How do you follow up a season in which your team claimed a clean sweep of Championship successes? That’s the task facing MP Motorsport this year as the Dutch outfit looks to hold onto both the Teams’ and Drivers’ crowns. It’s a hugely enviable task for the other 10 teams on the Formula 2 grid at least, and one that MP is facing down with quiet confidence.

With Jehan Daruvala and Dennis Hauger recruited as part of a total change in driver line-up, the team has experience in its ranks. Following three days of running in Sakhir, what does 2023 hold for the reigning Champions?

318 laps in total for MP proved a solid foundation which it will build from ahead of the opening round of the season. Hauger posted the sixth-fastest time of the test overall, coming in the afternoon-into-evening session on Day 2.

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One-lap pace wasn’t the main focus of testing though, and after analysing the data following the Bahrain test, the team is sure its race pace is strong. In a sport that never stands still though, making improvements and finding those minimal gains between testing and racing will be huge for MP and its rivals.

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“The test in Bahrain was really positive to be honest,” Hauger surmised after stepping out of the car. “I think especially for the race running and how we managed to keep the tyres, that was looking pretty good. It looks like one of our strengths, at least on that track.

“There’s still a few things to pick over and look into before we head into Qualifying but it’s going to be different conditions on the race weekend, so it’s all going to change a bit. I’m really looking forward to getting the weekend started.

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“I’m heading into the weekend with a good deal of confidence, me and the team are going to keep working hard but the general feeling is good. It was also nice to get back in the car, it’s been a while, refreshing a bit and work with the team on track more, get to know each other a bit more.

“It’s been a good process so far over pre-season and the test. I’m really looking forward to getting started and to kick some ass.”

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Focusing on the opening round of the 2023 campaign, Hauger says that there’s arguably no better place to start. With a different kind of challenge presented to the drivers right off the bat, the Bahrain International Circuit is trickier than one might think from outside the cockpit.

The team’s supposed strength in race runs might be a huge factor come the race weekend. Hauger expects a very tricky balancing act for all the drives in both the Sprint and Feature Races due to some special track characteristics.

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“The track is a really cool one, really different sections which is quite cool. The asphalt is a bit different compared to other tracks which makes the tyres behave a bit different to other places. It’s a bit of a different way of managing them compared to places like Abu Dhabi for example last year.

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“I think that’s a cool thing, starting the season with something probably a bit different than what we’ll be going into in Jeddah. It’s a cool track that gives a lot. The races can be a bit of a game-changer in terms of strategy because of the tyre management.

“It’s a track where a lot of stuff can happen, and I think it’s going to be a cool weekend. We’ll have to play it smart on how we pick our strategies before the Feature Race, but I’m looking forward to it.”

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Last year, the team made a slow start in Bahrain compared to the high standards it went on to achieve in the remaining rounds. The path to a successful title defence will be made much clearer by hitting the ground running, something MP is more than capable of.

With Hauger gathering a year of experience and looking much more comfortable by the end of 2022, his subsequent F2 effort should be much stronger. Daruvala has the experience too and combined with MP’s newfound winning form, the team might be an even stronger proposition in 2023.