Back-to-back action for the first time in the shortened 2023 Formula 2 (F2) season, as we head to sunny Spain (usually) to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Well actually, quite a lot of rain is expected on both Saturday and Sunday, which could make for some exciting racing and topsy-turvy grid positions.
As we reach the half-way point of the Championship, it becomes all the more crucial for those at the top to maintain consistency and those struggling to turn their year around as soon as possible.
So what are the main talking points heading into the 2023 Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya FIA Formula 2 round? The F2 Report looks ahead to the weekend.
In-season F2 testing revelations
Less than a month ago the F2 grid spent three days testing around the Spanish circuit, gathering important information and data to maximise setup and driving style. Even the rookies have had a chance to learn the ins and outs of the track, which should bunch up the field significantly.
Nevertheless, the quickest drivers from in-season testing could have the upper-hand in qualifying and the two races. Jack Doohan of Invicta Virtuosi Racing topped the timing screens on the first two days; given how his season has gone so far this could be his best opportunity to improve on a dismal year. The second day saw rain, which means the field will know what to expect in the expected wet conditions over the weekend.
Theo Pourchaire, who currently sits second in the Drivers’ Standings, set the fastest lap on the final day of in-season testing. He’ll be hoping to replicate this performance in qualifying on Friday in his quest to overtake current leader Frederik Vesti in the Championship.
Experienced pair in head-to-head for F2 Drivers’ crown
The top two contenders for the F2 Drivers’ Championship are separated by just five points, and have distanced themselves by a fair margin from the 20 other drivers.
Vesti took the lead of the F2 Standings for the very first time in his career following the conclusion of the Monaco round, snatching it away from Pourchaire following a commanding lights-to-flag victory in the Feature race.
On 89 and 84 points respectively, it couldn’t be much closer at the head of the F2 Drivers’ Championship. Vesti and Pourchaire have attained their notable points hauls in very different ways however.
While Vesti has come in the top 10 in every race following a pointless first round around Sakhir, Pourchaire has managed to amass the majority of his points by standing on the podium at every Feature race bar one. Consistency vs. scoring big points when it matters, plenty of races remaining but it remains to be seen which method is the more reliable.
A revised track layout
Fans and drivers alike had been complaining about the last chicane at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for quite some time. It only served to slow the pack down and was nigh-on impossible to overtake on.
The race organisers caught wind of the discontent, and duly reverted to the old, chicane-less layout for the 2023 campaign. Speeds will increase and the spectacle for fans present at the track will go up a notch too.
However, thoughts on the change in the paddock are somewhat mixed. Some drivers, including Championship leader Vesti, spoke positively of the revised layout during in-season testing. The Dane said at a media roundtable following testing: “I think it’s extremely cool. Obviously, it’s flat first one through in qualifying and then the second one is definitely a challenge. I don’t know the speed around, but I think it’s more than 200mph, which is obviously a racing driver’s dream.”
Others were critical of the increased overtaking difficulty and strain on the neck muscles, with Trident’s Roman Stanek stating: “It’s much harder than in the past… I will have to train the neck for the race especially.”
We will have to wait and see if the faster layout will provide exciting racing or not.