Home Featured Barnard surprises himself on qualifying debut after late F2 promotion

Barnard surprises himself on qualifying debut after late F2 promotion

by Roger Gascoigne

Photo: Formula Motorsport Ltd

Taylor Barnard will start his maiden Formula 2 race at Bahrain from the front row after qualifying ninth.

He was initially set to start on reversed-grid pole for Friday’s sprint race, but the disqualification of Kush Maini – who had topped the times – from qualifying’s results moved Barnard up one spot from 10th on the grid for the feature race, and therefore down one spot when the top 10 was reversed.

Barnard found out he would be graduating to F2 with PHM Racing, instead of staying in FIA Formula 3 for a second year, 10 days before pre-season testing. The team, which has supported Barnard since he was in Formula 4, broke the news to him while he was racing for them in Formula Regional Middle East.

“[After being told] it was difficult to sleep and race the next day. First it was like ‘you must be joking’. They said: ‘This is the only opportunity. It’s a new car as well, no one’s expecting anything for the first five races, just do the best job you can.’”

Making the top 10 in his first F2 qualifying session therefore was another pleasant surprise.

“It was crazy from my point of view, having not come into this weekend with much expectation. Every lap, every session, I’m improving, and I did it right on my last lap when nobody expected it,” said Barnard.

“Usually on the soft tyres the first push [lap] is the best. I think everybody besides me did their times on the first one. I’m still improving, I’m not maximising everything every time. Even if it was a second push lap, I felt it was quite a nice, well put-together lap.”

The 19-year-old was feeling “nervous starting on pole” for his first F2 start and is “still not fully comfortable with the car”. Lining up second does not make that first getaway any less challenging.

“All I have to do is get away from the line, do the procedures as best I can and focus on what I do best and the result will just come.”

Barnard was not “mentally geared up to do F2 this year and so had to quickly change that mindset” to be ready to drive the new Dallara F2 2024 car in pre-season testing.

“It still doesn’t quite feel real yet, but when I step into the car it’s still a racecar. It’s a bit bigger, it’s a bit faster, I’ve just go to change my driving style and get used to seeing the number two instead of the number three on my racesuit.”

With no pressure to deliver immediately, Barnard is treating round one as a “huge learning process”. After that, the goal is to “keep improving”.

“By the time we get to the European season I’ll be expecting a little bit more in terms of results but for now it’s just going to be learning as much as I can and being thrown in at the deep end with pole in your first race is a good way to learn quickly.”