Re-energised and reinvigorated following its return to action at Spa-Francorchamps, the Formula 2 field enters uncharted terriority for Round 12 this weekend as the Championship makes its debut around Circuit Zandvoort.
With a title fight edging ever closer to its conclusion, there's still plenty to play for up and down the field and the drivers will need to be ready to go duelling in the dunes around the track's 14 twisty turns.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Felipe Drugovich has got one hand on the Drivers' Championship, holding a 43-point advantage over his nearest rival Théo Pourchaire heading into the final three rounds of the 2022 campaign. Keep your eyes peeled on the fight to finish inside the top three and to be crowned this season's top rookie as Jack Doohan's victory last weekend has promoted him to fourth, only eighth points behind Logan Sargeant, whilst Liam Lawson moves back up into the top five.
Over in the Teams' Championship, the battle upfront has gotten even closer. ART Grand Prix's lead over Carlin has been slashed to just 10 points, whilst MP Motorsport has closed up to within 20 points of the leaders, courtesy of three points-scoring finishes at Spa.
Lastly, Olli Caldwell returns to the wheel of the #14 Campos Racing car after a one round absence in Spa-Francorchamps.
FROM THE GRID – Dennis Hauger, PREMA Racing
“I’m definitely looking forward to racing at Circuit Zandvoort, especially for Qualifying. It's one of my favourite tracks, very technical and challenging so I'm looking forward to going back there. There’s not been a Formula 2 race there for a long time, so I think that’s also something to put into work and put into focus, the small things can make a big difference in such a new layout for F2.
“I like the second sector from Turn 6 to Turns 9 and 10 because it's all about keeping the flow and getting the right positioning, and if you're a bit out of position for one corner, it really affects the others. It's such a fluid and tight track, which I think is a reason why I like it is because when I was little, back in Norway there were so many tight and technical tracks, so I'm sort of used to it. It’s just a very cool track to take the maximum out of the car in a Qualifying lap and race pace. It’s not as easy to get by I would say, but definitely for Qualifying it's a special track.
“Turn 1 is definitely the easiest place to make a move stick with the DRS zone, but even there it’s not always as easy because you often end up side-by-side and you can stay around the outside there, so can end up side-by-side into Turn 2. I would say Turn 1 is the main area for overtaking, but even at Turn 3 you could stick it around the outside. Maybe also into Turn 11 after the second DRS zone. I tried that last year; I remember I went in the gravel, and I lost the position, so we definitely have to commit in these types of corners on such a tight circuit, but you never know how it will be in an F2 car, maybe it’s different so obviously I have to go into the weekend open minded.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the hardest track in terms of tyre degradation, or at least in F3 it was not. It’s a very loaded corner track where especially the front left gets a beating. I think it’s going to be important to get your lines right and think smart about where you can save a bit, but I don’t think it’s going to be one of those tracks where we’re going to struggle the most.
“Obviously I’ll be trying to repeat my win there this year. The pace was really good around there and I enjoyed it a lot, so it’s just all positive vibes going into the weekend that’s for sure. That will be the goal!”
LAST TIME OUT - SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS
Rejuvinated following the summer break, Felipe Drugovich kept things clean and, most importantly, consistent, as his quest to be be crowned the 2022 FIA Formula 2 Champion kicked up a notch with a dominant performance in Qualifying. The MP Motorsport driver was untouchable, going three-tenths clear of his rivals with three minutes of the session remaining and securing his first pole position since Round 5 in Monte Carlo.
There was no doubt that Liam Lawson had a smile on his face throughout the whole of Round 11. Having made his F1 debut in FP1 with AlphaTauri on the Friday, the Carlin driver surged his way through to secure a third victory of the season in the Sprint Race. Despite a nail-biting moment at lights out, dipping his wheels on to the grass to avoid a slow starting Théo Pourchaire, the Red Bull junior skyrocketed through from fifth to second before snatching the lead from Ralph Boschung and never looking back. Jack Doohan turned a late Safety Car appearance to his advantage to claim second, whilst Ralph Boschung brought home a podium on his return to racing - holding off a last-second charge from Drugovich on the soft rubber.
Sunday saw Doohan throw down the gauntlet and put himself firmly in the fight for the top three, holding off Drugovich to add a Feature Race victory to his 2022 tally. Seizing the opportunity via an undercut, he bolted on the medium tyres one lap earlier than the race leader and with an impressive out lap, the Virtuosi Racing driver comfortably breezed past the Brazilian to the front of the order. Meanwhile, an early retirement for Pourchaire allowed Drugovich to extend his points advantage with second, as Lawson got his elbows out against Fittipaldi to take back-to-back podium finishes in third.
As Formula 2 makes its first appearance around the Dutch circuit, the drivers will have the red-walled soft and white-walled hard Pirelli compounds to play with this weekend.
Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director
“Zandvoort will be a brand-new challenge for Formula 2, although the drivers that graduated from Formula 3 last year have experience of this unique circuit with its significantly banked corners. We don’t have any data from Zandvoort with 18-inch tyres but based on last year’s knowledge as well as simulations, we have nominated the P Zero White hard and P Zero Red soft compounds. With one step between the two options, it should be well-suited to the demands of the track while also encouraging wheel-to-wheel battles in the races.”