Home Featured FIA Formula Two Championship 2012 driver-by-driver review

FIA Formula Two Championship 2012 driver-by-driver review

by Valentin Khorounzhiy

Photos: Formula Two

PaddockScout takes a look back at the fourth season of the FIA Formula Two Championship, won by the driver who dominated the opening two weekends despite an unexpected title assault from a 15-year-old…

F2 graduates of recent years might not have had much luck advancing their careers this year and, sadly, this seems to have impacted the quality of the grid in a significant way. Add to that a few obvious marketing mistakes, such as most races coinciding with the times of important F1 sessions, and you could see why the series didn’t exactly improve its reputation in 2012.

That didn’t mean the racing wasn’t good, however, as some of the tracks quite unexpectedly produced very decent shows and, when rain came into the question, it became mighty interesting. While a lot of people over the season (almost half the grid) could be considered frontrunners, it was Luciano Bacheta who built up an early gap with some spectacular performances and, despite never living up to quite the same standards for the rest of the year, still clinched the title in the end.

Luciano Bacheta1. Luciano Bacheta

United Kingdom, age 22

231.5 points, 5 wins, 10 podiums, 3 pole positions, 5 fastest laps

After a very low-key rookie season in GP3, where Bacheta scored all of four points over most of the season, a good performance in F2 was absolutely vital to his career. It seems that Luciano understood that well as, four races into the season, he was leading the championship with four wins to his name. From that point on, it was pretty much gap management for Bacheta as he scored consistently midfield results, only adding one win to his tally in a rain-shortened race. His late-season performance was hardly overwhelming, but he was consistent where it counted and easily sealed the title in the end.

His F2 title means that he got himself a test drive of the Williams F1 car, which might have been the necessary exposure to help his career out. As it stands, however, former F2 champions have had little success making it to the pinnacle of single-seater racing and it’s hard to see Luciano break that trend. Season rating: 9

Matheo Tuscher2. Matheo Tuscher

Switzerland, age 15

210 points, 2 wins, 9 podiums, 4 pole positions, 1 fastest lap

The F2 field this year might not have been the most competitive but that should not detract from the sheer impressiveness of Tuscher’s campaign. The Swiss has shown clear talent winning the Formula Pilota China title last year, but even that didn’t make his success in F2 expected. Matheo showed his stunning pace right away by qualifying on pole for the first race of the season at Silverstone. However, even while his qualifyings seemed to be pretty impressive, he did seem to get a little lost in the races but maintained consistency at the same time. His first win of the season at Paul Ricard was a long time coming, but, despite that, he was Bacheta’s main rival for most of the season and came closest of all to taking the title from him.

All-in-all, Tuscher’s campaign surely put him on the map and with the GP2 tests that he’s won and his participati0n in the recent WSR tests, he might make another big leap in 2013. Season rating: 10

Christopher Zanella3. Christopher Zanella

Switzerland, age 22

196 points, 2 wins, 7 podiums, 1 pole position, 4 fastest laps

Zanella entered the season as, perhaps, the main title favourite, having finished second in the 2011 season of F2. However, it became clear early on that he did not have the pace of Bacheta and was forced to contend with fighting against the rest. After Bacheta stopped dominating, Zanella seemingly picked up his form but his run of consistency was not enough to match the leading two. Having finished third in the end, he can at least take pride in the fact that he’s the only driver to have finished every race of the season in the points.

It’s very hard to tell what the future holds for Zanella. A series switch is obviously for the best but only time will tell whether he has the funds to move up the ladder. He has already taken part in a WSR test, though, and didn’t look too shabby in that. Season rating: 7

Markus Pommer4. Markus Pommer

Germany, age 21

169 points, 3 wins, 5 podiums, 4 pole positions, 2 fastest laps

The German entered the season as a bit of a dark horse. His previous record was nothing too impressive, as he’s spent three years in German F3 (3rd, 8th, 7th) and somehow managed to avoid winning a single race. However, he was blisteringly quick in F2 testing so it was quite hard to know what to expect of the guy. He got his season off to a bit of a slow start but soon enough Pommer was mixing it up with the top guys, especially impressive with his qualifying performances. He could’ve been higher up than fourth but he was denied a couple of good finishes by circumstances out of his control closer to the end of the season.

Solid job all around, but, with his budget situation unclear, it is hard to see where he could go from here. Could stay in F2 where you’d expect him to be a definite title contender for next year. Season rating: 8

Mihai Marinescu5. Mihai Marinescu

Romania, age 23

161 points, 2 wins, 4 podiums, 3 pole positions, 3 fastest laps

Just as Zanella, Marinescu was heavily-tipped as a pre-season favorite, and was even more experienced than the former, entering his third Formula Two season. However, yet again, it didn’t go his way as Mihai showed some pretty great pace on some occasions and was nowhere on others. Add to that his proneness to crashing, which Tuscher experienced first-hand when Mihai took him out during the first race at Hungaroring, and you could see why he ended up only fifth in the standings.

At 23 and with this much experience, it is high time for Marinescu to make the step up to GP2 or Formula Renault 3.5. However, with his earlier recorded pace in GP2 testing, you have to wonder whether he has the speed to race at such a level. Season rating: 6

Kevin Mirocha6. Kevin Mirocha

Poland, age 21

159.5 points, 1 win, 6 podiums, 1 pole position, 2 fastest laps

Mirocha’s one-year GP2 stint appeared to give him an experience advantage on paper but it didn’t end up amounting to much this year. While always seemingly in the mix among the top contenders, he never quite did look like he was going to be a contender. Still, the season wasn’t a complete letdown as Mirocha was impressively consistent after a terrible first round (partly excused by a complete lack of pre-season testing) and even managed to snatch up a victory at Brands Hatch.

Whatever the future holds for Kevin is unknown to us here, at PaddockScout. A return to GP2 could be an option but, as usual, he’d need a pretty hefty budget to make that move.? Season rating: 6

Alex Fontana7. Alex Fontana

Switzerland, age 20

115 points, 1 win, 3 podiums, 1 fastest lap

The 2011 F3 European Open champion probably went into the season expecting to be one of the frontrunners, but in reality he had to contend with being a midfielder for most of it. After a great season opening at Silverstone where Fontana stood on the podium in both races, he had to wait for more than half of the season for his next big success. The long-awaited victory came at Hungaroring but, apart from that, the Swiss driver probably doesn’t have much to show for 2012.

On the other hand, Fontana’s one-offs in GP3 have been mighty impressive so a move there full-time in 2013 could be the decision his career needs. Season rating: 6

Dino Zamparelli8. Dino Zamparelli

United Kingdom, age 20

106.5 points, 2 podiums

The stats might not show it, but 2011 Formula Renault BARC champion Zamparelli actually looked pretty decent when you consider how big a jump he’s made. It took him some time to get used to the machinery as he spent the first half of the season consistently finishing in the back end of the top ten. However, come mid-season, and Zamparelli was quite clearly on it, scoring his first F2 podium at Brands Hatch, which kicked off a series of impressive points finishes. In the end, he almost matched Fontana, which has to count for something.

Would be good to do another year in F2 if he can get the funding together as that would likely give him a great shot at the title. Season rating: 7

Daniel McKenzie9. Daniel McKenzie

United Kingdom, age 23

95 points, 2 podiums

McKenzie could easily be considered the most experienced one of the bunch at the beginning of the season as he already had one season of WSbR behind his back. However, that didn’t seem to help him that much as he spent most of his season largely unnoticed, only hitting it big with his second place at Spa and his third place at Paul Ricard. A lacklustre final weekend at Monza demoted him to ninth which, by all accounts, is a pretty disappointing result.

The clock is obviously ticking for McKenzie and you have to wonder whether he’ll try his luck with another season of F2 or change his racing category of choice entirely. Season rating: 5

Hector Hurst10. Hector Hurst

United Kingdom, age 20

27 points

The Formula Renault BARC graduate didn’t feel completely out of his league, generally running in the midfield for most races (at least in the beginning), but a high retirement toll closer to the end of the season and a lack of overall experience let him down to only tenth, nowhere near in points to the top nine. Season rating: 5

David Zhu11. David Zhu

China, age 22

22 points

The results that Zhu has shown this year don’t exactly suggest the amount of experience he actually has, even though he’s never tackled anything quite as major as Formula Two. The year wasn’t a complete waste as a season best of fifth at Algarve was surely a highlight, but you may argue it was the only one. Either way, it’s hardly a noteworthy season and one that probably doesn’t leave him many promotion possibilities if he doesn’t have the funding… which he very well might. Season rating: 4

Axcil Jefferies12. Axcil Jefferies

Zimbabwe, age 18

17 points (6/8 rounds)

On the paper, Axcil’s 2012 F2 run might seem pretty unimpressive, but the man shouldn’t be underestimated. After a stellar third in Formula BMW Pacific in 2009, his budget issues forced him to sit out half of 2010 and all of 2011. His return to F2 also almost never happened as he didn’t show up for the first two rounds. However, once in the race seat, Jefferies proved more than competent when his lack of practice is taken into account. He was quicker than Zhu on most occasions and put up a decent fight with Hurst. Hopefully, Axcil can solve at least some of his budget issues in 2013 as he has definitely shown promise. Season rating: 6

Harald Schlegelmilch13. Harald Schlegelmilch

Latvia, age 24

12 points (1/8 rounds)

The Latvian, who has plenty of junior single-seater experience under his belt, only showed up in 2012 for a round of F2. However, even with his massive experience, finishing fifth and ninth can be considered a sizeable achievement when you take into account that he missed 2011 entirely. No idea on what the future holds for him but since the one round of F2 he did do this year was the season finale, a full-time return to the series might be on the cards for 2013. Season rating: 6

Vittorio Ghirelli14. Vittorio Ghirelli

Italy, age 18

12 points (1/8 rounds)

Again, just like with Schlegelmilch, Ghirelli appeared for a one-off and scored well in both races of the round at Spa. He has less experience but surely had more recent practice than Harald, with an entire season of GP3 and an ongoing season of WSbR behind his belt. Decent showing, not much more to say. Season rating: 6

Max Snegirev15. Max Snegirev

Russia, age 25

6 points (6/8 rounds)

The Russian returned for another year of F2 while, the same year, contesting an Auto GP campaign. While the latter actually went pretty well, no such thing can be said about Snegirev’s F2 performance. He finished deep in the field in most races (often last to cross the checkered flag, even behind Kralev and the like) and only scored once. Not the kind of improvement you’d expect to see from anybody in a second year. Season rating: 2

Richard Gonda16. Richard Gonda

Slovakia, age 18

4 points (1/8 rounds)

The Slovakian’s single-seater career so far consisted mostly of lower Formula Renault categories where he didn’t look too sharp. So it wasn’t reasonable to expect that much of him in his one-off outing in Formula Two. He did reasonable, mixing it up with the backmarkers, yet scoring at least some points. Season rating: 4

17. Plamen Kralev

Bulgaria, age 39

4 points

Kralev is your typical definition of “gentleman racer” – he is 39, scored 5 points in 3 seasons and generally doesn’t get in the way of frontrunners. Is probably having fun, so no harm done to anybody. Season rating: N/A

Mauro Calamia18. Mauro Calamia

Switzerland, age 20

2 points (6/8 rounds)

It wasn’t entirely obvious what to expect of Calamia, as his previous junior single-seater record contained some fairly polarizing stuff (such as decent Formula Renault NEC outings alongside with low-key Formula Lista Junior seasons), but testing set it straight right away. Unfortunately, Calamia spent all of the season as one of the backmarkers and only managed to score two points. Was still ahead Snegirev for most of it, though. Season rating: 3

Victor Guerin19. Victor Guerin

Brazil, age 20

2 points (1/8 rounds)

Guerin was probably the worst “offender” of 2012 when it came to racing in lots of different series but F2 wasn’t one he tackled full-time, at least. He probably made the right choice though as his one round of F2 at Portimao wasn’t too impressive, with one eleventh and one ninth spot to his name.

With his Auto GP run this year combined with his late-season prevalence in GP2, it seems that his future is secured for 2013. Season rating: 4

Kourosh Khani20. Kourosh Khani

Iran, age 23

2 points (4/8 rounds)

It wasn’t quite clear what to expect of Khani as his previous junior single-seater record contained a stunning four seasons of Formula Renault BARC, none of which he won.? He seemed impressive in pre-season testing, but all of that pace apparently went right out the window during the actual races as he was considerably slower and proved himself fairly crash-prone. As such, Khani completed only half the season with 2 points to his name. Season rating: 2

21. Parthiva Sureshwaren

India, age 32

0 points (4/8 rounds)

Noticeably slower than everybody in the first rounds, he picked it up towards the middle, seemingly earning the claim of the best backmarker. That wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t his third season of F2. Season rating: 2

22. Jose Luis Abadin

Spain, age 25

0 points (1/8 rounds)

The massively experienced Abadin returned to F2 after the 2011 season where he scored one point. He only did two races this time, narrowly missing out on points in both of them. With this much experience under his belt, he should have done much better. Season rating: 3

Samuele Buttarelli23. Samuele Buttarelli

Italy, 20

0 points (1/8 rounds)

The Italian’s 2011 Auto GP campaign was stellar and you would expect that form to carry over into Formula Two. Unfortunately, Samuele only got one round where his car gave up on him midway through both races. After that, he seemingly switched to the Maserati Trofeo. Season rating: N/A