Super Shwartzman wins from 11th on the grid for Prema with successful alternate strategy

Robert Shwartzman won his second feature race in succession, proving that the alternate tyre strategy was certainly the way to go as the Russian jumped from 11th on the grid to win from Nikita Mazepin and Prema teammate and fellow Ferrari Academy driver Mick Schumacher.

With rain disrupting any meaningful long free practice running on Friday, race tactics and tyre choice were going to be an unknown quantity, the top ten opting for the soft/hard switch. But it quickly became apparent that it was definitely the wrong strategy, the harder tyres coming quickly into optimum range before a late switch to soft rubber allowed the early hard runners to pull away, Shwartzman eventually winning by a massive 15.500s from Mazepin, who started 16th on the grid and on the same strategy.

“I have no words for what the team did, it’s amazing because the strategy was the best, the pitstop was good, the car was mega, so everything was super,” said Shwartzman afterward. “Big thanks to them. Looking at the result, I was quite surprised, to be honest, but looking how we performed I was sure we were going to do a really good job anyway, so there we are. We showed our results, our potential but I’m sure we can improve even more.”

Having passed pole-sitter Callum Ilott on lap 18, it looked as if Schumacher could be en route to his first victory in F2, having his chances cruelly taken away at the Red Bull Ring when his fire extinguisher went off inside the cockpit of his Prema. Mazepin’s fresh soft rubber left the German a sitting duck late in the race, but he was still satisfied with a podium and solid points haul.

“I think we did the maximum we could,” said Schumacher. “I think we were quite quick, obviously on the option run and extended that one to prevent the tyres going off quickly and have the fresher set when we needed them. So obviously we came out of the pits quite close to Calum (Ilott), and it was quite difficult to get the tyre temperature in and the battling was difficult.

“Obviously the guys with the different strategy did a great job to get the tyres right in the first stint and then they had a much fresher tyre in the second part so it was quite difficult to really try and compete against that afterward. Nevertheless, I think it’s a whole bunch of points for the team and some good points for me, obviously. I would have liked to have a podium earlier in the season but to get it now anyway is good, the season is long, so looking forward to the next races.”

There was further success for Prema in Sunday’s sprint race as Schumacher again finished on the podium, this time ahead of teammate Schwartzman, who was fourth. It all means that the Russian leads the drivers’ standings by eight points from Ilott, Lundgaard only four points ahead of fourth placed Schumacher.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.