F2 Abu Dhabi: Zhou wins second sprint as champion Piastri retires
Zhou, who will drive for Alfa Romeo in Formula 1 next year, secured his first podium since Monza in September with a faultless drive at the Yas Marina circuit.
The UNI Virtuosi driver climbed from third to second early in the race before inheriting the lead when Marcus Armstrong retired from the head of the field with a mechanical issue on lap 11.
Once ahead, Zhou made no mistakes to clinch the victory comfortably from Prema Racing’s Robert Shwartzman, with Campos Racing’s Ralph Boschung in third.
The race was halted twice by the safety car with the second stoppage triggered by a clash between Roy Nissany newly crowned champion Oscar Piastri and Juri Vips that put the latter two out of the race.
Reverse grid polesitter Armstrong converted the position into the lead as the field streamed into Turn 1. Boschung followed the Kiwi through into second with Zhou in third.
However, there was plenty of action behind with Piastri in the thick of it. The Australian dived down the inside of his teammate Shwartzman and Liam Lawson as the trio battle over fifth at the first corner.
Piastri then lunged again up the inside of Lawson at Turn 5 forcing the New Zealander off the road, resulting in a five-second penalty for the former, who dropped down the order to 14th at the end of the opening lap.
Lawson recovered from almost glancing the wall to emerge back on track in eighth position.
At the front, Zhou managed to climb to second with a clean pass on Boschung at the Turn 6-7 chicane.
The race was soon neutralised when Olli Caldwell made contact with Alessio Deledda, forcing the pair into a spin at the Turn 9 hairpin that initially drew a virtual safety Car, before it was upgraded to a full safety car. Caldwell was able to continue while Deledda was left stranded on circuit.
Racing resumed on lap 7 but it was short-lived as the safety car was deployed again for an incident that involved Nissany, Vips and Piastri.
Recovering from his opening lap clash with Lawson, Piastri pulled off a head-turning two for one pass on Nissany and Vips into the Turn 6-7.
But on the run to Turn 9 Nissany surprised Piastri by diving up his inside while Vips was on the outside of Piastri. It resulted in contact putting both Piastri and Vips out of the race. The incident was to be investigated after the race.
On the restart, leader Armstrong pulled off the road at Turn 2 with a suspected mechanical issues handing Zhou the lead, the incident triggering a virtual safety car.
Shwartzman made the most of a quick reaction to the green flag allowing the Russian to pass Boschung for second on the restart.
Zhou soon quickly opened up a gap to Shwartzman while Boschung fell into the grasp of Dan Ticktum, while Felipe Drugovich and Jehan Daruvala fought over fifth. Drugovich secured the spot courtesy of an impressive move around the outside at Turn 9.
The top three remained unchanged as Zhou took the win from Shwartzman and Boschung, while Ticktum was forced to out-drag Drugovich to the line for fourth.
The remaining points paying places were filled by Lawson, Daruvala and rookie Jack Doohan.
Christian Lundgaard hit trouble in the race late on after suffering contact from Nissany which necessitated a visit to the pits for the pair.
The field will return on Sunday for the final F2 feature race of the season at 1300 local time and 1000 GMT.