Round 2 of the 2023 FIA Formula 2 season took place this weekend in Jeddah, shaking up the Championship Standings and shining a light on who may well be the main Title contenders this year.
The narrow yet incredibly fast nature of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit promised plenty of excitement and action, and this is indeed what we saw. Lots of overtakes, close racing and the occasional crash kept us on our toes in both the Sprint and Feature races.
We have a new leader in the Drivers’ Championship in the shape of veteran racer Ralph Boschung, but it’s incredibly tight at the top of the Standings. Theo Pourchaire for ART Grand Prix is just a point behind, while Ayumu Iwasa for DAMS is a singular point behind the Frenchman.
The Teams’ Standings continues to be led by Campos Racing on 51 points, but the top four teams are separated by just eight points. It seems we are in for a close season-long battle at this rate.
A lot happened over the weekend; let’s go over some of the key takeaways from Saudi Arabia in this latest F2 Report.
Experience prevails in F2 Feature race
Much of the Feature race was an intense battle between the two rookies of Victor Martins and Oliver Bearman for ART and Prema respectively; it seemed certain that one of them would take the chequered flag first.
However, their lack of experience reared its ugly head, as they both took themselves out of contention in separate incidents. First was Bearman, who spun his car on lap 16 but was able to continue albeit down in P11. Then Martins made a similar mistake on the next lap and stalled his engine, forcing him to retire from the race.
The eventual podium was occupied by a trio of previous race winners, with the other Prema of Frederick Vesti claiming the bragging rights on the top step. Jack Doohan somewhat made amends for his poor start to the season with second place, while Jehan Daruvala took home another third place trophy in Jeddah.
The key to their success? Keeping out of trouble where others faltered and maintaining a steady pace throughout the race.
It was a pointless round for Pourchaire, a stark contrast to his domination of the previous round in Bahrain. An easily avoidable crash with Bearman in the Sprint race resulted in his first retirement of the year, while also resulting in a five-place grid penalty for the subsequent Feature race. The expected Title contender was unable to make up any places in the next race, winding up 13th at the flag.
Despite being in his third season in F2, it seems as though the Frenchman is still prone to the intermittent rash decision. Someone needs to tell him that its better to finish in the points than to risk losing it all, especially early on in the Title fight. “To finish first, first you need to finish”, as they say.
Let’s not forget that Pourchaire is still 19 years old, but if he continues to make such silly mistakes potential Formula 1 seats are going to close on him before he has a chance to fully prove himself.
Iwasa: F2’s Mr Consistency?
Last year’s F2 Champion Felipe Drugovich claimed the Title in large part due to his consistent points-scoring finishes, while his nearest rivals crashed, spun or retired out of contention numerous times throughout the season. It seems as though Iwasa is hoping to emulate the reigning Champion in this regard.
The Japanese driver is the only guy on the grid to have scored points in all four races so far. At 31 points he is just two points off Championship leader Boschung, following a brilliant display to take victory at the Sprint race around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
Iwasa put on a masterclass of defensive ability to keep both Martins and Daruvala behind him to claim his first race win of 2023. If he continues to drive in the way he did in Jeddah, not putting a foot wrong all race and timing his overtakes and defensive moves to perfection, Iwasa can very well be a serious threat to the likes of Pourchaire and Doohan for the Drivers’ Title.
The next F2 round will take place in just under a fortnight’s time in Australia (1st-2nd April). Make sure you don’t miss it!