F2 Great Britain Report: Hope and Pain

Just when things looked like they were going one way, the Formula 2 championship took a big swing at the British Grand Prix.

Championship leader Robert Shwartzman held a strong lead with seemingly no sign of letting up after his success at Hungary, but the Russian driver had a really tough time of it from the very beginning of the weekend, even from practice. Shwartzman just never looked comfortable and trailed his teammate and fellow Ferrari academy driver Mick Schumacher for much of the weekend.

Shwartzman’s feature race in Silverstone was the feature race I perhaps expected to unfold in Hungary for him when he started in 11th, only this time the tyre dilemma/alternate strategy couldn’t save Shwartzman at Silverstone. This time he couldn’t make it to reverse grid pole, finishing P14 in the feature race and P13 in the sprint race — a double non-points finish for the championship leader.

We’ll talk about it as we talk about other events from the weekend, but Shwartzman does still emerge from Silverstone in the lead of the championship despite scoring zero points during Round 4. All things considered, that can be considered the one positive for Shwartzman from the weekend.

Shwartman’s closest championship rival, Callum Ilott, was seemingly in prime contention to take a big slice out of Shwartman’s lead in the feature race — starting from P2 while Shwartman starting 18th — but an issue meant that he had to forfeit his front row starting slot for the pitlane. Somehow, Ilott recovered to finish in P5 in the feature race — a fantastic turnaround. Sure, who knows what was possible for Ilott had he started from the front row not but Ilott had seemingly turned a disaster into something, and gave himself a chance for the sprint race too.

However, during said sprint race, with Ilott running in a strong P2 he spun the car around and could not prevent the car from stalling and was forced to retire from the race.

Really disappointing for Ilott, who would’ve surely taken the lead of the championship had he managed to keep it pointing in the right direction. Had he been able to pull a strong result in that sprint race, it would have completed a remarkable recovery weekend from the debacle at the start of the sprint race — it would have been a champions weekend.

As disappointing as it was to see Ilott make a driver-error like that, he’s still in a great position after Shwartzman’s difficult weekend — trailing by just eight points. It could’ve been worse for Ilott, but it could’ve so much better. He could have left Silverstone with the championship lead.

Alas… Plenty of time left for Ilott.

Ilott wasn’t the only Virtuosi who lost a good result in the sprint race. Guanyu Zhou had driven a strong feature race to finish P2 and was running well in the sprint race too but a spin on the last lap pulled him down to 9th and out of the scoring. Had he held on, he could’ve found himself in 4th place in the standings, ahead of Nikita Mazepin and Dan Ticktum. Instead, Zhou finds himself down in 6th place.

Speaking of Nikita Mazepin, I haven’t been a fan of his. When he caused that incident in Russia, so soon after what happened in Spa…that was bad, really, really bad. The stupidity was incredible.

I thought Mazepin lucked his way somewhat into his maiden podium finish in Hungary, being one of the few drivers who benefitted with the — as it turned out — massively superior alternate strategy, and I still feel that was the case.

That said, Mazepin thoroughly earned his victory during the feature race at Silverstone — it was very much deserved and he controlled proceedings very maturely. Mazepin enjoyed a very strong weekend all around as he picked up a P5 in the sprint race and vaulted himself up to 4th in the standings having scored 57 of his 58 points in the last two rounds.

Mazepin is very much the driver in form in F2, and a return to Silverstone next week can only be a good thing for the Russian driver.

Dan Ticktum took the victory from reverse pole in the sprint race to take his tally for the season up to 57 points, one point behind Mazepin in 4th. Ticktum’s success in F2 this season has come more so through the sprint race this year than in the feature race: 37 of his 57 points have come in the sprint race this season. Still, Ticktum did well to deal with the pressure of Christian Lundgaard late on and he has been solid this season. A good time to shine with fellow Williams academy drivers Jack Aitken and Roy Nissany struggling this season.

Speaking of the aforementioned Renault junior driver, Lundgaard had a much better time at Silverstone — picking up 26 points on the weekend thanks to P4 and P2 finishes respectively — compared to Hungary where he went scoreless in both races in Budapest.

Having pit under the safety car during the sprint race, perhaps Lundgaard will be disappointed not to have taken victory away from Ticktum but with a difficult weekend for others around him, Lundgaard should be pretty happy with his points haul from the weekend. He’s very much back in the hunt.

Now going through some brief mentions, Mick Schumacher had a difficult weekend. He was running well in the feature race but sank like a stone late on and fell all the way down to 9th, missing out on reverse pole for the sprint race.

Louis Delatraz enjoyed a strong weekend as he picked up P6 and P3 respectively — he seems to be the top performer of F2’s more experienced group (your Luca Ghiotto’s, Nobaharu Matsushita’s etc.)

Jack Aitken had another weekend to forget. He was running well in the feature race after qualifying 6th but ended up finishing 13th in the feature race…

With Shwartzman’s difficulties, and even with Ilott’s error in the sprint race, the championship is very much open.

Ilott is obviously right back in the hunt and should another weekend like that for Shwartzman — and a weekend like Mazepin’s for any of the top-6, anyone can get right into the title hunt, and with Sochi now added to the equation we have a great season ahead.

Same track next week? Sure, let’s do it.

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