With two Teams’ Championships and three Drivers’ titles to their name, PREMA Racing are statistically the most successful team in Formula 2 history. But the Venetian outfit have not won either championship since 2021, despite achieving 13 of their 36 wins during that period.
To many that may not seem like a long time ago, but René Rosin’s squad set high standards for themselves, and will no doubt be unhappy about missing out on the title the last two seasons, especially in 2023 when they finished as runners-up to rivals ART Grand Prix.
But back at their factory in Italy where preparations are in full swing ahead of the new campaign, PREMA are confident that they have laid a solid foundation to return to the F2 summit in 2024, given that they won a season-leading 10 races last year.
Four of those victories were achieved by Oliver Bearman, and he is back for a second go round with the team, while they also welcome onboard Mercedes protégé Andrea Kimi Antonelli. But do they have what it takes to ensure PREMA return to their title-winning ways?
Bearman entered the F2 paddock last year with a stellar résumé, having won both the Italian and ADAC Formula 4 Championships in 2021. He also narrowly lost out on the Formula 3 title in 2022 as a rookie – with Victor Martins beating him to the crown.
He then played a starring role in his first year in F2, with the Scuderia Ferrari Driver Academy member’s four wins the second most behind teammate Frederik Vesti’s six. He also tied Martins for the most pole positions with three and scored six podiums, which was the fourth most on the grid.
Bearman truly announced his arrival on the fourth weekend of the season in Baku. Fastest in Practice, he then qualified on pole, before capitalising on his rivals’ misfortune to take Sprint race victory, only to return on Sunday to become the first F2 driver to earn a race weekend clean sweep.
This, alongside his victories in Barcelona and Monza, showed that he has the ingredients needed to compete at the front of the field, and at times last year it looked like he was set to launch a title challenge, although that never quite materialised.
That was mostly due to the up and down nature of his results, which is not uncommon amongst rookies as they get to grips with challenges of F2 such as the new tracks, 18-inch tyres, pit stops, and much more.
After that weekend in Baku, he went without scoring in Monaco – as he retired with suspension issues in the Sprint race before placing 11th on Sunday. Points in seven consecutive races followed but he then went without a top 10 result in four of the remaining nine events.
This included retiring from the Feature Races at Zandvoort and Yas Marina, as a collision with Martins knocked him out at the former fixture, while a technical issue halted his progress in the latter.
However, a lot of these moments can be put down to sheer bad luck and, with how tight Formula 2 can be out on track, those collisions can happen. But this is something Bearman will learn from, and he will no doubt be working to rectify as he knows that if he is to launch an attack on the title, pairing his and the team’s pace with more consistent results is the next step.
As for Antonelli, the 17-year-old is still fairly new to single seater racing having only made the move from karting in 2021. But his rise over the last three years meant that PREMA and Mercedes felt comfortable to promote the Italian ace to Formula 2 for this season.
Since 2021, he has won five titles, three of those have been with PREMA, including the Italian and ADAC F4 Championships. He won both at a canter, scoring 22 wins in his 35 races across both categories.
But Formula 2 is a big step, and it would be understandable if Antonelli took some time to adjust to the change in surroundings, although his previous successes show that he does not take long to get up to speed.
What will ease the transition is that he is doing it with a team that he has called his “second family.” In what will be unknown territory, making the move in a familiar environment could be extremely helpful.
Additionally, taking part on all three days of the post-season test at the Yas Marina Circuit last year, as well as the shakedown of the 2024 car should help. PREMA will be hopeful it does, as if Antonelli can get up to speed quickly, a title charge for both parties should not be ruled out.