Of all the stats from the 2018 Formula 2 season, perhaps the most significant is the that all of the top three drivers in the final standings will be graduating to Formula 1 next season.
It’s a fact that demonstrates why F2 is the best place for aspiring F1 drivers to show their talent. The new F2 2018 car plays a key role in this, as do the Pirelli tyres fitted to it, which feature a degree of deliberate degradation to help young drivers to learn the skills they will need to succeed at the highest level.
Good tyre management was a crucial element of George Russell’s championship victory, as the Briton became the second driver in a row (after Charles Leclerc) to win the F2 title as a rookie. He also received an additional award from Pirelli, voted for by the media, for his ability to get the most out of the tyres.
It was a skill that helped Russell to claim seven race wins, equalling Leclerc’s tally from 2017. Two of his wins came in mixed weather conditions: in the feature race in France, he could lap quickly when the track was wettest at the start of the race to build up a lead. Crucially, he stayed on dry tyres when some others pitted for wets, only for the track to then dry up. Conversely, when rain hit the Sochi sprint race, he made the switch to wet tyres at the right moment.
There was one other rain-affected race this season, where Russell’s main rival Lando Norris was one of the stars. Norris had begun the season by becoming the youngest F2 race-winner in the opening race in Bahrain (aged 18 years and 146 days), quickly adapting to the demands of the cars and the tyres. He was unable to win again, instead finishing the season with a total of nine podiums, but came closest to getting back on the top step in a wet-dry race in Hungary. Norris excelled on the wet tyres, coming from sixth on the grid to lead, but after the field switched to the dry tyres, Nyck de Vries came to the fore to win.
De Vries took three wins in total: one fewer than Alexander Albon and the same number as Artem Markelov. Russian Time driver Markelov used his experience and tyre management skills to his advantage again in 2018, most notably when he won in Monaco for the second time. But it was team-mate Tadasuke Makino who produced the most interesting result of the year from a strategy point-of-view, when he won the Monza feature race from 14th on the grid using a less-fancied medium-supersoft strategy.