Formula 2: highs and lows for Robert and Marcus in Bahrain

Sakhir 28 March 2021

The new FIA Formula 2 championship format saw the inaugural weekend rounded off with this morning’s feature race in Bahrain. In terms of pace Robert Shwartzman’s and Marcus Armstrong’s performance confirmed their good form in testing, but a variety of circumstances meant that neither Ferrari Driver Academy driver saw the podium this weekend.

Qualifying. Things did not go well right from qualifying. Robert set a good time on his first set of tyres but his session ended before he could do a second run: “Unfortunately, while I was warming up the tyres, a safety system suddenly shut the engine down,” explained Shwartzman. “I pushed a bit too hard on the brake pedal while my right foot was on the accelerator and that triggered the procedure. A real shame as I could definitely have got into the top five.” It meant he qualified 11th and in fact, the red flag brought out by his on-track stoppage also affected Armstrong’s session so that Marcus qualified 13th. 

Race-1. Marcus’ bad luck continued in Race-1, the first sprint race. As he exited the first corner, his engine lost power and he was hit from behind, putting an end to his race. Things went decidedly better for Shwartzman, who moved up to fifth after the start. He pushed hard in the early stages and then looked after the tyres in the closing stages, when he then had to defend from team-mate Oscar Piastri, but Shwartzman picked up his first points, with a fourth place.

Race-2. Fortunes were reversed for the two FDA drivers in the second sprint race. “I got a good start,” explained Shwartzman. “But then, braking for the corner at the end of the straight, I was ahead of Dan Ticktum but he turned in on me and the collision was inevitable, as was my retirement.” There were a few appearances from the Safety Car as Armstrong fought his way from twentieth on the grid to tenth at the flag.

Feature. The feature race got underway on Sunday a few hours before the Formula 1 Grand Prix. Once again Shwartzman was unlucky after the start and in the typical melee of the opening lap, he ran into the back of Roy Nissany at turn 4, which earned him a drive-through penalty, dropping the Russian to last place. Robert knuckled down and worked his way back up to seventh at the flag, making the most of a Safety Car appearance. Armstrong’s race went much better and he was rewarded with a fifth place finish. Marcus had a great pace running the Soft tyre in the opening stages, leading for a few laps. But his performance dropped off after the switch to Hard tyres. But fifth was a reward for a combative performance in a race that was difficult to manage, because of the many Safety Car periods and because tyre management at the Sakhir track is never easy.

Standings.  A fourth and a seventh place gives Shwartzman a total of 16 weekends from the opening round, which puts him eighth in the classification, two places ahead of Armstrong on ten points. The Formula 2 season now faces a long break until the action resumes in Monaco over the weekend of 22 May. Before then comes another three day test at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit from 23 to 25 April.