The pair join the French outfit this year after they themselves endured an up and down 2023 campaign, whilst DAMS as a team enjoyed race victories but couldn’t quite put together a title challenge with Ayumu Iwasa in the end.
The team finished last year’s Championship fourth overall in the Teams’ table. Three race wins in the early part of the season was a solid foundation but three podiums in the remaining Rounds leave clear room for improvement for the team.
With a totally different landscape in F2 this time around, introduction of a new car and optimistic feeling in the DAMS camp ahead of the new season, could Crawford and Correa be on for an upturn in fortunes this year?
Juan Manuel Correa’s first season back in Formula 2 had its moments. The American-Ecuadorian driver was in the points on several occasions last time around, scoring a best finish of fourth in the Spielberg and Zandvoort Sprint Races.
His P19 finish in the Drivers’ Championship though will have been below his own expectations. A move to DAMS for 2024 is a hugely exciting prospect though and one that could put him back in more regular contention in the races.
It was a season that promised a little bit more though, as he readily admitted at some points during 2023. Better results could have been on the cards without errors either from the team or driver.
One aspect that held Correa back was Qualifying form, with starts further down the order restricting his potential in both the Sprint and Feature Races. Should that be rectified this season, there’s plenty of scope that Correa’s batting average will improve, and the points will flow much more regularly at his new team.
The levels of experience Correa brings with him to DAMS is crucial to the team’s hopes and outlook going into the new campaign. With a full season of F2 involvement under his belt once again, the expectations move forward, and he will have had the chance to course correct and make improvements for the year ahead. Having those years of knowledge in the Championship will only be a positive as teams and drivers get to grips with the new 2024 car.
Over on the other side of the garage, Jak Crawford arrives at DAMS on the back of a learning year as a Formula 2 rookie. The American scored five podiums in 2023 including a maiden F2 victory and best result that, like Correa, came in the Spielberg Sprint Race.
Four of those podiums came in Sprints and it wasn’t until Zandvoort’s Feature Race that he secured P3 on a Sunday after starting the race from pole. Crawford was perhaps unlucky to not convert that pole position into race victory after a Safety Car arrived at a crucial point in the race, allowing those on the alternative strategy to benefit and jump ahead of Crawford.
It was a marked step in a rookie campaign peppered with misfortune and retirements, something he will be keen to address this time around with the French team. A rise in level of consistency will reward Crawford with much more regular high-scoring finishes, something he has proven capable of in his career thus far.
One of seven Formula 3 title contenders back in 2022, he will be eager to return to those levels, securing regular podiums and wins, something Iwasa was able to achieve at the wheel of the DAMS car last year.
The opportunity could not be better either, with the introduction of a new car the perfect chance to capitalise on an equalisation as teams get to know their new equipment. Is this the window Crawford needs to propel himself up the order once more? He will hope so.
During the first few years of FIA Formula 2, DAMS were a permanent fixture at the sharp end of the grid, finishing third twice in a row in 2017 and ’18 before finally capturing the Teams’ Championship in 2019. It remains the French squad’s best result across a season.
Two years in the wilderness followed a dip in their competitive level and consecutive eighth-place finishes in 2020 and 2021 represented a sharp drop down the order, but that looks to be coming to an end now.
In 2022, the team took a step in the right direction by improving to sixth overall in the Championship, scoring just shy of 100 points more than they had achieved in the previous campaign.
Once again in 2023, DAMS made strides and were making waves with Iwasa at the wheel, so much so that the Japanese driver remained in mathematical contention for the Drivers’ title right up until the final round of the season at Yas Marina.
Still, improvements from all three parties are to be expected this season and they should each have relatively little preventing them from making further gains this time around, with the 2024 car opening up the chance to lead F2 into a new era.