Two years have passed since PREMA Racing last won either the Teams’ or Drivers’ Championship in FIA Formula 2, and as they enter into 2024, there is no doubt that the Venetian establishment will be eyeing a return to glory.

As a result, pre-season testing in Sakhir took on great importance, as they look to get to grips with the all-new F2 car. But it was also a great time to get their drivers Oliver Bearman and rookie Andrea Kimi Antonelli feeling confident with their equipment.

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With 307 laps completed in pre-season across both cars despite rain hindering running on the opening day, PREMA feel they have enough miles on the clock and have plenty of data in the bank to help them better understand the car ahead of round one.

“We have done a pretty good amount work over the three days,” said Team Principal René Rosin. “We have a lot of data to analyse, a lot of things to double check but of course it was important considering in Formula 2 we have a new car.”

While Bearman is returning for his second campaign in the Championship, 17-year-old Antonelli is preparing for his rookie year. The much talked about Italian driver impressed with his performance, as he ended day one fourth on the timesheets, and was fifth in the final morning session.

Antonelli impressed on his first outing in an F2 car at pre-season testing in Sakhir
Antonelli impressed on his first outing in an F2 car at pre-season testing in Sakhir

But Rosin does not want to put too much pressure on his young driver, and he is keen to remind everyone that the “Championship is long”. However, he is also confident that Antonelli will do a “good job”.

This pre-season test also takes greater importance given that it took place at the Bahrain International Circuit. The Sakhir venue will play host to the first round of the 2024 season in a couple of weeks, but for PREMA it is a track that has caused them problems in recent times.

Last season, they went without scoring a point as Frederik Vesti finished 17th in the Sprint race while Bearman placed 15th. Vesti then retired with collision damage in the Feature event, while Bearman crossed the line in 17th.

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In 2022, Jehan Daruvala finished second in the Sprint Race, while Dennis Hauger ended up ninth. However, both drivers took the chequered flag outside the points with the latter retiring with a mechanical issue in the Feature.

But Rosin is confident that PREMA have figured out the issues that have plagued them in Sakhir in the past.

“For sure it was a track where we performed less in the past years,” said Rosin. “But I will say we seem to have understood the cause of it and for us these three days were important in order to get ready for the new season.”

Ollie Bearman returns for his second season in F3 after a strong rookie campaign
Ollie Bearman returns for his second season in F3 after a strong rookie campaign

But the goal will be larger than Bahrain and while they are still working to understand the new car, as are all their rivals, confidence will be high that they can have a good season. That belief will be in part down to what Bearman achieved last year.

The British driver returns from a season in which he won four races, achieved three pole positions, and six podiums. He also wound up sixth in the Drivers’ Championship as a rookie.

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With he and Antonelli behind the wheel, PREMA will believe that given the equipment they have a chance at the title this year. But while keeping his cards close to his chest, Rosin was keen to take it race by race.

“Of course, we all are looking forward to a great season, we are all looking forward to some great results,” said Rosin. “We need to keep looking forward, continue working, never stop, and I think that everything will be okay.

“For sure our goal is to do the best job as possible, we need to understand, and concentrate on maximising the performance race by race and then at the end of the year we will see if we have done a good job or not.”