Formula 2’s season has been as intense and complex as F1’s this year, in many ways, with the same suspension over lockdown and back-to-back races on its return. The championship took until the final race to wrap up, with Schumacher taking a confident but not uncontested win; here’s who stood out this year, in the junior series.
10. Luca Ghiotto
Championship finish: 10th – Points: 106
Being an F2 journeyman is no real compliment to a driver’s career; Ghiotto’s performances this year would surely rank considerably higher if it wasn’t his fifth since moving up to GP2 in 2016.
Nevertheless, as longer-running stalwart Artem Markelov has proven this year, getting to grips with F2’s latest cars and particularly their new low-profile rubber can’t be taken for granted. Ghiotto unquestionably had moments of mastery: Taking Hitech to their first F2 win in their third weekend in the championship at the Hungaroring showed a maturity of tyre management that other drivers simply couldn’t.
9. Nikita Mazepin
Championship finish: 5th – Points: 164
Ghiotto’s Hitech team mate, there’s no question Nikita Mazepin showed improvement this year, compared to his rookie season in F2 – particularly impressive, in a rookie team rather than well-established ART. Taking two feature race wins and a further four second-place podiums, he did put in some impressive performances, worthy of being ranked quite a bit higher.
However, Mazepin’s cavalier, sometimes reckless on-track manner repeatedly cost him better results. Penalties at Barcelona and Spa set him back considerably, that latter losing him a win. Some extremely questionable moves during the final weekend at Sakhir penalised him out of contention for the top finishes. It also left him one penalty point shy of qualifying for an automatic ban.
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8. Louis Deletraz
Championship finish: 8th – Points: 134
Deletraz is the only win-less driver to make this list. In his fourth year in the category, that might seem to be hard to justify. Except that his performances, for the often uncompetitive Charouz outfit, were so remarkably far above of rookie team mate Pedro Piquet, it was hard to believe they’ve been in the same team.
Although Deletraz never took the top step, he scored 98% of his team’s points – 134, to Piquet’s three (though the latter was unlucky to miss out on a big score in the final round). He put in his best drive to second in the Mugello sprint race, where he deftly avoided messy incidents to gain a podium while rivals were losing their front wings.
7. Christian Lundgaard
Championship finish: 7th – Points: 149
Early in the season, Christian Lundgaard had looked like a title contender. But the Renault junior’s hopes took a hit after a dry spell over the Silverstone-Barcelona triple header.
Plagued by mechanical problems – a problem for too many drivers in this one-make series – Lundgaard didn’t get as many chances as he perhaps should have to show his speed. On days when his car worked and he didn’t get punted off the track, though, he had tremendous form – particularly his win at the Mugello sprint race, over 14 seconds clear of his pursuers.
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6. Guanyu Zhou
Championship finish: 6th – Points: 151.5
In his second year of F2, Zhou improved on a rookie finish of seventh but with a strange season that saw him mostly miss the top step. He was on course to win the season-opener until a technical failure struck him down. Despite some impressive drives, including taking a podium despite a penalty in Bahrain, Zhou’s only win was in the red-flagged sprint race at Sochi, which ended early following a colossal crash between Jack Aitken and Ghiotto.
Zhou’s driving has been genuinely impressive this year but doesn’t show on the scoreboards. His best races have been recovery from early-lap incidents or qualifying mishaps and masterful management of the tricky tyres this year, leaving his podium haul reading less than the skill involved to take them.
5. Felipe Drugovich
Championship finish: 9th – Points: 121
Following his crushingly dominant 2018 Euroformula Open campaign, followed by a largely anonymous year in Formula 3 where he only scored one points finish, Drugovich was back to his best in F2. Taking three wins against a very competitive field showed not only that he can take advantage of a downfall for the front runners but that he can be one of them.
A disqualification from a torrid feature race at Spa wasn’t his fault (MP Motorsport didn’t pit him until the final lap, in a breach of F2’s sporting regulations). Drugovich’s driving has been impressively clean and error-free, for a championship rookie and winning both feature races at the high-degradation Bahrain rounds was particularly notable for showing mature race management under pressure.
4. Robert Shwartzman
Championship finish: 4th – Points: 177
Robert Shwartzman looked set to be the standout driver of Formula 2 in 2020 over the early rounds. The 2019 F3 champion seemed almost unstoppable during dominant feature race wins at the Styrian and Hungary rounds.
It was not, however, to be. A terrible run at Silverstone – including a tangle with team mate Mick Schumacher – saw Shwartzman slide out of contention. A further two sprint race wins weren’t enough to finish in the top three. It’s easy to say that but for bad luck any driver could be a champion but given the opportunity, Shwartzman certainly showed he could have been higher up the order.
3. Mick Schumacher
Championship finish: 1st – Points: 215
In his second year of Formula 2, Schumacher has – following on from his F3 win in 2018 – proven again Ferrari aren’t just interested in him because of his surname. Although he struggled in qualifying he was invariably a force in the races, taking two feature race wins and a further eight podiums despite never qualifying on the front row (ignoring reverse-grid races).
Schumacher’s standout skill was his flabbergastingly quick starts, which left his opponents bemused, often making up multiple places before turn one. He allied that to consistently strong tyre management. His overtakes, in slicing up the order on an often-alternate strategy, have been highlights of the season and he leaves F2 an extremely worthy champion.
2. Callum Ilott
Championship finish: 2nd – Points: 201
Despite harassing Schumacher for the title until the final race, Ilott fell short in the end, due in part to a mid-season spate of poor luck similar to Shwartzman’s. The net result was nine races in which he scored one or zero points – not the thing title bids are made out of.
Mechanical failures and race-ending collisions aside, Ilott’s sheer speed has been impressive. He took five pole positions, more than any other driver, and regularly produced recovery drives to salvage valuable points. Ilott’s home feature race win, at the second Silverstone round, was particularly dominant as he showed he could convert pole into a confident win, when able to get off the grid without a problem.
1. Yuki Tsunoda
Championship finish: 3rd – Points: 200
Now confirmed as an AlphaTauri Formula 1 driver for 2021, Yuki Tsunoda has shown the talent the Honda Dream project has sought for years, in his rookie F2 season. He’s a timely promotion for Red Bull’s Junior Team, coming as the F1 outfit has taken the rare step of bringing an outsider, Sergio Perez, into its fold.
In his first season as an F2 driver and only his second year racing in Europe, Tsunoda steadily improved at the wheel of his Carlin. A superb final weekend left him just one point of second place in the championship. His raw pace was encouraging – he took four pole positions – and he converted that potential into three wins and a further four podiums.
Tsunoda’s stand-out drives included a near-win at the second round at the Red Bull Ring where a radio failure left him out far too long on dying tyres but still doggedly holding the lead from pole on an utterly extraordinary, 26-lap wet tyre stint.
Not just able to lead from pole, Tsunoda’s sprint races showcased his overtaking skills and the ability to fight wheel-to-wheel with more experienced drivers. He won the Anthoine Hubert award for rookie performance in 2020 in recognition of his performance, and promises to be Japan’s most exciting new F1 talent for many years.
Over to you
RaceFans’ Formula 1 driver rankings will appear in January. In the meantime, cast your vote for F1 Driver of the Year here and share your views on the top F2 drivers of 2020 in the comments.