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UNI-Virtuosi finish as FIA Formula 2 Vice-Champions with a win and three further podiums

UNI-Virtuosi capped off the 2021 FIA Formula 2 season in style at Yas Marina, taking a win and three further podiums to end the season as Vice-Champions.

In his final round as a UNI-Virtuosi driver after three years with the team, Guanyu Zhou qualified in third, missing out on pole by just under three tenths, and put himself in a strong position to add to his trophy collection.

Felipe Drugovich also made the top 10 in Qualifying, finishing the Friday evening session in eighth, which would earn him a spot on the second row of the reverse grid in Sprint Race 1.

At the start of the opening race, the Brazilian driver got a strong launch off the line, gaining second from Dan Ticktum with a speedy lunge.

Drugovich spent the following 23 laps fighting with race leader Jehan Daruvala, who was unable to ditch the rapid Brazilian. Drugovich nearly took the lead when Daruvala locked up at Turn 8, but the Indian driver was able to cling on to first place.

Crossing the chequered flag in second, Drugovich clinched his third podium of the season. Meanwhile, Guanyu Zhou finished in eighth after carefully managing his tyres in searing 40-degree track temperatures, taking the final point on offer.

In his penultimate Formula 2 race, Zhou clinched a fourth win of the season and a fifth victory overall. Zhou avoided the drama during a chaotic start to the second Sprint Race, dashing off into the distance from third as those behind him collided.

A cool overtake on Ralph Boschung followed as Zhou homed in on the race leader, Marcus Armstrong, but the two would never get to battle. The DAMS driver slowed to a stop after a Safety Car restart, which allowed Zhou to take the lead.

The Chinese driver never looked back, launching into the distance and finishing ahead of Robert Shwartzman and Boschung.

In the Feature Race, Zhou and Drugovich started on alternate strategies as they lined up on the grid as teammates for the final time. Starting from third, Zhou hung onto the back of MP Motorsport rookie Jack Doohan off the line, pressuring the Australian driver around the opening three corners.

Doohan was putting up a strong defence to keep Zhou behind, but the Chinese driver was able to pass the Australian when he went off track. Zhou darted off into second, as Doohan was forced to retire his MP.

Zhou followed Oscar Piastri on the supersoft tyres before pitting for mediums on Lap 10. Theo Pourchaire and Drugovich assumed the lead on the alternate strategy, but were unable to build up a big enough buffer ahead of their pitstops to return in front of Piastri and Zhou.

Pourchaire changed tyres with five laps to go but UNI-Virtuosi cleverly kept Drugovich out for an extra lap. With fresher tyres, Drugovich was able to pass Pourchaire thanks to a superbly timed late overtake at Turn 5, stealing fourth and putting himself within touching distance of the podium.

Lapping two seconds faster than third-placed Robert Shwartzman, Drugovich eased past the helpless PREMA driver for third, directly behind Zhou.

The duo closed out second and third place in the final laps, giving UNI-Virtuosi enough points to climb above Carlin in the Teams’ Championship, to finish as runners-up for the third year in a row.

Zhou’s 10th podium of the season secured him third in the Drivers’ Championship, with Drugovich in eighth overall.

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