Formula 1’s feeder series, Formula 2 returned after a month’s break to the Red Bull Ring, delivering a couple of highly entertaining races but tainted by the track limits saga that also plagued F1 and F3 as well, throughout the weekend in Austria.
The F2 Report examines the major talking points after the seventh round of the 2023 FIA Formula 2 Championship. The 22 drivers and their teams headed to the Styrian hills to the famed Red Bull Ring. With the shortest lap time on the calendar and a fast average speed, consistency and momentum would be key to landing a good result.
The feeder series paid tribute to Formula Regional racer Dilano van’ t Hoff, who sadly passed away in a multi-car crash at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
A minutes’ silence was held before the Sprint race and several drivers bore stickers on their cars and helmets with the 18-year-old Dutchman’s name. A forlorn and poignant atmosphere in the paddock and grandstands, but the F2 grid chose to race on in memory of a rising star.
Who managed to reign supreme in Austria and how is the Championship stacking up with less than half of the season remaining? Read on to find out!
Penalties galore and what’s a white line?
The ruling behind track limits was tightened for this year, with every instance of all four wheels venturing outside the fated “white lines” counting towards a potential penalty. Four violations and the driver would receive a five-second penalty.
With the entire field looking to extract maximum performance from their cars the occasional infarction was inevitable, and so were the penalties. Qualifying, the Sprint race and the Feature race all had their orders changed by penalties. Hundreds of lap time deletions and dozens of penalties were served during the race during pitstops, and too many lap times were removed during Qualifying to keep count.
There were other violations committed as well. Isack Hadjar of Hitech Pulse-Eight got a three-place grid drop for the Sprint for impeding Jack Doohan, while Kush Maini and Ralph Boschung had 20 and 10 seconds added to their race time respectively for pushing competitors off the track during the Sprint race.
Finally, Clement initially finished the Sprint in third for only his second points-finish of the season, but was later disqualified for having tyre pressures below the mandated limit.
Mixed conditions for an exciting F2 Sprint
The weather carried over from Barcelona on the previous round, as Saturday’s Sprint race began in wet conditions. But with no more rain expected, the majority of the grid opted to gamble on the dry tyres.
Unsurprisingly, it was those who stuck to the wets that took advantage early on, with Arthur Leclerc taking the lead from polesitter Jak Crawford and the likes of Frederik Vesti and Theo Pourchaire picking off contenders one-by-one with ease.
But a spin from Jehan Daruvala on the opening lap brought out the Safety Car, and by the time various incidents had been cleared the track had dried out considerably. Those who had started on slicks took the initiative, with Crawford inheriting first place. The young American never looked back, and took the win with Victor Martins and Hadjar rounding out the podium (following Novalak’s disqualification).
A maiden victory for VAR in F2
Perhaps the greatest story of all over the weekend was Van Amersfoort Racing (VAR) claiming their first ever victory in F2. VAR driver Richard Verschoor redeemed himself after a pointless Sprint, where he spun out of the race on lap four.
The 40-lap Feature race was a greater spectacle than the Saturday race. Leclerc brought out the Safety Car with 12 laps to go, an unsecured wheel nut to blame. Verschoor pitted for fresh rubber while those ahead of him stayed out on worn tyres.
The Dutchman driving for a Dutch team snaked his way past his competitors, eventually culminating in a lead change on the penultimate lap past Vesti. Iwasa followed the VAR driver through for second, with Vesti hanging on for third.
VAR finally managed their first win on their 42nd start. Verschoor was ecstatic: “We had a good race, of course a bit lucky with the Safety Car, but it was a good fight with those guys, so I’m really happy with the victory.”