As the 2017 champion Charles Leclerc continues to make headlines after his step up to Formula 1, all eyes are on the Formula 2 class of 2018 to see who is the next big star. Picking just one stand-out talent in F2 this year isn’t easy though, when more than half of the grid is connected in some way to a team or engine supplier in F1, but George Russell and Lando Norris have both lived up to their big reputations, and in Austria, their battle for the championship seemed to intensify further.
Not only is F2 the place to see the best young drivers before they reach F1, but it’s also the scene of some great racing – and the Austrian weekend was no different. The F2 2018 car has proven great for wheel-to-wheel racing so far this year, and having three Drag Reduction System (DRS) zones at the Red Bull Ring only helped the field to race closely. The Pirelli tyres were also a factor. Normally, the Red Bull Ring is relatively easy on tyres, but this year we saw that some degree of tyre management was still required: partly because the two softest tyres in the F2 range – the soft and supersoft – had been nominated and partly because temperatures were a little higher than usual in Austria during the weekend.
This helped to enhance the racing, and while Russell took a well-controlled win in the feature race, there was lots of action behind him as drivers took different approaches to managing their tyres. Norris found himself pushed down the order in the middle of the race as others preferred to push hard and race for track position. In the end though, Norris was rewarded for his tyre management and had the pace at the end of the race to re-take second. He wasn’t as quick however as Antonio Fuoco, who flew through the field late on, taking third on only the last lap.
With the reversed-grid format, Russell had to do some overtaking in the sprint race if he wanted a good result, and that’s what he did, picking off driver after driver in the opening stages to finish up second. Norris meanwhile ended up going in the other direction late on, admitting afterwards that he misjudged his tyre management on this occasion.
The net result was that Russell moved into the championship lead, but this week’s home fixture for the two rivals at Silverstone is eagerly awaited. And once again, there’s bound to be plenty of tyre strategy to talk about.