We’re almost there people! Race week is upon us, with Formula 2 supporting the Formula 1 calendar under the lights of Sakhir for the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix.
It’s a new season, and as is usually the case with the feeder series there has been a significant shuffle of the grid. Plenty of new faces, while almost all returning drivers have moved to different teams. This year is bound to be yet another absolute corker.
But what are some of the things you should look out for at the opening round of the 2023 F2 season? The F2 Report discusses.
Nine new drivers
This year we have seen a real influx of young racing talent from the junior categories. Nine debutants to be exact, and all of them will be more determined than ever to show off their real potential. Perhaps some of them will be racing nearer the front more than others, so let’s quickly remind ourselves of some of the hottest new prospects in F2. The top four drivers in Formula 3 last year were all promoted to the category directly below F1.
Victor Martins is the defending Champion in F3, having taken the crown in a tight six-way battle for the Drivers’ Title. The Frenchman has only moved up to a more competitive racing series after winning the Championship the previous year, so expect him to head the field on multiple occasions this year.
Zane Maloney narrowly missed out on the F3 Title by five points to Martins, but has an extra advantage up his sleeve. Unlike Martins, Maloney has actually raced in F2 already, having competed in the final round of the 2022 campaign with Trident in Abu Dhabi. With race experience in hand, Maloney could perform well in the early stages of the season.
Oliver Bearman is the youngest driver on the 2023 grid, but that is not to say that expectations are not through the roof for the young Briton. He has had such an easy ride up the junior categories, winning the ADAC Formula 4 and Italian F4 Championships in a single year (2021) and finishing just behind Martins and Maloney last year in F3. It’s not so far-fetched to say that Bearman will be winning races this year, as he has done every year in his racing career so far.
Isack Hadjar was the frontrunner for much of the first half of the 2022 F3 Championship, but his Title challenge unfortunately fizzled out in the final few rounds. However, there is no denying the racing talent that Hadjar possesses; the French-Algerian sensation also competed in the 2022 Formula Regional Asian Championship, finishing third overall. Enduring such a long year and still competing at the very top is nothing to scoff at.
Several Title contenders
With a handful of drivers expressing their intent at winning the Drivers’ crown in 2023, this season of F2 is sure to cook up a delightful back-and-forth battle for ultimate glory in the Championship.
Jack Doohan has made it very clear to the media that he is gunning it for the Drivers’ Title. He stated earlier: “I’m expecting nothing else but to dominate the Championship.” Taking three pole positions last year, there’s no doubt that the Australian driver has raw pace on his side, but will he translate this into race victories?
Frenchman Theo Pourchaire endured a disappointing season last year, one which many expected him to win. If finishing second in the Championship is disappointing for Pourchaire, his head can only be in one place coming into Bahrain. He’s fast and now has experience in the bag as well. He’ll be hoping to start the season strong while the rest play catch-up.
Ayumu Iwasa was a surprise package in 2022, finishing fifth in the Standings with two Feature race wins after just 12th in F3 the previous year. The Japanese driver had more than his fair share of bad luck last year; as long as he can iron out the intermittent mistake and his DAMS machine works well for him he could have a real Title shot.
The Bahrain International Circuit
Located in the heart of the Sakhir desert, Bahrain International Circuit is a 5.412km-long racing track that is synonymous with the highest levels of global motorsport. F1 has raced there since 2004, with F2 racing there since its inception in 2017.
The track features four long straights which means you will see plenty of overtakes this coming Saturday and Sunday, especially with the help of DRS. With a lot of high-speed corners, the Bahrain International Circuit is known to be hard on the tyres, so it’s not uncommon to see the majority of the field come in for a pitstop in the Sprint race (even though it is not mandatory).
Last year saw the Trident of Richard Verschoor take the chequered flag first in the Sprint race, while Pourchaire of ART Grand Prix won the Feature race. Who will be on the top step of the podium this time round? Let us know who you think in the comments!