Azerbaijan’s narrow Baku City Circuit tends to serve up a couple of chaotic races in Formula 2, and this year was certainly no exception.
With a plethora of high-profile retirements in both the Sprint and Feature races, the order in the 2023 Formula 2 Standings has yet again been shuffled.
Theo Pourchaire of ART Grand Prix has regained the Championship lead, but yet another torrid weekend for teammate Victor Martins means the French team only sits third in the Teams’ Standings. In fact, there is a new team at the top now, as Prema Racing took victory in both races and have amassed a total of 103 points, 11 above second-placed DAMS.
What were some of the biggest takeaways from the fourth round of the 2023 F2 season? The F2 Report investigates.
Oliver Bearman shines bright
Oliver Bearman, the youngest driver on the grid, displayed over the weekend exactly why he was given the call-up to F2 at just 17 years old. He was a class above the rest in every single session, including a shock Qualifying where the Briton secured pole with a bent steering column. The madman set the fastest lap with his steering wheel facing the surrounding scenery! Unbelievable!
It was a flawless weekend for Bearman, who became the first driver this season to win both the Sprint and Feature race in a single round. This catapulted the youngster from 17th to fourth in the Drivers’ Championship. With 10 more round to go in this exciting series, could Bearman challenge for the Title in his debut F2 season?
Half the field retires in the F2 Sprint
Inexperience reared its ugly head at the Sprint race, with half the field failing to make it to the finish line in the 21-lap shootout.
The main culprit was the second Safety Car restart, where several drivers failed to account for cold tyres and brakes in their attempt to make it around the first corner. Race leader Dennis Hauger clipped the outside wall and crashed, while second-placed Martins went nose-first into the TECPRO barriers. Daruvala was unable to avoid Martins’ car and ploughed into the side of the Frenchman. Both Pourchaire, Arthur Leclerc and Jack Doohan took to the escape road but couldn’t get going again.
Only 11 cars remained to complete the final four laps. Bearman took advantage of the chaos around him to pass teammate Frederik Vesti later on the same lap for the lead, just before the Safety car was called yet again to clear the mess behind.
The 11 retirees included then-Championship leader Ayumu Iwasa, who scored no points in either race. He now sits third in the Standings.
A better behaved Feature race
It seemed as though the field had learned from their mistakes in the previous race, taking it a lot easier in the Feature race. Just one retirement for Brad Benavides in the PHM Racing by Charouz, while Martins weekend went from bad to worse as he was disqualified for a technical infringement after finishing fourth.
At the other end of the spectrum, action was limited though we did see a few changes of the lead between Pourchaire and Bearman. Both drivers made use of the DRS along the long main straight to pass and repass each other in the opening laps. Pourchaire eventually dropped to third at the chequered flag, a hard-charging Enzo Fittipaldi inheriting second position from the Frenchman on lap 24.