Formula 2: 2021 season drivers preview

With the season opener just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to take a look at the Formula 2 grid for 2021.

By Floris Visman

The start of the Formula 2 season will count 22 drivers and ten rookies. For drivers in their second year, the stakes are sky high. This is their time to shine and Formula 1 teams aren’t waiting around. We went through the 2021 drivers line-up to see who’s who and what we can expect of this extremely talented field.

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Prema (Oscar Piastri & Robert Shwartzman)

Prema

The Italian team won the driver’s championship with Mick Schumacher and bagged the constructors championship with Schumacher and Robert Shwartzman (21) winning a combined total of six races. Shwartzman had an amazing debut season, but momentum got away from him in the second half of the season.

Shwartzman will stay on for a second year and the Russian’s only goal is the title, also with a view on a Formula 1 seat at either Haas or Alfa Romeo. He is joined by the 2020 FIA Formula 3 champion Oscar Piastri (19). The Australian is also the 2019 Formula Renault Eurocup champion so he has won back to back titles and will be looking for wins in his debut season.

UNI-Virtuosi (Felipe Drugovich & Guanyu Zhou)

UNI-Virtuosi

Last season UNI-Virtuosi had a star line-up with Alpine Academy driver Guanyu Zhou (21) and Ferrari Driver Academy member Callum Ilott. While Ilott has moved on from Formula 2 and will compete in the GT World Challenge Europe with Iron Lynx, Zhou stays on for a third year.

Zhou will be looking to get to 40 super license points in order to be eligible to join Formula 1 in the future and has to finish seventh or higher. UNI-Virtuosi might have staged the coup of the year by luring away 2020 surprise Felipe Drugovich (20) from MP Motorsport. The Brazilian will surely be in the mix for the championship honours.

Carlin (Jehan Daruvala & Dan Ticktum)

Carlin

Another surprise from 2020 has graduated to Formula 1: Carlin have lost Yuki Tsunoda to AlphaTauri. The Japanese driver had an amazing year winning three times and finished third in the standings. Jehan Daruvala (22) had a tough year as he struggled with a faulty engine.

Daruvala will want to bounce back this season and show Red Bull why they still have faith in him. He is joined by Dan Ticktum (21). The Brit had an up and down season with DAMS, but did manage to win a race at his home race at Silverstone. Carlin is arguably a step up, so the pressure is on.

Hitech Grand Prix (Liam Lawson & Jüri Vips)

Hitech

2020 was Hitech’s very first year in Formula 2 and it showed. They signed Luca Ghiotto for the experience he had, but although the Italian won a race he finished a lowly tenth in the championship. His team mate Nikita Mazepin had a better year and managed fifth in the championship. He will make his F1 debut with Haas this year.

Hitech has a brand new line-up for 2021. Fan favourite Jüri Vips (20) has joined the team after doing four rounds with DAMS last season, bagging a podium at Mugello. He was slated for an AlphaTauri seat last season, but due to the pandemic he wasn’t able to do a full program anywhere and Red Bull’s sister team choose Tsunoda. It will be the battle of the bulls at Hitech because Liam Lawson (19) joins him as the driver from New Zealand will make his F2-debut.

ART GP (Christian Lundgaard & Theo Pourchaire)

ART GP

It looks like the the curse of the second ART seat struck again last season. While Christian Lundgaard (19) had an amazing season as the youngest driver on the grid, Marcus Armstrong’s season collapsed after a podium at the sprint race at the Red Bull Ring. He finished the season in 13th.

In 2021 ART arguably has the most exciting line-up. After an amazing year, Lundgaard returns for a second season and will want to capitalise on his amazing debut. He will be joined by one of the brightest talents on the feeder series ladder, Theo Pourchaire. Still only 17-years-old he’s had a meteoric rise through the rank, winning ADAC F4 in 2019 and just missing out on the FIA F3 title last season by three points.

MP Motorsport (Lirim Zendeli & Richard Verschoor)

MP Motorsport

Dutch MP Motorsport had one of the surprises of last season under contract. Felipe Drugovich came off the back of a difficult season in FIA F3 where he enjoyed just one points finish with Carlin. But he surprised the paddock by winning just the second race of his debut F2 season and continued to win two more. Veteran driver Nobuharu Matsushita and Giuliano Alesi drove the second car, but failed to impress.

MP Motorsport is a dark horse. Lirim Zendeli (21) graduated to the team after a good FIA F3 campaign with Trident where he won a race at Spa, although team mate David Beckmann ended ahead of him in the final standings. MP’s second seat will be filled by Richard Verschoor. He has signed for one round, but is expected to do the whole season.

Charouz (David Beckmann & Guilherme Samaia)

David Beckmann

Last season Charouz ended seventh in the constructors championship with 137 points, but only three of those came from FIA F3 graduate Pedro Piquet. It was his first and last season in F2. He cited high costs as a reason to leave F2 and single-seaters. Their other driver Louis Deletraz will also not return after four seasons of F2, he has moved on to ELMS in the LMP2 class.

That means Charouz has a brand new line-up consisting of Guilherme Samaia (24) and David Beckmann (20). Brazilian Samaia didn’t impress in his first season in Formula 2 as he failed to score any points for Campos Racing, while team mate Jack Aitken scored two podiums. He gets a do-over at the Czech team, who are reportedly in financial trouble. Beckmann had a very consistent season in FIA F3, failing to score points only once, at Monza when he retired. In his rookie year at an unstable team not much can be expected of him.

DAMS (Marcus Armstrong & Roy Nissany)

Marcus Armstrong/DAMS

French team DAMS started the season out with Sean Gelael and Dan Ticktum, but the Indonesian veteran of the series injured his back in round six at Barcelona and was temporarily replaced by Jüri Vips. The Estonian showed his worth with a podium in only his third weekend. It’s never a boring day with Ticktum, but he did perform fairly well in his full debut season. He even won a race at Silverstone.

DAMS has a completely new line-up this season: Gelael has moved on to WEC and Ticktum is now at Carlin. Marcus Armstrong (20) is one of the new drivers and the Kiwi hopes to have a better season than last year when he drove in the shadow of Lundgaard. He still has the talent and with a year under his belt and a spot in the Ferrari Driver Academy, the pressure is on to perform to the maximum. Roy Nissany (26) will go into his third year and is at a better team now, but is not one of the top drivers.

Campos Racing (Ralph Boschung & Gianluca Petecof)

Campos

The aforementioned Samaia had a terrible season at Spanish Campos Racing, where he failed to score points. While Aitken did considerably better than the Brazilian, having finished fifth in the championship the year before, he disappointed with fourteenth. It has to be said though, he missed the final round because he made his debut with Williams in Formula 1 when he replaced George Russell who replaced Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes.

Campos is going into the new season without boss Adrian Campos who passed away unexpectedly this year. They will have a fresh line-up consisting of a rookie and an F2-veteran who makes his return. Gianluca Petecof (18) is the 2020 Formula Regional European champion. He won it with Prema and was part of the Ferrari Driver Academy, but despite his accomplishments lost both. Reportedly Petecof hasn’t been able to pay for the entire season yet, so his seat is already in doubt. Ralph Boschung (23), aptly nicknamed the comeback kid, returned to Campos in F2 in the final round of last season, replacing Aitken.

HWA Racelab (Alessio Deledda & Matteo Nannini)

HWA Racelab

German team HWA made its Formula 2 debut in 2020 with Artem Markelov and Giuliano Alesi. It turned out to be an extremely difficult season for the team that had a lot of personnel that didn’t work in Formula 2 before. The experience of Markelov couldn’t save them, as they finished the season in tenth. Both drivers scored points on only two occasions.

While the experience of a debut year counts, it is to be seen if the all new line-up of HWA can perform better than last season. Alessio Deledda (26) will make his Formula 2 debut, after a year in FIA F3 where he failed to score points and finished 34th in the championship, out of 35 drivers. During the winter he posted video’s of himself driving dangerously on the road, so he can’t afford any missteps. Matteo Nannini (17) is up for a steep learning curve. Only Pourchaire is younger and he made his single-seaters debut only two years ago. The nephew of former F1-driver Alessandro Nannini has time on his hands though.

Trident (Marino Sato & Bent Viscaal)

Trident

Trident finished last in the 2020 Formula 2 championship, so it would be easy to say their drivers were bad. But while Roy Nissany and Marino Sato (21) are not the next Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, there have been way worse drivers in the history of Formula 2. Sato won the 2019 Euroformula Open Championship by winning nine out of sixteen races. And Nissany showed occasional flashes of brilliance (Spa, anyone?).

Sato went from champion to nobody last year so has to set the record straight in his second year in Formula 2. He probably got a boost when he made his Formula 1 debut for AlphaTauri at the Young Driver Test last December. Newcomer Bent Viscaal (21) had an up and down season FIA F3 last year. He won a race at Silverstone, should’ve won at the Hungaroring, but finished below team mate Verschoor in the standings. So far he only has a one-round deal so he has to perform straight away and/or pony up the money for a full season real quick.

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