2023 might just be Théo Pourchaire’s year in FIA Formula 2 after two previous years of trying. The ART Grand Prix driver leads the Drivers’ Championship heading to Yas Marina and is in great form, putting in consistent podium performances that have formed the backbone to a title charge.
Racing success has never been far away from him and, at just 20 years old still, he has achieved results beyond many drivers at his age. Still, the best looks yet to come for Pourchaire, as his road to Abu Dhabi shows.
Between 2011 and 2015, Pourchaire was a winner in at least one series he entered and, more often than not, Champion by the end of the year. In that timespan, he claimed numerous successes totalling 12 trophies or karting titles, an incredible achievement.
2016 brought a step-up in competition with entry to the CIK-FIA OKJ European and then World Championships, Pourchaire finishing third in the latter. It is no wonder that he then graduated to single seaters as one of the brightest prospects in French motorsport in 2018.
A RAPID RISE THROUGH THE RANKS
Since 2018, Pourchaire has finished no worse than fifth in any Championship he has entered. It all began in French F4 where he put together a hugely impressive rookie campaign to finish third in the standings, taking eight podiums and a victory to earn immediate graduation to ADAC F4 for 2019.
That campaign brought his first single seater title as he went from strength-to-strength. A winner in his fifth race that year, he claimed 12 podiums overall, adding three more wins to his maiden success to take that year’s title in impressive fashion, beating familiar foe Dennis Hauger to the crown by seven points. Another title to add to his collection meant another immediate graduation up the pyramid and entry to FIA Formula 3 the following season.
FIGHTING FOR F3 GLORY
Arrival in Formula 3 in 2020 set up a titanic title fight that went all the way to the final round in Mugello. Now with ART Grand Prix, Pourchaire battled PREMA Racing duo Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant, trading wins and podiums all season long.
It took four races for Pourchaire to stand on the top step of the podium, winning the second Red Bull Ring Sprint and becoming the youngest winner in the Championship’s history at 16-years-old. He followed that up immediately with Budapest Feature victory the following weekend, putting in a stellar performance to win from Piastri to the tune of 11.9s in the end, an emphatic margin.
Just one non-scoring finish followed in the remaining races, and Pourchaire found his best form at a crucial point in the year. Having been on the periphery of the Championship battle earlier in the year, he threaded together six top five results in the final six races to launch a late-season title bid.
Back-to-back P2 finishes at Monza lifted him to third with one round to go and a 24-point gap to leader Piastri. Going from seventh to third in the final Feature of the season at Mugello, Pourchaire had a chance on the last day, but the Frenchman couldn’t quite steal away the title from Piastri. He ended second, three points behind but it was more than enough to earn promotion to Formula 2.
F2’S YOUNGEST WINNER TURNED CHAMPION IN WAITING?
Joining ART Grand Prix’s Formula 2 effort in 2021, Pourchaire quickly made his mark in the Championship. Monte Carlo is undoubtedly the biggest challenge facing the drivers every season, but at just 17 years, nine months and two days, Pourchaire conquered the streets. It was his first win in the Championship, and he became F2’s youngest race winner in the process - a record that remains unbeaten.
Several more top five finishes were added to his scorecard in his rookie campaign, though a wrist injury sustained during the Baku round dented his aspirations as he fought to return to full fitness and get back to his best.
One other victory arrived in the first Monza Sprint Race, and he eventually ended fifth in the Drivers’ Championship. It was hardly a disaster, but it speaks volumes that it marks the ‘worst’ finish in a single seater Championship in his career.
The follow up to that was a title battle with MP Motorsport and Felipe Drugovich but things didn’t go according to plan for Pourchaire. Victory in the Sakhir Feature Race set the tone, however a double non-score in Jeddah hurt as Drugovich secured back-to-back podiums including the win on Sunday.
Pourchaire struck back with a Feature victory in Imola before Drugovich put together the only ‘perfect’ weekend of the 2022 campaign, winning the Barcelona Sprint and Feature Races. From that point on, the Frenchman was playing catch up. He reduced the gap to Drugovich across the three weekends prior to the summer break, rounded out by victory in the Budapest Feature Race to close to within 21 points to set up a second half showdown for the title.
However, driver errors and mechanical trouble put a stop to his charge as Drugovich added another victory in Zandvoort before clinching the Championship at Monza with a round to spare.
Pourchaire went on to finish second and was eventually confirmed for another season with ART in 2023. He lined up for another campaign in F2 and what looked set to be an all-or-nothing year and pursuit of the Championship title.
RETRIBUTION IN 2023
2023 has an air of redemption for Pourchaire and he has gone about his racing in an impressive manner. Just as Drugovich achieved unmatched consistency en route to beating Pourchaire, the Frenchman has used that lesson to form the foundations to his ’23 bid, and he heads into the final round with a 25-point advantage over closest rival Frederik Vesti.
13 top five finishes with 11 of those being podiums, Pourchaire is in fantastic shape ahead of the Yas Marina finale. While he might have been unfortunate last year to not run Drugovich closer for the title, this season has been a demonstration of the learned lessons taken from previous title campaigns.
Mistakes have been limited, points maximised on weekends in which victory was out of reach and stronger races on Sunday have meant even with a solitary victory on his ’23 record. Pourchaire is deserving of his lead in the Standings. With one round to go, can Pourchaire get over the line and finally achieve a title that he’s seemed set for over the years?