Formula 2 got cracking again under the lights of the Bahrain International Circuit over the weekend. There was a lot of anticipation for how the latest crop of young talent would steam out of the gates in the opening round of the 2023 season.
However, it was a couple of familiar faces that claimed victories in the first of 14 rounds this year. Although there is still a lot we don’t know, let’s take a look at some of the key takeaways from the 2023 Sakhir FIA Formula 2 round in this latest F2 Report.
Currently leading the Drivers’ Championship is early favourite Theo Pourchaire, first in the Feature race catapulting him to the top of the Standings.
But it’s Campos Racing who lead the Teams’ Championship, double points finishes by Kush Maini and back-to-back podiums for Ralph Boschung giving the Spanish team a four-point advantage heading into Jeddah.
Pourchaire on fire
Perhaps the most significant impression made in Bahrain was just how fast Pourchaire really is. The Sauber Academy driver immediately grabbed the limelight with a spectacular qualifying performance. He took pole by over three-quarters of a second, which is almost unheard-of in a series where everyone has the same exact car.
But it wasn’t just his one-lap pace that turned heads. Starting tenth in the Sprint race, the Frenchman made up four positions on the opening lap and was momentarily up to third before settling for fifth at the chequered flag.
The Feature race was more of a straightforward affair for Pourchaire, who led every lap of the 32-lap race to win by almost 20 seconds.
So the long-run speed is clearly there for Pourchaire as well, can he carry this positive momentum to achieve what he couldn’t in 2022?
Maini: Surprise of 2023?
Expectations were low for Indian youngster Kush Maini coming into the new campaign. Having only managed 14th in the Driver Standings in Formula 3 the year prior, you would have been forgiven to expect the brother of former F2 driver Arjun Maini to be near the rear of the field.
Nevertheless, coming off his solid driving in both the Sprint and Feature races, Maini could end up being one of the surprise packages of the season. He ran his own race in the Sprint, keeping out of trouble to finish in seventh.
But it was his Feature race exploits that truly deserve praise; he jumped from sixth to second by the first corner and made a brilliant overtake on the DAMS of Arthur Leclerc to reclaim third on lap 19.
He ultimately finished in fourth, but if he continues in the same vein a podium or race victory doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
Boschung finally on top
After a record 106 entries and 97 race starts, Ralph Boschung has finally scored his first race win in the fastest Formula 1 feeder series. And it was a relatively easy Sprint race for the veteran Swiss driver, as he crossed the line with a ten-second gap to second-placed Dennis Hauger.
He even came close to victory in the Feature race to some respect, sticking to the gearbox of Pourchaire in the opening phases before losing touch following the first round of pitstops.
With a huge amount of experience under his belt and a tendency in the last few seasons to score consistently in the points, Boschung could very well emulate Felipe Drugovich in winning the F2 Title as one of the older drivers on the field. After all, consistency really is key.
A couple of charges through the field
Tyre and pit strategy proved to be hugely important in the Feature race, as tyre wear was very high around the Bahrain International Circuit. This allowed us to bear witness to a couple of insane charges through the field.
Zane Maloney and his Rodin Carlin team got the strategy just right, shodding a set of Soft tyres to charge through the field in the closing laps of the race. Having started in 18th, Maloney also drove a flawless race, making his way through a whole gaggle of competitors and finally streaking past Maini on the main straight to claim the final spot on the podium.
But perhaps even more impressive was the Van Amersfoort Racing (VAR) car of Richard Verschoor and his amazing storm through almost the entire field. Despite lining up on the grid in third, the Dutchman was spun round at Turn 4 on the opening lap by Frederik Vesti, dropping him to last place of the runners. Verschoor left his first pitstop until later than the majority of the drivers, enabling him to have much fresher tyres in the final few laps and overtake multiple cars to score ten points in fifth position.
The next F2 race will take place in just under a fortnight’s time around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit (17-19th March). Make sure you don’t miss it!