NEW 18-INCH TYRES MAKE THEIR DEBUT IN FORMULA 2 AS STRATEGY DELIVERS EXCITING RACING
The Formula 2 and Formula 3 seasons got underway alongside Formula 1 at the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring. In F2, Pirelli’s 18-inch tyres made their debut in the P Zero White hard and P Zero Red soft compounds, which allowed for a variety of strategies and led to some exciting racing with impressive fightbacks. There was also close racing in F3, where the P Zero Yellow medium tyre was in use.
Feature Race, the winner: Callum Ilott took his maiden F2 win in the feature race after a battle with UNI-Virtuosi Racing team-mate Guanyu Zhou and Prema Racing’s Mick Schumacher. All three started the race on the soft tyre, with Zhou the first of the trio to pit for hard tyres on lap 17 of 40. Ilott pitted a lap later and emerged ahead of Zhou, only for Schumacher to then get the overcut on both. With his tyres up to temperature, Zhou reclaimed the lead before he slowed with a technical issue, and with Schumacher running off track, Ilott was released to take a comfortable win. He was joined on the podium by fellow Ferrari Driver Academy members Marcus Armstrong and Robert Shwartzman – both making their debut after stepping up from F3. Armstrong used an earlier switch from the softs to the hards on lap seven to undercut his rivals after starting 13th on the grid.
Callum Ilott: “It was a great scrap at the beginning and we were fighting until the pit stops, where everyone kind of overcut each other. Coming out on the hard tyres, it felt like we had a lot of pace once we got them up to temperature. I think that I was quite lucky with Mick making a mistake, which meant that I was able to break away and set some really good times at the end.”
Feature Race, alternative strategy: Giuliano Alesi, another Ferrari junior, finished in sixth place from 18th on the grid after he and HWA Racelab team-mate Artem Markelov both started the race on the hard tyres. After stopping on lap 24, a safety car helped Alesi to close up on those in front and use his fresh soft tyres to gain five places after the restart.
Sprint Race, the winner: Felipe Drugovich, another F3 graduate, won the sprint race on his debut weekend for MP Motorsport. He led from pole position to chequered flag via three safety car restarts, firing up his hard tyres well on each occasion to keep Louis Deletraz behind him.
Race 1, the winner: Oscar Piastri won on his F3 debut for Prema from third on the grid, passing Lirim Zendeli (Trident) on lap two before managing his tyres well over the rest of the race. Piastri’s team-mate Logan Sargeant was second and Alex Peroni (Campos Racing) was third.
Race 2, the winner: Liam Lawson won race two for Hitech GP from fifth on the reversed-grid, working his way to the front of the pack and building a small gap as Richard Verschoor (MP Motorsport) and Clement Novalak (Carlin) battled fought him.
Pirelli’s head of F1 and car racing Mario Isola: “We were pleased with the performance of the 18-inch tyres on their debut, both in terms of their speed and durability. Both compounds coped very well with the conditions, as Alesi proved on Saturday in particular with an alternative hard-soft strategy. It was very good to see the hard tyre – not the ideal choice for the Red Bull Ring, but interesting to mix things up – working as well as the soft, which is well-suited to this track. Next weekend, we have a more appropriate selection. Most of all, both new 18-inch F2 compounds allowed drivers to attack continuously from start to finish, as Armstrong also proved in the feature race by being the first to switch from soft to hard tyres. Congratulations to the Ferrari Driver Academy, which placed three drivers on the podium in the feature race. The pioneering work being done in Formula 2 is a good sign for the switch to 18-inch tyres in Formula 1, scheduled now for 2022.”
Both F2 and F3 will be in action at the Red Bull Ring again next week in support of the Styrian Grand Prix. To mix things up, different tyre compounds will be nominated, with F2 moving to the P Zero Yellow medium and P Zero Purple supersoft, and F3 switching to the P Zero White hard tyres.