F2 Feature Race: Vips wins again, Zhou continues to miss mark

Juri Vips Formula 2, Red Bull, Hitech GP, Baku, Azerbaijan

Juri Vips has won again in Baku with a flawless drive throughout the Formula 2 feature race.

Vips claimed the top spot on thepodium ahead of the Prema pair, Oscar Piastri and Robert Shwartzman respectively. Despite just missing out on the win, Piastri is now just 5 points behind championship leader Guanyu Zhou with Shwartzman jumping to third in the standings.

Liam Lawson qualified on pole and started alongside race two winner and fellow Red Bull junior driver Juri Vips. Championship leader Guanyu Zhou started 8th, the same position he started when he retired from yesterday’s race two with a stuck throttle at turn one. The conditions were vastly different from the previous days with lower temperatures and overcast skies giving the drivers the ability to push their tyres harder and earlier with lower degradation in comparison.

After an aborted start, Vips got away the better of the two front-row starters, compromising Lawson’s exit out of turn two, forcing him to defend hard against Theo Pourchaire. Oscar Piastri managed to get past Vips down the inside of turn three but behind Dan Ticktum tried to make it three-wide at the apex alongside Theo Pourchaire and Marcus Armstrong. Armstrong was sent into the wall and Pourchaire was caught in the middle of the pair. A safety car was deployed to recover the Dams of Armstrong which allowed Ticktum to repair front wing damage. Pourchaire also retired after the incident, Ticktum was handed a 10-second penalty.

Juri Vips had control at the restart. Well practiced after yesterday’s sprint race, the Estonian was able to manage the restart perfectly. Lawson and Piastri fought fiercely and the pole sitter was able to get past the Prema after three corners side by side.

Robert Shwartzman’s win in the first race of the weekend seemed to instill the Russian driver with newfound confidence. Starting 10th, after five laps he was already up to 5th place and had passed Guanyu Zhou, Felipe Drugovich and Jehan Daruvala on subsequent laps. Second-placed Lawson was handed a 10-second time penalty for forcing Theo Pourchaire off the track in defence on lap one which would hand Shwartzman a net 4th place.

Oscar Piastri managed to jump Juri Vips in the pit cycle but the move was short-lived as Vips retook the lead into turn one with the help of DRS. Piastri was placed under investigation by the stewards for an unsafe release. The Australian driver was given a 5-second penalty.

Vips had stretched out a 2-second gap to Piastri before Piastri’s penalty had been applied and then it was a further 7-seconds back to Shwartzman running in a net third place on track. Ticktum was the leader on track. Although he had already pitted once, he was yet to make his mandatory pitstop. The Carlin driver finally made his mandatory stop on lap 22 of 28, still emerging in a points-paying position despite the early contact, pitstop and penalty.

Guanyu Zhou was having a second stint to forget, slipping out of the points on medium running to 13th. Zhou knew he was struggling as he got on the radio, complaining about his lack of pace to his team. For the second race in a row, the championship leader looked to be on his way to a non-points finish.

Despite his penalty, Piastri managed to hold on to second place ahead of Prema teammate Robert Shwartzman. But winning for the second time this weekend was Juri Vips for Hitech Grand Prix. Zhou’s failure to score points sees Piastri now just 5 points behind Zhou in the championship standings. Shwartzman, with his second podium of the weekend, also had reason to be thankful and looks to have put his shakey start to 2021 behind him.

FIA Formula 2 action returns in just over a months time over the course of  the British Grand Prix weekend.