Any fan of F1 and feeder series like F2 will know that it’s not just the speed of the cars that makes things interesting. It’s about the strategy and the tactics used by teams and drivers to leverage their skill and keep things competitive.

For newcomers to the sport it can be tricky to know what to look out for. But taking the time to learn about F2 race strategy and tactics gives you a new layer of appreciation of the sport. With that in mind, we’ve written this blog post to review key strategies that F2 teams and drivers use to maximise their chances of victory.

1. Tire management

Per the FIA F2 regulations, all drivers are subject to a compulsory pit stop during each race where all four tires must be switched to fresh ones. Tactical decisions can be made about the timing of the pit stop, and about the tire management strategy used ahead of and after it. For example, drivers may choose to drive aggressively early on and conserve their tires later, or the opposite.

An example of the impact of tire management is the 2019 Austrian F2 feature race, where de Vries cites that he “asked too much from my tires” when trying to outpace Mick Schumacher, and that “when you’ve done that there is no way back and no way to recover” – even when following the strategy of switching from supersoft to soft on lap six.

2. Pit stop timing

Deciding when to make the compulsory pit stop can have an impact on performance and position. Taking a pit stop during a safety car period or when there is likely to be a clear section of track can allow drivers to gain valuable ground on competitors, even paving the way for overtaking and securing a stronger position for the rest of the race.

As you can see in this video though, ineffective pit stop strategy can cost drivers significant chunks of time, or even prevent them from finishing a race. This is a good example of how strategy relies on cohesion between teams, drivers, pit crews and others to come together.

3. Overtaking tactics

Because all F2 cars have the same chassis, engines and tires, there is no scope for technical superiority to facilitate overtaking. Instead, a driver’s technical ability is the determining factor. As a result, tactics must be deployed to move up through the pack. These include:

  • Slipstreaming, i.e. following closely behind a competitor to take advantage of the reduced air and wind resistance to catch them up.
  • Using the Drag Reduction System (DRS): per F2 regulations, DRS can only be used in specific zones and when the car in front is less than a second ahead.
  • Positioning: following a more efficient line around the track, particularly on corners, can help drivers to overtake competitors with inferior positioning. 
  • Pressure: by applying pressure on other racers, a driver can capitalise on any mistakes their competitors make to gain ground.

The combination of tactics used, and their effectiveness, depends on the ability of the driver and the opportunities that present themselves during a race. Taking advantage of opportunities can make a big difference, though: in the 2019 Austrian F2 Sprint Race, Mick Schumacher moved from 18th to 4th thanks to some stunning overtaking.

4. Racecraft

Following on from the points above about applying pressure and leveraging good track positions to overtake, drivers must also be adept in racecraft: that is, the blend of driving skill, tactical ability, and strategic decision-making that helps a driver to achieve the best result.

When a competitor is nipping at your heels, for example, applying pressure and trying to overtake, a driver must be able to evaluate the threat, position their car defensively, anticipate the other driver’s moves, and make tactical adjustments to their driving to maintain their position while also remaining competitive.

Many drivers are known for their solid racecraft, one example being Roger Gascoigne, noted by Formula Scout as having “impressive consistency and racecraft” that allowed him to finish close to Ollie Bearman in the 2023 season.

That’s not all

There’s plenty more strategy and tactics to be found in F2: things like race start strategy, safety car management, weather strategy, and fuel management can all make a difference. As a feeder series for F1, F2 is designed to give drivers an environment to practise and develop these skills, with the most capable increasing their chances of moving up to F1.

For the spectator, seeing the strategies in action and understanding their impact adds another layer of enjoyment to F2. When the opportunity for technical domination is removed, strategy really comes to the fore.

Any other questions?

We hope this F2 race strategy and tactics primer has been useful, and that you feel equipped with insights that will increase your enjoyment of the sport. Seeing a young driver lean into tactical driving and carve out their own style is a pleasure to behold, and one of the most satisfying aspects of F2.

If you have any questions about race strategy or tactics, get in touch with our team. We’re also happy to answer queries about what we do, and how we can help you.