Taylor Barnard is one of 10 rookies on the FIA Formula 2 grid this season that are adapting to life in the second tier. However, the PHM AIX Racing driver arguably has the most learning to do out of any of his fellow newcomers.

The British driver received a late call-up to race for PHM AIX in F2 so did not take part in the final round of the 2023 campaign at Yas Marina or at the post-season test a few days later at the same venue.

His first go behind the wheel of Formula 2 machinery came at the pre-season outing in Sakhir last month, and since then he has been working hard alongside his team to get up to speed as quickly as possible.

The early signs are positive as the British driver qualified ninth in Bahrain although he unfortunately retired in the Sprint Race and finished 16th in the Feature.

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But speaking ahead of last weekend’s action in Jeddah – where he ended up P13 in both the Sprint and Feature Race – Barnard says despite his limited running in Formula 2 machinery, he still feels he and the team have the pace to score points.

“For sure we had a lack of preparation before the start of the season,” acknowledged Barnard. “I missed out on the post-season testing in Abu Dhabi. It was in the old car, but I don't see a big difference at the minute between the old and the new car, so it was always going to be a tough first round.

Barnard has been getting up speed in F2 machinery
Barnard has been getting up speed in F2 machinery

“However, Qualifying was much better than expected, we were P10 or P9 after a disqualification. But the Qualifying pace looks okay even with this lack of preparation.

“The race pace is still difficult to say as we had issues in both races in Bahrain but looking at Joshua Duerksen, my teammate, it’s not looking too bad. Already in the first couple of races as rookies we have the pace to score points which is good, and we can work on that.”

Barnard showed plenty of promise in his lone FIA Formula 3 campaign in 2023. He ended the season at Spa-Franorchamps and Monza with three podiums in four races – including a victory at the Feature Race at the Belgian event.

But having adjusted well to F3, he must do the same now in Formula 2 and the Briton revealed the main things he has been having to learn to since making the step up.

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“The car is new, and it is completely different to drive. It’s not just the new F2 car but a new car in general having made the step up,” he explained. “It's much heavier, it's got more power and it’s got a bit more downforce, but for me the biggest thing is the weight.

“It changes the driving style massively, and it’s for sure difficult to get used to but like I said the pace is not too bad to even score points already.”

Explaining how much the weight has changed his driving style, Barnard added: “In the braking and in the transition phase from braking to the apex of the corner it changes a lot how you load up the car and how you get the car rotated for the corner exit.

Barnard says he enjoys working with his new teammate Joshua Duerksen
Barnard says he enjoys working with his new teammate Joshua Duerksen

“It's mainly the entry phase where most of the work is done but you do all of your work on entry and the rest of the corner is quite easy. This is the phase where I am struggling the most, and this is something I can work on in Jeddah, Melbourne and going into Barcelona testing.”

What has helped Barnard in his adaptation is working alongside his new teammate Joshua Duerksen. He lauded the Paraguayan’s professionalism and explained how much he enjoys working with him, and how looking over his data has been helpful.

But even with Duerksen help, Barnard’s adjustment to F2 would not be possible without a team around him that he trusts. He and PHM AIX have shared plenty of race wins and podiums across different categories since they joined forces in 2022. He believes that familiarity has made adapting to Formula 2 simpler.

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“It was quite a late call before the season but it’s still the PHM family,” he added. “So, the working procedures even from F4 to F3 they work in the same way because it's still the same team and the guys at the top of the team who are in control they are the same guys.

“So, it was the smoothest transition you could have with such a late call. Getting to know the guys was quite fast and easy and everyone in the team is really nice, so that was not such a struggle to get used to.”

But what would Barnard like to achieve this season? As he continues to improve, he is hopeful a trip to the rostrum could be on the horizon.

Barnard is setting sights on finishing on the Sprint Race podium this season
Barnard is setting sights on finishing on the Sprint Race podium this season

“Honestly for me at the minute my main target is to just learn as much as I can and improve,” said Barnard. “I think the position we are in already is not too bad. For sure the delta between the first guys and us is big.

“But as long as we focus on ourselves and learn and improve as much as possible, I don't see why a Sprint Race podium is not possible soon. I'm not sure exactly when, I think that just depends on the track.

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“For example, if I have a very good Qualifying in Monaco, it is difficult to overtake so you never know what can happen in these kinds of races.

"For sure my main target now is to just learn as much as I can, improve, adapt to everything, all the situations, different conditions, different tracks and tyres and I think generally the results will come.”