The FIA Formula 2 championship finally farewelled the workmanlike GP2/11 spec chassis in its pivot to the Halo-shod Dallara F2-2018. The change of machinery could be the catalyst for a closely-fought campaign among a field of Formula 1 hopefuls.

The Car

All teams will race with an identical Dallara F2-2018 chassis. The new car – adorned with the Halo cockpit protection system – was unveiled during last year’s Italian Grand Prix, and the teams were given their first hit-outs in their new challengers at two pre-season tests at Paul Ricard and Bahrain.

It’s a marked departure from the tried and trusty GP2/11, although it does retain the same tyres, fuel tank and brakes. The new car’s design features a number of elements that align it to the aesthetics of this year’s Formula 1 cars, including a lower nose, a wider and lower rear wing, and a narrower front wing. The ‘shark fin’ shaped engine cover remains, however its profile has been lowered.

One of the biggest changes is under the bodywork with the new V6 turbo engine. The 4-litre normally-aspirated V8 units that have been around since the inaugural 2005 GP2 Series season have finally been retired and replaced with a 3.4-litre turbocharged direct-injected V6 engine developed by Mecachrome. The new engine produces 620bhp.

Nirei Fukuzumi, BWT Arden

The Dallara F2 2018 replaces the venerable GP2/11 model and represents a major change in aerodynamics and engine design.

The Events

The 2018 Formula 2 season will be staged over twelve rounds, each having two races. Once again, there will be a 170-kilometre Feature Race with a mandatory pit stop, followed by a Sprint Race run over 120 kilometres.

The championship will make its début at the Circuit Paul Ricard in support of the French Grand Prix, which makes its return to the F1 calendar after a 10-year absence. The series also visits Russia’s Sochi Autodrom for the first time.

2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship Season Calendar
Dates Supporting Location
07-08 APR it Bahrain Grand Prix Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir
28-29 APR az Azerbaijan Grand Prix Baku City Circuit, Baku
12-13 MAY es Spanish Grand Prix Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona
25-27 MAY mc Monaco Grand Prix Circuit de Monaco, Monte Carlo
09-10 JUN ca Canadian Grand Prix Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal
23-24 JUN fr French Grand Prix Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet
30-01 JUL it Austrian Grand Prix Red Bull Ring, Spielberg
07-08 JUL uk British Grand Prix Silverstone Circuit, Silverstone
21-22 JUL de German Grand Prix Hockenheimring, Hockenheim
28-29 JUL it Hungarian Grand Prix Hungaroring, Budapest
25-26 AUG au Belgian Grand Prix Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Stavelot
01-02 SEP it Italian Grand Prix Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Milan
29-30 SEP ru Russian Grand Prix Sochi Autodrom, Sochi
24-25 NOV au Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi

The Drivers & Teams

The Formula 2 Championship grid has undergone a number of changes in the off-season, with Carlin Motorsport and Charouz Racing System both making their debuts as teams this year. Fortec Motorsports’ application to enter the championship was also approved, but the team later applied to defer its entry by a year after it couldn’t secure enough sponsorship. The Rapax and Racing Engineering teams opted to withdraw from the championship.

Defending Teams’ Championship winners Russian Time retained last year’s runner-up, Artem Markelov and signed FIA Formula 3 European Championship driver Tadasuke Makino as his teammate. Markelov is a seasoned campaigner and one of the best at managing Pirelli’s high-degradation tyres, however the introduction of the new Dallara F2-2018 car will negate some of the Russian’s potential advantage. Makino, who finished 15th overall in his rookie F3 campaign in Europe and all indications suggest that the Honda academy driver might be out of his depth this year.

PREMA Racing has won the Drivers’ Championship at each attempt and could well be on course for a hat-trick with its signing of McLaren academy driver Nyck de Vries. The Dutch youngster had a disrupted rookie campaign in Formula 2 last year by switching teams mid-season (from Rapax to Racing Engineering) but proved a linchpin at both midfield teams. More curious for PREMA is its signing of Sean Gelael, who has a single fluke podium to his name in two-and-a-half seasons of GP2/F2. The Indonesian brings hefty sponsorship dollars from his homeland, but he will likely be comfortably shaded by de Vries all season.

DAMS was the last team to publicly confirm its driving line-up, eventually electing to retain Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi in one of its seats. His family backing has helped him into an F1 reserve driver seat at Force India, but there’s no denying he has plenty of speed as well as his one win and nine podiums attested to last year. Joining him, although only confirmed for the season-opening Bahrain round so far, is Alxander Albon. The Anglo-Thai racer had a rather unspectacular rookie campaign last year – interrupted by breaking his shoulder in a bike accident – but his junior formulae success suggests he could be a regular podium challenger and even nab a few wins in 2018, if he gets more than one run…

George Russell & Jack Aitken, ART Grand Prix

George Russell and Jack Aitken

ART Grand Prix enters 2018 with the all-British, all-rookie driver pairing of Mercedes protege George Russell and Renault reserve driver Jack Aitken. Russell enters as the reigning GP3 Series champion, while Aitken follows his compatriot and will once again be his teammate. Aitken is hugely talented but his career prospects will take a huge hit if he’s beaten by Russell for a second year running. This will be one of the most closely matched driver pairings on the grid and both will push each other.

Dutch outfit MP Motorsport was another team to confirm its driver line-up pretty late in the pre-season, announcing Ralph Boschung with just over a week before the start of the season, while confirming former F1 driver and now F2 journeyman Roberto Merhi in its second seat. MP Motorsport finished seventh overall in the Teams’ Championship last year – thanks in no small part to the efforts of Jordan King – but its 2018 pairing is likely to excite the bank balance rather than the points’ balance.

Arden International sports a striking Force India-style livery thanks to the appearance of Austrian water brand BWT who is sponsorship the team’s driver, Mercedes DTM racer Maximilian Günther. The German has been quick in pre-season testing, which will give the team confidence heading into 2018 as its seeks to extract itself from the midfield. The British outfit will need support from its other new signing, Nirei Fukuzumi. The Japanese youngster is the Honda academy program’s next prospect, but he could be distracted by his campaign being dovetailed with sporadic Super Formula outings during the year.

Spanish outfit Campos Racing is coming off its worst GP2/F2 campaign since 2006 and will hope that the major technical regulations changes and its signing of Luca Ghiotto will lift it off the back of the grid. The Italian driver did well to finish fourth overall in last year’s championship standings and it will be tough for him to repeat the feat given the strength of many frontrunners around him. His teammate is Israeli driver Roy Nissany – son of ultra-slow F1 test driver Channoch Nissany – whose junior formulae pedigree suggests he may spring the odd surprise in his rookie season.

The Trident Racing team finished last in the 2017 standings as budget issues forced it to run a combination of five different drivers over the course of the season. One driver helicoptered into its line-up was Santino Ferrucci, who acquitted himself well and finished in the points three times. Joining him is fellow Haas F1 Team protege Arjun Maini, who is a former race-winner in the GP3 Series.

Lando Norris, Carlin Motorsport

Lando Norris

Carlin Motorsport returns to F1’s feeder championship after skipping the 2017 season. The British outfit twice finished runner-up in 2013-14 before tanking to the back of the grid almost as quickly. A repeat of this poor form is unlikely given its signing of McLaren reserve driver Lando Norris, a winner of every championship he has contested full-time. Both the team and lead driver will take time to get up to speed. Brazilian driver Sergio Sette Câmara enters his second season in Formula 2 after a two-sided rookie campaign with MP Motorsport.

Czech outfit Charouz Racing System makes its Formula 2 debut with a successful pedigree in the now-defunct Formula 3.5 V8 championship. Its driver pairing of Antonio Fuoco and Louis Delétraz doesn’t instill confidence as both had very unimpressive rookie campaigns in 2017.

2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship – Provisional Entry List
Team Drivers
Russian Time Artem Markelov Tadasuke Makino
Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing it Sean Gelael Nyck de Vries
DAMS fr Alexander Albon Nicholas Latifi
ART Grand Prix fr Jack Aitken uk George Russell uk
MP Motorsport Roberto Merhi es Ralph Boschung ch
BWT Arden International uk Maximilian Günther de Nirei Fukuzumi
Campos Vexatec Racing es Luca Ghiotto it Roy Nissany
Trident Racing it Arjun Maini in Santino Ferrucci
Carlin Motorsport uk Sergio Sette Câmara Lando Norris uk
Charouz Racing System cz Louis Delétraz Antonio Fuoco

Image via FIA Formula 2 Championship

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Geoff Burke

Journalist at MotorsportM8
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