Formula 2 is back! After a month’s break, F1’s premier support series returns to the coastal circuit of Zandvoort for the third-to-last round of the 2023 F2 campaign.
The twists and turns in the Title fight have not let up since the first round of the season almost half a year ago. We’ve had four different leaders in the Drivers’ Championship and the gap at the top has remained slim all-season long.
After an unfortunate DNS for Frederik Vesti at the previous Feature race in Belgium, Title favourite Theo Pourchaire extended his lead to eight points. With just a trio of round remaining, the slightest slip-up now could mean the difference between a future Formula 1 seat and staying in the feeder series forever.
So what are the main talking points heading into the 2023 Zandvoort FIA Formula 2 round? The F2 Report examines.
2024 F2 calendar revealed
During the long break, the calendar for next year was revealed. The campaign will consist of 14 rounds and 28 races, as it was meant to be this year until the Imola round was cancelled due to mass flooding in the area.
By far the biggest change has been the addition of the Losail International Circuit in Qatar, which F1 has raced in the past. Coincidentally, it will be replacing Zandvoort which hasn’t renewed its contract for 2024.
As with the revamped 2024 calendar for F1, there has been a focus on regionalisation, bringing races near each other closer together on the calendar to reduce emissions caused by travelling from one race to the next.
The first three rounds will take place outside of Europe, followed by nine consecutive rounds in the continent. Qatar and Abu Dhabi are the final two rounds of the 2024 Championship, both racetracks located on the Arabian Peninsula.
Doohan’s revitalised Title challenge
Invicta Virtuosi driver Jack Doohan is firmly in the Championship fight, sitting just 38 points behind Pourchaire at the head of the Standings. At the preceding round in Spa, the Australian became the first driver this year to secure back-to-back Feature race wins.
But 2023 didn’t start nearly in the same vein for the son of five-time motorcycle Champion Mick Doohan.
After professing that he was fully expecting to dominate the Championship, the Aussie had instead dropped to 18th in the Drivers’ Standings at the halfway point off the season. As Doohan himself put it speaking to F2 media: “You want to be fighting for the title and if not, at the very pointy end. That was where my aim was at and that’s where I was looking forward to being, but it’s not been the easiest one.”
A setup tweak to his car in the May in-season test around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya proved a turning point in his 2023 campaign. He added: “We had a big trial in the Barcelona in-season test. We could see straight away that something was sitting much better than it had been and a little bit more how it should be. Instantly on the first flying lap of the test, I could tell they made the difference.”
Doohan believes that if the car underneath him was working as it was now since the start of the season, he would be leading the Championship. He continued: “From Barcelona onwards, we’ve had very good, strong results and if I had these results for the first seven rounds, we would probably be leading the Championship. Hindsight, it’s a wonderful thing, so I’m living in the moment currently and happy just to be back on pace.”
As mentioned previously, this will be the final time the F2 grid races around the Circuit Zandvoort for the foreseeable future. But have any drivers seen success around the Dutch racetrack in previous years?
The track itself underwent several changes in 2020 to bring it up to F1 standards, and hosted it’s first Grand Prix in 36 years the following year. F2 returned to the circuit in 2022, and thus we’ve only had one round there in the history of FIA Formula 2.
Both drivers who won the Feature and Sprint races, Felipe Drugovich and Marcus Armstrong, no longer race in the series. However, Richard Verschoor and Ayumu Iwasa came second and third respectively in the Feature race. They will be hoping for a similarly strong performance this year.
Circuit Zandvoort is famed for having several steeply banked corners, including the iconic Turn 1 “Tarzanbocht”. The banking allows drivers to take the corners much faster than their angle may initially suggest, and provides a unique experience for racers and spectators alike. Turn 3 “Hugenholtzbocht” is particular in the fact that it has two equally optimal racing lines, either hugging the inside or outside edges of the track. This makes for exciting racing and the opportunity for crafty overtakes.