One of several Red Bull Junior Team members making the step-up to Formula 2 this season, Jak Crawford returns to Hitech Grand Prix in 2023. The American is aiming for a more consistent season than what he achieved last year in FIA Formula 3, throughout what was a challenging series of ups and downs.
Arriving in F2 alongside fellow Red Bull talent Isack Hadjar at the British team, the duo makes up one of the most exciting line-ups on the ’23 grid and have serious potential for strong results right away.
Will the move up to the Formula 2 grid bring out the best in Crawford though after a title challenge that fell away in F3 last season?
WHAT WE KNOW
There’s a clear step in performance between Crawford’s 2021 and 2022 seasons in Formula 3. A switch to PREMA Racing for ’22 brought much more consistent points-scoring results as well as a maiden victory around the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg.
It was in key moments though where Crawford’s strong potential was blunted. A spin in Spa-Francorchamps Qualifying left him 30th and last just when he could have hauled himself into serious title contention.
He rebounded from that result before the end of the campaign and signed off the year with a podium at Monza, but what should have been a sustained title challenge ultimately fell apart before then.
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Crawford was on the podium more times than runner-up Zane Maloney last year, finishing in the top three on five occasions. He also only had one more non-points-scoring result than Champion Victor Martins, with five. Of those points-scoring results though, only once was Crawford inside the top five.
As drivers like Maloney and ’22 PREMA teammate Oliver Bearman came strong towards the end of the season, Crawford fell away, with his Monza P3 finish his first rostrum appearance since winning in Austria back in July.
Sustaining momentum then is a key area for Crawford to target this year and will go a long way in boosting his chances of stronger points-scoring results. Once he has found his feet in F2, points shouldn’t be a problem for the American.
His wheel-to-wheel prowess was a proven strength right from the off in 2022. Having lined up 20th in the Sakhir races, he made it up to P7 by the end of the Feature Race, a stellar effort.
Fighting back from 30th to 11th in the Spa-Francorchamps Sprint Race was another demonstration of Crawford’s decisiveness and overtaking skill. Maximising results after tough days in Qualifying will go a long way in F2 if he can carry that into this season.
Is mid-season fade becoming a pattern for Crawford? In 2021, the American driver had a single points-scoring result from race eight of the season to race 15 out of 21. Last year, following his Spielberg victory, he had one points finish in the following five races, a stint that all but ended his title aspirations just as he seemed to be on track for a bid at the Championship.
When he’s quick, he is contending for podiums and victories but on his off days, Crawford often scored less frequently than close rivals. Achieving a more consistent level across the campaign would go a long way in lifting the 17-year-old’s chances in 2023. Whether or not that is something we’ll see in his rookie F2 season remains to be seen.
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Crawford was ranked fourth for average gap to pole position and average grid position of the seven F3 title contenders in 2022. It was his race results that ultimately let him down. With an average starting position of 8.25, Crawford’s average finish fell to 9.11 across the campaign. He will be eager to put that statistic right with Hitech this year.
After his rookie season in which he finished 13th on 45 points driving for Hitech, he switches back to Hitech for his promotion to F2 in a reunion with the British team.
Hitech secured four Sprint Race wins last season in Formula 2, finishing the year 5th in the Teams’ Standings. It was the highest win count for the team in F2, but the team achieved its lowest points total across a campaign. How the team rebounds this year will matter a lot for Crawford.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Still only 17, Crawford is one of the youngest drivers on the Formula 2 grid in 2023. There is a great deal of potential within the American and he’s shown on multiple occasions how quick he truly is. Podium finishes are well within his capabilities in year one of his F2 graduation.
Threading together a more consistent season than in 2022 would be a huge step forward, and familiar surroundings in Hitech is a good place to be heading.
If the team can match or even improve on its four wins across the season last year, Crawford has a strong chance of scoring a maiden win as a rookie in F2 in 2023. There was a healthy competitive atmosphere amongst the F3 PREMA teammates last year which proved a positive in their results. Alongside Hadjar this year, both will be pushing each other similarly, and that will likely bring the best out of Crawford.