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MEDIA RELEASES/FIA F2 – Photos: Supplied
Zhou seals second F2 pole, ahead of Drugovich and Ilott
Guanyu Zhou got his title challenge off to the perfect start in Spielberg, sealing his second pole position in FIA Formula 2 with a stunning Qualifying performance around the Red Bull Ring.
Behind the Renault junior, there will be a surprise front-row start for rookie Felipe Drugovich, who has enjoyed a superb start to life with MP Motorsport, already qualifying higher in F2 than he did in Formula 3 last season. British outfit UNI-Virtuosi appear to be the team to beat in Austria, with Zhou’s teammate Callum Ilott completing the top three.
Free Practice pacesetter Yuki Tsunoda picked up from where he left off at the start of this afternoon’s session, setting the early pace around the Red Bull Ring. The Carlin driver’s position at the top was short-lived though, as he was soon pipped by his teammate, Jehan Daruvala, and Zhou.
Further back, Giuliano Alesi pushed the limits of the circuit too far and spun off the track, which forced him back to the pits and put his Qualifying session on hold, although he would later return. Zhou had no such issues, taking the time under 1m 15s to climb above Daruvala and into P1.
The field dived into the pits for fresh soft tyres, but their subsequent return to the track was only fleeting, as Marino Sato spun onto the gravel for the second time today and brought out a red flag.
Speaking ahead of the season, Drugovich had talked up his chances in F2, explaining why he believed he was better suited to the Dallara machines in the top tier of junior motorsport, than those in F3. He had shown potential in Free Practice with a P6 finish, but improved even more in Qualifying to squeeze in a fast lap just ahead of the red flag, which fired him to third.
Just five minutes remained when the lights went green and Christian Lundgaard saw a challenge on Zhou fall just short, with the ART man’s time only good enough for P2. Despite holding onto first, the Chinese racer raised his game, setting two purple sectors to improve his laptime and further cement P1.
Tsunoda takes first in Free Practice on F2 debut
Yuki Tsunoda impressed in his first ever FIA Formula 2 session at the Red Bull Ring, finishing a surprise first ahead of more experienced challengers in Free Practice. The Carlin rookie climbed to P1 at the halfway mark and his time of 1:15.249 wouldn’t be bettered, with Hitech Grand Prix’s Luca Ghiotto in second and ART Grand Prix rookie Marcus Armstrong in third.
The cars fed out onto the track at the first opportunity, having endured seven months without a competitive session. A few minor damp patches remained from the early morning downpour, but the track had more than dried enough for the slicks.
Tsunoda’s teammate Jehan Daruvala set the day’s initial flying lap, but it was Mick Schumacher who posted the first fast time in the PREMA, lapping at 1:16.597. Daruvala then leapt back into first, before fellow rookie Felipe Drugovich took a turn at the top.
Renault juniors Christian Lundgaard and Guanyu Zhou began a battle for P1 and exchanged fastest times as they fired under 1m 16s.
It was from here that Tsunoda took control. The Red Bull junior showed no rustiness to beat the Renault pairing, and top a front five made up of three rookies.
The session was brought to a brief halt as Marino Sato spun and brought out a red flag, but little would change when they got back underway. Tsunoda remained first, with Luca Ghiotto taking second, just 0.054s slower.
Armstrong would seal third as Free Practice came to a close, followed by Zhou and Lundgaard. Drugovich, Robert Shwartzman, Daruvala, Sean Gelael and Louis Deletraz would complete the top ten.
Tsunoda will look to continue his strong start to life in F2, when the cars return for Qualifying at 5pm (local time).
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