Isack Hadjar is coming off something of a bittersweet year into his rookie season in Formula 2. The Frenchman was a Championship contender all the way through the FIA F3 season right to the last round.
How the Frenchman now rebounds will be intriguing to see. An obvious talent and highly rated member of the Red Bull Junior Team by Dr Helmut Marko himself, Hadjar’s 2023 season will be one to watch for plenty of reasons.
So how does the 18-year-old bounce back from a positive season with a sting at the end? Here is how his maiden campaign in Formula 2 is shaping up.
WHAT WE KNOW
Joining Hitech Pulse-Eight for 2023, Hadjar arrives in Formula 2 with a lot of expectation and that’s not without reason. The Frenchman was a stand-out last year in FIA F3, taking three wins, another two podiums and a pole position as a rookie. His exploits almost took him to the title at the first time of asking, but a torrid final third of the season denied him the crown.
His rebounding from that setback will be fascinating, with the always enthusiastic Frenchman arriving on the F2 grid with all of his title rivals from last year. Alongside him at Hitech is Jak Crawford, and the pair already appeared to be working well during post-season testing at Yas Marina in 2022. Neither set any headline times but Hadjar’s 253 laps represented solid foundations from which to build into the new season.
Having hit the ground running in F3 with victory at the first time of asking in the Sakhir Sprint Race, Hadjar followed that up with an anomalous P25 in the Feature due to a puncture, and then a run of nine top 10 finishes, with seven of those being top five results. Adapting to a new car proved to be no problem at all for the 18-year-old.
Hadjar’s Qualifying form was equally impressive, lining up inside the top 10 on all but two occasions in 2022. The two times he didn’t – Spa-Francorchamps and Monza – were down to being unable to finish either lap, coasting to a halt in Belgium and a spin into the barriers in Italy. Repeating that kind of consistency would be a huge achievement for Hadjar in F2 and go a long way to securing strong results in both the Sprint and Feature Races.
Last year in F2 it was demonstrated throughout the year just how crucial it was to secure a top 10 result in Qualifying, with many driver’s weekends falling apart after a disappointing result that left someone 11th or lower. Hadjar’s strengths on a Friday is a big part of his arsenal going into his Formula 2 rookie season.
Last year, Hadjar said that winter testing had been his highlight of the season. A strange pick until you hear his reasoning: it was a huge confidence boost to feel comfortable in the Hitech immediately, and posting very competitive times right away was a big step. Will Hitech show the same speed in F2 this year in Sakhir? In post-season testing, neither Hadjar nor Crawford troubled the top times on any of the three days. Is that a worrying sign or were the duo just getting up to speed and ready to up the pace in Bahrain come testing?
Hadjar maintains that he has no regrets over his approach to fighting for the FIA F3 title last year despite ending the season fourth in the Drivers’ Championship. A crash in Qualifying at Monza all but ended his hopes having been on a lap potentially good enough for a top five start. What he does admit though is that he should have been capable of more. Whether there are any longer-term impacts on his methodology will become clear in time.
Having started the season so strongly with victory in the Bahrain Sprint, though he maintains he should’ve fought for victory in the Feature too, Hadjar’s ’22 campaign did slip away from him towards the end.
P18 in a tricky Budapest Feature Race wasn’t the end of the world, and he left Hungary with the lead of the Championship, tied on 104 points with Victor Martins. For the remaining races and for a variety of reasons, Hadjar finished inside the top five just once in the final six races. Preventing slides in form such as that one will be a key area of focus for the Hitech driver this year.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Isack Hadjar is undoubtedly quick and the excitement from within Red Bull ranks about his potential for the future is a strong indicator of just how talented he is. After achieving multiple wins in his rookie F3 campaign and mounting a title charge, his graduation to Formula 2 for 2023 is more than deserved and one of the more intriguing prospects of the new season.
With Hitech, he is in familiar surroundings having raced with the team last year in F3 which will likely shorten his lead in time to being comfortable in his new car, and the team are familiar with how he works too. Such a strong starting point for the relationship is a nice bonus and the pure speed he already shows will count for a lot alongside so many other F2 rookies. If he can keep the Hitech car out of trouble and achieve some consistency, Hadjar will be a force to watch out for in 2023.