With many 2021 frontrunners moving on, there is plenty of intrigue as to who will succeed Oscar Piastri as Formula 2 champion. Craig Woollard has the lowdown on the 22-car grid ahead of the biggest season ever
You often don’t quite know what is going to happen within the world of Formula 2, and the 2022 season is poised to produce a year of unpredictability and excitement once again. It’s what makes it appeal so much to the fans, and this year’s 26-race calendar (which could yet expand) will likely feature many twists, turns and an agonising wait before the finale in Abu Dhabi in November.
One round has already dropped off the calendar, with the Sochi event cancelled due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine late in February and the ongoing conflict occurring. Despite that, it’s the longest F2 championship season in history (including the GP2 era as well), and F2 could yet add a replacement round to bring us up to 28 races. For now, there is an enormous gap of over two months (not helped by the loss of Sochi) between the Italian and Abu Dhabi rounds, but the reversion back to a two-race per weekend format means we have a largely otherwise very familiar backdrop to the season.
In addition, a revised points format puts more priority on the feature races now, with fewer bonus points awarded and a reduction in points for the sprint races. The race weekend itself will continue to have the feature race on grand prix Sunday, but Saturday’s sprint race will now feature a partial flip of the qualifying results. It’s essentially the format unexpectedly run at Sochi in 2021 (when one sprint race was cancelled), just with further tweaks to the points putting more emphasis on the feature races. There are also small changes to the tyre compounds made by Pirelli, but don’t expect this to shake up the order too much.
We have one new team in ’22, as European Formula 3 legends Van Amersfoort Racing finally get the nod to join the championship – replacing the struggling HWA Racelab outfit in both F2 and F3. The majority of this year’s rookies have made the step up from F3, but one has made the move from Euroformula Open.
Here are the runners and riders for this year’s F2 season, with half the drivers officially tied to F1 junior programmes – and five of those all with Red Bull.
After combatting key weaknesses at crucial moments in 2021, the mighty Prema outfit seemed pretty much unbeatable by the end of the year. That was absolutely the case in the hands of champion Piastri, and Ferrari junior Robert Shwartzman was able to take second overall by the end of the year after finally cracking qualifying. For the Italian outfit this year, running a pair of Red Bull juniors in F2 for the first time, it will be a case of finessing what it does well (pretty much everything) and making sure it doesn’t get caught by the chasing teams.
1. Dennis Hauger Norway, 18
2021: FIA Formula 3 champion
Returning to full Red Bull colours for his step up to F2 is reigning F3 champion Dennis Hauger, continuing the run of champions in that championship who have moved up to F2 with Prema. Hauger’s outstanding race management should put him in good stead in F2, as will his ability to really extract something special from a qualifying lap on any given afternoon. How quickly he adapts to this championship and this car is another question, and seemed up to speed quick enough in testing, but he at least has a very experienced team-mate to learn from.
2. Jehan Daruvala India, 23
2021: 7th in Formula 2
Also in Red Bull colours (this will become a frustrating theme this year) is Jehan Daruvala, who returns to the outfit with whom he impressed so many back in F3 in 2019. Two years at Carlin netted just a trio of sprint race wins in a package largely believed to be capable of considerably more. This will be a very critical year for Daruvala should he wish to make it to Formula 1. Qualifying in particular has been a bugbear in F2 to date.
Once with the outright fastest car in F2, Virtuosi slipped back slightly in ’21, but still ended up as one of the strongest packages overall particularly in terms of race pace. With Guanyu Zhou moving on to F1 it’s an all-new line-up for the first time since 2019, and its mixture of experience and inexperience in F2 terms will be an interesting subplot. The team will want to get back to ’20 levels of speed but with ’21 levels of tyre management and without the inconsistency it has been plagued by in the past.
3. Jack Doohan Australia, 19
2021: 2nd in FIA F3, 19th in F2
New Alpine recruit Doohan impressed in his brief stint with MP Motorsport at the end of last year and will look to continue the sort of form he ended last year with. He did some excellent stuff with Trident in F3, but Virtuosi is certainly a very different environment. How he’s able to adapt and how he gets to grips with the British team’s package and so forth will be crucial. But don’t count him out of a title push if he’s able to get it altogether quickly.
4. Marino Sato Japan, 22
2021: 21st in F2
Sato has scored just two points in over 50 starts between Campos (for a partial season in ’19) and Trident (’20-’21), making a switch to frontrunners Virtuosi a very important step for the Japanese driver who will be looking to recapture the sort of form that took him to a dominant Euroformula title and prove that year was no fluke. Race pace has occasionally been solid enough but not putting it together in qualifying and regular mistakes need to be rectified this year. He looked like a persistent top 10 threat in testing.
Carlin has had one of the best packages in F2 in recent years, and for 2022 it brings in two F1 juniors with a proven track record of being outrageously quick when everything is hooked up. One is a rookie, while the other comes in with a year of experience and was one of last year’s underrated stars while dovetailing a GT programme that ended in controversy. Team boss Trevor Carlin has certainly got high expectations for this pairing.
5. Liam Lawson New Zealand, 20
2021: 9th in F2, 2nd in DTM
Red Bull junior Liam Lawson perhaps is the one with the target on his back in ’22 after a really punchy, strong first season with Hitech GP while dovetailing that with a DTM campaign that ended with him losing the title in frankly disgraceful circumstances. This year provides him not with an opportunity to take a title in tin-tops, but certainly in F2. With what should be a very strong package, if he’s able to finesse some rough edges out, Lawson will be searingly quick – just as he was in testing. He could just chuck himself into F1’s driver market for good measure.
6. Logan Sargeant United States, 21
2021: 7th in FIA F3, 29th in F2
A year later than anticipated, Logan Sargeant makes the step up to F2 and another return to the team with which he won in British Formula 4 and ran his first F3 season. Now a Williams junior, and after a year of running in the midfield, a year of a title push and a year of hauling a backmarker to winning ways, Sargeant comes in with a broad experience. He’s naturally quick, we’ve seen that much, but how successful his rookie campaign could be based on just how capable he is of keeping it on the road.
In the run-up to the start of the season, Hitech has had to field questions about its connections to Uralkali, with its logos no longer on the car, while full ownership has returned to Oliver Oakes. Regardless, the team certainly struggled with consistency and reliability last year. When it was brilliant, such as at Baku, it absolutely was outstanding. But what it can achieve with arguably last year’s pair of unluckiest drivers on the grid will be interesting.
7. Marcus Armstrong New Zealand, 21
2021: 13th in F2
Armstrong notched up a race win towards the end of last year and returns for a third season with a third different team, this time without the backing of Ferrari. Unlike the switch to DAMS, this is certainly a step forwards on the grid. Getting himself back on the F1 radar (or advertising himself beyond that world) will be paramount. It’s an important year but there could be another tricky task ahead.
8. Juri Vips Estonia, 21
2021: 6th in F2
The Red Bull colours were mysteriously off the car in testing, but Vips is one of just a handful of drivers to not move anywhere over the winter. He was awesome on the streets of Baku in 2021 but all too often something seemed to be going wrong for him and he’ll be looking for that to change this year. If so, and if there’s a bit more consistency with the package, then Vips should be a major contender. If not, then it’s another year of limbo in the middle of the points.
ART Grand Prix
The French outfit has a very interesting line-up in 2022. It has a returning driver, one of the hottest prospects on the grid nonetheless, and a methodical driver stepping up to F2 having raced with the outfit last year in F3. ART was decent enough on a number of occasions last year, but the general consensus was that it lacked that extra step of performance to the frontrunners. The trend for one of its two drivers to struggle – or the dreaded ‘ART curse’ as it’s referred to – is a curious case. It will be interesting to see whether that’s extended into this year or not.
9. Frederik Vesti Denmark, 20
2021: 4th in FIA F3
The Mercedes junior’s title push collapsed in F3 after a strong opening half of the year, but he’ll be looking to use the experiences learned going forward. ART probably will be as well, so it’s a fascinating combination to see continue. Probably a bit of a dark horse coming into this year, particularly if he’s able to shrug off the supposed ‘curse’. He is, after all, targeting the title.
10. Theo Pourchaire France, 18
2021: 5th in F2
With a slightly cleaner season (especially one without injury) and perhaps a little extra pace from the ART package, Sauber junior Pourchaire is going to be a serious, serious threat for the title. The nature of F2 doesn’t make it a sure bet, not least because his ’21 team-mate Christian Lundgaard endured such a difficult time with the outfit last year after a very impressive rookie campaign. But even if he doesn’t take the title, he’ll be looking to impress enough to justify a step up to F1 next year with the Sauber-operated Alfa Romeo outfit. He has all the ingredients for greatness if the equipment’s up to scratch, and possibly still even if it’s if not.
The Dutch outfit returns to orange colours for ’22, and one of its drivers from 2020 returns too for good measure. In addition, it retains a driver it ran at the tail-end of ’21, so there’s certainly a solid amount of familiarity in the line-up. The belief was that MP was one of F2’s quickest teams by the end of last season, so there should be plenty of potential in this package as it continues to build up. Testing at times didn’t seem to imply it, indicating there may be a bit more to see from the team.
11. Felipe Drugovich Brazil, 21
2021: 8th in F2
Drugovich returns to the team with whom he impressed so many at back in 2020, and the experiences he will have taken from Virtuosi Racing (where he ultimately did not fare too well) combined with the steps forward the team should continue to make certainly puts him in position to spring a title push. That’s if he’s able to recapture the form that earned him plaudits (rightly so) back in ’20, which feels like an eternity ago now.
12. Clement Novalak France, 21
2021: 3rd in FIA F3, 28th in F2
F3’s Mr Consistent will be a curious character to watch in his first full F2 season. He didn’t have the explosive introduction team-mate Jack Doohan did, but he was impressive enough. It’s very Novalak, who could benefit from F2’s more chaotic races if he plays his cards right. While Formula Scout’s analysis did have him down as the best F3 qualifier on average, he will need to find an extra little bit over one lap before he can think about pushing for the title as a rookie.
A year on following the loss of its founder Adrian Campos, the team is still very much in a phase of rebuilding. 2021 wasn’t a particularly strong season as a whole, not helped by a revolving door of drivers in one of the seats, but a F1 junior and the most experienced driver on the grid is a solid enough line-up. The odd sprint podium here and there shouldn’t be out of the question but race wins and frontrunning feature pace might be a bit much.
14. Olli Caldwell Britain, 19
2021: 8th in FIA F3, 26th in F2
New Alpine recruit Caldwell makes the step up to F2 after two years in F3 that did not yield the results they perhaps could have done. His race pace was solid enough but, more often than not, struggling to qualify higher up the grid was his undoing, so that’s an area he will have wanted to work on for this year. Even though it’s a championship where while qualifying isn’t the be-all and end-all, starting high up can often be the differentiator between a huge haul of points and being caught up in clashes.
15. Ralph Boschung Switzerland, 24
2021: 10th in F2
Boschung is the most experienced driver on the grid and put that experience to good use in the end of the season by getting himself onto the F2 podium at last. Arguably, targeting a similar performance this year is probably the most realistic target, but he was surprisingly rapid in testing. Having the continuity he lacked earlier in his career could be a big benefit.
DAMS is under new ownership after being taken over by former GP2 frontrunner and ex-F1 driver Charles Pic. The team has struggled since the loss of Jean-Paul Driot and the introduction of the 18-inch rim tyres, so now begins the road to the return to the top. Race pace in particular has been a bit of a struggle in recent years, and it has a highly experienced driver without too many notable results in recent years and a F1 junior arguably stepping up a year early in its stable.
16. Roy Nissany Israel, 27
2021: 16th in F2
Nissany has been in and around F2 since 2018 (not taking part in ’19) and while he is more competitive than he is occasionally made out to be on social media, he has not achieved a great deal in his three seasons to date aside from a podium from a handy reversed-grid position in Monaco. The Williams junior’s fourth season must be stronger.
17. Ayumu Iwasa Japan, 20
2021: 12th in FIA F3
Iwasa is a fascinating addition to the F2 grid and finds himself on a similar trajectory of countryman Yuki Tsunoda in doing a few years of Formula 4 before embarking on a year of F3 and then stepping straight up to F2. He arguably could have done with another year in F3, where he inherited a sprint race win, but there must be good reasons why Red Bull and Honda have placed their trust in him. On that basis alone he’ll be one to watch, but there are question marks over exactly how strong he’ll be this year.
It’s an all-new line-up for the Italian team in 2022, which is looking to move itself up the grid as it has successfully done in F3. Without the second sprint races to rely on, where it picked up the vast majority of its ’21 points in Bent Viscaal’s hands, the team will need to work on qualifying in particular if it is to carry on picking up rostrums this year.
20. Richard Verschoor Netherlands, 21
2021: 11th in F2
After funding issues throughout last year, Verschoor’s late addition to the grid as the last driver to be announced was a little bit of a surprise. Either way, he was impressive enough last year to warrant getting a second chance in this level, and whether he can drag Trident up the order or not will be interesting to see. He looked solid enough in testing to be a bit of a pain for some of the frontrunning teams once more.
21. Calan Williams Australia, 21
2021: 19th in FIA F3
Williams has spent two years in F3 with Jenzer, which is perhaps not the most reliable benchmark against which to judge him. Regardless, results were not too spectacular in either of his two seasons, although he did pull occasional outstanding laps out of the bag in qualifying. He doesn’t come in with the strongest CV by a long way, so don’t expect miracles, but don’t rule out surprises either.
Charouz Racing System
Charouz bags credit for hiring one of the most fascinating propositions on the grid and the only rookie not to come from FIA F3. In addition, it has a driver looking to prove a point after picking up an injury late last year. It broke into the top 10 on pace rarely last year, and it’ll be looking to recapture the sort of form of the years before rather than slumping further to the nadir it previously did in F3. Testing seemed so-so in that regard.
22. Enzo Fittipaldi Brazil, 20
2021: 17th in FIA F3, 20th in F2
No longer associated with Ferrari, Fittipaldi returns to Charouz for his second season with the team across F3 and F2. He had just started to show promise in F3 when he leapt up to F2 and his season came to a premature end after a horrifying crash at Jeddah. Earlier that weekend he had made it into the points for the first time. Never count him out for a sprint race surprise.
23. Cem Bolukbasi Turkey, 24
2021: 5th in Euroformula Open
Bolukbasi is perhaps better known for his exploits on a sim, but he’s the first Turkish driver at this level since Can Artam and Jason Tahinci way back in the early days of GP2. He comes off the back of a very impressive Euroformula campaign where he won on debut, but how he manages the ultra-sensitive Pirellis will be an enormous challenge. Certainly, what usually works on a sim does not apply here, so adaptability will be interesting. His superlicence points quest in Formula Regional Asian Championship was a disaster and ended prematurely, so he doesn’t come in as race-prepared as he would like to be.
Van Amersfoort Racing
The legendary F3 and F4 outfit is the one new team on the grid, taking over from the struggling HWA Racelab. It is a relative unknown at this point, so it will be fun to see what it can achieve in its first season. It has a long-term project to move up the grid, but has so far been solid enough in testing.
24. Jake Hughes Britain, 27
2021: 18th in F2
The Mercedes-aligned driver finally gets a full F2 season, having flirted with it in recent years after a very long relationship with F3-level championships. Hughes is a fine driver and is the sort of driver to have for a first campaign, even if he lacks the outright F2 experience, because of his simulator role with Mercedes-AMG and Aston Martin in F1 and Mercedes-EQ in FE. This is an interesting place for him to be, because showcasing leadership skills as well as an ability to develop a team should make some big names in motorsport take note.
25. Amaury Cordeel Belgium, 19
2021: 23rd in FIA F3
Cordeel scored no points with a rather uncompetitive Campos-entered machine last year in F3, but the fact is that he hasn’t won at all since his Spanish F4 title success back in 2018. While he did show some improvements towards the end of the year in ’21, they weren’t enough to really justify the step up to F2, particularly given he had a prime opportunity for a huge haul of points at Zandvoort and crashed out. This is a large step up but having Hughes as a team-mate will be helpful.