The Baku City Circuit will host the second round of the 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship this weekend, four weeks after the opening event at Sakhir, Bahrain.
The first round of the campaign saw two teams prevail as DAMS took four podium finishes whilst UNI-Virtuosi Racing grabbed pole position and two rostrums. Sérgio Sette Câmara drew first blood in the Free Practice setting the pace ahead of teammate Nicholas Latifi whereas Luca Ghiotto pocketed a maiden F2 pole and 4 bonus points in the Qualifying. It was the Canadian driver from DAMS who came out on top in the Feature Race leading Ghiotto and Sette Câmara at the flag. The Italian from UNI-Virtuosi Racing fought back from P7 to P1 in the Sprint Race to cross the finish line ahead of the DAMS teammates, with the Brazilian ace second and Latifi third.
The win handed Ghiotto the lead in the drivers’ title fight at the end of Round 1, with the Italian on 37 points leading Latifi by 2 points followed by Sette Câmara on 27, Louis Delétraz on 16, Nyck de Vries and Anthoine Hubert on 12; in the teams’ championship DAMS have built an early lead with 62 points over UNI-Virtuosi Racing on 48, Carlin on 18 ahead of ART Grand Prix and BWT Arden on 12 points each.
The F2 paddock has moved to Baku for the second round of the season on the street circuit in the capital of Azerbaijan. There is considerable track evolution over the course of the weekend with the grip level increasing and making it difficult for the teams to find the perfect set-up. Pirelli will provide the drivers with Medium and Supersoft compounds. More often than none, Safety Car periods occur, meaning the strategy and the timing of the obligatory pit-stop in the Feature Race are decisive. Once again, F2 should provide the fans with an enthralling show!
Warm Up // Nicholas Latifi – Dams
“Baku is a street circuit so that comes with its own challenges. There is no room for error really. It’s quite exciting! In the race, we get really close to 330kph. It’s one of the most exciting races of the year: anything can happen. Qualifying at the front does not really mean much, and the same goes with qualifying last which is what happened to me last year. I qualified last and finished fifth and third in the races respectively. It’s very unpredictable. There’s low tyre degradation as well. It’s a flat-out race which is very unique for Formula 2.
“The castle section is probably one of the most unique corners of the calendar. It’s definitely the tightest. That’s definitely a place that could make or break a lap or cause a pile-up as seen previously.
“Setting up the car is quite difficult because you want to maximise the straight line speed and then you have low speed corners. You want to have two different settings. It’s always a fine balance.
“Overtaking at Turns 1 and 3 are probably the most obvious opportunities. But in F2 any corner can become an overtaking opportunity which is one of the cool things of the championship. But you would risk quite a bit. It’s up to the driver’s discretion!
“Obviously, it’s the second race weekend of the year and you want to build some good momentum. In the past two years, I’ve had quite good results there. I’ve been able to find the good balance. You have to be smart and level-headed. A lot can go wrong. You have to make sure to not make mistakes. It’s one of the tracks I really look forward to on the calendar!”
Mario Isola, Pirelli head of F1 and car racing
“The big challenge is Baku is getting the balance right between the front and rear axles, in order to ensure that the tyres remain in the correct working window. That’s made more challenging by the fact that the long straights cool the tyres over the course of the lap, and also because the buildings that surround the track create patches of light and shade that affect track temperature. With the high frequency of safety cars, an adaptable approach is key. Overtaking is very possible, so we often see an exciting race where tyre strategy can make a key difference.”
37 The number of points scored by Championship leader Luca Ghiotto at Sakhir.
8 The number of teams who have scored at least 1 point in the season opener.
4 The number of podiums scored by DAMS in Round 1.
3 The number of rookies who scored points on their F2 debut at Bahrain (Anthoine Hubert, Guanyu Zhou and Mick Schumacher).
Sunday Sprint Race will mark the 50th race of the FIA Formula 2 since 2017
Round 1 podiums featured the same 3 drivers on both Saturday and Sunday: Nicholas Latifi, Luca Ghiotto and Sérgio Sette Câmara.
Luca Ghiotto grabbed his first F2 pole at Round 1.
The Italian from UNI-Virtuosi Racing is the highest point scorer on the grid with a total of 333 points achieved since 2017.
Rookie Guanyu Zhou made up the most places in Round 1 Feature Race (from P17 to P10) to score his first F2 point.
In the Sprint Race, Sean Gelael carved his way through the field from P20 on the grid to P10 at the flag.
Seven drivers scored in both races at Sakhir: DAMS’ Latifi and Sette Câmara, teammates Ghiotto and Zhou from UNI-Virtuosi, Carlin’s Louis Delétraz, ART Grand Prix’s Nyck De Vries and PREMA Racing’s Mick Schumacher.
Trident and Sauber Junior Team by Charouz are the only two squads who left Bahrain pointless.
MP Motorsport’s Mahaveer Raghunathan was given a drop of 10 places on the grid of this week’s Feature Race at Baku after he passed the chequered flag twice at the end of the Sprint Race at Sakhir.