After Frederik Vesti reigned triumphant on the streets of Monte Carlo and seized the Championship lead, the 2023 FIA Formula 2 season continues to kick on with a trip to Barcelona. A track the field are well-versed around after in-season testing earlier last month, the whole field will be eager to impress as they hit the halfway stretch.
Ahead of Round 7, here’s everything you need to know for Formula 2’s return to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
THE FORM BOOK
Securing his second Feature Race win and first pole position of his second season last time out, Frederik Vesti has staked his claim on the 2023 title. Sitting on 89 points, the Dane returns to the circuit that saw him achieve his maiden FIA Formula 2 podium last year.
However, it’s still nip-and-tuck at the top, with the PREMA Racing driver only five points clear of Théo Pourchaire. Whilst non-scoring rounds in Sakhir (Vesti) and Jeddah (Pourchaire) remain the only dent in their records, both will be looking to extract the maximum out of the Barcelona Sprint Race as well to begin to pull a gap on their nearest rival, Ayumu Iwasa.
Disappointed with his Qualifying performance on Friday, Iwasa made the best of his circumstances from the reverse grid front row to bring home the Sprint Race win in Monte Carlo. 20 points adrift of Vesti, the DAMS driver will be looking to recreate his 2022 form around the Spanish circuit and return to the podium once more.
Further back in fourth, Kush Maini is making consistency the hallmark of his rookie campaign. The Campos Racing driver is now on 49 points, one ahead of the MP Motorsport’s Dennis Hauger and Rodin Carlin’s Zane Maloney, who are both tied on 48. Maini and fifth-placed Hauger are two of only three drivers to have scored points in every round so far.
Victory in Sunday’s Feature Race has allowed PREMA Racing to begin carving out an advantage in the lead of the Teams’ Standings on 130 points. ART Grand Prix leapfrog DAMS for second on 108 points, but their compatriots are not far behind on 103.
FROM THE GRID – Frederik Vesti, PREMA Racing
“I think what’s really tricky in Barcelona is that you need to manage the front and the rear tyres. It's a track that is hard on both and your driving style is really depending on the car balance and how the car is setup, which makes a big difference. Managing the tyres is a really important part of Barcelona.
“It's not the easiest track to overtake on, but definitely you can overtake into Turn 1 with the massive straight and DRS. I guess you can overtake into Turn 5 as well and a little bit in Turn 10, but it’s quite limited. During the race, there’s a lot of degradation. It’s quite hot normally in Barcelona, so overtaking is possible if you do a good job with that. The strategy is always difficult, but the tyre degradation is high. It’s not easy to make the tyres last long for the whole stint. We saw last year that Drugovich was able to extend a lot, that gave him such an advantage later in the race and he won the race like that. So, if you can make the tyres last and manage them, you have a huge advantage in the race.”
The same compounds used during testing last month will be available in Barcelona, with the white-walled hard and red-walled soft Pirelli tyres in action. The mix of high and low-speed corners will be very familiar to the field, but the removal of the final chicane could put increased focus on tyre management.
The sweeping right-hand penultimate corner now means drivers will carry more speed into the final turn, putting increased strain on the front tyres as they seek to maximise the DRS zone ahead. As Felipe Drugovich put into practice last year, extending the opening soft stint as long as possible is the key to keeping the tyres alive throughout the race and making up ground as those around fade away.
Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director
“At Barcelona the drivers will have the P Zero White hard tyre and P Zero Red soft tyre available. This is the same selection as we have made in previous years and is well-suited to a track that is very demanding for the tyres with a number of high-energy corners. For this year there has been a change to the track configuration which will increase the speeds and therefore the lateral forces through the final corners – although the Formula 2 teams and drivers already used this layout during their recent in-season test, so have some idea of what to expect. As usual, we can anticipate that the extra step between the two nominated compounds should lead to some exciting action on a circuit where overtaking has traditionally not been easy.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Championship leader Frederik Vesti has his fair share of happy memories in Barcelona as the home of where his journey toward Formula 2 began. The Dane’s first-ever taste of a Formula 4 car was at the Spanish circuit, where he went on to compete with Van Amersfoort Racing for the 2017 ADAC Formula 4 Championship.
Additionally, Vesti finished third there in 2019 in the second Sprint Race, as well as scoring his breakthrough Formula 2 Qualifying performance last season. Securing third on the grid, the Mercedes junior put together a measured Feature Race to bring home his maiden podium in third.