You’ve already met the top three drivers in the hunt to be crowned Formula 2’s rookie of year at Yas Island. Now it’s time to discuss the three outside contenders. While the odds may be less in their favour, all three will be giving it their all to follow in the footsteps of Zhou Guanyu, Yuki Tsunoda and Oscar Piastri, and have the honour of receiving the Anthoine Hubert Award in 2022.
Currently sitting eighth in the Drivers’ Championship, Frederik Vesti sits only nine points adrift of fellow rookies Jack Doohan and Enzo Fittipaldi and will be searching for success on his first trip to the Yas Marina Circuit. Ayumu Iwasa remains close behind in ninth, while PREMA Racing’s Dennis Hauger eyes up a return to the top 10 to cap off his year before his switch to MP Motorsport next season.
FREDERIK VESTI: P8 – 117PTS
Approaching the season finale with the wind in his sail after two consecutive second places in Monza, Frederik Vesti knows that his performance this weekend will be crucial, as ART Grand Prix aim to bring home their first Teams’ Championship title.
By his own admission, the Dane has experienced an up-and-down rookie campaign. Initially struggling to find his groove in Qualifying, Vesti eventually found his form from Barcelona onwards with four top three appearances, including a maiden pole position in Spielberg. This turnaround culminated in an emotional first victory in the Baku Sprint Race.
However, his performances since the summer break have been chequered, failing to score points at both Spa-Francorchamps and Zandvoort before the double podium at Monza. Losing ground to the likes of Doohan and Fittipaldi, the Mercedes junior needs another consistent front-running weekend if he hopes to claw back their advantage and claim a spot inside the top five or will his early season struggles hold him back?
The finale in Abu Dhabi presents Vesti with an opportunity to impress on his debut around the Yas Marina Circuit before he gets behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car for the first time, driving for Mercedes in the post-season Young Drivers’ Test. While his first-time form around the likes of Sakhir, Jeddah and Monte Carlo wasn’t his best, the permanent track’s layout should suit his style more and give him a fighting chance of being in the run for the Anthoine Hubert Award.
AYUMU IWASA: P9 – 114PTS
Tied with Vesti for wins, poles and podiums, only three points separate him and our next rookie contender, Ayumu Iwasa. One of the surprise stars of the 2022 season, the DAMS driver has shown himself to be a powerhouse on track and if he can slot all the pieces together in Practice and Qualifying, he could be right in the thick of it all weekend.
After being disqualified from the Monza Feature Race and losing out on the podium due to a technical infringement, Iwasa will be back with a vengeance in Abu Dhabi. With Liam Lawson and newly added Red Bull junior Fittipaldi just ahead of him in the Standings, the Japanese driver also knows that he’s in with a shot of ending his year as the top Red Bull-backed junior.
His main strength lies with his Friday performances. Although his overall Qualifying average is down slightly compared to the likes of Logan Sargeant and Jack Doohan, Iwasa holds a 5.4 average since Silverstone. Most importantly, he’s been able to convert it into points. In the previous seven rounds, he’s qualified inside the top seven six times – including a maiden pole position in Budapest – and brought home a podium on three occasions.
Unlike several of his fellow rookie rivals, Iwasa has the advantage of recent experience around the Yas Marina Circuit, with an appearance there last year in the F3 Asian Championship. In the three races run across the full Grand Prix layout, the 21-year-old scored points in all of them. The added boost of confidence and understanding should allow him to hit the ground running from his first laps in Practice and make the most of the 45 minutes of running ahead of Qualifying.
DENNIS HAUGER: P11 – 98PTS
The final driver within touching distance of the top rookie honours, Dennis Hauger needs the weekend of his life if he wants to overcome his points deficit to Sargeant. 39 points are on table with the gap sitting at 37 points, and no driver has yet claimed a perfect score in 2022.
Hauger’s rookie campaign has had many highs, particularly his victories in the Monte Carlo Sprint Race and Baku Feature Race, shining above the rest. Unfortunately, his season has lacked the consistency needed to be in the mix for points on a regular basis, alongside four DNFs.
Nevertheless, his recent form at Zandvoort and Monza has shown it’s never too late to turn things around in F2. His fourth podium finish in the Netherlands has been accompanied by two top four Feature Race finishes, which have elevated him to the cusp of the top 10. Overcoming the rookie frontrunners may be too tall of a task, but a highly coveted P10 or higher isn’t out of reach for the Norwegian, as only 12 points separate him and 10th placed, Jüri Vips.
Like his fellow Scandinavian Vesti, this weekend will be Hauger’s debut at the Abu Dhabi track. However, if his previous form this season has taught us anything, the PREMA driver adapts well to new challenges and thrives off the unknown, a vital quality given that most of the field have not been behind the wheel of race car since Monza in early September.