Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Before the 2023 Season

As the 2022 Formula 2 season came to an end, all eyes turned to 2023 and the potential title fights that were shaping up. ART Grand Prix and Théo Pourchaire made no secret of their championship aspirations, eager to build on the consistency and podium finishes from the previous year. Meanwhile, Prema Racing looked to be potent challengers with highly-rated junior Frederik Vesti.

Over the winter, further driver announcements fueled anticipation. Reigning FIA F3 champion Victor Martins joined Pourchaire at ART Grand Prix, promising an exciting intra-team battle. Carlin signed F2 race winner Jehan Daruvala alongside Dennis Hauger, assembling a line-up tipped for the title fight.

Pre-Season Testing

The first signs of outright pace came at the Bahrain pre-season tests in March. ART Grand Prix and Pourchaire sent an early warning shot, topping the timesheets by over half a second. The French outfit optimized low-fuel performance while rivals focused on heavier long run simulations. Nevertheless, rival teams identified tyre warm-up as a potential Achilles heel.

“We feel we have a package capable of fighting at the front,” said Pourchaire. “Our race pace looks strong too and that will be key across the season. If we maximize our Saturday pace, we can put ourselves in a great place for Sundays.”

Prema Racing showed glimpses of speed too, despite not topping any session. Vesti’s consistency impressed while Formula 3 graduate Ollie Bearman, stepping up mid-test, instantly settled into the tighter confines of an F2 cockpit.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN – FEBRUARY 14: Ayumu Iwasa of Japan and DAMS (11) drives on track during day one of Formula 2 Testing at Bahrain International Circuit on February 14, 2023 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Bryn Lennon – Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images)

Title Contenders

As the cars prepared for freight shipping to the opening rounds, three drivers emerged as early championship favorites:

  • Théo Pourchaire – Fastest driver across pre-season testing and team leader at formidable ART Grand Prix, Pourchaire seemed poised to fight for the title he narrowly missed out on in 2022.
  • Frederik Vesti – Switching from Mercedes’ young driver program to Prema Racing, the Dane looked ready to build on his two wins last season and challenge for honors.
  • Victor Martins – Reigning FIA F3 champion, Martins stepped up to a title-chasing ART squad. Rapid in testing, he hoped to emulate former teammate Oscar Piastri by winning back-to-back crowns.
BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN – MARCH 03: Theo Pourchaire of France and ART Grand Prix (5) drives on track during practice ahead of Round 1:Sakhir of the Formula 2 Championship at Bahrain International Circuit on March 03, 2023 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli – Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images)

The Venues

The opening round welcomed F2 back to Bahrain’s Sakhir circuit, host of pre-season testing. With multiple layouts tried in March, teams and drivers arrived well-versed in setup nuances and tricky braking zones like Turns 1 and 8. Long straights presented slipstreaming challenges while desert winds brought unpredictable grip levels.

From there, the frenetic schedule visited a blend of classic European tracks and modern street venues. Monaco’s glamorous harbor-side challenge came early, at Round 5, before teams headed to iconic tracks like Silverstone, Spa and Monza. Singapore’s Marina Bay street track returned for the first time since 2019 before the Yas Marina finale brought the curtain down on another season.

The 2023 Season

Opening Rounds

At the first round in Bahrain, Pourchaire converted pole position into a lights-to-flag Feature Race win ahead of R. Boschung and Maloney. With rival Vesti retiring, it was a perfect start for the Frenchman’s title campaign.

“We’ve shown what this team can do,” said Pourchaire afterwards. “I learned a lot from last year about keeping calm even when you have the fastest package. But there’s still a long way to go.”

Vesti hit back in emphatic fashion at Round 2 in Jeddah, storming from 10th to 2nd in the Feature Race while Pourchaire faded to 8th. Rookie Ollie Bearman stunned with 4th place on his debut. Bearman then narrowly missed out on his first F2 win in the Sprint Race, losing the lead to Daruvala in the closing stages after a bold three-wide move for first earlier on.

The European Season

As the series returned to Europe, Pourchaire held an early championship lead. But Vesti and Prema were hot on his heels. At Imola, the Dane beat Pourchaire to pole position before a clever strategy helped him jump his rival and take Prema’s first win of the season from 2nd on the grid.

“This feels fantastic, especially after a difficult start to the year,” said Vesti. “You need tracks like this for overtaking and our strategy was spot on. Huge result for myself and the team heading into the European season.”

Pourchaire remained a constant threat but the first half of the year proved incredibly tight. Four drivers won the first four Sprint Races, highlighting F2’s strength in depth. Meanwhile, Prema and ART duelled for Teams’ Championship honors, clearly outperforming the remaining teams.

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN – APRIL 30: Race winner Oliver Bearman of Great Britain and PREMA Racing (8) celebrates in parc ferme during the Round 4:Baku Feature race of the Formula 2 Championship at Baku City Circuit on April 30, 2023 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Joe Portlock – Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images)

Mid-Season Standings

By mid-season at the Hungaroring, Vesti held a slender Drivers’ Championship lead over Pourchaire and Bearman after the rookie sensation added Feature Race wins at Barcelona and Baku.

Pourchaire hit trouble at Silverstone as Vesti completed a coveted hat-trick of British race wins. However, the Frenchman immediately hit back at the Red Bull Ring, beating Vesti in Austria after a race-long battle as the title protagonists went head-to-head once more.

“A crucial win, both for myself and ART,” said Pourchaire. “Frederik was fast all weekend but we made the right calls today. This battle looks set to go down to the wire!”

The Run-In

At Spa-Francorchamps, the championship fight took a dramatic twist. Pourchaire finished 2nd in both races to take the overall lead after Vesti, running 3rd on Saturday, crashed at Eau Rouge in treacherous wet conditions.

“I’m still processing what happened,” admitted a shaken Vesti. “I had almost no vision and aquaplaned. Just a passenger as I went through the barriers. I’m very sore but fortunate it wasn’t worse.”

While Pourchaire now led by 12 points over Vesti, the Dane recovered his mojo in Monza. He stormed from 14th to 3rd in the Feature Race while Pourchaire faded outside the points. In one weekend, the gap shrank back down to two points!

Singapore and Abu Dhabi would host the final showdowns. Vesti took pole under the Marina Bay lights but a suspension issue blunted his Feature Race. Pourchaire grabbed a podium to edge closer to the crown. With tensions high, the title protagonists flew to the Middle East for a Abu Dhabi decider.

Title Showdown in Abu Dhabi

In a remarkable twist, Pourchaire lined up only 14th and Vesti 11th in the season finale Feature Race after both struggled in qualifying. But poor starts dropped Vesti to P15 while Pourchaire gained three spots off the line. What followed was a breathtaking race as they carved through traffic, Pourchaire targeting the top eight and Vesti the podium.

On fresher rubber, Vesti made relentless progress but ran out of time, finishing 4th. Up ahead, Pourchaire executed a heart-stopping move around the outside of Turn 11 to grab the vital 8th place and take the title by eight points!

“This feeling right now is incredible,” beamed Pourchaire amidst celebrations. “We never stopped pushing and kept fighting every single lap. I couldn’t ask for much more from myself or the team. What we’ve achieved together means so much – I am so unbelievably happy!”

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN – MARCH 05: Race winner Theo Pourchaire of France and ART Grand Prix (5) celebrates on the podium during the Round 1:Sakhir Feature race of the Formula 2 Championship at Bahrain International Circuit on March 05, 2023 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Joe Portlock – Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images)

Final Standings

Drivers’ Championship

  1. Théo Pourchaire – ART Grand Prix
  2. Frederik Vesti – Prema Racing
  3. Jack Doohan – Invicta Virtuosi Racing
  4. Ayumu Iwasa – Prema Racing
  5. Victor Martins – ART Grand Prix

Teams’ Championship

  1. ART Grand Prix
  2. Prema Racing
  3. Rodin Motorsports
  4. DAMS Lucas Oil
  5. Invicta Racing

In the end, consistency won out as Pourchaire and ART Grand Prix conquered F2’s multitude of challenges. Prema and Vesti pushed them every step of the way but came up just short. Meanwhile, rookies like Bearman and Martins emerged as the sport’s brightest talents, delivering on their immense promise.

None of the drivers found their way straight into Formula 1, but many of them became reserve or test drivers for some teams, and they all can spend 2024 further improving, to join the best drivers in F1 from the 2025 season.

Show CommentsClose Comments

Leave a comment