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An intermediate ranking: which driver in F2 can dream of F1?

An intermediate ranking: which driver in F2 can dream of F1?

08-04-2023 18:00
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GPblog.com

With the European part of the Formula 1 season just around the corner, the silly season also erupts. During the summer months, the teams often decide which drivers will get to drive their cars next season. Naturally, the performance of the talents in Formula 2 is closely scrutinised. They have already completed six races this season. Who of them has a chance to be active in Formula 1 next season and who will be disappointing for the time being?

At the start of the season, Formula 2 organisers called the field of participants the strongest ever. Whether that is actually the case remains to be seen in the coming years. In any case, it has every appearance of being a competitive group of drivers. There have already been five different winners this season, with only Red Bull junior Ayumu Iwasa winning twice.

Ayumu Iwasa

It is absolutely no surprise that the Japanese from the Red Bull training programme is fast, well that he is currently the championship leader. In 2022, he finished fifth in the championship, for which he received the Anthoine Hubert Award. This is the award for the best rookie. Incidentally, the 21-year-old received this award while Logan Sargeant finished higher. However, the American from Williams had already made his entrance into F2 in the very last race of the '21 season, which meant the award went through his nose.

In the first weeks of the season, Iwasa showed he possessed all facets of racing. During the sprint race in Jeddah, he showed decisiveness in his overtaking manoeuvre on race leader Jak Crawford, in Melbourne he proved to be the best at handling the changing, wet conditions during qualifying. In the main race, Iwasa coolly held his own against Theo Pourchaire.

Red Bull Racing will never put Iwasa directly next to Max Verstappen. A seat at AlphaTauri is more likely, although there are a lot of ifs and buts. How does Nyck de Vries - who still has a contract for next season - manage to recover? Will Yuki Tsunoda continue to perform as he currently does? Will he be allowed to stay in the training team for a fourth year, or might a spot for him at Red Bull (in place of Sergio Perez) become available? In the latter case, Iwasa is an option, although the Japanese has competition from reserve driver Liam Lawson, who took victory immediately on his debut in the Japanse Super Formula.
Our verdict: With a good dose of luck, Iwasa has a chance for '24. But there is probably no seat for him.

Theo Pourchaire

In the paddock, all mouths fell wide open. No less than seven tenths Theo Pourchaire was faster than the number two during qualifying for the opening race in Bahrain. If this demonstration in speed was a harbinger for the rest of the season, it was going to be a one-sided year. Pourchaire won the main race two days later and in Melbourne the Frenchman finished second behind Iwasa.

Fine results, but in three other races Pourchaire was dramatic: In Australia's sprint race he made a wrong guess with his tyres, and the two races in Jeddah the Frenchman would surely like to forget quickly. During the sprint race, Pourchaire caused a crash, which earned him a grid penalty for the main race. In it, he failed to work his way right through the field to the front.

So Pourchaire is changeable, but he is 'only' 19 years old. No one doubts the Sauber Academy youngster's huge potential. On good days he is faster than everyone, on a down day he struggles to limit the damage. No doubt the latter comes with experience. That Pourchaire will make it to Formula 1 seems a certainty. He is the only one in training at Sauber, which gives him an advantage over, say, Iwasa or Jack Doohan.

At Sauber - currently operating under the Alfa Romeo F1 sponsor name - Pourchaire would eventually be the logical replacement for Valtteri Bottas. Who knows, that might happen sooner than thought. Bottas is not in form and perhaps the management, certainly thinking ahead to Audi's entry with the team in '26, might decide to let Pourchaire gain experience in 2024 in advance.
Our verdict: A Formula 1 seat at Sauber in 2024 is certainly not out of the question.

Jack Doohan

Jack Doohan would have been close to making his Formula 1 debut in Baku. The Australian is the reserve driver for Alpine, which saw their drivers Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly collide in Melbourne. The latter could easily have received a penalty for the collision, which would have earned him a suspension for the next Grand Prix.

Doohan's season in F2 has not been anything to write home about. At the start of the season, he expressed to GPblog his ambition to make a serious bid for the championship this season, and then possibly advance to Formula 1. After a disappointing opening phase of the year, it seems he can already put his title hopes to rest. For that, Doohan cannot just point to bad luck.

Of course, in Melbourne he was on a fast lap when the red flag was shown for the first time due to an accident. Race officials did not resume the session, forcing Doohan to start in the rear. Knowing that the was slippery due to the water and the risk of crashes was significant, Doohan could have chosen to go earlier for a fast lap. Now he gambled totally wrong. Doohan also messed up his qualifying during the opening weekend in Bahrain. Starting from 17th place, there was no honour to be gained in both the sprint and main race.

Jack Doohan is held in extremely high regard by connoisseurs, but it is all just barely there at the moment. His first, full year in F2 (in 2021) he did not get beyond sixth in the championship. Nor does a top spot seem realistic this year. Alpine no doubt sees that too. Besides, Ocon and Gasly each have contracts for '24, so there is no place for Doohan then. If he would deserve a place at all. For '25, Dooham must fear being passed by compatriot Victor Martins. The reigning champion in F3 is in his first year in F2, and already regularly showed his potential
Our verdict: A suspension of Gasly would bring Doohan his F1 debut. On his own, the Australian is not going to make it.

Frederik Vesti

His first miles in a Formula 1 car have now been completed by Frederik Vesti. At the end of 2022, he was allowed to take part in the Young Drivers Test in Abu Dhabi on behalf of Mercedes AMG F1. In it, the Dane (21) finished 22nd, with a car among the top of the field.

It is unfair to judge Vesti on that one test in Abu Dhabi. A good picture does emerge from his results in the step-up class to Formula 1. Like many of his colleagues in F2, this year has been shaky. In Bahrain, two penalties ruined his races (penalties he blamed on himself). In Jeddah, he then managed to take full advantage of spins from the leaders, allowing Vesti to take his first win.

Denmark probably hopes that Vesti will eventually become Kevin Magnussen's successor in the king class of motorsport. For now, he is not showing he is entitled to a place among the elite. Anyway: which team should he drive for? Should Lewis Hamilton quit anyway, Vesti is not the man to effortlessly replace the Briton.
Our verdict: First really shine in Formula 2, now there are too many doubts about his qualities.