As the stars twinkled in the December Monte Carlo night sky, the Formula 2 family came in from the cold into the warmth of a reunion for the 2022 Prize Giving Ceremony.
Unlike their previous appearance at the Principality back in May, this time the hustle and bustle of the Monaco streets faded away as the dazzling talents of past and present came together to celebrate another year of unbelievable racing. Intermingling with the stars of tomorrow, several guests of honour joined us, including two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso and F2 Champions George Russell and Nyck de Vries.
A breath-taking season was matched only by the beauty of the venue – Twiga, overlooking the serene harbour and glistening with a sumptuous golden theme.
Gliding up on to the stage, our host Laura Winter began the evening’s festivities as the clock ticked past half eight. Surrounded by family, friends and colleagues alike, teams and drivers eagerly awaited to see what events would unfold. Whilst the recipients of six of the 10 trophies had already been decided for the top three drivers and teams in the Championship, four would remain a mystery for now...
Showcasing the continual growth both F2 and Formula 3 have enjoyed in recent years, CEO Bruno Michel was the first speaker of the evening, reflecting on their contrasting, but nonetheless exhilarating campaigns.
“It was the first time we had such a long season. We had 14 events so 28 races and it’s been absolutely amazing all season long. Even if the winner was decided before the last event, we also had a Teams’ Championship fight which was amazing and decided at the very, very last weekend, so I think we can be very proud of those two Championships and the level of racing that we’ve been having.”
In the company of Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Michel thanked the two for their work integrating the Championship as an integral part of the pathway towards F1, as well as the dedication and sense of community demonstrated by all in the paddock.
“We're working extremely closely with the Formula 1 Group; we're working extremely closely with the FIA and it’s really working well. I think one of the successes of F2 and F3 is the contribution of our teams, everybody is doing a great job. Everybody is incredibly competitive and when our teams are on the track, they all want to win, but we also have a very fair atmosphere.”
He continued: “Everybody’s on the same boat and it’s something that I’ve always really, really appreciated – the work that our teams are doing whether it’s in F3 or in F2. I want to thank them for that because we all push in the same direction and that’s what makes the success of our category.”
Nowhere did that sentiment resonate more than when the Dallara Award for Best Team Strategy was presented to the only team to have taken both victories in a single round in 2022. MP Motorsport’s efforts to stretch Felipe Drugovich’s first stint in the Barcelona Feature Race far beyond the rest of the field had been rewarded with an unexpected win, having started 10th.
After narrowly missing out on the Teams’ Championship, both Carlin boss Trevor Carlin and ART Grand Prix Team Principal Sébastien Philippe were hungrier than ever in their quest for glory in 2023, as they accepted the second and third place trophies respectively. From there, Vice Champion Théo Pourchaire’s bravery on brakes would be celebrated, as the Sauber junior brought home the award for the Best Overtaking Manoeuvre, courtesy of his memorable double overtake in the Baku Sprint Race.
The Frenchman would not be the only driver needing to make room on his mantlepiece for that night. Prior to the evening, a panel of international F1 and F2 journalist had their say – voting for the Pirelli Trophy. For the first time ever, out of the six top rookies there would be two worthy winners – Virtuosi Racing’s Jack Doohan and DAMS’ Ayumu Iwasa.
It then came time to remember a much-loved figure of the paddock as 2019 Champion de Vries took to the stage to present the Anthoine Hubert Award, poignantly reminding us to savour the journey and the memories we make along the way.
“Life goes by very quickly,” de Vries noted. “In our industry, we are very competitive and are always looking forward, and we forget to enjoy the moment, enjoy the process and also to look back. I think it’s very important to remember Anthoine and to think about him tonight and for what his legacy is.”
With the award presented to Iwasa, the Japanese driver reflected on a remarkable debut season. Always true to character with a steely focus on improvement, Iwasa noted how his early season struggles helped drive him forward to success.
Before the long-awaited Champions trophies could be presented, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem paid tribute to both Championships for the role they play within the motorsport family, with Domenicali noting "the atmosphere that we are trying to build up all together. I feel that F3 and F2 are giving something special to the F1 community."
“The connection that they have and just the feeling of how they go through all of the process at that young age is just incredible," Ben Sulayem added. "We are also blessed that there is so much now in the technology that drivers, yes, they are younger than before, but they stay longer. At the start of the Formula 2 and Formula 3 season, nobody predicted who would be the winner. So really, I would like to say to everyone here, it's the night of the Champions, enjoy it.”
As the night drew closer to its end, those sat at the MP Motorsport table were on the edge of their seats as their Champion prepared to bow out in a blaze of glory. Firstly, Team Principal Sander Dorsman collected the honours with their first-ever Teams’ Championship title, crediting both their hard work and the special partnership they shared with Drugovich that proved to be the making of such a glorious season.
Yet the largest cheer of the night was reserved for the Brazilian sensation, with his team rapturous in their celebrations. Preparing for his next adventure as an Aston Martin reserve driver and the inaugural signee to their Driver Development Programme, Drugovich expressed his gratitude to a Dutch squad for giving him a fairytale season to bow out on. The 22-year-old's speed, tenancity and consistency had been unrivaled in 2022 with five wins, four pole positions and 11 podiums to his name.
“This year started with not so many expectations,” he admitted. “I was coming back to do another year, to which I wasn’t even sure I was going to do this year, but we managed to dominate it. The role at Aston Martin in the end is the icing on the cake!”
With all the awards handed out, the room once again erupted into a hub of chatter as we bid fond farewells to some of the paddock’s most memorable of characters, whilst welcoming the new generation of talents to the grid.
And there the curtain fell on the 2022 campaign, with the start of our next chapter already beginning to unfold...