One of 10 Formula 3 graduates taking their place on the 2023 Formula 2 grid, Brad Benavides is relentless in his drive to extract the maximum out of himself and is ready to give it his all to fight it out up front.
Slotting into the #17 PHM Racing by Charouz car, this opportunity showcases the 21-year-old's rapid rise through the ranks in what should be only his second full season in single-seater racing and it is one that he’s firmly seizing with both hands.
“First of all, I’m really grateful for the opportunity, both from my amazing sponsors AIX Investment Group and from the team. To be honest, it’s feeling surreal at the moment, that it’s already this enormous step that's just one step below Formula 1,” said Benavides.
“It's been my dream my whole life to be here getting closer to F1 and I'm trying to prepare myself as best as I can every single day, giving absolutely everything, with the mindset that nothing is ever enough. There's always more and more that I can give to the sport and to my goals to be the best driver possible.
Benavides proved to be a quick learner at post-season testing last November after notching in 171 laps and is now continuing to settle in well with his new team. With both the experienced crew around him and teammate Roy Nissany providing a seasoned reference point, the American-Spanish driver says he’s reaping the benefits of his new environment.
“The feeling with the team has been great, the work environment within PHM Racing by Charouz was fantastic. I got along very well with all the mechanics and all the engineers, and their work ethic is very professional. I think they do a very good job with setting the car up as best as possible and working with me as best as possible. So at the moment, I'm feeling really comfortable to push as hard as I can with them.”
Stepping up off the back of his debut F3 campaign with Carlin, where he scored a single points finish in Spa-Francorchamps, he admits that his slow start held him back, but avoiding repeating that situation will be his main target during the first half of the ‘23 season.
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Asked what the biggest lesson he was looking to apply from his journey last year, Benavides explained: “I think I had a bit of a slow start to the Championship. I was a lot more competitive I think in the last part of the season, compared to the beginning or even halfway through it.
“In comparison to last year, I want to have my learning curve be a bit more exponential at the beginning of the Championship, or by the midway through the Championship to already start feeling myself be at my absolute top level and not only like last year, at the end.
“I want to speed up that process as much as I can, so I’m not really starting to become competitive late into the Championship, I want it to happen a lot earlier. When it comes to results, if I can get within the top 10 in Qualifying that means that with the reverse grids for the Sprint Races, I’d be starting a bit more ahead. It’d be great if I could be more in front of the top 10, like within the top five because then that sets me up for the races perfectly.”
Taking advantage of the over two months of non-F2 action, Benavides has been keen to shake off any cobwebs ahead of pre-season testing in Sakhir next week by competing in the Formula Regional Middle East Championship and hopes his rigorous preparation pays dividends in his ability to get up to speed quickly.
“I'm trying to understand as much as possible about the style of driving with the Formula 2 car, getting educated as much as possible ahead of testing and the Championship starting and practicing as much as I can on the simulator.
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“I'm also participating in the Formula Regional Middle East Championship, which I think is giving me a good head start to the year because I’m not losing momentum - keeping busy with racing, Qualifying and I’m just trying to have my competitive edge as prepared as possible for F2.
He added: “There’s different methods and things that work for some drivers and that don’t work for others. Perhaps drivers that don’t want to compete in these types of Championships believe that they’d rather dedicate the off season to testing or resting. My method is trying to fit everything within these months –racing, testing and a bit of resting, but very little and I think that’s what’s going to work best for me.”