Chaos, penalties and new names up front: 4 takeaways from F2 Round 8 at Spielberg

A lot of the drivers in the Formula 2 paddock expressed their excitement coming into Round 8 of the championship, with the Red Bull Ring a favourite venue for many of them. The Spielberg circuit certainly didn’t disappoint when it came to the on-track action, with some big surprises in the Feature Race. Join F1 Feeder Series as we recount the four biggest talking points of the F2 action from the weekend.

By Tyler Foster

Feature Race chaos

Time penalties were the name of the game when it came to the weekend’s racing action at the Red Bull Ring. The FIA’s decision to be stricter on track limits resulted in warnings for any car crossing the white lines on track. Three warnings led to a black and white flag for driving conduct, and any further transgressions resulted in time penalties. This led to chaos.

With tyre management always being key to Formula 2 Feature Races, the combination of degrading tyres and strict track limits was always going to be entertaining. Warnings were a constant throughout the race, with several drivers picking up time penalties. It seemed from the start that a race of attrition was going to decide the victor.

Add that to the fact that the track was damp but drying at the start of the race, which meant different strategies across the field. Those who started on wets, which included the top three from Qualifying, struggled as the track dried rapidly. With those at the front having to pit, the drivers who had started further back but got the tyre call right by starting on slicks had a chance of a podium.

These included Richard Verschoor and Jehan Daruvala, who finished first and second on track respectively. After post-race investigations, both lost their points: Verschoor was disqualified for having too little fuel, and Daruvala’s crew had illegally attempted to dry his grid slot to remove standing water, which earned him a 20-second penalty. Carlin’s Logan Sargeant was handed victory, Enzo Fittipaldi matched his best result to finish second, and Campos stand-in Roberto Merhi miraculously scored a podium finish.

In-form Sargeant moves to second

Coming into Austria, American rookie and Williams Driver Academy member Sargeant had improved massively since the start of the year. He followed up a second place in the Feature Race at Baku with his maiden F2 win in the Feature Race at Silverstone after also securing his first F2 pole that same weekend. Leaving Silverstone, Sargeant had moved up to third in the championship, 18 points behind Théo Pourchaire in second.

Sargeant was beginning to demonstrate the same ability that led him to fight for the Formula 3 title in 2020. On Friday, the Carlin driver qualified third in another impressive display. Starting eighth for the Sprint, he moved up a single position and finished seventh, getting two points while Marcus Armstrong won and Pourchaire finished second.

For the Feature Race, Sargeant was one of the only drivers to make the strategy of starting on the wet tyre work. He finished fourth on track, but after all of the time penalties and Verschoor’s disqualification were applied, Sargeant stood victorious. Pourchaire’s disastrous race resulted in a drastic change to the championship standings. All of a sudden, Sargeant vaulted Pourchaire to be second in the standings by a single point, now 39 points behind championship leader Felipe Drugovich.

Logan Sargeant (right) inherited the Feature Race win after Richard Verschoor (centre) was disqualified and Jehan Daruvala (left) received a 20-second penalty | Credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd

Front-runners fail to capitalise

With so much action in the Feature Race, along with an unusual finishing order, the championship has seen a number of position changes. In addition to Sargeant’s victory that moved him ahead of Pourchaire, Fittipaldi’s second place on Sunday has propelled him up to fifth, while Dennis Hauger’s fourth-place finish has moved him up to seventh, ahead of the likes of Jüri Vips, Jack Doohan, Liam Lawson and Frederik Vesti.

However, there is as much to be said about those who didn’t move up as those who did. A number of big-name drivers missed out on the chance to steal a big points haul in Austria. Drugovich only scored six points from the weekend, while Pourchaire’s Sprint Race podium was his only points-scoring result. Both drivers finished outside the top 10 in the Feature Race.

Daruvala’s post-race penalty demoted him from second on Sunday to twelfth, and with no points in either race, he had a disappointing weekend. Perhaps the biggest disappointments of all befell Verschoor and Vesti. Verschoor’s dominant on-track Feature Race win would have been a career high for the Trident driver, but his disqualification ruined all his hard work. Vesti, on the other hand, scored his maiden F2 pole on Friday but struggled in the tricky mixed conditions and finished 14th after a total of 20 seconds in time penalties were applied to his race time.

Armstrong dominates Sprint Race

If there was one more boring element to the weekend’s Formula 2 action, it was the Sprint Race on Saturday. The shorter race didn’t give enough time for tyre degradation to play a big factor, and DRS trains resulted in little overtaking. For Armstrong, this meant that starting on reverse-grid pole was a blessing.

The New Zealander took his second Sprint Race win of the year with a lights-to-flag victory that illustrated his natural talent at leading a race. Many drivers so far this year have struggled when leading the Sprint Race and missed out on their opportunity from reverse-grid pole, but Armstrong drove with assurance.

While his Feature Race only lasted a few corners before he was tagged out of the race, he is still sixth in the championship on 69 points and is having his highest-scoring F2 season to date even though we’ve only just crossed the halfway point.

Header photo credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd

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