One round, two races and 65 points still left to play for. The fight to be crowned the 2022 FIA Formula 2 Teams’ Champion is set to go all the way down to the final chequered flag in Abu Dhabi.
Four teams are still in with a shot at title glory – MP Motorsport, ART Grand Prix, Carlin and PREMA Racing, with the top three separated by only 23 points. Let’s take a deep dive into third-placed Carlin’s season and chances at coming out on top at the Yas Marina Circuit with their dynamic duo of Logan Sargeant and Liam Lawson.
QUICK OUT OF THE GATE
Carlin looked strong from the outset as they secured two top six starts in the first Qualifying session of the season. Lawson took full advantage of this by claiming back-to-back podiums in Sakhir. Additionally, Sargeant brought home two double points finishes in sixth and seventh, helping to send the British outfit into the lead of the Teams’ Standings.
He is a smart racer - he knows what it takes and what he needs to do” - Trevor Carlin on Lawson
Determined to go one better in Jeddah, Lawson overcame three Safety Car restarts to net his first win of the season. Sargeant’s race came to an early end after a collision with Virtuosi Racing’s Jack Doohan. A fourth consecutive podium looked to be on the cards for the New Zealander, but an issue during Lawson’s pit stop forced him into retirement from third.
Imola saw Sargeant line up on reverse grid pole for the first time in F2, but a disappointing start dropped the American to sixth by the chequered flag. On Sunday, the Williams junior secured more points in seventh, while Lawson’s Feature Race ended prematurely, crashing out with three laps remaining.
A blistering start in the Barcelona Sprint Race helped Sargeant move up from sixth to a maiden podium finish. Points were on the board for both drivers in the Feature Race with Sargeant holding off the alternative strategy runners for fourth, ahead of Lawson in ninth.
I’ve had pretty good first laps this year, which I think has been one of our strong points” - Lawson on Barcelona fightback
Monte Carlo proved to be a challenging weekend for Carlin. A post-Qualifying penalty dropped provisional pole-sitter Lawson down to 11th and the pair left the Principality having added only three points to the team’s tally, demoting them to fifth in the Standings.
Battling it out on the Azerbaijani streets, the sixth round in Baku saw both drivers secure silverware. Leaving it late in Qualifying, Lawson snatched a front row slot in second. Despite starting ninth on the reverse grid of the Sprint Race, the Red Bull junior threw caution to the wind as he carved his way through to third. Unfortunately, contact in the Feature Race ended his hopes of back-to-back podiums. Keeping himself out of trouble on Sunday, Sargeant went on to take third, promoting him up to fourth in the Drivers’ Championship.
My main goal was just to sort of maximise each and every round the best I could, which I feel like I haven't completely done” - Sargeant on his early season performances
If there’s one place to have one of your best weekends of the year, you can’t get much better than on home soil. Carlin’s record of four consecutive seasons with a podium finish at Silverstone swiftly became five as Sargeant stormed to his first F2 victory with an impressive lights-to-flag performance from pole in the Feature Race. Meanwhile Lawson gave the team their first double podium of the 2022 campaign to move them back up into third.
Straight back into action in Spielberg, Sargeant recovered from starting on wet tyres on an ever-drying track to finish fourth. However, a series of post-race penalties handed him the victory and elevated him and Carlin up to second in their respective Standings.
The following five rounds proved to be a run of mixed results for Carlin. Firstly, Sargeant got the team’s Le Castellet weekend off to a strong start, as he took his second pole position of the season at Paul Ricard. However, an issue during his pit stop denied him a chance to take a third consecutive Feature Race victory. Meanwhile, after losing the lead of the Sprint Race, Lawson bounced back to snatch the win out of Jehan Daruvala’s hands on the Saturday with five laps remaining.
The car has always been there and been really hooked up so we can carry that forwards and we should be able to score some good points “- Lawson on pre-summer break expectations
Round 10 in Budapest began with another early retirement for Sargeant in the Sprint Race, as he got tangled up in a three-car opening corner incident with Felipe Drugovich and Dennis Hauger. In the #6 car, Lawson continued to rack up more points-scoring finishes in P6 and P7.
As F2 returned to action following the summer break, Lawson seized his opportunity after reverse pole-sitter Daruvala was unable to take the start, with the door wide open for him to go from fifth to take the win. He went on to cap off his strongest weekend of the year so far with third in the Feature Race, as Sargeant recovered from a poor getaway to seal fifth.
The round in Zandvoort began well for Carlin after Sargeant secured another top three result in Qualifying, with Lawson not far behind in sixth. The two would get their elbows out to guarantee a points finish for both cars in P8 and P4 respectively. Yet neither would be able to follow that up with another points haul on Sunday. Sargeant’s race lasted one lap after a trip through the gravel at Turn 1, before crashing into the barriers at Turn 7. Lawson’s strategy came undone after a Safety Car appearance on Lap 17 denied him a chance to pull a gap in the lead ahead of his mandatory stop and he eventually had to settle for 12th.
The competitiveness in F2 is extremely high, you have so many drivers that can be at the front week in and week out” - Sargeant on life in F2
Finally, last time out in Monza saw Lawson put himself firmly in the hunt for his first Feature Race win of the year, having missed out on pole by only 0.126s. Following a difficult start, Sargeant recovered to take fourth in the Sprint Race – his best result since Austria, ahead of his teammate. Yet the penultimate Feature Race of the year failed to result in more crucial points for Carlin, as Sargeant was forced into retirement after getting caught up in contact between Doohan and Daruvala on the opening lap. Despite leading the race prior to his pit stop, Lawson’s hopes also faded away. Whilst duelling with Jüri Vips, the two made contact, sending the Kiwi spinning down the order and into the pits to repair his damaged front wing.
THE TITLE RUN-IN
Although they currently sit as one of the outside shots for the Teams’ Championship, Carlin’s driver duo remains one of the strongest weapons in their arsenal heading into the final round. The two are the closest-performing pairing in the Standings, separated by just 12 points, with Sargeant in third on 135 points and Lawson in seventh on 123.
Fortunately for the team, they’ll be returning to one of their prime hunting grounds in Abu Dhabi, where they’ve consistently been in the fight for points and podiums across their previous three F2 appearances. 2018 Vice-Champion Lando Norris claimed second for them in the Sprint Race, which Nobuharu Matsushita followed up with a P2 result in the Feature Race the next year.
Their best result came on their last visit to the Yas Marina Circuit when Daruvala brought home the win in the first Sprint Race. However, the all-important Feature Race win still eludes them, and is highly sought after given the 25 points on the table.
Both drivers will be eager to end their seasons on the top step. After two points finishes there in 2021, Lawson will have one last shot this year to take his first Feature Race victory, while Sargeant will be wanting to prove himself at the final frontier to secure the Super Licence points needed to guarantee his promotion to Formula 1 with Williams for 2023.