After an exciting first round of the season in Bahrain the Formula 2 grid will be racing under the floodlights once again, this time across the Arabian Peninsula in Jeddah.
While there haven’t been a huge amount of changes in the fortnight that has passed, the momentum will be strong with some, while others will be looking to start from square one.
So what can we expect from the F1 feeder series in Saudi Arabia?
Needing a good result
One driver who will be looking to make amends for a poor start to the season is Jack Doohan. The Alpine Reserve driver suffered a torrid weekend, qualifying 17th and failing to score points in both races. For a driver fully expected to mount a Title challenge, this is far from a decent start. The Australian will be hoping to set the timing screens alight and keep it out of the barriers come the weekend.
Roman Stanek, Frederick Vesti and Victor Martins all took themselves out of contention on the first lap of the Feature race following a clumsy three-way collision. All three drivers qualified well on the Friday but were unable to capitalise on a solid starting grid slot. They’ll be hoping to finish races in the points regularly from now on.
Ollie Bearman, the youngest driver on this year’s grid, has a lot of hype surrounding him. He has won almost every series he has competed in, but his F2 career did not get off to such a good start. 15th and 14th in the Sprint and Feature races respectively. The latter was particularly disappointing for the young Brit; he was soundly in the points but his tyres were too worn out and he tumbled down the field in the closing stages. We are yet to see the 17-year-old’s true potential, hopefully we’ll see a glimpse of it in Saudi Arabia.
Carrying the momentum
Theo Pourchaire was really in a class of his own in Bahrain. Three-quarters of a second faster than anyone else in qualifying, and storming to a lead of almost 20 seconds in the Feature race. The rest of the field will be playing catch-up for the remainder of the season if he continues such fine form.
The Campos Racing duo of Ralph Boschung and Kush Maini surprised many with their pace around the Bahrain International Circuit. Boschung scored his first ever win in the feeder series in the Sprint race after 96 starts, and Maini scored highly in both races. It’s a dream start for the Spanish outfit, who have never scored higher than fifth in the Teams’ Championship.
F2 on the high-speed Jeddah track
The Jeddah Corniche Circuit is fraught with danger, both on and off the racetrack. But organisers ensure us that there is nothing to worry about; the Saudi Arabian government are currently at peace with the Houthi rebels responsible for firing missiles near the track. A large plume of smoke was visible from the track during the race weekend last year.
What’s more, the Saudi government has installed a high-tech anti-missile defence system in and around the city of Jeddah. If there were to be an attack, the drivers and spectators will be safe from destruction.
The circuit is a nail-biting combination of extremely fast and narrow in parts; it’s no surprise that we have seen many high-speed crashes in the past. F2 has only raced around Jeddah on two previous occasions and both years have seen major incidents.
The 2021 edition saw both Pourchaire and Enzo Fittipaldi hospitalised after the former stalled on the grid and was hit in the rear by the Brazilian. Last year’s Practice session was marred by a heavy hit for Charouz’ Cem Bolukbasi; he was sent to hospital too.
The flipside to a track with such small margins for error is that it really separates the good drivers from the very best. Previous F2 winners include Oscar Piastri, Liam Lawson and Felipe Drugovich. Who do you expect to win in Saudi Arabia in 2023? Make sure to watch the races between 18-19th March to find out.