Interviews by Sergio Álvarez; photos by Diego Merino.
The season finale for the FIA Formula 2 was really more about confirming Oscar Piastri’s title, saying goodbye for the time being to Guanyu Zhou (he can always make a shock comeback, seeing that he didn’t win the title, you know, do a Glock or Pantano, the long way round).
And yes, PREMA took the Teams’ Championship, now that ART had it, lost it.
Yet another podium for Campos and Ralph Boschung felt like a well-deserved result, even though it came in a less prestigious Spint Race. Good job from the Spanish squad and their determined Swiss driver.
It was a decent send-off for Robert Shwartzman as well, the Russian F3 champ not returning to F2 next season, having forcefully secured P2 in the standings. The eternal Irvine of Formula 2, I’m sure he can go on to carve a decent career in GT with Ferrari. Or maybe even undercut one of the current HAAS boys whose rookie campaign has been littered with mistakes and crashes. Quite messy, innit. To be fair, only Tsunoda had a car to compete in the top 10 – of the 2020 F2 class and F1 graduates. It’s funny ’cause it’s true baby. No it’s not.
Dan Ticktum also says bye-bye to F2 after Abu Dhabi and the controversial Briton must’ve been “electrified” by his recent Formula E test with NIO, isn’t that so? Still, a solid P4 in the standings for him. Close, but no e-cigar.
Worthy of honorary mention is Roy Nissany’s torpedo move on Piastri in Race 2, quite chic that one, elegant and sophisticated, I’d even go so far as calling it “debonair”. Dani Kvyat would’ve been proud, for sure. Roy will soldier on with DAMS in 2022, as we only recently found out.
Jack Doohan, wow, that was a very memorable debut in Formula 2 since Jeddah of course and in Abu Dhabi the Jr Doohan presented us with what IndyCar’s Pato O’Ward describes as “‘I’ve got big balls, I’m going to send it!’ and end up in the wall”. Nonetheless, the quick Aussie finishes P19 in the Drivers’ Championship, full ten places ahead of another F2 rookie, Logan Sargeant. The driver from ‘Merica joins or rejoins Carlin (whichever way you wanna look at it) for 2022 F2 campaign.
What a rotten luck AGAIN for Marcus Armstrong, no? Man, I feel for the guy. A race win lost to reliability – sometimes you don’t even need Michael Masi in order to achieve that.
Although MM did what he had to do – making a quick jump over to the F1 scandal of the century – you can’t end a championship decider like that under SC. No rules, great racing. In fairness, Merc will have lost the title long before AD by being a bit too complacent and relying solely on Ham’s attacking skills and experience. They gave up wins and podiums like it was nothing special, hence paying the ultimate price. It’s called car racing. And by the way, where was Bottas, eh? The Finnish wingman suddenly lost his wings? By comparison, Perez’s wings and salary bonus must’ve grown in size! I didn’t particularly favour any of the teams involved in the 2021 title fight because their presence in F1 is merely a marketing exercise. I like guys who have nothing to lose or gain, who are driven by the idea and just do it for fun, sort of like Eddie Jordan, Giancarlo Minardi or the late Frank Williams. Privateers rule.
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Yep, blogging is cheap, instead let’s find out what our top 3 finishers from each race had to say.
Q to Felipe Drugovich and Oscar Piastri: “How do you rate changes to the track in terms of enhancing racing opportunities?”
FD: “I think overall it helped. It depends also on which change. I think Turn 5 is really good for helping to overtake into the back straights. Turn 9, I don’t think it really helped because before it was a big braking zone and now it’s just a tiny braking zone so it’s normal that it’s more difficult to pass through there. But overall, I think the track is much more enjoyable to drive. And also the last sector is nice to drive.”
And Oscar, you weren’t so sure about the overtaking after qualy yesterday, how do you feel now?
OP: “Yeah, I think it was more or less how I expected. I think a lot of the overtaking was into Turn 6. I think the change at Turn 5 is better to overtake into Turn 6. But the overtaking into Turn 9, unless you have a really good run and basically the car in front makes a mistake, it’s very, very difficult to overtake into there. But on a plus side, it means that overtaking into Turn 6 isn’t pointless any more because that DRS zone and the braking zone, you can hold your position if you’re overtaking after that first DRS zone. I guess that’s an unexpected benefit if you go for the move in Turn 6. And the track as a whole is more enjoyable. The new Turn 9 is a lot better to drive than the previous section that was there but in terms of creating an overtaking spot at the end of that second straight, I think that the previous layout was a bit better. But yeah, that’s just my opinion.”
Oscar Piastri: Title Winning Presser
Q: “What has been the influence of Mark Webber in your title?”
OP: “I mean, I was the one doing the driving so I won’t attribute that much of it to him. Mark’s role is very much behind the scenes sorting out all my contracts, my career behind the scenes. Of course he’s been there for some advice when I’d needed it. Particularly at places like Monaco where he won twice and he gave me some good advice around there. But we set out from the beginning of our relationship that we keep in touch but he would leave me to do my thing with the team. I think across Prema, myself and Mark, we all believed it was best to let myself and the team prep on and certainly not have conflicting ideas. Of course Mark’s had some really good ideas as well to help both myself and the team. But I would say 90% of it has been myself and the team working really hard and Mark helping out where he can.”
Q to Ralph Boschung, Campos: “Please, could you tell us what has been the magic bullet for Campos and you to achieve this latest run of podiums?”
RB: “I don’t think there’s any magic bullet. I think to do a good job there’s no magic, it’s hard work, understanding when things don’t go right and why, why they’re going like that. The people that we have at Campos are just amazing. I think in general if you have good people in the team and they have good understanding, you can make great things and I think that’s what we’re trying to achieve. And we’re slowly achieving it.”
Q to Zhou, Shwartzman and Boschung: “After the SC invervention, how much time did it take you to warm your tyres up the optimal temperature again?”
RS: “As I said, it was very tricky. It took at least half a lap to get more or less somewhere there with the brake temps and with the feeling with the car. I think mostly you’re sort of glazing the brakes, because we have carbon brakes, so it takes time to really activate them. In my case, it took me like half a lap, so after Turn 6 it would get already to a certain level. I dunno how about other guys but for me it took half a lap.”
GZ: “Pretty much what Robert said. It was difficult following (the car in front) because I was in the second position at the race restart behind Marcus (Armstrong). It’s easy to lock up when you have cold brakes behind the SC and it makes us having to work very hard. But even though we work (the brakes) very hard, it’s never in the proper optimal temperature (window) and I guess it’s quite tricky. But I think half a lap, one lap everything gets back into the right window and then you can start to have your own pace or braking points again.”
RB: “For me actually the restarts were quite good; compared to both cars in front I was always relatively close. It took maybe four of five corners until I was again very confident to hit the brakes but I was working very hard as well all the time the SC was out or the VSC. It was quite tricky but I think it was quite well managed also by the team, constantly reminding me on the radio.”
Q to Guanyu Zhou: “Please tell us how important was it for you to get second in the standings once the title was out of reach?”
GZ: “I mean, to achieve top 3 was always our target, especially I think after pretty bad weekend last time out in Jeddah. This weekend our main target was to achieve top 3, which we did so it was quite good but apart from that it was more to enjoy and I’m happy with how the weekend went. We made a step during each session and obviously took the victory. And today I’m on the podium for my last race in F2 together with Oscar and Felipe and it is a great moment together. I’m super happy to finish in the top 3 and looking forward for the challenge ahead for the future as well.”