Callum Illot demostrated a perfect performance to win the first feature race of the 2020 FIA F2 Championship while it was Oscar Piastri who claimed the victory in the F3 category.
The Spielberg F2 season-opener produced a dramatic race which saw Callum Ilott seal his maiden FIA Formula 2 win.
The Ferrari-backed Ilott spent the majority of the race in a dogfight with teammate Guanyu Zhou and fellow Ferrari Academy member Mick Schumacher. After the pit stops, Mick Schumacher took over the lead, however, it did not last long as Zhou and Ilott found the way past the German who was struggling a bit on his colder tyres.
After retaking the lead from Schumacher, Zhou suffered from mechanical issues. Although his race did not end at that point, he had to make a pit stop, dropping to the back of the field.
After a safety car period induced by Artem Markelov’s stricken BWT HWA Racelab car, Schumacher lost the rear end of his Prema car at Turn 7 and headed straight off the track. Although he barely managed to keep it out of the barriers, rejoined the action in the 13th place.
Schumacher’s mistake handed Ilott an easy run to victory. Behind the Briton, two newcomers, fellow Ferrari-backed drivers, Robert Shwartzman and Marcus Armstrong battled for the second place. In the end, the Russian driver kept his cool and finished the race third while the New-Zealander started his F2 career with a second-place finish.
Ilott said: “I got an amazing start and in the first lap me and Guanyu Zhou were fighting. It was a great scrap at the beginning and Mick Schumacher got involved as well and we were fighting until the pit stops, where everyone kind of undercut each other.
“Coming out on the prime tyres, it felt like we had a lot of pace once we got them up to temperature. Obviously, Zhou had a lot of bad luck with whatever problem he had. What a disaster for him because he was really, really pushing the pace there and I think that we would have had a really good race at the end.
“I think that I was quite lucky with Mick making a mistake, which meant that I was able to break away and set some really good times at the end. It is amazing to start the year like this and I want to say a big thanks to the team for putting on an amazing car. It was great to trust them after all this time to put that together, so big thanks to them and let’s see what we can do tomorrow,” he concluded.
A near-perfect start for Prema
Prema Racing started its 2020 F3 season in a near-perfect manner after its three drivers finished in the Top 4. Oscar Piastri had stunned at the start to steal the lead from third and failed to make any mistakes in the race. The Australian finished the race 1.6 seconds clear of his team-mate Logan Sargeant.
The Prema festival was disrupted by Alex Peroni who clinched the third spot on the rostrum. The Australian set the fastest lap of the race on the 19th lap. The third Prema driver, Frederik Vesti rounded off the Top 4.
Having started the weekend so superbly, polesitter Sebastian Fernandez’s race was over before it even began, as a first-lap collision with Piastri forced him to retire from the pits.
Despite dominating the majority of the race and keeping seemingly everything under control, Piastri has revealed that the first corner’s get-together at the start was ’scary’.
“Winning the first race is a great start to the year. It was very scary at Turn 1 at the start and I thought that it was going to race over 10 seconds into my debut, but thankfully I got through that and made a good move on Lirim Sargeant into Turn 3.
"Then, I just controlled it from there. The tyre deg was a bit more than we were expecting and halfway into the race I was struggling a bit with the rears. Logan Sargeant was catching me and bringing the train with him, so I had to stay on my toes. I couldn’t have started the year any better really and hopefully we can make up a few spots in the reverse grid tomorrow,” he concluded.
Following a tweak to the F3 Sporting Regulations for 2020, the tenth-placed Carlin’s French rookie Novalak will start Race 2 from pole tomorrow at 9.45am local time.