It was a lively opening weekend and looking back over the action, Formula 2 CEO Bruno Michel has cast his verdict on the first round of 2023.
From feel-good stories to technical innovations and of course, sublime racing skills, here is what the CEO made of the Sakhir race weekend.
POURCHAIRE AND ART GRAND PRIX ON A MISSION
When Théo Pourchaire announced that he was returning to F2 for a third season, the objective was very clear: the Frenchman is in it to win it. And so is ART Grand Prix. People expect the driver and the team to fight for the Championship, but we know it is won through performance and consistency, which they lacked from time to time in 2022.
Amongst podiums, struggles and bad luck, Pourchaire still finished second last year. He was determined to leave a mark on Round 1 of 2023. So, he did. Quickest in Free Practice, he left his rivals only crumbs in Qualifying, snatching pole position with a laptime seven-and-a-half tenths quicker than teammate Victor Martins in P2. His drive in the Sprint Race was the perfect balance between attack and control, taking P5 at the flag from 10th on the grid. On Sunday, he won with the largest margin ever set in F2, with a 19s gap over second-placed Ralph Boschung. Let’s see if Pourchaire can keep this level of performance comes Round 2 in Jeddah next week.
ARE THE DARK DAYS OVER?
Team Principal Adrian Campos Jr had claimed that Campos Racing finishing last in the Teams Standings in 2022 was not the reflection of their real form. It’s true that the start of the ’22 campaign had shown promise, until Ralph Boschung was side-lined following a neck injury. The Swiss, who has been racing in F2 since 2017, has worked hard to be in a position where he can serenely enter a season, delivering for the team that has supported him through thick and thin. After 96 starts, Boschung claimed a maiden win in the Sprint Race, happily showing on the podium his helmet that features some of the late Adrian Campos’ helmet design. And to prove that he and Campos Racing mean business in 2023, Boschung added a P2 finish in the Feature Race, from tenth on the grid. Will they be the underdogs of the new season that fans will root for?
MAKE ROOM FOR THE ROOKIES
Although two experienced drivers starred in Sakhir, the rookies also impressed, starting with reigning Formula 3 Champion Victor Martins. Qualifying is always tricky, with a session of 30 minutes on different compounds than the ones used in free Practice, plus the track conditions massively change from practice to Quali. You really need to put everything together to set up your best laptime. Martins did that, and then some, taking P2 and securing a front row lock-up for ART Grand Prix. In the Sprint, the Frenchman displayed great racecraft in the opening stages. Maybe he pushed a bit too hard, but he managed to claim a first podium finish, crossing the line in third from P9 on the grid. He was unlucky on Sunday, so he will be aiming to rebound in Jeddah.
READ MORE: Dennis Hauger’s Sakhir Weekend in his Words
It was the reverse story for 2022 F3 runner-up Zane Maloney. The Rodin Carlin rookie had little to hope from a P18 starting position for the Feature Race, but the boy from Barbados turned things around in impressive fashion, carving his way through the field to take P3. Meanwhile, Kush Maini showed great consistency, qualifying in sixth and scoring points in both races on his first F2 weekend. He’s the only rookie to achieve this so far.
A total of five rookies featured in the current Top 10, with Arthur Leclerc and Isack Hadjar also taking points in Sakhir.
HIGHLIGHTS OF ROUND 1
Juan Manuel Correa is back full time in F2 this season, which is an amazing achievement in itself, but it was also great to see him claim his first point last weekend, with a total of 13 drivers scoring points in Round 1.
Campos Racing are currently leading in the Teams Standings, four points ahead of ART Grand Prix. Together with Rodin Carlin and DAMS, the Spanish and the French squads are the only ones to have scored points in both races, and both of their drivers have also finished in the points in Sakhir. It was a challenging return to racing for reigning champions MP Motorsport, but the Dutch outfit still managed to claim a first podium, courtesy of Dennis Hauger. Four teams are yet to finish in the points, having endured various misfortunes in Round 1. I fully expect them to rebound quickly, starting from Jeddah next week!
A SUCCESSFUL BREAKTHROUGH
Last year, we announced a historical partnership with Aramco, with the objective to introduce sustainable fuels from 2023. Behind the scenes, there has been a lot of work done between us and Aramco, and it was incredible to see all 52 F2 and F3 cars racing with Advanced sustainable fuels successfully and for the first time ever. This is a tremendous achievement and the first step in a wider sustainability strategy announced by Formula 1.
READ MORE: Fast-starters in Sakhir: F2 Weekend Wrap-Up
A CLEAN, SAFER PITLANE
You may have noticed this on TV: our pitlane is the cleanest that it’s ever been, thanks to the introduction of electric wheel guns. The teams no longer need the gantries and the oxygen bottles that were necessary for the pneumatic wheel guns. This is something innovative that has a double benefit. First and very importantly, a cleaner pitlane means an increase of safety, which is in itself reason enough to introduce these new wheel guns. Secondly, this also has a positive impact on freight costs and on sustainability, having less freight to move from one venue to the next.