Formula 2

Last season three F1 rookies impressed after stepping up from Formula 2, but this year’s crop of F2 drivers are unlikely to have chance to make a similar impact.

The current lack of racing makes it likely that most teams will retain their current driver lineups for 2021, which will put the brakes on the careers of junior drivers who’d have been targeting next season as the year to graduate into F1.

Here we look at the drivers likely to be most affected by the knock-on effects of the shortened season:

Jack Aitken – Williams test driver

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Out of the current Williams test drivers (Dan Ticktum, Roy Nissany and Jamie Chadwick), Aitken would’ve been in the best position to secure an F1 drive next year, but with the knock-on effect of coronavirus a seat could open up a year too late for the Anglo-Korean driver.

Williams will likely stick with Nicholas Latifi and George Russell for 2021 as long as both are available, given Russell’s impressive debut year and that the shortened season will make a proper evaluation of Latifi difficult.

Aitken finished fifth in Formula 2 last season, but time is against him; aged 24 this is set to be his third season as an F1 test driver and if a drive doesn’t open up next year Aitken could find himself out of time in F1.

However, if a seat does open up next year his seniority will give him an edge over most of the F2 drivers looking to make the step up. 

Callum Ilott – Ferrari Driver Academy

Ilott in Baku for round 2 of the 2019 Formula 2 season, where he finished 9th in the sprint race. © James Gasperotti

Two drivers from Ferrari’s Academy, Robert Schwartzman and Marcus Armstrong, make their Formula 2 debuts this year having finished first and second in the 2019 F3 championship. The battle between the trio, plus Mick Schumacher who like Ilott enters his second year in the formula, will be fascinating to follow.

However, if both Ferrari and Alfa Romeo stay with their current lineups for 2021 the chance may have passed for Ilott by the time 2022 comes around given the fierce competition for seats within the pathway, and he’d need to considerably improve on his 11th finish in 2019 Formula 2 to attract the attention of other teams.

Sergio Sette Camara – Red Bull & Alpha Tauri test driver

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The Brazilian’s move to Red Bull as their test driver put Sette Camara in pole position to fill an Alpha Tauri seat in 2021. The team has two drivers who excel in the car, but they’re in a unique position where their futures remain in doubt because neither has been able to make it stick in the top team.

If senior Red Bull management don’t view Gasly or Kvyat as having a future in the top team their days are surely numbered, and out of this list Sette Camara probably has the best chance of still securing a drive in 2021.

However there are six Red Bull Junior drivers set to compete in F2 or F3 this season that will soon be breathing down the Brazilian’s neck, and he’s only competing in Super Formula this season, so if he isn’t considered for a drive next season he could be two seasons removed from top-level feeders series racing when a seat becomes available.

 

Dan Ticktum – Williams test driver

Ticktum was confirmed as a Williams test driver for the 2020 season © Danticktum.com

There were rumours that Ticktum would replace Brendan Hartley at Toro Rosso for 2019 but he lacked a super licence to secure the drive, and the Brit was then dumped from the Red Bull Driver Academy last year.

That was after he pulled out of Super Formula following an uninspiring three rounds, the pathway that Pierre Gasly and Stoffel Vandoorne used as springboards proving a tough nut to crack.

He would’ve looked for a strong first Formula Two season and some drivers vacating their seats for 2021 in order to rebound but with racing shut down neither of those are likely his time may have passed with the next generation of junior drivers already challenging.

Guanyu Zhou – Renault test driver

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The most difficult to gauge given the lack of certainty that Renault will even continue in F1 past this season, so Zhou could be looking for a new patron at the end of this season.

Even if Renault do decide to continue on the sport, or another team takes over the whole operation including the academy, the path to the top team is still a difficult one.

Zhou’s future at the team was always going to depend on Daniel Ricciardo’s future but some positive signs at testing, plus the postponement of the new regulations to 2022 could persuade the Australian to stick around for at least another season in Enstone, and give the team another year of preparation for 2022 to convince him to stay further.

This turn of events has also given younger Renault juniors such as Caio Collet and Oscar Piastri another year to catch up and Christian Lungaard will have his first season of F2 this year to directly challenge Zhou. 

However, after an impressive first season in Formula 2, Zhou is in a better position than most to look for potential suitors especially if he can continue his F2 form when racing restarts.

Mick Schumacher – Ferrari Driver Academy

Schumacher’s first season in Formula 2 dampened calls for him to be fast-tracked into an F1 seat, the German finished twelfth (one place behind fellow Ferrari Junior Illott) last season and needs to finish sixth or higher in the coming season to obtain enough points for a Super Licence (unless regulations are changed given the situation).

This is not an insignificant challenge in itself, but Schumacher also faces the same problem as Ilott; there’s hot competition within the Ferrari junior ranks, so the next season of Formula 2 racing could prove make or break for the German.

 

Mick Schumacher drives his father’s title-winning F2004 at Hockenheim in July 2019. © Mick Schumacher.ms

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