The Isack Hadjar of 2024 is an altogether different prospect than the one that arrived in Formula 2 over a year ago, with a bitter taste of his Formula 3 title near miss still percolating. But still in Red Bull Junior Team colours and under the Campos Racing banner this time around, the Frenchman has an air of quiet confidence about him, and for good reason.

He is fresh from winning the latest Feature Race in Melbourne and sits fourth in the Drivers’ Championship, a remarkable fact considering he has two DNFs and a P15 finish on his record due to issues that took him out of points contention on each occasion.

READ MORE: A great season taking shape: Bruno Michel’s Debrief Speaking to Hadjar, it is very apparent he’s in a much happier place at the start of his second F2 campaign. Though chasing the lead in the title race, he’s also in pursuit of perfection, and has his sights set on making adjustments early on.

“I mean overall, the most important difference is the pace and the speed in Qualifying and then consistently being there at the front,” Hadjar says of the major difference between 2023 and 2024. “Even though we didn't score many points in Jeddah or in Bahrain, I was fighting for podiums. So then in Melbourne, everything was put together and we had a good weekend, so definitely the pace is the main improvement, especially in Qualifying.”

Improvements in one lap pace have helped the Frenchman achieve his strong performances in 2024
Improvements in one lap pace have helped the Frenchman achieve his strong performances in 2024

Leaving the opening trio of race weekends fourth in the Championship is a bittersweet feeling says the Campos driver. While he is very much still in the picture and performing at a high level currently, strong races haven’t been rewarded with strong results across each of the six races so far.

The three non-scoring results have left a hole where a healthy number of points might have put him on top going into the European leg of the campaign.

“It's good but it’s also frustrating. You have the pace to be on the podium and not being there because of nothing that’s your fault is difficult, but I guess over a season, it will balance out, you know? So, I stay positive and, as you saw in Melbourne, I got a bit lucky, so in the end luck turns around. The most important thing is having the pace every weekend and when you don't have any bad luck, you need to perform, that's the key.”

“We're definitely title contenders because of the pace we have”

Melbourne was a much better weekend for Hadjar though as he crossed the line first in both races, before he lost the Sprint win to a post-race penalty for the incident at the start. Still, he takes great solace knowing that on pure pace, he was the driver to beat in Australia.

Perhaps more importantly, it marked the end of a barren run and a pivotal win for his confidence and mentality. The weekend in Australia was a weight lifted, says Hadjar.

“Before Melbourne, the last time I actually stood on a podium was Spielberg in F3. At some point, after two years, you're finishing races, going back to the F2 paddock and you're like, ‘Okay, I did a good race, but it's just not enough for podium,’ so it was really frustrating. Finally, after a race, getting to go to parc ferme, stepping on the podium and seeing your team - it just felt amazing.

“Just so much struggle for the past two years to then finally be rewarded like this - a double race win in my view, is the best way to make a statement and to go into the break with good momentum.

A moment of relief Hadjar and the Campos mechanics celebrate victory in Melbourne
A moment of relief: Hadjar and the Campos mechanics celebrate victory in Melbourne

“Jumping into my mechanics’ arms, you could see it was a good moment. Since the beginning of the season, from the first Free Practice, we're always quick in every session. I feel like I'm fighting for high positions and consistently having a good car as well. But I guess it's a feeling you have in the second season in the same Championship.”

The current points situation leaves him trailing early leader Zane Maloney by 28 points, albeit with three non-scores compared to the Rodin Motorsport driver’s one. A title bid is the clear target for Hadjar.

“I believe that without the DNFs, I’d be leading in the standings”

While he won’t be swept up in the talk of becoming Champion, he knows and feels that he is driving at the highest level in some time, and his situation bodes well for the future going into Imola and beyond.

“I don't even look at the points because it's just too early. With 22 races to go, I just don't look at the standings. We're definitely title contenders because of the pace we have. We have shown that with the first three rounds and the weekend we had in Melbourne, so it makes sense that we will fight for it.

“I had a few poor races, the Sprint in Jeddah and in Bahrain, so there's always room for improvement. But I also believe that without the DNFs, considering the position we were running in, I think I’d be leading in the standings, so I'm not too concerned. But as I said, I can always do better on my side and make sure the car performs better from the word go in the sprints.”

The Red Bull Junior Team driver says he and Campos can fight for the biggest prizes this year
The Red Bull Junior Team driver says he and Campos can fight for the biggest prizes this year

Turning his focus towards what comes next, Hadjar says that he sees no reason why he can’t continue his great start into Round 4 and a return to Imola. It’s a venue that Hadjar has stood on the podium at before in his career, finishing the 2022 F3 Feature in third position.

Up first though is a great opportunity to press home the Campos advantage, as teams head to Barcelona for the in-season test and three of “the most important days of the season,” according to the Red Bull junior.

READ MORE: ‘Confident’ Hauger has the title in his sights after a ‘positive’ start to the 2024 season “I remember the last time I drove in Imola was in F3, and I had a good weekend. I have good memories there so in terms of the driving point of view, I'm really confident.

“We obviously have the three days of testing before that, which will be the most important days of the season because you can try stuff you can't during the race weekends, so we’ll try to make the most of it. The goal will be to arrive at Imola with a stronger baseline and a better understanding of the car and the tyres. On my side, just driving-wise, I believe I'm confident enough to do a good weekend. I have good memories around Imola, so I'm really looking forward to it.”