While it might not be Championship honours at stake this season, the pair will be motivated to claim rookie of the year and the Anthoine Hubert Award with it. Currently, Martins heads that battle but has just a solitary point in his advantage over Bearman, 131 to 130 going into the finale.
Both have starred at different points during the season, taking multiple pole positions and wins between them, but who will have the edge in the final round of the campaign?
You only have to look at the pole position statistics in 2023 to see just how closely matched this duo is. Three poles each put them clear at the top of the pile this season, taking almost half of those available between them.
Martins’ impressive mid-season run in particular is worth pointing out. It took a late Jack Doohan lap to prevent the Frenchman from making it a trio of consecutive poles between Spielberg and Budapest as the ART Grand Prix driver hit his stride in the summer.
If Martins is the one who surges on a single lap, then Bearman is one to watch on race days. He has scarcely held back from lights out in Sakhir, pulling off some memorable overtakes along the way. The early laps at Silverstone were impressive considering the wet weather conditions, as he passed Isack Hadjar and Théo Pourchaire in the early running.
Between the pair of them, they have six fastest laps so far this season to add to their numerous pole, podium and win totals. There is no reason why at least one of them won’t add to their 2023 record around Yas Marina later this month.
No rookie season is complete without the odd error and that has been no different for Martins and Bearman.
Sprint Race podiums in Rounds 1 and 2 were good, but Martins was missing the bigger points hauls on Sunday, with four consecutive non-scoring results in the opening four weekends. Those races included a spin from the Feature Race lead in Jeddah, a late Safety Car clash with Dennis Hauger in Melbourne and another restart faux pas in Baku, this time in the Sprint that put him in the barriers and out of the points.
Bearman too has been guilty of a few errors throughout his rookie campaign. Both PREMAs were off the pace and struggling in Sakhir, but he had a spin of his own in Jeddah that dropped him out of big point-scoring contention like Martins.
A poor Monte Carlo Qualifying session left him point-less in the Principality, while the Briton was on full attack at home in the Silverstone Feature, ultimately taking a trip through the gravel after some scintillating battles up to that point.
From mid-season though, both have steadied the ship and began to level out their averages, qualifying further up the order with more regularity and achieving points finishes fairly uninterrupted since the opening races.
For the Frenchman, his early season woes disguised how fast he was on the scoreboard, and it wasn’t until the midway point in the year that the Alpine Academy driver began to thread together a consistent run of form.
Bearman too struggled in the early rounds as he adapted to life in F2 but a dominant weekend in Baku broke the floodgates and the wins began to arrive more regularly.
For Martins, he could be accused of having overdriven at points in his first few F2 outings, something he himself admits. But the comeback has been stellar, putting together a run of top 10 results that lasted from the Monte Carlo Sprint all the way to the Monza Feature, a run of 15 races. It hauled him from a lowly 15th into rookie of the year contention and squarely into battle with Bearman.
Meanwhile, the Ferrari Academy driver has notched up four wins so far this season, including the most recent Feature Race coming on PREMA home soil around Monza. His Sunday victories have been impressive to say the least, dominating in Azerbaijan, leading from the front in Barcelona and resisting the pressure from Championship leader Pourchaire and Ayumu Iwasa last time out.
The erratic errors from both drivers have been minimised and while they might not place every wheel perfectly lap after lap, their sensational speed has brought impressive results that they had threatened with earlier in the season.
With the obvious caveat that ‘it’s only testing’ Martins did end the 2022 post-season event as the fastest driver across the test. The ART driver set a 1:35.908 to head up the final day on his first time around the Yas Marina Circuit last year.
Now, with a season of F2 racing under their belts, who will seize the advantage at the final hurdle and be crowned rookie of the season? It’s a fight that is too close to call.
Wins 1 – 4
Pole positions (Tied for most in 2023) 3 – 3
Fastest laps 3 – 2
Podium places 8 – 5
Front row starts 6 – 4
Races led 2 – 5
Laps led 31 – 59