F2 continues to be F1’s testbed, as well as its talent bed, by bringing in sustainable fuels for 2023. But continuity in other areas of the championship suggests a similar picture to last season could play out
The drastic expansion from an eight-round calendar in 2021 to a 14-event schedule for last year showed that Formula 2 is an ambitious series wanting to put its drivers in the spotlight in as many places as possible.
A 28-race season is the format again for 2023 and the series’ ambition goes beyond its calendar – which starts with four flyaway events and ends with a fifth – as the work that has been taking place behind-the-scenes with Aramco on sustainable fuel has successfully resulted in a 55% sustainably sourced fuel being introduced.
Pre-season testing did not suggest the new fuel will add any drama to the championship, but unreliability is still a factor that can influence results in F2 and it may be that the real impact of Aramco’s new product will only be seen further down the line.
The 22-car grid features eight total newcomers, while Carlin’s Zane Maloney has two starts to his name already after joining the 2022 season finale, and the second-year drivers vary in terms of experience.
Enzo Fittipaldi and Clement Novalak have 36 and 34 F2 starts respectively having debuted late in the 2021 season, Amaury Cordeel had to miss four races last year so has only started 24 and Juan Manuel Correa’s F2 career totals 19 races as he made 17 starts before his horrific crash at Spa-Francorchamps in 2019 and then made a series return at the end of last year.
The five most experienced drivers are Richard Verschoor (48 races), 2022 runner-up Theo Pourchaire (55), Jehan Daruvala (74), Ralph Boschung (96) and Roy Nissany who is going into his eighth season at this level and has 53 Formula V8 3.5 starts in addition to his 93 races in F2.
The Dutch team reaped the rewards of several years of high-profile technical signings with a dominant run to both F2 titles last year. As it was rapid in qualifying and races, it enabled Felipe Drugovich to maximise the team’s package even when others were faster either over a single lap or a stint.
There were strategic risks that occasionally went wrong, but this was a team that had not previously been in a position of consistently fighting for feature race wins before and still had areas to learn in. The way Drugovich’s team-mate Clement Novalak struggled last year though was a concern, and it needs to make sure it gets the most out of both of its drivers in 2023.
1. Dennis Hauger Norway, 19
2022: 10th in F2
That Hauger has retained his Red Bull junior status for another season is a sign of encouragement given he had previously been demoted from the junior team after having a bad season. His rookie F2 campaign wasn’t actually a negative one, with plenty of highlights, a stunning run of consistency late in the year and an early victory shot that was only denied by a contentious penalty decision. He showed he knew how to pressure other drivers into mistakes last year, and mentally he seems far stronger now than he was in the middle of 2022 when he admitted to “feeling a bit lost”.
2. Jehan Daruvala India, 24
2023: 7th in F2
Daruvala has not announced whether he will continue his private Formula 1 testing programme with McLaren, but he already has a busy schedule as in addition to F2’s 14 rounds he will be reserve driver for Mahindra at seven Formula E races.
To maintain his F1 ambitions (which may be bolstered by the rumoured interest Mumbai Falcons has in entering), then Daruvala has to quite simply win more. Only one feature race victory from three seasons is not the kind of CV that would put a driver into F1 contention (and his departure from the Red Bull Junior Team possibly reflects that), and Daruvala needs to at least finish sixth in the standings this year to make himself superlicence eligible for 2024.
The recent arrival of Rodin as Carlin’s new majority shareholder has had no change to how the team is run, but there has actually been an off-season change to how the team is run.
Stephanie Carlin told Formula Scout during pre-season testing that she will now be co-team principal, having been promoted to the deputy team principal position last summer.
“Trevor and I are tag-teaming,” she explained. “So yes, in some championships I will be team principal and in others deputy team principal. And that’s kind of quite an exploration. So if I’m at an event in person and he’s not here, then I will take on the responsibilities that Trevor would normally take on.
“It’s an exciting time, and it’s great to be able to take on a bigger role in the team and work with all the engineers and the guys and girls. More girls now, thankfully.”
3. Zane Maloney Barbados, 19
2022: 26th in F2, 2nd in FIA F3
Maloney returns to the team he won the British Formula 4 title with in 2019 and then stepped up to Euroformula with, and as much as they know how to get the most out of his expansive self-confidence, he has actually improved a lot with self-control and mental agility during his last two years in Formula Regional and FIA Formula 3.
Victory in the last three F3 feature races of 2022 arguably make him the most in-form driver heading into this season, although that doesn’t take into account that he ended last year by making his F2 debut with Trident. However he also showed a very impressive pace in qualifying and the races at Yas Marina Circuit in that outing.
4. Enzo Fittipaldi Brazil, 21
2022: 8th in F2
Like Maloney, Fittipaldi is a new signing to the Red Bull Junior Team and he will be in perhaps an unexpected position of being considered the experienced driver who his team-mate needs to learn from. The start of Fittipaldi’s F2 career in late 2021 didn’t quite go to plan, as he had a brain-damaging crash in Jeddah, but he bounced back in 2022 with the underdog Charouz Racing System to firmly earn his Red Bull backing and his place at Carlin based on performance alone.
ART Grand Prix
The Bahrain test went very well for the all-French line-up at the French team, and the pressure will be on given one of the drivers was championship runner-up in 2022 and the other is the reigning FIA F3 champion.
5. Theo Pourchaire France, 19
2022: 2nd in F2
One pole in 24 attempts is damning statistic for the driver who goes into this season as the title favourite for many, but Pourchaire does have four feature race wins from his two seasons in F2. He is now going into his fourth year with ART GP, and that continuity should only be an advantage if both team and driver have eradicated the costly mistakes made last year.
6. Victor Martins France, 21
2022: FIA F3 champion
It’s year three with ART GP for Martins, so he should fit seamlessly into the team’s F2 squad. And his pace in testing suggests that’s already the case. Alpine is not expecting for him to win the title as a rookie in the way former rival and former Alpine stablemate Oscar Piastri did, but if he is in F2’s top team then he needs to avoid doing what Novalak did in 2022 and adapt quickly to the quirks of the F2 car and its Pirelli tyres and then deliver results.
Having dominated in 2021, Prema seemed to sink down the order with the car it put on track in qualifying sessions last year. The details on why that was haven’t been pinpointed to a single thing, but given the team’s drivers lost confidence at times it suggests this was a rather serious matter. There were encouraging long runs in testing, and the one-lap pace was more often on show at the post-season Yas Marina test than the recent Bahrain one. Improving on that front will determine whether Prema returns to its usual place at the front.
7. Frederik Vesti Denmark, 21
2022: 9th in FIA F3
The Mercedes-AMG F1 protege starred in FRegional and FIA F3 with Prema, so returning to the team for his second F2 season should unlock more in terms of results than he showed while at ART GP. His rookie F2 campaign ebbed and flowed, in terms of results and confidence, but we already know he has race-winning ability in this series so he should be a consistent frontrunner now if Prema’s package is up to it.
8. Ollie Bearman Britain, 17
2022: 3rd in FIA F3, 15th in FRegional Asian Championship
As one of the total newcomers, Bearman had to make the most of testing and he did just that by being rapid in the post-season test and then racking up over 200 laps at Bahrain. More mileage meant more runs, so more opportunities to learn the car and show his pace. That was reflected in his position on the timesheets, but as other rookies did less laps it is hard to compare them all pre-season. All the same, expect him to be as impressive as he was in F4 and F3 as a rookie, particularly as he has done private testing in a GP2 car.
Another team with an all-Red Bull junior line-up, but a potentially risky one as both of Hitech’s drivers are rookies. It hasn’t done that before, although in 2021 it partnered a FIA F3 graduate alongside a driver with only eight F2 starts, and having such an inexperienced line-up will have its own challenges. Even if one of its drivers has tried high-downforce cars before.
9. Jak Crawford USA, 17
2023: 28th in FRegional Middle East 2022: 7th in FIA F3, 6th in FRAC
Crawford has tested in an old GP2 car in addition to his recent official F2 test mileage, so he has literally gone the extra mile in preparing for the step up from FIA F3. He only won once while in that series, but in 2021 took eight victories in a part-time Euroformula campaign so has established himself at the tertiary level and there are no doubts about his pace.
The American looked impressive on his long runs at Bahrain, suggesting Hitech has a very stable car to start the season with.
10. Isack Hadjar France, 18
2022: 4th in FIA F3, 3rd in FRAC
Red Bull decided pretty early on during Hadjar’s rookie FIA F3 campaign that he would be headed to F2 for 2023, and it marks the first time he has only spent one season in a category before stepping up. He did a brilliant job in F3 last year but then buckled under the pressure of the title fight and fell to fourth in the standings. Working well with Crawford will be key to both of their learning curves in F2.
The Charles Pic-owned team is on the rise, and invested in hardware last year that contributed to an improvement in its understanding of the 18-inch Pirelli tyres and therefore improved its qualifying form. There’s a lot of confidence from the team and Red Bull in Ayumu Iwasa, who has been set the target of fighting for the title.
11. Ayumu Iwasa Japan, 21
2022: 5th in F2
The F2 sophomore is the second-highest placed returnee after Pourchaire, and ended last year on a high with pole and feature race victory at Yas Marina. In the previous round at Monza he was disqualified from a feature race podium due to a plank thickness violation, and without that he would have comfortably been third in the standings. Not only is he already one of the fastest drivers in F2, but also one of the most exciting to watch.
12. Arthur Leclerc Monaco, 22
2022: 6th in FIA F3, 1st in FRAC
Leclerc made messy mistakes in races last year but remained a FIA F3 title contender until the final race and he did start 2022 by becoming FRegional Asia champion. Racecraft will likely be what holds him back this year, as if he’s more cautious than last year then he may end up losing positions more, but by being bold and aggressive he could end up losing bodywork.
The new look, presented above, is courtesy of a title sponsorship deal that will bring investment into a team that has the potential to fight for at least one title this year.
14. Jack Doohan Australia, 20
2022: 6th in F2
Doohan has deservedly been made Alpine’s reserve driver for 2023, but he still needs to win the F2 title to convince the team he is then worthy of an F1 seat in future years. He looked like a more complete driver than ever before last year as he claimed pole at the season opener, then took two more and won three races. But he only did eight of the 14 feature races in full, leaving him down in 11th on average race pace while he was the second strongest driver over a single lap in 2022.
However he was fourth on laps led, and if he can continue his qualifying form then he may end up top of that chart for 2023.
15. Amaury Cordeel Belgium, 20
2022: 17th in F2
The F2 stewards saw a lot of Cordeel last year, although not at the round he got banned from due to accumulating too many penalty points, and he was frequently one of the slowest drivers on the grid. But he ended 2022 with a points-scoring run that suggested there was more potential in Cordeel. Pre-season testing has been inconclusive on whether the penalty-prone or points-prone version of the driver is in attendance for 2023.
PHM Racing by Charouz
Charouz sold its assets to PHM Racing at the end of last year but will continue to run the cars for this season. It also pretty much already had its driver line-up locked in before the change of ownership, signing two drivers at opposite ends of the experience spectrum.
16. Roy Nissany Israel, 28
2022: 19th in F2
Nissany appears to have left Williams after several years of working with the F1 team, although the team has been unable to confirm whether he has actually been moved into a purely F1 role or been dropped entirely after he left its junior setup.
With more experience than anyone else on the grid, and a career-best qualifying result in F2 achieved late last year, Nissany has what it takes to finish higher than 16th in the standings (his 2021 result) but with PHM he probably won’t achieve that.
17. Brad Benavides Spain/USA, 21
2023: 29th in FRME 2022: 23rd in FIA F3
In stark contrast to Nissany, Benavides only completed his first full season of single-seater racing last year. He made his car racing debut in Euroformula in 2018, raced part-time in FRegional in 2019, dabbled in both two years later and then entered FIA F3 with Carlin for 2022. He came 23rd in the standings with one points finish.
The Italian team can be rapid, but never consistently, and actually started 2022 with victory at Bahrain. But it ended the year ninth in the teams’ standings despite its lead driver Verschoor picking up three second places after his early win.
20. Roman Stanek Czech Republic, 18
2022: 5th in FIA F3
Stanek saved his racing career by fighting for the 2022 FIA F3 title, and did such a good job that his backers not only stayed committed to funding his career but then provided the money for him to step up to F2. He is another of the drivers to have tested in a GP2 car, and he’s also driven an old FV8 3.5 car too.
He was on average the fastest driver over a single lap in F3 last year, but Trident didn’t look particularly quick in F2’s pre-season test so it will be interesting to see where the Czech appears on the timesheets once the season gets underway.
21. Clement Novalak France, 22
2022: 14th in F2
Well-documented struggles adapting to the Dallara F2 2019 car held back Novalak as a series rookie, but just as well documented was the work he was putting in to change his driving style. That has to be successful for him to be quick over a lap in F2, and having strong race pace can mean very little if he’s mired down the grid.
He moves back to Trident after finishing third in FIA F3 with the team in 2021, and it’s a group of people he loves to work with.
Van Amersfoort Racing
VAR did a strong job in its first season in F2, and now it has established itself in the series it has been able to attract a more experienced line-up. There’s a feel-good story with both signings, as Verschoor is a Dutch driver joining a Dutch team and Correa is making a full-time return to F2 just over three-and-a-half years since a crash that left him in a coma.
22. Richard Verschoor Netherlands, 22
2022: 12th in F2
Verschoor has been an exciting talent at almost every level of the single-seater ladder, but not living up to the expectations set by his F4 dominance back in 2016 has hurt him over time despite adding more success such as fighting for the Toyota Racing Series title two times, winning the Macau Grand Prix and taking victories in both of his F2 seasons so far.
Moving to VAR might not be a move up the order for Verschoor, but with the budget secure to do the full season he has 28 chances this year to show how valuable he would be perhaps for a team in Formula E or IndyCar.
23. Juan Manuel Correa Ecuador/USA, 23
2022: 27th in F2, 13th in FIA F3, 7th in European Le Mans Series
Correa was in a coma in September 2019, having surgery on his legs a month on and was only able to walk again later in that year. But he set himself the target to not only return to racing but also to F2, and he made his comeback via FIA F3 in 2021.
Two seasons there with ART GP resulted in one podium, surpassing what he had achieved in F3’s predecessor series GP3 over 2017 and ’18, and Correa now has an F2 record of two sprint race podiums from 17 starts in 2019 to try to match.
Campos looked seriously quick at times during pre-season testing, as it has through the last three seasons. Boschung has been the driver to get the most out of its package in that time, but the consistency has been lacking due to a variety of factors.
24. Kush Maini India, 22
2022: 14th in FIA F3
The younger brother of former F2 driver Arjun claimed podiums in F4 and FRegional and wins in BRDC British F3 on the way up the ladder, but the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted his career and he had been out of single-seaters for a year when he stepped up to FIA F3 in 2022. It was a productive campaign, even if it only produced four points finishes, and earlier this month he was ninth fastest in F2 testing. Campos knows it took a punt with signing Maini, but has well-placed confidence.
25. Ralph Boschung Switzerland, 25
2022: 15th in F2
A serious neck injury heavily disrupted Boschung’s 2022, and he missed 12 of the season’s 28 races. But in the first six races before the injury he twice qualified fourth, finished fourth two times and claimed a podium, and he returned after the summer break with a podium straight away.
If the injury does not prove to be an issue again, then Boschung and Campos are committed to having a full season of events where they are in contention for podiums.