He may not have enjoyed the race-winning debut that fellow Formula 3 graduates Liam Lawson and Oscar Piastri did in Round 1, but reigning vice-champion Théo Pourchaire is already eight points better off than at this stage of his rookie campaign in the third tier – and that didn’t end too badly.
Joining French outfit ART Grand Prix in F3 last season, Pourchaire struggled on his debut, taking zero points in the opening round, before an astonishing upturn of form – that included eight podiums and two wins – led the 17-year-old to an unlikely title charge.
Earning promotion to F2 with the same team, his full-time start to life in the second tier was slightly smoother as Pourchaire scored sixth in Sprint Race 2 and eighth in the Feature Race.
Although, it wasn’t without its complications.
“It is not a lot of points, but I am not disappointed, and I think it was a nice first weekend,” Pourchaire said. “Of course, it wasn’t a completely new category for me because I did the final two rounds in Bahrain at the end of last season with HWA (RACELAB), but I am still learning.
“I am still really young, and I did make mistakes. I made a mistake in quali that potentially cost me a place in the top four, and I made mistakes in all three races – but I am learning in every single race.
“I learned a lot. Having three races a weekend is better for the rookies because we have more track time, and we can learn faster. I learned a lot about tyre management. We had two pit stops, so I could gain experience there too. Running an outlap with cold tyres after a pitstop is difficult and it is little things like that where I am learning still.
“We had some bad luck at times too, but we’re a team: we win together, we make mistakes together. I think this was a positive weekend and it will help us all in the future. The atmosphere in the team is like it was last year in F3, which is promising.”
The ART racer was handed a baptism of fire in the opener starting from reverse grid pole for the first time. A stuttered start saw him lose P1 to Lawson, but the Frenchman got it together and went on to establish himself second place, until mechanical struggles struck and forced him into a heart-breaking retirement.
“My first time starting P1 in Formula 2 was a bit stressful, but it was a really nice feeling,” Pourchaire continued. “It wasn’t a good start unfortunately, but after that, we had a good race until the mechanical issue. I was really disappointed not to finish the race. The first time I felt the problem, I was trying to solve it, telling my engineer what I was feeling in the car, but nothing was helping.
“In the end I had to stop the car. I was so disappointed, and I screamed down the radio, but this is part of motorsport. We lost 10-12 points because it would have been a podium for sure, but we have to learn and improve from this. I think that we have the pace and the speed to be up there again.”
The result wasn’t only damaging to his hopes in the first race, but the second as well. Yet, the Frenchman put on an inspired drive, rising 13 places from P19 to P6 at the flag in the Feature Race.
“The best races are the ones where you start really far back on the grid, but you are really fast and can overtake a lot of drivers,” he said. “That is one of the most satisfying things in motorsports.
“For example, the overtake on Bent Viscaal at Turn 1 was really, really good! He was pushing me a bit on the pit exit and it was really tight. There were a lot of good moves during this race, and I hope there will be a lot of good races like this this year.”