UNI-Virtuosi started the 2021 FIA Formula 2 season strongly, departing Sakhir with an early lead in the Drivers’ Championship, as Guanyu Zhou secured a win in the Feature Race and a podium in Sprint Race 2 to put himself top of the standings.
Zhou put on an experienced performance to convert pole and secure his first Feature Race win on Sunday at the Bahrain International Circuit. The Chinese racer started on the hard tyre, but fell out of the top 10 in the opening laps as those on soft Pirellis gained an early advantage. The UNI-Virtuosi racer valiantly fought back, capitalising on a fortunately timed Safety Car period and tussling back through the field to take the chequered flag first.
Drugovich gave a good fight as well, but bad luck struck once again for the Brazilian driver. Despite initially battling for a podium, the Brazilian dropped back and had to settle for P9 across the line.
Earlier in the weekend, UNI-Virtuosi had topped both Friday sessions, with Drugovich sealing first in Free Practice before qualifying third. While, Zhou claimed the first pole position of the year for the second season in a row, thanks to a phenomenal last-gasp lap, which saw him beat fellow Alpine junior Christian Lundgaard by 0.003s.
The new weekend format meant that Drugovich and Zhou started Saturday’s Sprint Race 1 from P8 and P10, respectively. Zhou drove a controlled race, finishing P7. Drugovich’s morning wasn’t quite as calm, as the Brazilian suffered front-wing damage in the opening laps. This forced Drugovich into the pits and he returned at the back of the pack. He did manage to make up over 40 seconds to catch the field and eventually finished in P16.
Under the new format, the Sprint Race 2 grid is determined by flipping Sprint Race 1's top 10. This saw Zhou starting from P4, and Drugovich in 16th. Zhou once again put on a controlled performance, finishing third. Meanwhile, Drugovich impressively rose nine positions at the start of the race and was fifth by Lap 4. A late safety car thwarted the Brazilian’s efforts though, as drivers on new tyres got ahead and dropped the Brazilian back down to P14.
UNI-Virtuosi head to Round 2 second in the Teams' Championship and first in the Drivers' Championship.
Round 2 of the FIA Formula 2 Championship will be held in Monte Carlo, Monaco on 21-23 May.