Having competed with Carlin last year in FIA Formula 3, he recorded a best finish of eighth during a tricky Sprint Race at Spa-Francorchamps. He hopes to build on that result this season, using his experience and personal motivations to find another level at PHM in 2023.
So, what awaits Benavides in Formula 2 this year?
WHAT WE KNOW
2022 was a tough season for Benavides but a hugely valuable one according to the driver himself. His self-belief has been unshakable year to year as he strives to make improvements wherever and whenever possible.
Eager to learn and absorb as much information as possible, the 21-year-old said as much when he was announced by PHM for the 2023 season.
“I am tremendously grateful that they’re helping me to get one step closer to my life’s dream,” Benavides said of his PHM confirmation. “I’m genuinely very motivated, happy, grateful, and completely dedicated so that this next year goes as well as possible. Until now, for me it’s been a path with great challenges. In the face of adversities my spirit is to fight and come out at the top, something that has best defined me in my career. I’m already concentrated on preparing myself in the best possible way before the season starts, looking to really maximize the time I’ve got.”
The motivation is clear then but how does the other side of the equation rank him?
Carlin Deputy Team Principal Stephanie Carlin was complementary of Benavides’ time with the Carlin F3 team, pointing to his approach and work ethic in improving and having a positive impact on and off the track.
“Brad is a really good guy to have in a team. He's a really positive influence. He's always very positive, his feedback is always very thorough. He can talk a lot about what he’s feeling in the car and he's great to have around.
“He also made some really, really big steps and big jumps forward. He was able to see that and enjoy that and I think we saw that, when he had a good result, it often led to another one because the confidence boost that it gave him was really kind of pivotal moving forward and helped him just get keep getting better.”
Those sentiments were echoed by eponymous team boss Trevor. “Brad has a fantastic attitude both in and out of the car.”
His positive influence within the team will count in his favour as he learns the ropes in F2, a process that he understands will be difficult but a challenge he hopes to rise and meet head on.
Logging 171 laps across the three-day post-season F2 test, Benavides had time to get comfortable with the car he’ll be driving this season.
That total will be expanded upon in Sakhir in February when the F2 paddock reconvenes for the pre-season test. It will be the final opportunity for Benavides and other rookies to learn before the competitive spotlight begins to shine.
All the laps in testing will prove valuable when the floodlights bathe the Sakhir International Circuit for Formula 2 Qualifying come March.
Last season on that track Benavides struggled to match teammate Zak O’Sullivan in Qualifying but had the measure of Enzo Trulli at Carlin.
Benavides’ Qualifying performances did improve towards the end of the F3 campaign though, with the American securing two top 15 grid positions in the final three rounds.
Whether or not those improvements come as easily in F2 remains to be seen, but strong Qualifying performances are the foundation of a strong weekend in the Championship.
His best performance last season came at Spa-Francorchamps in the Sprint, but it was Benavides’ sole points-scoring result of the season. His drive was well-deserving of points in a challenging season.
With new tyres to learn and strategic battles having a big impact on race results in F2 versus F3, it will be interesting to see how Benavides will adapt to the Championship.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Graduation to Formula 2 is a big step for Benavides but he is well aware of the challenge that awaits him. With the new PHM Racing by Charouz team he has a great opportunity to get his feet under the table in an organisation striving to improve from the word go.
His positivity within the team will be a key factor in its first season racing in F2 as both team and driver learn the ropes. He also has Roy Nissany alongside him as a teammate so an experienced head to guide him through the early stages.
Benavides moves up to F2 under no illusions that his task will be a difficult one. But he looks to have the right approach of being willing to learn as much as possible, meeting internal goals and striving for clear improvement across the season.