The 2023 Formula 2 season is now well underway and, after the first race weekend, teams and drivers are already staking their claims as ones to watch. But, after analysing the data and reflecting on the Sakhir weekend, who is the happiest and who will be working hard to rebound in Jeddah?
Here is the team-by-team rundown following Round 1 in Sakhir, Bahrain.
For Adrian Campos Jr, the Sakhir weekend was “a dream” as his team secured the first win of the season and a double points-scoring finish in both races. It gives the Spanish outfit the early lead in the Teams’ Standings, a huge reward for the hard work the team has made since its last victory (2019).
Campos believe that the pace shown in Bahrain is not a one off and that there is a lot of promise for 2023. The performance of rookie Kush Maini alongside the experience of Boschung indicates that the team has a strong footing in these early stages of the year. Keeping the momentum rolling in Jeddah is the target, a venue Boschung scored a P3 finish at in the 2021 Feature Race.
The team put the rest of the grid on notice during Qualifying as Théo Pourchaire set a blistering pace to leave rivals (and the paddock) gasping. ART teammate Victor Martins made it a front row lock-out, and that speed translated into the Sprint Race. Both drivers looked fast, coming through from ninth and 10th on the grid for a podium courtesy of Martins in third and P5 for Pourchaire.
The latter cruised to victory on Feature Race Sunday, while the reigning F3 Champion was caught up in Lap 1 contact that put him on the sidelines early. The team was more than satisfied with its speed out of the box in Bahrain, can it reproduce that around an entirely different circuit in Jeddah?
While Pourchaire took the plaudits for his race victory, there was no denying how impressive Zane Maloney was on his first weekend with Rodin Carlin. The Boy from Barbados, as he has come to be known as very well now, was heading for a solid points-scoring result on Sunday, and then he took it up a level. His climb to third was a continuation of his 2022 form and a podium from P18 on the grid a stellar result.
Ahead of Jeddah, the team knows it has to improve Qualifying speed and has an idea where that pace can come from. Otherwise, the British squad was very happy with its race pace and particularly, its tyre management, which allowed Maloney to unleash his wheel-to-wheel prowess and capture a maiden F2 podium.
Three points-scoring finishes out of a possible four is a good starting point for DAMS in 2023 even if expectations are higher. Sunday’s Feature Race provided a glimpse to the rookies how challenging the Pirelli tyres can be. While Ayumu Iwasa used his experience to bring home points in both races, Arthur Leclerc ended Saturday scoreless, but rebounded in the Feature Race on Sunday.
Leclerc appeared to be slipping down the top 10 after heavily locking-up his left front. However, the Monégasque kept his head, prevented a freefall down and out of the points to bring home P6 in the Feature, ahead of Iwasa. The team has said getting their rookie up to speed as quickly as possible will be crucial and that Iwasa’s experience can help him fight for the title this year. Jeddah will be a test for both as to their progress towards those goals.
Year two for Van Amersfoort Racing got off to a strong start after a difficult maiden campaign in 2022. Both of its new arrivals put in solid performances across the weekend, with a double score in the Feature Race a deserved reward. It might have been even better though but for Richard Verschoor getting spun around on the opening lap of Sunday’s race. He rebounded in some fashion though, climbing from last on the opening lap to achieve a top five finish by the chequered flag. Juan Manuel Correa secured 10th in both races, cementing his impressive return to F2.
Improvements on race pace between last year and this one are clearly evident and the team is satisfied with the gains it has made in this area. Working the hard tyres in a similar fashion with which it handled the softs could further improve its race performance. Verschoor feels there is more pace to come from VAR yet.
It wasn’t quite the season-opening weekend MP Motorsport had envisaged as defending Champions. A strong Sprint Race put it on the front foot courtesy of Dennis Hauger’s P2 finish on his first race with the team, and Jehan Daruvala’s scrap with Théo Pourchaire ended with P6.
That form wasn’t repeated on Sunday as an issue put Hauger out of the race and Daruvala’s aggressive strategy call to pit early for softs backfired. The speed the Dutch team showed is clear and Hauger appears to have picked up right from where he left off in 2022. Can it rebound and pick up the points it feels it lost out on in Sakhir in just under a fortnights time? Both drivers are more than capable of doing so.
It was a weekend of learning for Hitech Pulse-Eights all-rookie line-up of Isack Hadjar and Jak Crawford. That’s not to say neither driver impressed the team, with both displaying promising speed in both the Sprint and Feature Races. Hadjar’s performance in Sunday’s race in particular is an encouraging sign at this early stage of the season.
Both drivers will be aiming to achieve a better Qualifying performance in Jeddah to ensure they have the best chance of points. A top 10 start isn’t outside of their capabilities, but getting to grips with the fastest street circuit in the world is priority one on the simulator and when the light goes green for Free Practice in Jeddah.
Round 1 didn’t unfold anywhere close to how Invicta Virtuosi Racing were hoping for. Opting to run in the gap during Qualifying, Jack Doohan and Amaury Cordeel were relegated down the grid as those on late flying laps posted their improvements. It left Cordeel 15th and Doohan 17th, both with a steep hill to climb in order to recover their weekends.
In the Feature Race, Doohan was fighting for points but as tyre degradation took hold, he slipped back out of the points and ended 16th, one place behind teammate Cordeel. Improvements will be made ahead of Jeddah as the team will focus on getting the season back on track after something of a false start in Bahrain.
A learning weekend for PHM Racing by Charouz showed shoots of growth for the team. Dazzling with its chrome livery for the 2023 season on track, it’s the lessons off it that proved most valuable for the newest team on the F2 grid.
Roy Nissany made a spirited effort in the Feature Race late on to capitalise on those who had been fighting ahead. He was just a second off finishing in the points on his debut for the team having started 21st. Brad Benavides out-qualified his more experienced teammate at the first time of asking. The team expects to make steps with each session it completes as it learns the ropes of Formula 2.
A top 10 Qualifying result on debut with Trident was a very impressive start to life in F2 for Roman Stanek. His slow getaway from P2 on the grid in the Sprint Race ultimately cost him the chance of a stronger result.
Teammate Clément Novalak was left to rue a mistake in Qualifying that left him down the order and with a mountain to climb for the remainder of the weekend. Ensuring that Friday’s all-important session goes better will be the key target for Novalak in Jeddah. Stanek’s early retirement in Sakhir hid what he was truly capable of, but the Czech driver appears to have made a promising start to life in F2.
Last in the Teams’ Standings certainly won’t be where PREMA Racing personnel envisaged themselves after Round 1, but there’s no reason to be hitting the panic button. In Qualifying, Frederik Vesti recorded a lap good enough for fifth, and rookie teammate Oliver Bearman was on to match his teammate’s time until a track limits deletion took him out of top 10 contention.
In the races, neither driver scored but Bearman’s racecraft hasn’t dimmed in the slightest in his graduation from F3 to F2. Understanding the tyres will go a long way to aiding his performances in the future. Vesti was part of the opening lap scuffle and will be contending with a grid penalty for Jeddah.
The team says it struggled with tyre degradation but that it has already identified the root cause of the problem. PREMA expects to be back up fighting at the sharp end in Jeddah on pure pace.