Aussie and current F2 leader Oscar Piastri in his Prema Racing car. (Photo: PREMA Team/Twitter)

Prema Racing's Oscar Piastri has surprised the racing world, currently leading the F2 Championship at the midway point of the season.

Formula 2 has reached the midway point of the season, with 12 races having taken place over four weekends.

The Inner Sanctum takes a look at how our fellow Aussie, Oscar Piastri has fared so far this season.

How Formula 2 2021 has played out

2021 has been Piastri’s debut season in F2, and the 20-year-old has not disappointed. He currently leads the championship at the halfway mark of the season.

While Piastri has just entered his adult years, he enters the competition with a wealth of racing experience. He previously won the FIA Formula 3 Championship in 2020 and the Formula Renault Eurocup in 2019.

Entering into his first season in F2, the pressure was firmly put on Piastri to perform and get results from the onset. Piastri is racing for Prema Racing, the same team he raced for in F3.

Prema Racing is one of the top teams in F2, having won the Championship last season. Piastri would be tasked with trying to replace 2020 F2 Champion Mick Schumacher, who graduated to Formula One at the conclusion of last season.

Piastri has hit the ground running, with impressive results in his first race weekend of the calendar at Bahrain which culminated in him winning the second sprint race.

From then on Piastri has gone from stride to stride collecting five podiums, one race win, one pole position and three fastest laps.

Following the conclusion of round four which took place at Silverstone, Piastri left the weekend sitting atop the Driver Championship on 108 points, five points ahead of second place driver Guanyu Zhou.

Results so far

Sprint Race 15th 8thDNF6th
Sprint Race 21st2nd8th4th
Feature RaceDNF2nd2nd3rd

What has worked

Piastri has shown a great deal of consistency thus far this season, performing strongly, and walking away from each round with strong points to show for it. He has currently only missed out on scoring points in two of the twelve races this season.

Unlike in Formula One where the focus of the weekend is the Grand Prix as that is where points can be earned, in F2 points can be earned in the Qualifying Session, the two Sprint Races and the Featured Race. Securing results throughout the entire race weekend is crucial.

This was evident this season where Zhou – who was leading the Driver Championship after the first two rounds – only scored 35 points over the two following rounds, while Piastri had 56.

Even with the pressure of being on a top team in the race for the championship and needing to maintain scoring to remain in contention, Piastri has continued to deliver.

Currently an academy driver for Alpine, he has caught the attention of the team, being afforded the opportunity to test drive Alpine’s car at Silverstone earlier this year and recently at Monza on August 2.

Piastri has also demonstrated an ability to adapt to different race situations, able to remain aggressive in races and overtake to move up the grid. On the flip side, he also has the ability to defend his position and score valuable points.

An example of this was at the Featured Race at Silverstone, where Piastri fought off Richard Verschoor on the final lap to secure a podium finish.

This ability to adapt to different race situations is an invaluable skill to have at the next level in F1.

If Piastri is to earn an F1 seat, chances are it will not be for a contending team. Drivers in these cars need to have the ability to get the most out of their car and look to race smartly to secure points where possible, jumping on any opportunities that may present themselves.

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Improvements needed

Piastri has barely put a foot wrong since debuting in F2, but at the same time has progressed quicker than most expected, putting himself in a difficult position.

“He’s actually gone too fast for Alpine, he’s gone up the ladder too quickly. Alpine have already got Ocon and Fernando for 2022,” Mark Webber told the Wide World of Sports.

“So, it’s a bit of a headache for Alpine, how fast Oscar is progressing. That’s obviously a good problem to have. They don’t want to be losing him, they’re working hard to keep him and that’s a tremendous situation for Oscar to be in because he’s doing all his talking on the track.”

Alpine will not have a free seat until the 2023 season when Fernando Alonso’s contract expires. To add to this, the winner of F2 is not allowed to compete the following season, therefore if Piastri is to win this year he will be put on the shelf and most likely serve as a backup driver for Alpine in 2022.

However, Piastri cannot afford to look too far ahead and squander all the hard work he has done up until this part of the season.

F2 is extremely competitive, and just one poor round or a handful of races can send a driver tumbling down the standings.

Therefore, remaining focused and just continuing to perform and not thinking about the future is critical to delivering him the F2 champion crown.

Outlook for the rest of the season

Round five of the F2 season will take place at Monza from September 10-12, followed by Sochi, Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and lastly Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.

Based on Piastri’s results so far, he would be expected to continue to deliver big points throughout the race weekend.

In the position he is now, Piastri would be estimated to finish amongst the top three drivers by season’s end unless something unforeseen is to occur.

His battle with second place Zhou would be exciting to watch, both Alpine Academy Drivers competing for that 2023 seat alongside Ocon.

Qualifying Sessions will prove crucial, as finishing in pole nets the winner four extra points and pole in the Featured Race, where both have performed strongly this season.

If Piastri can defeat Zhou in his rookie year, he will put himself in the prime position to earn that 2023 Alpine seat.

The only thing going against Piastri is, Zhou is from China, a big market which teams want to break into. Additionally, according to the Wide World of Sports, Zhou is rumoured to have up to $50 million behind him to help secure a drive in F1.

It is difficult to predict the financial state that Alpine may be in by the end of 2022, and therefore may require extra funding which could result in the team choosing Zhou over Piastri.

There is always the option of Alpine allowing another team to acquire the services of Piastri in the meantime. However, the only teams which seem most likely to have an open seat are Alfa-Romeo and Williams, depending on decisions from the top teams.

If a Formula One team wants to give a seat to the likes of Piastri, they will need to make the decision before the F2 championship is decided in December as by that time all F1 seats will be occupied.

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