RaceFans’ top 10 Formula 2 drivers of 2020

Formula 2

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Formula 2’s season has been as intense and complex as F1’s this year, in many ways, with the same suspension over lockdown and back-to-back races on its return. The championship took until the final race to wrap up, with Schumacher taking a confident but not uncontested win; here’s who stood out this year, in the junior series.

10. Luca Ghiotto

Championship finish: 10th – Points: 106
Being an F2 journeyman is no real compliment to a driver’s career; Ghiotto’s performances this year would surely rank considerably higher if it wasn’t his fifth since moving up to GP2 in 2016.

Nevertheless, as longer-running stalwart Artem Markelov has proven this year, getting to grips with F2’s latest cars and particularly their new low-profile rubber can’t be taken for granted. Ghiotto unquestionably had moments of mastery: Taking Hitech to their first F2 win in their third weekend in the championship at the Hungaroring showed a maturity of tyre management that other drivers simply couldn’t.

9. Nikita Mazepin

Championship finish: 5th – Points: 164
Ghiotto’s Hitech team mate, there’s no question Nikita Mazepin showed improvement this year, compared to his rookie season in F2 – particularly impressive, in a rookie team rather than well-established ART. Taking two feature race wins and a further four second-place podiums, he did put in some impressive performances, worthy of being ranked quite a bit higher.

However, Mazepin’s cavalier, sometimes reckless on-track manner repeatedly cost him better results. Penalties at Barcelona and Spa set him back considerably, that latter losing him a win. Some extremely questionable moves during the final weekend at Sakhir penalised him out of contention for the top finishes. It also left him one penalty point shy of qualifying for an automatic ban.

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8. Louis Deletraz

Championship finish: 8th – Points: 134
Deletraz is the only win-less driver to make this list. In his fourth year in the category, that might seem to be hard to justify. Except that his performances, for the often uncompetitive Charouz outfit, were so remarkably far above of rookie team mate Pedro Piquet, it was hard to believe they’ve been in the same team.

Although Deletraz never took the top step, he scored 98% of his team’s points – 134, to Piquet’s three (though the latter was unlucky to miss out on a big score in the final round). He put in his best drive to second in the Mugello sprint race, where he deftly avoided messy incidents to gain a podium while rivals were losing their front wings.

7. Christian Lundgaard

Championship finish: 7th – Points: 149
Early in the season, Christian Lundgaard had looked like a title contender. But the Renault junior’s hopes took a hit after a dry spell over the Silverstone-Barcelona triple header.

Plagued by mechanical problems – a problem for too many drivers in this one-make series – Lundgaard didn’t get as many chances as he perhaps should have to show his speed. On days when his car worked and he didn’t get punted off the track, though, he had tremendous form – particularly his win at the Mugello sprint race, over 14 seconds clear of his pursuers.

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6. Guanyu Zhou

Championship finish: 6th – Points: 151.5
In his second year of F2, Zhou improved on a rookie finish of seventh but with a strange season that saw him mostly miss the top step. He was on course to win the season-opener until a technical failure struck him down. Despite some impressive drives, including taking a podium despite a penalty in Bahrain, Zhou’s only win was in the red-flagged sprint race at Sochi, which ended early following a colossal crash between Jack Aitken and Ghiotto.

Zhou’s driving has been genuinely impressive this year but doesn’t show on the scoreboards. His best races have been recovery from early-lap incidents or qualifying mishaps and masterful management of the tricky tyres this year, leaving his podium haul reading less than the skill involved to take them.

5. Felipe Drugovich

Championship finish: 9th – Points: 121
Following his crushingly dominant 2018 Euroformula Open campaign, followed by a largely anonymous year in Formula 3 where he only scored one points finish, Drugovich was back to his best in F2. Taking three wins against a very competitive field showed not only that he can take advantage of a downfall for the front runners but that he can be one of them.

A disqualification from a torrid feature race at Spa wasn’t his fault (MP Motorsport didn’t pit him until the final lap, in a breach of F2’s sporting regulations). Drugovich’s driving has been impressively clean and error-free, for a championship rookie and winning both feature races at the high-degradation Bahrain rounds was particularly notable for showing mature race management under pressure.

4. Robert Shwartzman

Championship finish: 4th – Points: 177
Robert Shwartzman looked set to be the standout driver of Formula 2 in 2020 over the early rounds. The 2019 F3 champion seemed almost unstoppable during dominant feature race wins at the Styrian and Hungary rounds.

It was not, however, to be. A terrible run at Silverstone – including a tangle with team mate Mick Schumacher – saw Shwartzman slide out of contention. A further two sprint race wins weren’t enough to finish in the top three. It’s easy to say that but for bad luck any driver could be a champion but given the opportunity, Shwartzman certainly showed he could have been higher up the order.

3. Mick Schumacher

Championship finish: 1st – Points: 215
In his second year of Formula 2, Schumacher has – following on from his F3 win in 2018 – proven again Ferrari aren’t just interested in him because of his surname. Although he struggled in qualifying he was invariably a force in the races, taking two feature race wins and a further eight podiums despite never qualifying on the front row (ignoring reverse-grid races).

Schumacher’s standout skill was his flabbergastingly quick starts, which left his opponents bemused, often making up multiple places before turn one. He allied that to consistently strong tyre management. His overtakes, in slicing up the order on an often-alternate strategy, have been highlights of the season and he leaves F2 an extremely worthy champion.

2. Callum Ilott

Callum Ilott, Virtuosi, Silverstone, 2020
Championship finish: 2nd – Points: 201
Despite harassing Schumacher for the title until the final race, Ilott fell short in the end, due in part to a mid-season spate of poor luck similar to Shwartzman’s. The net result was nine races in which he scored one or zero points – not the thing title bids are made out of.

Mechanical failures and race-ending collisions aside, Ilott’s sheer speed has been impressive. He took five pole positions, more than any other driver, and regularly produced recovery drives to salvage valuable points. Ilott’s home feature race win, at the second Silverstone round, was particularly dominant as he showed he could convert pole into a confident win, when able to get off the grid without a problem.

1. Yuki Tsunoda

Championship finish: 3rd – Points: 200
Now confirmed as an AlphaTauri Formula 1 driver for 2021, Yuki Tsunoda has shown the talent the Honda Dream project has sought for years, in his rookie F2 season. He’s a timely promotion for Red Bull’s Junior Team, coming as the F1 outfit has taken the rare step of bringing an outsider, Sergio Perez, into its fold.

In his first season as an F2 driver and only his second year racing in Europe, Tsunoda steadily improved at the wheel of his Carlin. A superb final weekend left him just one point of second place in the championship. His raw pace was encouraging – he took four pole positions – and he converted that potential into three wins and a further four podiums.

Tsunoda’s stand-out drives included a near-win at the second round at the Red Bull Ring where a radio failure left him out far too long on dying tyres but still doggedly holding the lead from pole on an utterly extraordinary, 26-lap wet tyre stint.

Not just able to lead from pole, Tsunoda’s sprint races showcased his overtaking skills and the ability to fight wheel-to-wheel with more experienced drivers. He won the Anthoine Hubert award for rookie performance in 2020 in recognition of his performance, and promises to be Japan’s most exciting new F1 talent for many years.

Over to you

Share your views on the top F2 drivers of the year in the comments. RaceFans’ 2020 Formula 1 driver rankings will appear in January.

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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45 comments on “RaceFans’ top 10 Formula 2 drivers of 2020”

  1. Yeah – I’d agree with that.
    Was actually expecting Mazepin to be left out for other reasons – but I give credit for not mixing issues.
    On track he’s assertive, even aggressive at times – but he’s still decent.

    1. Yes, I was expecting the same, but am pleased that it was not the case. It seems Hazel is not very on message with Keith 😜

      1. @kartguy07 I am extremely on-message about Mazepin’s recent conduct, however, his on-track performance in Formula 2 is a separate assessment.

        1. “On message”? Which message is that? That nobody can be offended on behalf of the female in question? Good glad we cleared that up.

          1. Oh, do grow up.

  2. I’m going to sound a little patriotic here.. but I thought Daruvala should be at #10 instead of Ghiotto. As mentioned, Ghiotto is in his 6th season of F2, and he still only shows a few moments of brilliance.

    Daruvala, started off his rookie season in miserable form, part of that had to do with his engine woes, which seemed to disappear once the engine was changed. Towards the last 6 to 8 races showed some great form, and was matching Tsonuda’s level of performance. He managed to take a win by the end of the season along with a fastest lap and 2 podiums. It wasn’t great, but I think he was still more impressive than Ghiotto.

    1. I think Ilott is a bit high up the list here – with his qualifying record he should have sewn up the championship easily, but all too often seemed to fall behind others. I’d rank him behind Schumacher and possibly Schwartzman.

      I agree with @todfod that Daruvala is perhaps unlucky not to get a mention here, but possibly his poor start to the season counted against him.

    2. Someday we will have a driver who will be able to ‘send it’ and make it in top 10.

  3. Ilott should be 5th or 6th on this list IMO, being so quick over one lap is meaningless if you never make it count in the race, and unlike poles in F1, you’re all in the same car there or thereabouts so it’s not like you’ve qualified in pole because of weather but come race day you’re in an interior car (Stroll at Turkey etc) so he really should have been winning more. Tsunoda and Schumacher were joint top for me, and they are both getting promotions out of it so that’s good

    1. Not sure that’s true. Isnt the old adage “a fast driver can be taught patience but a patient driver cant be taught to be fast” ? Illot has speed in abundance. Ver had similar issues in his rookie years too. He is now learning that his speed is only useful when tempered.

  4. Tsunoda was impressive, but why is Ilott in front of Schumacher?
    He finished behind in the championship, he made a couple costly mistakes more, and his performance was sub par in the final weekend, when he had the chance to close the points gap to Schumacher but raced badly, while his rival stormed from the back.
    I rate the two at the same level, but this year Mick deserves to be considered the better of the two.

    1. @lello4ever Ilott suffered more lost points from either mechanical DNFs or getting crashed out – he had a staggeringly unlucky period mid-season, without that Schumacher might not have caught him in the points.

      1. @hazelsouthwell it could also be argued that he had some staggeringly good luck – if I remember correctly 4 of his poles were handed to him by well-timed yellow flags when he’d been pretty much the only driver to complete his second run.

        1. @tflb You know why no one’s talking about him being lucky, regardless of what you mentioned? Because 4 out of his 5 poles were by huge margins by F2 standards and no one was on track to beat him anyway.

          1. @montreal95 Er, yes they were. All 4 of them others were up on his splits. But he got lucky due to being the first and only of the front-runners to get the second run in.

    2. Fully agree. Probably because he’s a Brit…

      1. Awww bless… envy is a nasty attribute. Suck it up Jonny.

  5. @hazelsouthwell in this article, you mention that mechanical problems have been “a problem for too many drivers in this one-make series” – and I am curious about that.

    There were reports of engine problems occurring back in the pre-season tests in March, and repeated problems throughout this season that resulted in constant complaints from the teams and drivers. Even if they did work, we had issues such as Daruvala’s engine for the first half of the season being noticeably down on power – his results improved quite markedly once he was allowed to replace the engine.

    We also had DAMS complain that the fuel tanks they were given to use were known by the organisers to be leaking fuel for several races – which, given the safety implications, is a fairly serious allegation.

    On top of that, there were other drivers and teams reporting problems with the hydraulics systems and gearboxes on cars as well, with unexpectedly high failure rates for those components.

    Furthermore, this is not the first time we’ve had major ongoing issues with the current car – back in 2018, we had the persistent problems with the clutch mapping that forced the series to temporarily revert to rolling starts because so many were stalling at the start. On top of that, there were also persistent problems with the throttle sensors breaking extremely frequently.

    Do you have any idea why the F2 2018 is suffering from so many problems when compared to the GP2/11, which seemed to be fairly reliable? The chassis manufacturer is the same (Dallara), the gearbox supplier is the same (Hewland), the electronics are supplied by the same company (Magneti Marelli) – and I think the new ECU (the Marvel SRG 480) is a derivative of the previous one (the Marvel 8) – and the engine manufacturer is the same (Mechachrome). That same engine is derived from the normally aspirated version that Mechachrome used in GP3, and now the combined FIA Formula 3 series, and it seemed to work fairly reliably there too.

    It’s not as if the companies involved do not have any expertise with turbocharged single seater race cars – for example, Dallara has been building the Superformula cars (the SF14 and SF19), and several of those companies are currently involved in Formula 1. Why is it that the F2 2018 has been such a problematic car and why does build quality seem to have been a more noticeable issue?

  6. My rankings:
    #10 Daruvula;
    #9:Nikita Mazepin;
    #8:Louis Delatraz, suprising to see such diference between him and piquet;
    #7: Christian Lungaard;
    #6: Zhou, quite unlucky this season, maybe next year is his year, but it won’t be easy;
    #5:Felipe drugovich, quite the revelation of the year;
    #4:Callum Illot, don’t know whether he or Robert deserved the HAAS seat more, but it was a good year for the italian driver;
    #3:Robert Schwartzman, could have been contending for the title this year, hopefully, next year is his year…;
    #2:Mick Schumacher, well deserved F2 champion this year, amazing starts,race pace and recovery drives(execpt in the last sprint race, but Illot only finished 10th);
    #1:Yuki Tsunoda, well deserved promotion to Alpha Tauri, he and Gasly will be an interesting duo

  7. I suggest everyone on here looks to other objective outlets to get their F1 news. Grandprix.com is one I’ve just started to follow. It is concise, accurate and objective.

    Too many stories on here which mean nothing.

    1. @theessence I’ve been a regular viewer of this site since 2008. I’m sure a lot of people love this site and won’t switch simply because some person said so.

    2. Everyone is free to choose his sources. If you don’t like this site, just avoid it.

    3. @theessence what are you now taking offence at this time, and making sure that you do so in an overly dramatic fashion to show off how offended you are?

    4. @theessence Why you would make that comment on an opinion piece about driver performance is a mystery. Rating drivers is obviously relevant to a motorsport website, but not everyone is going to agree on how to rank the drivers because it will always be somewhat subjective. I can only assume you are upset because either you don’t care about F2, in which case you’re on the wrong site since this is not purely an F1 site, or you disagree with the rankings, in which case your comment about stories meaning nothing is irrelevant to the topic.

  8. Hazel is my favorite contributor to this site. Straight, informative, and to the point, without editorialization or speculation. Another good article!

    1. @pastaman blimey, thank you!

  9. My rankings
    # 10 Daruvala; The second half round is decent
    # 9 Zhou; Ilot was overwhelmed
    # 8 Lundgard; ART does not have enough position
    # 7 Deletraz; Big difference from rookie Piquet
    # 6 Drugocich; Shows speed
    # 5 Shwartzman; decent results at PREMA
    # 4 Mazepin; New entrant Hitech, overwhelming intimidation
    # 3 MicK; Good start, optimal positioning on the first lap
    # 2 Ilott; Good season
    # 1 Tsunoda; Left a deep impression

  10. Mazepin basically destroyed experienced Ghiotto in the championship at the wheel of a rookie team, but they are 9th and 10th?

    Great thanks for at least not putting Ghiotto higher, then!

    How Zhou, Lundgaard or, especially, Deletraz are higher in the list than Mazepin could not be explained by anything else than personal favouritism. How Callum is ahead of Schumacher — sort of the same.

    1. Illot is a bit high, no?

      1. Sorry, not meant to be a reply.

  11. Biased top 10. Mazepin could have been p3 in the standings without done penalties and he is 9th? Ilott is not worth being in 2nd either. How can schumacher be 3rd?? He was the most consistent of them all. Without the ridiculous pole points he would have had 30+ points advantage. You are deluded.

  12. I hope a F1 team is looking at Drugovich. Probably next season will be fundamental to build his case and I hope he does show more results. South America haven’t had a representation for a few years now.

  13. What if there a top 10 worst F2 drivers of 2020?
    1: Gustavo Samaia
    2: Pedro Piquet
    3: Artem Markelov
    4: Giuliano Alesi
    5: Juri Vips
    6: Noburu Matsushita
    7:Marcus Armstrong
    8: I dunno, Dan ticktum?

    P.S: could only find 8 drivers that underperformed

    1. *Guilherme Samaia

    2. Vips? In a few races he scored more then the driver he was replacing… Sean Gelael….

  14. Hometown & hype picks for the top 2.
    Hurts the credibility of this page at a time when trying to win 3000 new supporters …

    1. Why does “hometown pick” sound like “neighbour country voting” to me?

      1. Are you Tommy Morrison?

        1. You don’t know me.

  15. Drugovich…really underrated.

  16. Weakest field of Drivers in years.

  17. Has to be Schumacher at number 1. Did what he had to do to win the title.

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