Two rounds into the 2023 FIA Formula 2 season and it’s shaping up to be an unpredictable one. F2 CEO Bruno Michel casts his verdict on the latest round of action from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Before the season even started, we knew this would be a very competitive year. After four races, four different drivers from four different teams have claimed victory, with Ayumu Iwasa and Frederik Vesti adding their names to the 2023 race winners’ list. It’s worth noting, however, that they all have at least one season under their belts. We’re yet to see a rookie take the spoils. Victor Martins and Oliver Bearman were on a mission in Jeddah, but unfortunately both spun out of contention for the Feature Race victory. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before a rookie take a maiden win this season.
Round 1 in Bahrain was quite disappointing for MP Motorsport’s Jehan Daruvala, but the Indian driver was back in good form two weeks later in Jeddah. Adding two P3 finishes to his record and 21 points to his tally, he rose to fifth in the Championship. He’s the third driver this season to take home two pieces of silverware, alongside Ralph Boschung and Victor Martins, and Daruvala is also the second driver in 2023 to finish on the podium twice in a race weekend, after Boschung did the same in Bahrain previously.
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So far, ART’s pace has been blistering in Qualifying, with both of their drivers claiming back-to-back pole positions. Victor Martins, who had qualified second in the opening round at Sakhir, blew the competition away in his second F2 Qualifying session at Jeddah. The rookie went seven-tenths quicker than his closest rival, Ollie Bearman. In the Sprint, Martins made another strong impression going from 10th on the grid to P2 at the flag, taking his second piece of silverware in 2023. Unfortunately, he spun out of the race lead on Sunday, coming under pressure from Vesti. After failing to score in the Feature Race in Bahrain, Martins was again pointless after Jeddah’s Feature Race. He will need to capitalise on his impressive Qualifying results soon.
Théo Pourchaire arrived at Jeddah as the Championship leader. P3 in Qualifying meant he was in a good position to accrue his lead. But a miscalculated move on Bearman in the Sprint ended both of their races and earned Pourchaire a three grid drop for the Feature. Then, it went from bad to worse, with the Frenchman seemingly lacking pace on the Sunday, crossing the line in a pointless P13.
Meanwhile, Ralph Boschung’s weekend in Jeddah was just as challenging, with P9 in Qualifying, a fourth place in the Sprint, and P19 in the Feature Race. With five points added to his tally, the Campos Racing man overtakes Pourchaire to take the lead in the Championship, but Ayumu Iwasa is now only two points off Boschung in third place.
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Sunday’s Race was a great turnaround for four drivers who had disappointing results in Qualifying, starting with Richard Verschoor. The Dutchman struggled with pace on Friday and Saturday, but the VAR ace was able to recover an impressive 14 places, from P20 on the grid to P6 at the flag in the Feature Race.
Rookie Isack Hadjar and MP’s Dennis Hauger made up ten places in the Feature Race, both finishing in the points. Hauger started from P15 and was able to take P5, while Hadjar started P19 and ended ninth at the chequered flag.
Finally, another rookie fought his way back into the points on Sunday, as Arthur Leclerc went from P13 on the grid to eighth at the flag. A total of 16 drivers have now scored points in 2023, out of 22.
Speaking of turning things around, PREMA Racing rebounded with style from their pointless opening race weekend. In Jeddah, they claimed a first win in 2023, courtesy of Frederik Vesti, while their rookie Oliver Bearman secured a front row start in the Feature Race. The young Briton was very unlucky in the Sprint, and he made a costly mistake on Sunday, but I am sure that we will see him fight at the front of the pack again very soon.
Finally, Invicta Virtuosi Racing scored their first points of the season in Round 2, taking some silverware with P2 in the Feature Race, thanks to Jack Doohan, who will have at heart to do even better on home soil next week in Melbourne.