When things were going right for Jack Doohan, the Virtuosi Racing driver was fighting at the front for podiums and victories. Unfortunately for the Australian, his year was peppered with misfortune that prevented him from seriously fighting for the Championship.
Three pole positions and three race victories proved that the speed was there. But all-important consistency was scarce to non-existent for Doohan, though that was largely out of his control. After reflecting on what has been the toughest of seasons, the 19-year-old was incredibly honest with how his rookie campaign unfolded.
“It hasn't been the easiest of years. To have been in contention for P3 in the Championship, I was just shocked and amazed. We weren't where we wanted to be. Last year set the tone. I knew kind of where I stood and what was possible. Unfortunately, 2022 hasn't been the smoothest of roads.”
His potential on the back of the Jeddah and Yas Marina cameos in 2021 set expectations high, but Doohan looked more than capable of meeting those. But a surplus of misfortune and incident along the way prevented any serious title bid.
“Starting off the season the first year of Formula 2 and we were on pole which is obviously a very good start! Then having a chance to win the Feature Race, I made the mistake coming out of the pitlane and lost the front wing, which you never want to do and isn’t ideal. So, I went from a high to a very low low, but then had the chance to rebound for Jeddah.
“I enjoyed the track last year, and then coming there again this year, we were super-fast again in Qualifying, it was just with the Red Flags. It was super difficult, especially for the team to get that lap. We put it in P3 with a very average lap but because of all the Red Flags, we didn't end up having enough fuel for a sample, so we got disqualified. So again, a decent high to a very low low, and starting at the back of the grid on a street circuit. It's just not possible to get back through.”
A hugely frustrating factor that made the disappointing results even tougher to swallow was the speed Doohan displayed was always impressive. The Virtuosi driver was a consistent force in Qualifying, maintaining his one-lap pace despite the tough results on race days.
It wasn’t until Round 6 in Baku that Doohan failed to qualify inside the top three, ending the session in Azerbaijan P11. It was the only race weekend of the year he failed to register a time inside the top 10. His three pole positions in ’22 was a record bettered by just one rival, that being 2022 Drivers’ Champion Felipe Drugovich.
“I think for the first several rounds in Formula 2, I never qualified outside the top three, excluding my disqualification, which wasn't due to a Qualifying performance, obviously. Things were alright in Barcelona, I couldn’t convert pole into a win unfortunately, but still I got P2 which wasn't terrible. Then in Monaco, we had an okay weekend with seventh and fourth and then I got my first win in Silverstone, which wasn’t bad. I followed that up with another podium at the Red Bull Ring.
“Paul Ricard was the next place that I made a mistake. Going for P2 after a slow pitstop, came back out and unfortunately lost two places. I got back past Vesti and when I was going past Théo, I was a bit too ambitious and spun. So, I was lucky to still finish fifth there.
“Then we went to the Hungaroring where I won the Sprint Race, but then had a gearbox failure in the Feature Race. It was a very mixed bag for the majority of the season before summer break.“
Returning from the break, the Aussie was right back on the pace and looked in prime form, firstly securing P2 in the Sprint and then outright victory in the Feature Race at Spa-Francorchamps. Once again though, it wasn’t the turning point Doohan hoped it might have been for his season.
“Spa was a good weekend, P2 in the Sprint and then won the Feature which was really nice. Then in Zandvoort - we were super quick, quickest in Practice and then P2 in Qualifying. But, we just got outdone by MP Motorsport on Saturday. Still, we were three-tenths clear of the rest of the field. That weekend was P8 in the Sprint and then in the wall in the Feature. We probably could have won the Feature Race, we were really fast but, at the Safety Car restart I got put in the wall and walked away with no points which was disappointing.
“Then we went to Monza where we were fast again, I put it on pole, finished sixth in the Sprint Race while I was just conservative. We probably could have finished higher up, but I just wanted to get some points. In the Feature, on the formation lap, my steering wheel electronics failed. I had no clutch, no rotary, nothing. So regardless of me making it out of Turn 1, I wouldn’t have been able to do a pitstop. I would have come into the box, and I would have stalled so it was hugely frustrating.
“Then what happened in Abu Dhabi after the stop happened, so you could say in the last five Feature Races, the only one I finished I won. Every other race, whether it was technical or down to someone else, the result was out of my control.”
A Championship fight might have eluded Doohan in his rookie year but that was firmly down to extenuating factors. It means that he won’t simply carry the same expectations he had for this season into 2023. Following the unfulfilled potential that was his 2022 campaign, Doohan has set his eyes on the ultimate prize next year and nothing else.
“Even if I didn't make my mistake in Bahrain and in Paul Ricard, with the bad luck that we've had, we wouldn't have been able to fight for the Championship. If, in Zandvoort when I was P2, I finished there, I would’ve come into Abu Dhabi probably as vice champion, that would have been good.
“I’m just looking forward to next year. I know I'm gonna have a good package underneath me and I know I'm gonna have a good crew around me so I’m expecting nothing else but to dominate the Championship.”