Predicting the pecking order in Formula 2 is about much more than simply ranking the talent on show. These are the drivers the Formula Scout team thinks will be in the mix
As the popularity of Formula 1 grows, so too does the spotlight on the young drivers in Formula 2: each of them targeting a standout season that would allow them to achieve their goal of racing in the premier series. Twelve of the 22 drivers are official junior drivers of F1 teams, with the colours of Red Bull, Alpine, Williams and Alfa Romeo Sauber all represented in this year’s liveries.
As well as a host of returning race-winners, a number of rookies step up from Formula 3 – many of whom are still in their teens. Will one of these talented newcomers be able to adapt to the championship’s demands and repeat Oscar Piastri’s feat of winning the title at the first attempt? Or will Felipe Drugovich’s successor as champion be another driver who uses their experience to make good on their potential?
Contributions from Alejandro Alonso (AA), Bethonie Waring (BW), Ida Wood (IW), Peter Allen (PA), Roger Gascoigne (RG).
10. Zane Maloney Carlin
Test pace 17th (100.934%) long run 16th (101.036%) 2022: 26th in F2, 2nd in FIA F3
BW (1st): Underestimate Zane Maloney at your peril. He has been one of the most continually surprising drivers over the last couple of years. His end to the Formula 3 season was incredible and he will surely be entering 2023 on a high. It may be a bit much to ask for him to repeat the last four rounds of the F3 championship throughout the year but that level of performance could earn him his first single seater title since British Formula 4 – coincidentally enough, a title he took with Carlin. Maloney is an incredible driver and Carlin is a very capable team. Expect good things.
AA (7th): Testing data isn’t backing Maloney at the moment, but his previous results do. The newly Red Bull junior joined Carlin —the team he won the 2019 British F4 championship with— for his maiden season in F2, and that must be already a boost. The Barbadian ended the 2022 season on a high despite not claiming the FIA F3 title. However, he must have learned from the mistakes made if he wants to shine in Formua 1’s main support category. Carlin has always been competitive in the series, so he should have several opportunities to showcase his talent.
9. Isack Hadjar Hitech GP
Test pace 13th (100.686%) long run 10th (100.609%) 2022: 4th in FIA F3, 3rd in FRegional Asian Championship
RG (7th): Hadjar was one of the surprises of 2022, despite losing out on the F3 championship with an error at Monza. His charging style has obviously enamoured him with Dr Marko at Red Bull. Hadjar does not lack confidence, although he can be very harsh on himself, and will, I am sure, not be looking at 2023 as a learning year. Hitech is a proven winner in F2 and, on his day, Hadjar can be simply unstoppable. A win or two would not be a surprise but a lack of consistency may prevent a championship challenge.
AA (10th): Even though he hasn’t won a title in his car racing career yet, Hadjar is undisputedly one of the most promising talents in the junior single-seater scene nowadays. His lack of experience could play against him in what is such a tough series. Notwithstanding, if Hitech performs at the same level it did last year, the Red Bull junior shouldn’t have much trouble stepping on the podium from time to time. A top-10 result in the standings would be a reasonable outcome in preparation for a title attack in his second season.
8. Jehan Daruvala MP Motorsport
Test pace 12th (100.613%) long run 18th (101.115%) 2022: 7th in F2
BW (5th):Daruvala is my wild card of the season. It’s his fourth year in the championship and the pressure is on to perform. Being with the reigning champions should be promising for Daruvala, and he’ll be a good benchmark for Dennis Hauger to compare himself with in their second year as team-mates. He has had some stand out moments throughout the past couple of seasons, and if he can get that consistency under control, he should be inside the top 10 by the end of the year.
RG (9th): Returning for a fourth, and surely final, season in F2, Daruvala moves to the champion team, MP Motorsport, as indeed he did, with ultimately disappointing results, for 2022. While he has been a consistent frontrunner, a solitary feature race win in three years is a poor return and has in effect cost him Red Bull backing for this campaign. Nevertheless, experience counts in F2 and with many drivers moving on, to be replaced by a cohort of rapid rookies, Daruvala should be a regular points scorer, although a title challenge looks improbable.
7. Victor Martins ART Grand Prix
Test pace 2nd (100.008%) long run 2nd (100.052%) 2022: FIA F3 champion
AA (6th): The reigning FIA F3 champion is debuting in F2 alongside Theo Pourchaire, who is the toughest team-mate one could have. However, Martins is fast, knows the team well, and is incredibly mature according to his team boss Sebastien Philippe. Thus, performances and results similar to those delivered by his team-mate in his first year in the category are on the cards for the Alpine junior. The big gap between both ART GP drivers in previous campaigns is the only reason not to think he could finish the season higher up in the order. Perhaps he is the driver capable of turning that around.
IW (9th): Despite looking super impressive in testing, I can’t see both ART GP drivers then being at the front during this season. That’s not a reflection of a gulf in talent or F2 experience between Martins and Pourchaire, but simply an assessment based off the team’s form in this championship. Martins is also a driver who tends to get the most out of a situation when he does not have the fastest car (once he’s got used to it), but is not always the outright fastest when he does have the best equipment on the grid. I’m expecting a lot of points finishes but not a high position in the championship standings.
6. Frederik Vesti Prema
Test pace 18th (100.939%) long run 3rd (100.081%) 2022: 9th in F2
AA (3rd): Frederik Vesti could well be the underdog in the 2023 F2 title fight. The Mercedes-AMG junior returns to Prema after two seasons with ART GP, where neither the expectations were matched nor the goals achieved. The Dane, who is a methodical worker, has a great chance to put his name on the radar for the future, and to do so he will need to bring Prema back to winning ways after a complicated 2022 season and beat his young but rapid team-mate Ollie Bearman. Not being among the most-hyped title favourites might help him to do so by allowing him to focusing on extracting the maximum out of his package.
PA (5th): Vesti remains an interesting prospect given the ongoing faith of the Mercedes F1 team, and he’ll hope that returning to Prema will allow him to get the best from himself. After all, his seasons with the Italian team in Formula Regional and then F3 remain the most impressive of his career so far. His growing experience should be valuable in helping Prema overcome whatever held it back last year, but he might need to use all of it to establish himself over his highly-rated rookie team-mate early on.
5. Ayumu Iwasa DAMS
Test pace 8th (100.467%) long run 12th (100.672%) 2022: 5th in F2
PA (4th): Iwasa was the surprise package of 2022, and you wouldn’t have blamed Red Bull and Honda for moving him to one of F2’s more fancied frontrunners for this year. But it’s easy to forget that DAMS were absolutely one of the top teams not so long ago, and there didn’t seem much wrong with its car last year, with its tyre warm-up issues seemingly solved. The French F4 graduate also seems very much at home in Le Mans, and the biggest question mark might be how he handles being a favourite rather than an underdog.
AA (4th): Iwasa and DAMS are among those bringing a successful collaboration from 2022 into 2023. The tandem was perhaps the biggest surprise of the last F2 season as both team and driver came from discrete 2021 campaigns. Indeed, DAMS drivers had struggled to put temperature in the tyres for a couple of seasons, but it all changed with the new synergies created within the team after the Japanese arrived and former F1 driver Charles Pic took over the French squad. The very last step is always the most difficult one. Therefore, a top-three finish in the championship is unlikely, but they should be right behind ready to capitalise on others’ mistakes and misfortunes.
4. Ollie Bearman Prema
Test pace 10th (100.490%) long run 9th (100.583%) 2022: 3rd in FIA F3, 15th in FRAC
RG (2nd): Having come within a couple of laps of snatching the F3 title as a rookie in 2022, Bearman’s palpable disappointment clearly demonstrated his ambition. After just a season under Ferrari’s wings, he is already Maranello’s best hope in the junior ranks. If he can eliminate some of the early season errors that cost him in F3, he will get stronger as the year progresses and should be in contention for the title at the end of the year. And while Prema suffered a poor year by its high standards in 2022, it rarely stays in the doldrums for long.
BW (2nd): Bearman is one of the most exciting drivers on the junior ladder at the moment. Finishing third in his rookie F3 season, with F4 his main experience, was an incredible accomplishment and I expect to see great things in his debut F2 season also. Prema knows how to put on a winning performance and should never been underestimated. The pairing of Prema and Bearman promises to be almost unstoppable and if he can shake off the few problems he had last season we should see him towards the top of the order.
3. Dennis Hauger MP Motorsport
Test pace 4th (100.233%) long run 20th (101.305%) 2022: 10th in F2
PA (2nd): Hauger was champion in his second year of F4 and in his second year in F3, and I don’t see too many reasons why he can’t do the same in F2. He has a slightly bigger step forward to make than others who were more frequent frontrunners last year, but he hardly looked out of his depth as a rookie and he’s now jumping into last year’s dominant package at MP Motorsport. In theory he had a similar position at Prema, but it’s his strong record of second-year improvement – not unlike his good friend Mick Schumacher – that is most encouraging here.
IW (3rd): As mentioned above, 2023 could be another example of title-fighting brilliance from Dennis ‘second year’ Hauger. He’s already got two F2 wins to his name from his rookie season, and he almost made it three wins from his first 12 races. The end to his 2022 campaign was particularly strong, and moving to the reigning champion team should enable him to build on that. But testing was inconclusive from the outside, and Hauger has been known to get lost at times so if this season has as much woe as wins then it will be difficult to maintain a title challenge.
2. Jack Doohan Virtuosi Racing
Test pace 7th (100.375%) long run 8th (100.540%) 2022: 6th in F2
AA (1st): The combination of Doohan and Virtuosi Racing proved to be extremely fast and competitive in the Australian’s first full season in the series. If they are able to build on 2022 and learned from the mistakes made, they are definitely going to be in the mix and Doohan will potentially emerge as champion. Winning could be a must for the recently named Alpine F1 team reserve driver if he wants to be in Formula 1 in 2024 given the lack of seats available and the brand’s reluctance to strongly bet on their own juniors in previous years.
IW (2nd): Doohan grew massively as a driver last year, both on and off the track, and he was second only to the dominating Felipe Drugovich on one-lap pace. But from high qualifying positions he scored surprisingly few feature race points, averaging five per race across the final five rounds. If he continues to be one of the top qualifiers, avoids the bad luck that hit him at times last year and also – with Virtuosi – improves his race competitivity at some tracks then Doohan will probably be the biggest challenger to Pourchaire for the title. I can anticipate him starting the year strongly with several poles and several podiums.
BW (9th): Perhaps a little harsh on Doohan after what was a solid year in his rookie season, but he didn’t stand out much last year and I would expect more of the same this year. It’s another case of there being a lot of talent in the championship this year, and you will need something special to finish high in the championship standings. But Virtuosi will be hoping to make a comeback this year, after a disappointing 2023, and it will fall to Doohan to lead that charge.
1. Theo Pourchaire ART Grand Prix
Test pace 3rd (100.024%) long run 1st (100%) 2022: 2nd in F2
PA (1st): The only way Pourchaire can really gain from a third year in F2 with the same team is to firstly return as an obviously stronger version of the driver who stuttered last year, and secondly claim the title in a convincing fashion. Reading too much into a single Bahrain test can be dangerous – see Liam Lawson last year – but it was certainly promising. Resolving whatever has held him back in qualifying would help, but the Pourchaire-ART GP alliance ought to become ever more potent in race trim with all the mileage they now have together.
AA (2nd): Pourchaire needs the 2023 season to be a third time lucky. After brilliant maiden F2 season, his sophomore campaign was full of misfortunes, reliability issues and driving mistakes. Nevertheless, he was still capable of finishing runner-up with three feature race victories to his name. Returning for a third season together, the Frenchman and ART Grand Prix showed dominant pace in Bahrain’s pre-season testing. That might not be a guarantee of success, as we have learned in the past, but it is a solid starting point. The pressure and expectations generated —especially now he has become Alfa Romeo’s F1 reserve driver— may be his biggest enemy considering he already struggled to deal with them in 2022.
BW (3rd): Pourchaire was one of the favourites for the past two years, but has been unable to deliver on that. 2022 should have been his season, and for him to finish so far behind Drugovich has got to be frustrating for him. There will be a lot of pressure on Porchaire this year: when you finish second in a championship and comeback the next year, there’s only one way to go. He will also be up against some of the most talented young drivers we have seen in a long time. It will be hard for Pourchaire to match expectations.