Red Bull junior surprises everyone, including himself, with strong start
Iwasa exclusive interview

Red Bull junior surprises everyone, including himself, with strong start

25-05-2023 20:00

Ayumu Iwasa is taking part in an important season. The Japanese driver hopes to step up to Formula 1 one day, and with his excellent start to the Formula 2 season, he is progressing nicely. GPblog spoke at length with the Red Bull junior about the start of the season and his connection with Honda and Red Bull.

Start of Formula 2 season

Nobody started the F2 season more consistently than Iwasa. For the first two race weekends, he finished every race in the points, something the rest of the grid has been unable to imitate. Such consistency is crucial in F2, as Iwasa knows only too well. In Australia, he went all out with a win in the main race, which put him at the top of the championship after three races. A surprise, in the Red Bull protégé's own opinion.

"I did not expect this. It is really good to have this feeling, but me and the team are not thinking about the championship. Our target is to win the upcoming races. If I win the race, I will get the points. Also, my target is to not over-perform. Last year, my biggest improvement was to put it all together in one weekend. Even if I had good speed, I didn't have a good result. But this season, I am doing quite well in putting it all together," Iwasa said in a conversation with GPblog.

"I improved a lot in the second half of last season. The speed was there all the time. I just wasn't able to be consistent through the season. Now I am able to keep that performance this season so far."

The weekend after Australia was more challenging for Iwasa. In Baku, everything went wrong for the Japanese driver, as he went on to score zero points. He lost his first spot in the championship, but the solid start to his season means that championship leader Theo Pourchaire is not far away. The gap is seven points and is still easy to bridge.

Japanese talent heading to Europe

Still, it remains remarkable how quickly Iwasa is competitive in Europe. Many drivers who travel to Europe from Asia struggle to settle quickly. It was okay for Iwasa. Although he states that his first season was difficult, though he immediately won the 2020 French F4 championship. If that's a bad year...

"I struggled a lot when I moved to Le Mans for the French F4. I couldn't improve my English much, so it was a difficult season. Still, I was able to win the championship, so that was a big step," said a smiling Iwasa. He recognises that a championship is not necessarily a bad season, but he says things went a lot better a year later. "For 2021, I moved to Milton Keynes in the UK (United Kingdom) because the team was Hitech. From then on, I was able to improve my English. Now I feel quite comfortable in the UK and Europe. There is no more frustration, and I am enjoying life. I just focus on the races."

Now that the biggest stumbling block (speaking the language) has been overcome, Iwasa is starting to feel better, which is shown in his performances. Since 2020, Iwasa has been part of the Honda Dream Project, and in 2021 he was also added to Red Bull's training programme. Iwasa has a good relationship with both parties and thus never left Honda. Honda's support came after an intense one-year stretch in 2019.

The Red Bull Junior Team

"There is a kind of selection within Honda for which they use the Suzuka circuit. It takes a lot of time, from April to November, some sessionand we take part in some sessions throughout the year. I was first at the end of that selection, so that's why I became a Honda driver. It's also a kind of school as well, as you have some Super Formula drivers and some instructors. I was able to learn a lot of things there, and I could feel my confidence grow as a result. That's why I became the Honda junior, and then the Red Bull junior after."

After his French F4 title in 2020, Red Bull knocked on Iwasa's door. "It was a big thing for me, because no one ever supported me in terms of the cost or helped me with simulator training. Honda also has big support. It is a combination of both Honda and Red Bull, as I am supported by both. But the programme between the two is different. I'm spending more time with Red Bull now, especially in the factory with their simulator sessions and courses," Iwasa concludes.

The 21-year-old driver is preparing for the race at the Monaco circuit after the race weekend in Imola was also cancelled for the F2 drivers. It will be a busy period because, after Monaco and Spain, F2 will also be active in Austria, England, Hungary and Belgium before the summer break. It is also the phase when teams like AlphaTauri start looking at next year's line-up, with Liam Lawson's name also circulating around due to his leading position in the Super Formula championship. But Iwasa will also want to do all he can to make mark in F1 in 2024.