums) – TP 72%, QA 100.454% (4th), R1P 79 (7th), R2P 38 (10th)

Photo: Formula Motorsport Limited

CW: Won several times this year, took a pole position with a package that seemed to be nowhere last year. Drugovich was absolutely brilliant this year, especially after such a difficult FIA Formula 3 campaign last year. He showed the form that he showed in 2018 when he utterly decimated the Euroformula opposition there.  I totally agree with Ilott, F1 teams need to be looking at Drugovich. Drugovich was one of the stars of the season.

JS: Everyone knows he’s very talented from his days in ADAC Formula 4 and the way he won the Euroformula championship. But we didn’t expect him to be this strong with package that he had. MP did a really good job too, credit to them. Drugovich will be one of the title favourites next year, especially with the Virtuosi package that he’s inheriting. He just needs a more consistent year next year, and I’m sure that will come with experience.

4. Robert Shwartzman RUSSIA Prema
4th in standings, 177 points (4 wins, 1 fastest lap, 6 podiums) – TP 45%, QA 100.602% (9th), R1P 117 (5th), R2P 60 (4th)

Photo: Formula Motorsport Limited

CW: Won more races than anyone, with four wins to his name. Some of those came in fortuitous circumstances, but at the end of the day, Shwartzman was the one to pounce when others faltered. Sometimes he was unlucky in qualifying, sometimes he was just not there in qualifying. That really defined much of the second half of his season. I think if we’d done this ranking based on the first half of the year, then Shwartzman would be number one, but it just did not happen for him in the latter half of the year. Came back strong in Bahrain, but it didn’t quite happen at points when it needed to happen. Had the mechanical problem in Mugello, recovered to just outside the points. It’s not totally clear cut that Shwartzman is the title favourite for next year, given the potential that so many other drivers have shown.

JS: Those slightly fortuitous wins perhaps flattered the first half of his season. But the way he won them was brilliant. Perhaps the second Red Bull Ring weekend sums up his season perfectly. The fact that he won the feature race then in the sprint race, he spun out at Turn 1 on lap one. It was a very mixed bag, but the highs were very high and even higher than Schumacher. But unfortunately, he had a lot more low peaks than him.

3. Callum Ilott BRITAIN Virtuosi Racing
2nd in standings, 201 points (3 wins, 5 poles, 6 podiums) – TP 57%, QA 100.218% (1st), R1P 138 (3rd), R2P 43 (8th)

Photo: Formula Motorsport Ltd

CW: Some people might find this a slightly harsh judgement. But I think it’s entirely fair, on the basis that he had all the speed in the world and he was able to deliver it in qualifying. But there were just too many mistakes at the end of the day. Too many weekends where he was unable to punish Schumacher. I do think, whilst he was able to pounce and take victories, especially that brilliant one at Silverstone, there was the opportunity to have so much more. He just did not perform to the same standard that he needed to really assert himself as the absolute championship favourite when it counted.

JS: Stunning pace, arguably better than de Vries last year and even what George Russell had in 2018. His pace advantage was incredible, but he wasn’t able to convert it into the victories when it mattered. Very rarely made any mistakes in qualifying, but unfortunately, that didn’t really matter that much because he made a few big ones in the races which were very costly and the timing of those, was very bad. Definitely unlucky sometimes and I hope a year on the sidelines next year, leads to a seat in 2022 because he deserves it on the basis of this year. Especially if we said three drivers from this year should graduate to F1, you’ve got to say it has to be Schumacher, Yuki Tsunoda and Ilott.

2. Mick Schumacher GERMANY Prema
1st in standings, 215 points (2 wins, 2 fastest laps, 10 podiums) – TP 55%, QA 100.542% (7th), R1P 140 (2nd), R2P 75 (1st)

Photo: Formula Motorsport Ltd

CW: Our champion at number two might seem like a harsh one, but there was one other driver who stood out just that little bit more for us. The lack of performance in qualifying grades Schumacher down a little bit, the fact he’s in his second year in F2, and there were a few weekends where Schumacher’s performances weren’t quite up to scratch. Getting usurped by Shwartzman in the early stages especially is what gives him the number two spot.

JS: You can argue it both ways [if he deserves to be number one]. The race starts for example. You can say Schumacher gained an awful lot of points just from having good starts. Is that down to him? Is that down to the team? Down to a combination of both? But actually if you look at races, like the first Bahrain feature race, he dives it down the inside of Turn 1, has brilliant spacial awareness, and gains a whole heap of positions. That’s on him, that his driving ability, and his awareness. Last year he looked unsure and lost. This year, he seemed assured, he formed a championship picture in his mind and he was taking it in a very Shwartzman [2019 F3]-esque manner and it seemed to pay off, very nicely for him. He did crumble a little bit at the end, which does knock him down a bit. But ultimately, did have a lot of bad luck too, the fire extinguisher going off at the Red Bull, being on the wrong strategy in Hungary etc. A truly deserving champion, but not quite, in our opinion, the best driver of the season.

1. Yuki Tsunoda JAPAN Carlin
3rd in standings, 200 points (3 wins, 4 poles, 1 fastest lap, 7 podiums) – TP 74%, QA 100.420% (2nd), R1P 145 (1st), R2P 39 (9th)

Photo: Formula Motorsport Limited

CW: Finished third in the championship in only his second year racing in Europe. The way Tsunoda has graduated up the ranks, going from F4 to F3 to F2 to F1, all in successive years, that’s exactly what the FIA hopes to get from the junior single-seater ladder. He’s scored more points than anybody else in feature races, which is very telling. There were a few mistakes, such as the one with Daruvala in the opener and the horrible spin he had in Bahrain qualifying too. He was given the tough task from Helmut Marko to get a superlicence and that’s what he did. And I think he did it in very fine style. Unlucky not to win more races than anybody else when you take into consideration the one he lost in Austria. He took a lot of inspiration from Anthoine Hubert and adapted that into his own driving style. Very fitting that he takes the number one spot.

JS: Absolutely fantastic throughout the year. Look at a race like Austria in the wet, where he had no radio and still drove brilliantly. Look at Spa, where he went toe-to-toe with Mazepin and came out on top. His brilliant Sakhir weekend, if there wasn’t that spin in Bahrain qualifying, we could be talking about Yuki Tsunoda as the 2020 Formula 2 champion. But instead, we’re talking about Yuki Tsunoda as a 2021 F1 driver and I think that’s a pretty good reward for a great rookie season. We might see him struggle at the start of his F1 career in the first couple of races, but no doubt, he’ll reach that really high level and show that incredible adaptability that he’s shown throughout his F3 year with Jenzer last season and also this year with Carlin in F2. Very bright future ahead for an impressive talent.