Home Featured Doohan: I should’ve won 2022 F2 title, and I’m yet to show my ’23 pace

Doohan: I should’ve won 2022 F2 title, and I’m yet to show my ’23 pace

by Ida Wood

Photos: Formula Motorsport Ltd

F2 sophomore Jack Doohan has talked up the chance that he could have been champion last year as he looks at the improvements needed to recapture his 2022 form and win this season after two mixed rounds

Jack Doohan is in his second season of Formula 2 with Virtuosi Racing, and went into this year as one of the title favourites. The Alpine junior came sixth in the championship as a rookie in 2022, having begun his F2 career at the end of the previous year by contesting the last two rounds in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi, and started last season by taking pole at Bahrain.

He claimed a second pole at Barcelona, won the Silverstone and Hungaroring sprint races and took his first feature race win at Spa-Francorchamps. Another pole but only two points finishes followed, meaning he fell from fourth to sixth in the standings.

“Last year, without things outside of my control, I should have been vice-champion and eventually champion with Felipe [Drugovich] being deducted points from where I would have finished,” said Doohan at Bahrain during the 2023 season opener.

“The good thing is the people in Formula 1 and who I’m with with Alpine, they know that and they know my potential. They have good faith and trust in me, I’m going into my second season, I’m still young as well, so I still have to show good pace and good F1 standards for this season, but I’m not worried about anything like that, I’ll let the results do the speaking.”

Doohan said his main point of improvement for 2023 is “consistency”, having failed to score in half of 2022’s feature races.

“I made a crucial mistake last year in Bahrain and another one in Paul Ricard through the season, so eliminating those from myself will be key. And trying to make sure myself and the team are working well together just to eliminate any issues outside of our control that can hinder my performance.

“So really that’s it, making sure the whole package comes together. If you take Felipe last year, he finished sixth and fourth here in Bahrain and went on to win the championship by a healthy margin so round one is not where it’s won, so I look forward to hopefully building a healthy campaign.”

The Bahrain weekend did not go to plan. Doohan started his 2023 season by qualifying 17th, and finished 11th and 16th in the two races. This year he is also serving as Alpine’s reserve driver, and will attend F1 races that F2 does not support.

“[Alpine] want me to win the championship which is clear from their side. They want to take the top driver from junior single-seaters through to be a part of their F1 team as one of their full-time drivers which is very understanding. And if I was in their position, I would want the same, I wouldn’t want the third or fourth or fifth-placed driver.

“Obviously there is an exception whether there are things outside of my control, but I have a lot of faith and a lot of trust and they have a lot of faith and a lot of trust in me as well.”

Doohan’s faith seemed to be well-placed as two weeks later in Jeddah, on a track with very different layout characteristics to Bahrain and a far smoother track surface, he qualified fourth, finished the sprint race in seventh and was feature race runner-up. However, the hypothetical of being held back by things “outside of my control” was now, he claimed, a reality.

“To get some solid points on the board, 18 [for second place], that’s obviously good,” he said after his first podium of 2023.

“The top guys in the championship didn’t score so great today, so to be able to get a little bit higher up on the board and solidate myself for this year is great.

“I’ve been struggling to really find confidence with the car. We’ve had quite a few fundamental issues so far this season, which has been a big shock to the system for all of us because it really hasn’t been in our control. So trying to eliminate that every time we go out on track, and still coming into today I didn’t really have any confidence at all, unfortunately, but hoping that with things that we were changing, we’re going to reinstate that.

“I think we did a good race. We did the maximum we could. I don’t think I had the outright pace. But to finish P2, finally a little bit of good luck, and I’m happy to be here.”

Qualifying ‘supertimes’

Pos Driver Team Pace Rd1 Q Rd2 Q
1 Theo Pourchaire ART GP 100.368% 1st 3rd
2 Victor Martins ART GP 100.372% 2nd 1st
3 Ayumu Iwasa DAMS 100.903% 7th 6th
4 Ollie Bearman Prema 100.924% 12th 2nd
5 Jehan Daruvala MP Motorsport 100.939% 11th 5th
6 Frederik Vesri Prema 100.971% 5th 7th
7 Jack Doohan Virtuosi 100.986% 17th 4th
8 Kush Maini Campos Racing 101.018% 6th 8th
9 Ralph Boschung Campos Racing 101.126% 10th 9th
10 Dennis Hauger MP Motorsport 101.165% 4th 15th

Doohan felt “a lot more confident” than in the opening round, but still lacked “that same feeling that I had at the end of last year”. To make the podium while still evidently unhappy with his car: “I think that’s only a positive.”

“We showed strong pace at parts of today. And for this, it feels bittersweet. I’m not happy, the team’s not happy, so for us to be in this position I think when we get things sorted out, we’re going to be very hard to beat.”

While Doohan was reluctant to give up too many details in relation to his car and his driving about why he has gone from being the pacesetter to being off the pace this year, he did reveal he has been “struggling a bit with my brakes over the first few rounds” and “I had a really bad lock-up on the outlap on the front-right” after pitting in the Jeddah feature race.

He added: “I think it’s just a bit of the cards that we’ve been dealt this year, it hasn’t been amazing. But we’re doing everything that we can to really try and get on top of it. We’re eliminating processes, kind of step-by-step, trying to unravel things, and we’re getting there. So I’m grateful for that.”

Formula Scout asked Doohan in Jeddah if the pace-related issues were evident during the pre-season test at Bahrain and whether they had affected his approach on track.

“From testing, to be honest, it wasn’t ideal,” he replied. “But we were hoping that when come race weekend, when come qualifying [spec] car, when it comes down to it, that it will be there. And it wasn’t, I can tell you that.

“We were P17 and kind of really not knowing what was going on. Things weren’t working the way they should be, and it was quite irregular. That obviously wasn’t ideal.

“And being in a position that we are, where it’s so important now just to get some points on the board, and not feeling comfortable with the car, to be able to yesterday to try to make moves, to try to pass people, especially in areas where we’re at a bit of a disadvantage, I really can’t take that risk. The comfortability that I just don’t have to really go for it.

Rolling race pace average

1 Martins 100.050%
2 Hauger 100.177%
3 Iwasa 100.411%
4 Enzo Fittipaldi 100.517%   5 Vesti 100.554%   6 Daruvala 100.569%   Zane Maloney 100.595%
8 Brad Benavides 100.610%   9 Richard Verschoor 100.682%   10 Pourchaire 100.682%
11 Doohan 100.710%   12 Maini 100.799%

“So I’m having to try and play it safe in a way. And unfortunately, people capitalise on that. Like Frederik [Vesti] did yesterday on me, and a few others at the start. When I’m just trying to get points on the board, I can’t really take that risk because I don’t feel fully comfortable.

“Definitely hasn’t changed my approach for the year at all. I still think we can fight for the championship and I still think we can win. For this to be our pace on our bad and worst moments, I think everyone else should watch out. Because I think when we get our stuff together, we will be very, very competitive. I’m looking forward to that.”

Doohan’s status as Alpine’s reserve driver puts him at the front of its young driver queue, although Alpine Academy stablemate and reigning FIA Formula 3 champion Victor Martins has so far outshone him in F2 this season.

There have already been questions put to Doohan about following the path of his predecessor as reserve. Oscar Piastri held the position last year after becoming 2021 F2 champion as an Alpine junior, but after facing the prospect of a second year on the sidelines his management orchestrated a move to McLaren for 2023.

“My involvement within the F1 team at Alpine became a lot more in the latter half of last year [after McLaren-bound Piastri was excluded from his role] and especially over the winter and then for this year,” said Doohan.

“To have that opportunity to work with every single member of the team and all the engineers, mechanics and people at the factory has been awesome and you have to take all that in and really learn as much as possible. It’s great being able to then relate that back to F2 and try and learn as much as possible.”

Doohan is “sure” he will contest both of the F1 practice sessions that Alpine is required to run ‘young’ drivers in, while “everything else is on a results basis”. Should Doohan meet Alpine’s result targets, he would be waiting until 2025 regardless for a seat at the team as their current drivers are contracted for next season.

“I want to win the championship like the other 21 drivers on this F2 grid. If that [becoming champion] was to be the case, then I’m putting myself in a position that is the most marketable for me. Putting myself in a prime position, if that was to be, at the end of the day there’s obviously not much more a driver can do [to reach F1].

“If that means I have to wait a year to continue my relationship with Alpine then so be it. I look forward to that. If they were to then loan me out as an Alpine driver to somewhere else where they could find me a seat. They understand how crucial it is to stay in a seat, they’re trying heavily to avoid a situation that happened in the past and last year, so I know they would have my best interests at heart. So it’s good to know that I can trust them for my future.”

He added: “If there was a good plan in place that would have me racing in 2025 or there was structure around it, for sure I would sit out [2024]. Alpine have done a lot for me and have really helped me this past year and going into 2023, gave me great opportunities and an amazing time to really embed myself in a F1 team.

“I owe a lot to them and to just bail because they don’t have a F1 seat for me for one year would not be really respectful and would not be what I think is correct.”