The F1 hopefuls who need to have a stand-out 2023 season | Formula 2


The 2023 Formula 2 field contains a wide array of experience. At one of the spectrum is Roy Nissany, who is entering his ninth year at this level, while nine others are new to the series.

There’s one sixth-year driver who has actually only completed one full season, and even the third-year drivers are trying to prove they haven’t missed the F1 boat and can emulate last year’s champion Felipe Drugovich by using their experience to take the title.

There’s a lot resting on the shoulders of several of this year’s competitors, but it’s an especially critical season for a handful of those seeking promotion to Formula 1 in 2024.

Theo Pourchaire

The driver who needs a big season more than anyone else is actually the one who has already achieved the most in F2 from this year’s entry list.

Theo Pourchaire went without a pole in 2022, but with three feature race wins he still did enough to be championship runner-up. However the target set by Sauber for him to earn a promotion to Alfa Romeo in F1 for 2023 was to win the title, so he has to not only do that this season but do it in an extremely assertive fashion as he remains with ART Grand Prix, one of F2’s top teams. The pressure is also raised because Sauber is believed to be now funding the 19-year-old’s racing.

He’s got the paperwork, but can Pourchaire get an F1 seat?

In his rookie F2 campaign in 2021, Pourchaire threw himself into the F1 spotlight with a stunning pole and feature win in Monaco and then a sprint race victory at Monza later in the year. He scored 140 points that season but over the longer 2022 campaign he scored fewer points per race on average despite climbing up the points table.

Pourchaire needs to show he learned from a year that did not meet his or Sauber’s expectations. Having a bubble of self-assuredness and confidence burst as it did for him can never happen at a good time, and it did have an impact on his performances, but it is better for such a moment in an athlete’s career to occur in F2 than in the even higher pressure world of F1. Even highly established drivers like Daniel Ricciardo have had their full-time racing careers ended by such wobbles.

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Jehan Daruvala

Red Bull did not keep Daruvala on its young driver programme

With a Formula E reverse driver gig at Mahindra in the bag for 2023, Daruvala did not need to return to F2 for a fourth year. He is no longer part of the Red Bull Junior Team and there has been no indication he will continue his private test programme with McLaren, suggesting the route to a future F1 race seat is most likely closed even though he is eligible for an FIA superlicence.

But if Daruvala finishes lower than fifth in F2 this year, then he would not be eligible for a superlicence in 2024, so he really has to make this season worthwhile given he is yet to finish higher than seventh in the standings.

It took 37 F2 events before he mustered a feature race win, and he needs to add at least another to his CV to continue his F1 ambitions. In the last 14 years, only five drivers have come through the second tier of single-seater racing with fewer than two non-reversed grid race wins to a full-time F1 seat.

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Clement Novalak

Sole podium for champion’s team mate came in a sprint race

By any measure, Novalak’s rookie F2 season in 2022 did not look good as the 22-year-old contributed just 13% of champions MP Motorsport’s points tally.

Novalak was one of only three drivers to do every race and not get a feature race podium. He endured a nine-race point-less run at one stage, something only four other drivers exceeded in the 29-strong field.

His struggles primarily came down to the contrast between his driving style and the demands of the Dallara F2 2018 car and its Pirelli tyres, and the adaptation was something he had to work at all season. Even when the race pace was there, the inability to be at one with the car fresh out of the box on the softer tyre compound in qualifying left him way down and on average he was 23rd fastest on single-lap pace.

So this year the 2019 BRDC British Formula 3 champion and 2021 FIA F3 title contender has to prove that the pace will return once his adaptation is complete, and that there is something in the walls of Trident’s factory making it worth moving to as he leaves the reigning champions for a squad with one race victory in the last six years.

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Arthur Leclerc

The brother of the 2017 F2 champion will race for DAMS

The question with this rookie – a Ferrari junior and the younger brother of F1 star Charles – is what does he need to prove with this season and why does it need to be a big one?

The younger Leclerc has enjoyed stable career momentum since joining single-seaters that has, through no fluke, brought him all the way up to F2. He won in French Formula 4 as a rookie, then in Germany’s ADAC F4 as a Sauber junior. After Ferrari scooped him up, Leclerc was the Formula Regional Europe runner-up the next year, only losing the title in a final race showdown. Two years spent in the highly competitive FIA F3 championship yielded a pole position, a feature race win and two reversed-grid successes.

Leclerc’s sixth place in the 2022 F3 standings and tally of only two podiums may suggest that he was not among the top talents, but he actually went into the final race fighting for the title. On average he was one of the fastest drivers on single-lap pace, but had a few too many bad qualifying sessions. He was second-best when it came to long-run race pace which bodes well for F2.

What really stood out is that Leclerc did not maximise the potential he had in the car, and that’s what needs to change in 2023. If he is able to string together a pole-winning lap, then he needs to go out and do it – just like his new team mate Ayumu Iwasa did in his rookie F2 season last year – rather than relying on his ability to make up positions in races.

If these points are rectified then he may be rewarded with big results in F2. That will be important for putting himself in Ferrari’s shop window when academy stablemate and fellow F3 graduate Ollie Bearman looks to be prancing to the front of its junior queue.

Enzo Fittipaldi and Zane Maloney

Fittipaldi suffered a nasty crash at the end of 2021

The Red Bull Junior Team is the most prominent driver development programme in motorsport, and attracts the most scrutiny over its signings and sackings. This year there are six of its members in F2, with three of particular interest.

Red Bull have taken two approaches with placing drivers, and F3 graduates Jak Crawford and Isack Hadjar have been partnered together at Hitech GP. They are without an experienced driver to lean on to aid their learning experience, which Red Bull’s motorsport advisor Dr Helmut Marko may not find as a reason to cut them some slack, but he’s also aware of the value of such experience as he has placed his two new juniors – Enzo Fittipaldi and 2022 FIA F3 runner-up Zane Maloney – together at the renamed Rodin Carlin squad.

Fittipaldi exceeded expectations as a rookie last year, claiming four feature race podiums and entering the final round with a shot at third in the standings with the unfancied Charouz Racing System team. What’s more, he came into the year in recovery from a brain injury after a crash in Jeddah when he joined the F2 grid for two rounds in 2021.

A trio of feature race wins lifted Maloney in F3 standings

Now he must prove he can deliver the goods with an established front-running team too, as Red Bull is all about results. The last time he drove for a top team in 2019 he was thrashed by his team mate and there was no other real competition to compare to.

Maloney, meanwhile, is back in a team set-up that he knows he can perform with. He won the British F4 title and made the podium in Euroformula Open with Carlin, but mentally had to improve a lot during that season and the next in FREC with R-ace GP. He had won just once in his previous 50 single-seater races before everything came together in the final three rounds of the 2022 F3 season with Trident – he swept all the remaining feature races to leap from tenth to second in the standings.

But three weekends doesn’t make a driver, and with the opportunity and backing that Maloney now has he needs to demonstrate he can bring home the results more often, as Carlin’s package will likely enable him to.

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Dennis Hauger

Hauger races for reigning champions again after team switch

After finishing 10th as a F2 rookie last year with two wins, it looked like Hauger might be demoted to Red Bull’s supported driver status for 2023, as previously occurred after he came 17th in his rookie FIA F3 season in 2020. But he instead carries full Red Bull junior backing for a fifth year.

Therefore, Hauger has to reward Red Bull’s faith in him this season in the same way Pourchaire needs to prove his continued worth to Sauber. But the signs are there he has what’s needed.

He’s left Prema after their underwhelming 2022 campaign to join the in-form MP. He also has a habit of winning titles in sophomore seasons, and made breakthroughs last year that stuck and led to a run of top-four finishes over the final rounds. But he will also need to establish a strong relationship with the race engineer he is partnered with at MP, a crucial factor for success in many of his previous endeavours.

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The complete 2023 Formula 2 field

Team Drivers
MP Dennis Hauger Jehan Daruvala
Carlin Enzo Fittipaldi Zane Maloney
ART Theo Pourchaire Victor Martins
Prema Frederik Vesti Oliver Bearman
Hitech Jak Crawford Isack Hadjar
DAMS Ayumu Iwasa Arthur Leclerc
Virtuosi Jack Doohan Amaury Cordeel
PHM by Charouz Roy Nissany Brad Benavides
Trident Clement Novalak Roman Stanek
Van Amersfoort Richard Verschoor Juan Manuel Correa
Campos Ralph Boschung Kush Maini

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