RACE DEBRIEF

    Oscar Piastri and Guanyu Zhou have already sorted out their Formula 1 futures, with the Australian set for a season as Alpine’s official reserve driver next year, while the Chinese racer has been promoted to a full-time seat at Alfa Romeo for 2022. But the pair are still battling it out for the 2021 Formula 2 title, which remains up for grabs in the final two rounds.

    F2 will head to Saudi Arabia for the first time this weekend ahead of a season finale at Abu Dhabi. With two rounds and six races to go, we take a look at who could win the title and when…

    Who is in the driving seat?

    Oscar Piastri (PREMA Racing): 1st – 178 points

    Piastri’s rise up the junior ranks has been remarkable. With two titles in as many years, he’s on course for an unprecedented third, as he looks to add the Formula 2 crown to a trophy cabinet that also includes the 2020 Formula 3 title and the 2019 Formula Renault Eurocup Championship.

    READ MORE: Meet Oscar Piastri, Alpine's new reserve driver looking to go one better than Leclerc and Russell

    As is regularly the case in F2, what has set the Australian apart from his rivals is the level of consistency he’s produced throughout the season. All four of the drivers below Piastri have experienced tough rounds – Zhou even went four races without a point between Baku and Silverstone – but Piastri has delivered everywhere he’s been.

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    Piastri has had an incredible year

    Piastri’s lowest haul of points in a single round is 21, whereas those below him have all scored fewer than 15 at least once. Piastri isn’t just playing it safe and picking up solid top-10 placings either; he’s delivering podiums and wins. He’s finished in the top three in five of the six feature races (where you start in your qualifying position, as opposed to the two reverse grid sprint races) and has been in the top five 11 times, from 17 races.

    It's not only in the races that Piastri is pacey either, the Australian having also taken three successive poles, making him only the fourth driver to achieve that particular feat in F2, along with Charles Leclerc, George Russell and Alex Albon.

    His statistics simply haven’t been matched this year.

    Formula 2 Highlights: 2021 Russian GP Feature Race

    Who is Piastri’s main rival?

    Guanyu Zhou (UNI-Virtuosi): 2nd – 142 points

    The newest addition to the Formula 1 grid, 2022 Alfa Romeo driver Zhou is the man most likely to stop Piastri, with the UNI-Virtuosi racer currently 36 points adrift.

    READ MORE: Vasseur explains why Zhou is the ‘right choice’ for Alfa Romeo – and reveals how he and Giovinazzi have cleared the air

    An electric start to the season that included one pole, two wins and a third podium gave Zhou a 16-point lead at the top of the standings heading into Azerbaijan.

    Another podium in the first sprint race increased his advantage at the top, but he then suffered from a lack of pace in the second and crashed out in the feature race. A spin on the opening lap of the first Silverstone sprint then cost Zhou the championship lead as he spent a further two races out of the points.

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    Zhou will be an F1 driver next year, but he might not be the reigning F2 champion

    Although he failed to charge into the top 10 in the second sprint race, he showed his resilience on the Sunday by recovering in fine fashion, beating polesitter Piastri to victory in the feature race. The 22-year-old’s return to form has continued since then with a further two podiums notched.

    The problem for Zhou is that Piastri’s on an even stronger run. In Silverstone, Zhou scored 25 points, but Piastri took 35. In Monza, Zhou nabbed an even stronger tally of 31 points, but Australian went and added 41.

    Matching his rival won’t be enough, either. Zhou needs to find a way to better Piastri in Jeddah and Yas Marina. Wrestling pole off the 20-year-old this weekend would be a good start.

    READ MORE: 5 key moments on 2022 Alfa Romeo driver Guanyu Zhou’s Road to F1

    Are there any outsiders?

    Several, and they’re not quite as far off as you might think. For example, Carlin boss Trevor Carlin recently said that he believes Dan Ticktum’s only real rival in the title fight is Piastri, and Ticktum is currently fourth, 49 points off him.

    Outside of Piastri, Ticktum has actually been the most consistent driver on the grid this season, averaging more than a podium a round. His only real downfall is qualifying. He’s yet to finish higher than fourth on a Friday, but if he can find a way to qualify in the top two in the last two rounds, then he’s in with a chance. Although he’d need a lot to go his way.

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    Dan Ticktum has been one of the most consistent race drivers this year, but has suffered in qualifying

    Each of the top four is in good form. Ferrari junior Robert Shwartzman is third, ahead of Ticktum, and behind Piastri and Zhou. The Russian is only 43 off his PREMA team mate Piastri, and on a run of six successive top-six finishes, as well as six podiums and two wins in his last 11 races.

    The gap is bigger than it was last season, though, when the difference between first and sixth was 51 points with six races (and three rounds) to go – this year it’s 76, with six races and two rounds remaining.

    But, with 130 points still up for grabs, a lot can change. Even Felipe Drugovich, in ninth, isn’t mathematically out of the running...

    READ MORE: Williams Driver Academy racer Logan Sargeant to make F2 debut in Saudi Arabia

    Could the title be decided in Jeddah?

    Technically yes. Piastri could clinch the championship as early as Sunday, but that would require him to increase his advantage over Zhou by 30 points, and he’s yet to do that this season.

    The biggest difference between the PREMA and the UNI-Virtuosi drivers this year was in the previous round at Sochi, where Piastri took 21 more points than his rival, so it would require an outstanding weekend from the Australian.

    He’d also need to outscore Shwartzman by 23 points, Ticktum by 17 and fifth-placed Theo Pourchaire by eight. It remains far more likely that the title will go to the wire in Abu Dhabi.

    You can catch all of the action live on F1TV from 1345 local time on Friday, December 3. Visit FIAFormula2.com for full results, reports and more.