At the conclusion of this round however, the gaps between the top four drivers would remain exactly the same as chaos ran rampant over the weekend.
The F2 Report examines the main talking points from the 2023 Zandvoort Formula 2 round.
Sprint race aborted
The mayhem commenced with… no racing whatsoever. The rain fell hard on Saturday morning, and the wet tarmac and spray made racing very difficult out on track.
Still, the organisers decided to allow the Sprint race to begin with a rolling start. We got less than one lap of action before it all went downhill.
Feature race polesitter Jak Crawford and Kush Maini collided through Turns 4 and 5, sending the latter into a spin. With visibility very low in a cloud, nay a sea of spray, Ralph Boschung was unable to avoid his Campos teammate ahead and ploughed into his side.
Maini was launched over the top of the Swiss driver’s Dallara F2 2018 and the Red flag was duly waved. A massive scrape was visible on Boschung’s Halo; perhaps another life saved by the safety device.
Also in the name of safety, the FIA chose not to restart the Sprint as the weather showed no signs of abating. No points were awarded for the event either.
Most relieved was surely F2 Championship leader Pourchaire, who started the Sprint race from the pitlane as his mechanics grappled with an issue with his rear suspension linkages.
Top contenders all off the track
The track was still damp as the Feature race came into view on Sunday. A chance for a shake-up in the Title fight, but none of the top contenders were able to capitalise. None of the top four drivers in the Championship scored points as they all fell off the track, one by one.
Jack Doohan fell foul of the damp conditions before the race even got underway. The Australian lost the rear through the banked final corner before the rolling start. He subsequently stalled his car and walked back to the paddock, a dejected figure.
Vesti was tagged by Juan Manuel Correa and spun through Tarzanbocht on the first lap of the race from third position, but next to fall down the order was Iwasa. On the race restart the Japanese driver attempted a move on Maini but broke too late, taking to the escape road and dropping to the foot of the field.
Pourchaire was sitting pretty in the points, but the ART Grand Prix driver lost control on cold tyres after a pitstop and crashed into the barriers on lap 10.
But perhaps most cruel was Vesti’s eventual retirement. The Mercedes Academy driver had fought his way back into fifth position after Pourchaire brought out the Safety car. With his main rival out of the race, a chance to retake the lead of the Standings was a distinct possibility. However, a mistake by his pit crew in fitting his rear tyres resulted in them falling clean off his car moments later, and the Dane would retire from the race as well.
Iwasa was the only member of the quartet to finish, albeit pointless in 13th. Victor Martins scored a few points and is fifth in the Championship, just eight points behind Doohan. An outside shot at the Title for the French rookie, perhaps.
Novalak with surprise Feature race victory
Profiting off the misfortune of others was Trident’s Clement Novalak, who took the chequered flag first to record his maiden win in the series.
2023 has not gone to plan for the French driver with just one other points finish to his name, but nonetheless he was ecstatic to finally be on the top step of the podium. He said in the post-race press conference: “Obviously, very sweet. We’ve struggled this year and to be honest myself, I’ve not really adapted well to Formula 2, especially coming in from Formula 3 where we had really strong results a couple of years ago.
He continued: “It’s a very good feeling. It’s been a long time and chuffed to bits to come away with the win.”
Completing the podium were Zane Maloney and polesitter Crawford, the pair of them Red Bull Academy drivers. Both felt they could have taken the win at the Feature race, but weren’t as fortunate with the timing of the Safety car as Novalak.
Just two rounds remaining in the 2023 FIA Formula 2 Championship. A season with plenty of twists and turns, and it has gone so fast. The next few rounds will decide the futures of many of the young stars on the grid.
As Crawford put it: “Going into Monza, it’s crazy we only have two more rounds left. It’s a completely different track but hopefully, we can take the momentum with us.”