After a long delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 FIA Formula 2 Championship finally gets underway this weekend at the Red Bull Ring on the support bill for the Austrian Grand Prix.
With the addition of two new teams, and several drivers stepping up from FIA Formula 3, it promises to be another hotly-contested season, especially with many drivers with backing from Formula 1 teams looking to impress.
The series will also use 18-inch Pirelli tyres for the first time this year, ahead of their introduction in F1 in 2021, which is likely to provide an added challenge for the teams and drivers.
Robert Shwartzman took the FIA F3 crown last year, and he remains with Prema for his debut in F2. He partners fellow Ferrari F1 junior Mick Schumacher, who is embarking on his second season in F2 after finishing 12th in the series last year with a solitary race win. How the pair fair alongside each other could determine their readiness to make the step up to F1 in the near future.
Marcus Armstrong – another Ferrari F1 junior – finished runner-up behind Shwartzman in F3 last year, and he makes the step-up to F2 with ART, the team with which George Russell and Nyk De Vries took the title in 2018 and 2019 respectively, so expectations will be high. He is partnered by Christian Lundgaard, a Renault F1 junior who finished sixth in FIA F3 last year, and is also highly rated having enjoyed success in Formula 4 and Formula Renault Eurocup in 2017 and 2018.
Junior formula powerhouse Carlin is running two Red Bull juniors this season, with Jehan Daruvala – narrowly beaten to second spot by Armstrong in FIA F3 last year – partnering fellow F3 graduate Yuki Tsunoda.
Sean Gelael will be looking to clinch his first F2 win this season after switching from Prema to 2019 Teams Champions DAMS for his fifth season in the series. He is partnered by two-time Macau Grand Prix winner Dan Ticktum, who was dropped from the Red Bull junior programme last after a difficult spell in the Japanese Super Formula Series, and has since been signed by the Williams F1 team as a development driver.
Guanyu Zhou – leading rookie in 2019 – remains with Uni-Virtuosi for his second season in F2, and the Renault F1 junior starts as one of the favourites to take the overall crown this year. He is likely to face stiff competition from team-mate Callum Illot, the Ferrari F1 young driver switching from Charouz for his second F2 campaign.
Williams F1 development driver Jack Aitken remains with Campos for his third season in F2, and will be looking to add to his three victories from last term. Guilherme Samaia joins Aitken at the team for his first F2 season on the back of two winless campaigns in the F3-based Euroformula Open.
After a year spent at Carlin, Louis Deletraz returns to Charouz, having raced for the team in F2 in 2018, and is still searching for his first win. Pedro Piquet – 5th in FIA F3 last year – partners Deletraz in the team for his first F2 season.
Nobuharu Matsushita – multiple F2 race-winner – switches from Carlin to MP Motorsport for his fifth season in the series, and is joined by 2018 Euroformula Open champion Felipe Drugovich, who struggled in FIA F3 last year, despite taking Spanish F3 and Euroformula Open titles in 2018.
HWA Racelab replaces Arden Motorsport on the F2 grid this season, with Artem Markelov – having won several races across five seasons in the series – partnering Ferrari F1 junior Giuliano Alesi, who finished 15th for Trident in his first F2 season in 2019.
2019 Euroformula Open champion Marino Sato is another driver to watch, as he makes his F2 debut with Trident. He is joined by Williams test driver Roy Nissany, who did not race at all last year, and failed to score a point with Campos in F2 in 2018.
Hitech GP will be looking to build on its experience in F3 as the team makes its F2 bow. Nikita Mazepin, who struggled alongside De Vries at ART last year, is partnered by Luca Ghiotto, who finished third last season, and returns to F2 despite initially deciding to step away from single-seaters to focus on his GT racing career at the end of last year.
Feature image credit: fiaformula2.com