Swiss cheers as Zanella does the double in France.
Christopher Zanella swept to the top of the FIA Formula Two Championship leader board with a brace of convincing wins in the third and fourth races of the F1 ‘feeder’ series. Having laid down solid points markers with seventh and third place finishes in the opening rounds at Silverstone in April, the 21 year old Swiss qualified on the front row for both races at the tricky and technical Magny Cours circuit in central France, most recently the home of the French Grand Prix. Alex Brundle, son of BBC F1 anchorman Martin, comprehensively banished the nightmare of his barren Silverstone weekend with a pole position start and third place finish in Race 1, then going one better with second place from the inside front row slot in Race 2.
Silverstone winners Miki Monras and Mirko Bortolotti both kept themselves firmly in championship contention. Monras finished fourth in both races, the Spaniard qualifying third in Race 1 and fifth in Race 2. Austro-Italian Bortolotti slipped a grid place to finish sixth in Race 1 but made amends in Race 2 by gaining a grid place to finish on the third podium step alongside Zanella and Brundle.
The only other driver to climb the podium during the weekend was Germany’s Tobias Hegewald. Like Zanella, he’d made a solid points-earning start to his championship campaign, registering sixth and fourth place finishes in the opening Silverstone rounds. At Magny Cours, he started from the third row and claimed second place behind Zanella in Race 1, and despite losing a little racing edge and finishing eighth from a fifth row start in Race 2, still found himself installed fourth overall behind Zanelli, Bortolotti and Monras in the championship standings by the end of the weekend.
By waving farewell to his rotten Silverstone luck, Brundle has immediately impressed himself on the championship standings in fifth place. His 33 point haul from the weekend are a much truer reflection of his pre-season testing, race practice and qualifying form. He can only hope that his faultering start to the season does not weigh against him later in the year.
Jon Lancaster laid down immediately impressive markers on his debut. The 22 year old Brit may have arrived late on the Formula Two scene, but he comes with impressive winning credentials from Formula Renault 3.5 and Formula 3 Euroseries, and immediately acclimatised to the more powerful 500bhp F2 machine. From qualifying eleventh he finished seventh in Race 1, then improved still further to finish sixth after starting eighth in Race 2. Definitely one to watch as the season progresses and he has more track time in the car.
James Cole, driving the Comma sponsored No. 2 car experienced another challenging weekend, finding the Formula Two learning curve steeper than his impressive pre-season testing performances suggested he would. Having qualified a promising ninth for Race 1, he was caught out by an early spin in the semi-wet conditions, which dropped him to the back of the field to finish eighteenth. Qualifying just 1.7 seconds off pole for Race 2 meant that he started nineteenth, and it was only retirements by others that saw him improve to seventeenth at the flag. Still, it’s a fact that good drivers – and Cole’s record shows that he is certainly that! – don’t become bad drivers overnight. We confidently predict a closer return to form from James when he gets fully to grips with the F2 machinery.
The fierce competitiveness of this year’s F2 competition is reflected in the narrow margins between qualifying times. In France, a little less than a second covered the top eleven qualifiers for Race 1, and Race 2 was even tighter with fractionally over a second covering the top thirteen. That’s fully up to F1 standard. In contrast to last year when just two drivers – Jolyon Palmer and eventual champion Dean Stoneman – dominated the two halves of the season, there is every indication that at least half a dozen competitors are going to be ‘in the mix’ throughout the year. 2011 is already shaping up to have all the makings of a classic.
Comma has been Technical Partner to FIA Formula Two, and the exclusive supplier of engine oils, coolants and maintenance chemicals to the championship since it was launched in 2009. All 24 of the identical 500bhp Williams F1 designed Formula Two race cars – including James Cole’s Comma sponsored No. 2 car - is lubricated, cooled and serviced with products supplied by Comma.
You can read full race reports, view the complete championship standings and keep up with all the other latest FIA Formula Two news at the excellent official Formula Two website.
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