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Storming comeback for UNI-Virtuosi's Zhou, Ilott in contention

Renault Formula 1 test and development driver Guanyu Zhou stormed from 11th to second in the final FIA Formula 2 feature race of the year, as Callum Ilott remains in championship contention in Sakhir.

With a red flag and issues with traffic in qualifying on the Bahrain 'outer' layout track, Zhou started 11th and Ilott ninth.

Zhou elected to start on the harder tyre which has less grip but is more durable, while most teams opted to go with the softs to start before switching to the hards later on.

Despite the grip disadvantage Zhou made a storming start to run seventh for most of the first stint until others started pitting.

He switched to the soft tyre on lap 27 of 48, but he still had to make that tyre last as well as pushing hard to move forward.

Zhou managed it perfectly and zeroed in on the cars ahead, erasing a deficit of over 11s.

He made a handful of opportunistic overtakes to finish right behind the race winner who started on the opposite strategy. It gives him a fighting chance of finishing sixth in the championship.

Ilott started on the soft tyre, and also fought back by overtaking numerous cars towards the end of the race to finish an impressive sixth, reducing his deficit to the FIA F2 points’ leader to 14 with 17 points remaining.

Ilott will start from third on the grid in tomorrow’s race, with Zhou seventh as part of the reversed-grid format of the sprint race.

UNI-Virtuosi Racing is guaranteed second in the FIA F2 teams’ championship following Saturday’s race.

Guanyu Zhou

"At the beginning of the race I had to work hard with the hard tyres. I remember thinking at the time 'I have to go longer with my tyres'. It was really tough having manage that, and I think I did pretty well.

"After the pitstop it was about trying, with the tyre advantage, to get ahead. I knew I was in a good position at least for the reverse grid. I just kept pushing.

"After a tough season definitely, all these moves on the last few laps have to really stick and be straight forward, but I couldn't afford to lose any time. Especially when I got to P4. I had to do two moves and got clear, and then it was about catching Yuki in the DRS train.

"Not really necessarily to attack him, just more like trying to follow him and go through. I don't know how many seconds there were before the last lap, but I was always pushing. All the way to the finish line.

"I was just grateful I got the P2 in the end. It's really great for the team with how hard they've worked so far."

Callum Ilott

"Not a bad race, some good points.

"I had a good start although on the second lap I used a bit more of the tyre than I would have liked.

"From there, the pitstop was great, I came out, had a good stint on the prime, just not quite good enough to really make up anything from there. Overall, good clean race.

"Tomorrow, I just have to try and win, do the best job possible and then from there, just see what happens..."

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