The chances are admittedly very slim for Ayumu Iwasa, but the Japanese driver is still mathematically in the reckoning for the 2023 Formula 2 Drivers’ Championship.
Heading into Abu Dhabi, the points gap to leader Théo Pourchaire stands at 39. It means it would take a non-score from the ART Grand Prix driver, a disappointing weekend from Frederik Vesti and full points for Iwasa to overhaul the difference.
Still, the DAMS driver is steadfast in his approach to the 2023 finale, admitting that while his season has not gone to plan, the desire to end on a high note hasn’t wavered.
“To be able to win the Championship, it’s almost a less than 1% chance for me,” the Red Bull Junior Team driver admits. “If I tried to be P1 in the Championship, I’d have to do over 100% of my job. That would mean I’d have to take so many risks which could lead to mistakes so it’s not something I want to do.
“Of course, my target is to do the best job I can with the team. If we do that, I think P2 would be possible in the Championship, that’s my realistic target. So, the goal is to take pole position and win the Feature Race, that’s what we have under control as a team.”
It has been a campaign that started off strongly, but one that has slowly but surely gotten away from Iwasa and the DAMS team. Starting off with five scoring results from a possible six, victory in the Melbourne Feature Race propelled Iwasa to the top of the Drivers’ Championship.
Since then though, just one victory has followed, and the gap between him and the leading duo in Pourchaire and Frederik Vesti has steadily grown.
It represents a disappointing return for a driver many predicted would be vying for the Championship to the very last this season, as Iwasa himself admits.
“Honestly, the results this season so far and my position in the Championship is not our ideal performance level. For sure we could have won the Championship, we should have performed better than this, so there’s a bit of frustration there.
“But that came from mistakes by me as well as the team. In some races we lost performance with the car because, for example in Hungary, we were missing some speed in Qualifying, which wasn’t great. It’s a really big frustration, that’s what we’re working on right now so we can come back strong in Abu Dhabi.
“It’s worse than what we were expecting because the three wins isn’t bad in terms of numbers, but I’ve only had one win in the Feature Race, which isn’t great for me.
“Last year for example, we had two pole positions and two Feature Race wins. That’s why we’re P3 in the Championship and that’s the biggest source of frustration.”
It’s Friday that has been the biggest area of concern according to Iwasa, who says that the team’s struggles in Qualifying have hamstrung them throughout the 2023 season.
Having achieved three front row starts last season, Iwasa has been inside the top two just once this year, taking pole in Melbourne ahead of that Feature Race win.
With plenty of recovery work required by virtue of starting further down the order, it has led to mistakes from team and driver as they tried to recover from a disappointing Friday.
“I think the reason we have been missing some Qualifying performance is because of our preparation with the car and our procedures. We are trying to improve, even from last year, but it didn’t go well. That’s a reason for the mistakes. We were trying to do the perfect job and that’s really difficult to do.
“Sometimes from my side, I was overdoing my job. I pushed it and had contact which is not the way you win the Championship. I needed to take good points in every event. It hasn’t gone well but at least we were showing good performances at the beginning of the season. We just had to put it all together through the season.
“We’ve been struggling in Qualifying, so we have to find a reason and fix the problem. But from my side, I’m quite confident with our preparation because we as a team are working really hard. That hard work makes the potential, performance and result.”
One year ago, Iwasa was the star of the show around Abu Dhabi, something he will be keen to repeat this season. He headed up a DAMS front row lock-out with then-teammate Roy Nissany, as the French team aced the Yas Marina Circuit and their setup to achieve such a rare F2 feat.
“We have used this long break before Abu Dhabi to get on track and we have to do our best, not overdo it and that’s the target. We have confidence because we took pole position, and it was a one-two for the team last year so for sure we were strong, but we have to do it again.
“Honestly, it’s not my best track. It doesn’t fit me perfectly. When I first jumped in an F2 car for testing there, I wasn’t so quick, it was really difficult to be in the top 10. But then when I came back for the final round last year, I was P1 straight away, so I need to try and understand that.
“The hard work last season allowed us to be at the top, so we need to do it again if we want to do better than last year. If I do my best and do the job and I finish P3 in the Championship, I’ll be quite happy. I just want to show our true performance and potential on track.”