Experiencing the joys of a home race weekend, let alone competing on a Grand Prix weekend, is a privilege not all drivers get to enjoy as they climb their way through the junior categories. Yet back in early September, the time finally came for Richard Verschoor to step into the spotlight, as Formula 2 made its debut in Zandvoort.
There’s no denying that the Dutch driver was very much the man of the moment and understandably so. Mobbed by a sea of fans brightly clad in orange, the Trident ace was full of beaming smiles for the legions of supporters that waited patiently to catch a glimpse of their home hero every single day. They wouldn’t be hard pressed to spot him either, being easily identifiable in his trademark bucket hat.
“I’m loving it here, I’ve already seen the track get more and more orange as the hours pass by,” Verschoor remarked ahead of the weekend. “We had a similar atmosphere in Austria, but now that it’s in my own country, it feels very relaxed.
“I was doing my track walk and driving here in the mornings, and it all felt very real. Very early on the Thursday morning, one person started to ask for a picture and then there were like 10 or 12 people – I was surrounded!”
Seizing any and all opportunities that came his way when the lights went out, Verschoor refused to let anything stand between him and a spot on the podium. Surviving late Safety Car drama and a damaged nose cone in the Feature Race, he proved that nothing could knock him back as he claimed an impressive second place in front of the roaring crowd.
It was fairy-tale ending for a driver who’s spent his 2022 campaign adapting to a new home at Trident. Since his debut in Spanish F4 in 2016, he’d raced as part of the MP Motorsport family. It was his compatriots that put their faith in him with a seat on the F2 grid last season, which he rewarded with his maiden victory in the second Silverstone Sprint Race.
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The 21-year-old found new pastures with Trident for his second campaign. The partnership couldn’t have gotten off to a better start, as Verschoor was triumphant in the opening Sprint Race of the season in Sakhir – securing the team’s first victory in the second tier.
Comfortably settling into life with the Italian team, there have been no shortage of lessons to learn along the way. From developing a love for espressos despite previously hating them, to understanding the team’s dynamics, he’s found a second chance to thrive. Whilst Verschoor acknowledges there’s been a few bumps along the way, he’s realistic about them, knowing that it is the hardest-fought things that are most rewarding and the potential for more has never left.
“I love it there, it's just a shame that we had a few issues during the year on the sporting side. Apart from that with the team, I’ve been really enjoying it. They’re all Italian, so it was a bit different when switching from MP, but I got used to it quite quickly. I’m really enjoying my time with them. Also, after our preparation time in the simulator, we always go for a nice lunch together in my favourite restaurant.
“It takes hard work. If it was easy then all the teams would be winning, which obviously is not possible. I think we have a very good understanding now of our base, how I want to drive the car and how they can give me a car that I'm comfortable with and quick. It took some time, like two races looked very good and we got it right.
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“The victory was perfect! Also, for my sponsors. It’s not always easy because I’m doing everything myself without a manager. For me to get sponsorships is very, very difficult and I have a lot of partners right now which I want to make happy. Of course, I had nice talks to get them on board, but then you need to show your results. So, to get the win straight away was very nice.
“During the season, you could see that when we went to different kinds of tracks, sometimes we got it wrong and those are the moments where we really learn to understand each other as a team, which we sometimes struggle with. Now, I think we have a good base and I hope we can continue this.
“My goal was to show myself more than what I did last year, where I had some good races, but it didn’t pan out exactly how I wanted it to. We haven’t scored as many points as we could have, but in terms of showing myself, I think it’s been a strong year for that. Especially at the beginning of the season, in the last four years Trident didn’t finish on the podium often, so I’m happy that this year we can show that we can do that. Also, for myself as a driver, to show this with a team that is not used to being on the podium regularly of course it’s even better.”
Showcasing himself instantly as a force to be reckoned with this year, he’s gone on to claim three podiums in 13 rounds and been instrumental in the team securing their best Championship points haul in F2. Currently on 94 points, they’re a whopping 57 points clear of their previous best result of 37 points back in 2018.
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Resilient to his core, Verschoor’s endured all the challenges he’s faced with good humour, acceptance and a steely grit and determination to make the best of whatever cards he’s dealt.
Now as the season draws ever closer to its conclusion, his newly found confidence and a run of seven points-scoring finishes since just before the summer break has given him the belief he needs to close the 2022 chapter with a satisfying conclusion.
“I think the highs and lows make you one team. When there are highs, everything is nice and everybody is happy, but then you also have the lows where the team or driver makes mistakes, that’s where you really get to know someone. I think with all that’s been happening this season, we’re really growing as a team, and I feel that we’re even stronger now than what we were at the beginning of the season.
“I feel a lot more confident now. My route towards Formula 2 hasn’t always been the easiest but I think now I’ve really started to learn how to extract the best out of myself. As a driver, I never really had much support from managing, to sponsors, to driving – I did everything myself. I had to learn a lot, which I think is why it took me a little bit longer to be at my highest level. One thing I learnt is that in the end, you’re always on your own. You have to be strong on your own because if you really want something that bad, you have to work for it yourself, no one else is going to do it for you.
“Whether it’s being quick on track or with sponsorship, if you don’t do anything, nothing will happen. It sounds cliché, but it’s actually true. This is something that I experienced, and you should never give up on your dream.
“Last year I wouldn't have said it, but at the moment I'm very proud. I'm feeling very happy, very confident. I'm enjoying it here. I would love to stay, let's see what the future brings...”