Home Featured Who’s really fastest and who’s struggling at half-time in F2 2024?

Who’s really fastest and who’s struggling at half-time in F2 2024?

by Ida Wood

Photo: Formula Motorsport Ltd

There have been 12 different winners in the first 14 F2 races of 2024, and the championship leader is yet to top the podium. Has being fastest translated into big points so far, and is the title fight still wide open?

It is anticipated that this week Haas could announce Ollie Bearman as one of its Formula 1 drivers for 2025. The 19-year-old sits 14th in the Formula 2 standings at the halfway point of the season, and the Prema driver finally claimed his first podium with F2’s new car in last weekend’s Red Bull Ring sprint race. His outright pace is the 10th best in the field, while rookie team-mate Andrea Kimi Antonelli – who is also heavily linked to racing in F1 next year – is fifth.

Race run data, calculated using a rolling average of 10 consecutive laps set at a representative pace, avoids deleted laptimes where possible so as not to include laps where drivers unfairly gain time, and Bearman has been one of the slowest all season with his long-run pace on average 1.291% off the benchmark being set in each race. That’s 0.16% worse than his figure for the whole 2023 season, which put him 12th in the field, and now he struggles to make the top 20 on race pace.

While he puts it down to several reasons that vary depending on the circuit, there’s a clear marker that on tracks that work the tyres harder he suffers from overheating rubber. The downforce levels, braking forces and acceleration of F1 cars exceed that of F2, so it’s a problem that he and his team clearly need to learn how to overcome to make him ready for a full-time step up to the next level after his impressive cameo appearance with Ferrari earlier this year.

But if you look at other numbers, then Bearman seems to be extracting more out of his F2 season than his return of just over two points per race suggests. Although he qualified 18th in the Dallara F2 2024’s first outing at Bahrain, a week later he took pole in Jeddah and didn’t get the chance to convert that into strong race results due to his last-minute F1 call-up there.

Despite having contested two fewer races than everyone else he has completed more racing laps than six drivers, and only Hitech GP’s points leader Paul Aron, Rodin Motorsport’s Bahrain dominator Zane Maloney and Trident’s Richard Verschoor have led more laps. As a percentage of racing laps completed, it’s just Aron and Maloney who have spent more of their time up front than Bearman.

Single-lap pace
Pos Driver Pace Pos Driver Pace
1 Hauger 100.313% 12 Martins 100.746%
2 Bortoleto 100.330% 13 Duerksen 100.857%
3 Aron 100.354% 14 Crawford 100.879%
4 Hadjar 100.371% 15 Fittipaldi 100.880%
5 Antonelli 100.452% 16 Stanek 100.898%
6 Colapinto 100.551% 17 Miyata 100.980%
7 Verschoor 100.641% 18 Correa 101.032%
8 Maloney 100.660% 19 Maini 101.133%
9 Marti 100.692% 20 Barnard 101.291%
10 Bearman 100.706% 21 Cordeel 101.325%
11 O’Sullivan 100.726% 22 Villagomez 102.074%

Since his clean sweep of Bahrain, Maloney has only spent 11 laps in a podium position. But in two of the races where he got up to third place, he was able to finish there. Aron has led three races and made the podium at all seven rounds, with three more podiums than anyone else, but is the only member of the top seven in the standings without a win.

Maloney also had a 15-point lead after six races, and eight races later is 42 behind Aron in fourth. His average grid position for feature races is 11.6, below Bearman’s 10.4 (if Jeddah is included), and regularly qualifying outside of the top 13 has meant a return of seven points from the last seven races. His insistence to treat Bahrain as an outlier makes it seem like he had foresight of future struggles.

But he is still fourth in the standings, and fifth on race pace, and of the early title favourites is the only one who actually looks capable of ending the season without an embarrassing championship position.

Which leads us to ART Grand Prix’s Victor Martins. He beat Bearman to being 2023’s top rookie, coming fifth in the standings, and before this season began his team principal said the Alpine junior needed to be able to cope with pressure in 2024 and that the first few races would be crucial for his title ambitions. Martins failed to score in the opening two rounds.

Martins was “not concerned” by that due to the season being 14 rounds long, and still harboured title ambitions. He has been 12th fastest on absolute pace, and actually has the eighth best starting position for feature races on average. However that has only translated to nine feature race points, and thanks to winning the Barcelona sprint race he’s 17th in the standings. At this point last year, Bearman had 81 points and Martins had 58.

Comparisons to 2023 at the end of the day are of limited use due to F2’s new car, and because the pecking order of teams has completely changed. There were eight drivers from six teams last year whose average qualifying position was higher than 10th, the position which earns you reversed-grid pole for sprint races, with Martins at the very top on 3.5.

So far this year there are six names from five teams, with Virtuosi Racing’s Gabriel Bortoleto and Campos Racing’s Isack Hadjar being the benchmarks with an average starting position of sixth. Aron and MP Motorsport’s Dennis Hauger are third and fourth on 6.6 and 6.7, and Antonelli is next on 8.1. That’s so low that were it his actual qualifying placing at each round and he maintained his starting position, Antonelli would score more points in sprints than feature races.

The lack of a defined order for team competitiveness this year is shown by half of the field (representing nine of the 11 teams) on average qualifying within the top 13 but outside of the top 10, so missing out on the benefits of reversed grids but still well placed to score regularly. Last year’s tally of 17 different podium finishers has already been matched, and 19 of the 22 drivers have led laps compared to 16 in 2023.

Before the most recent round, Aron said F2 is yet to reach a “real reference point” on who is contending for the title. His main rival Hadjar agreed, but at the end of the Red Bull Ring weekend made it clear that he feels he’s the benchmark on this year’s grid and should be ahead of Aron rather than 11 points behind.

“If I manage to finish all my races without everything that was out of my control, I would be quite a bit ahead. I’m pretty confident about that,” Hadjar said after coming third in the feature race. In qualifying he was on top when his engine failed and denied him a second run, so he ended up seventh, then he ran with “limited power” in the sprint race and came 13th.

Other reliability issues at the start of the season, including a double Jeddah retirement due to his engine entering safe mode, led to Campos putting out a statement calling such circumstances “tremendously cruel to the interests of” the team and its drivers.

Hadjar has completed 66 laps less of racing in 2024 than Aron, who has done the most of anyone, but he points out that when he does finish his pace means he’s collecting a lot of points. Had he made the front row at the Red Bull Ring, Hadjar would be the fastest driver on absolute pace this season. His long-run pace in the sprint race was the 12th best, and he no doubt would have been faster and likely scored points from fourth place on the reversed grid had he been at full power.

Average race pace
Pos Driver Team Pace Pos Driver Team Pace
1 Aron Hitech 100.397% 12 Maini Virtuosi 100.884%
2 Hadjar Campos 100.471% 13 Colapinto MP 100.916%
3 Bortoleto Virtuosi 100.527% 14 Correa DAMS 100.924%
4 Marti Campos 100.664% 15 Miyata Rodin 101.005%
5 Maloney Rodin 100.669% 16 Cordeel Hitech 100.105%
6 Antonelli Prema 100.669% 17 O’Sullivan ART GP 101.110%
7 Crawford DAMS 100.700% 18 Fittipaldi VAR 101.124%
8 Martins ART GP 100.787% 19 Barnard AIX 101.134%
9 Verschoor Trident 100.797% 20 Bearman Prema 101.256%
10 Duerksen AIX 100.825% 21 Stanek Trident 101.277%
11 Hauger MP 100.843% 22 Villagomez VAR 101.296%

Unlike the way Bearman and Martins’ seasons have not gone to plan, even when it goes wrong for Hadjar he has still come home with plenty of points at every event apart from Jeddah, so his and Aron’s belief that they will be fighting others for the title probably doesn’t stand true as long as the pair’s pace puts them towards the top of qualifying sessions.

Bortoleto did rise to third in the standings by winning the Red Bull Ring feature race, has an eight-race scoring run only matched by Aron, and like Hauger has two poles, but is 32 points behind. He’s a fast adapter, shown by becoming 2023 FIA Formula 3 champion as a rookie and claiming pole on his F2 debut in 2024, and he nailed his preparations from the off with plenty of long runs in F2’s old car at last December’s post-season test then doing the second-most running in pre-season testing.

“Something that I always talk to my engineer is we go race-by-race, and we don’t look at the championship at this point. It’s still seven rounds to go,” said the McLaren junior after taking his maiden F2 win last Sunday. “If we do our job every weekend, I think we are going to be able to be there [fighting for the title] at the end of the season, absolutely.”

Now matched on points with Maloney is MP’s rookie Franco Colapinto, who was 13th in the standings four rounds ago and believes “the championship is still very open”.

“You’ll see that when someone has a good weekend, suddenly there’s a big step in the championship. I think that will still happen a few rounds more, and then we’ll start to stabilise a bit. It’s good that we have been having good weekends and been scoring quite a lot of points in the last few races. But we need to keep this up,” he said after finishing second in a second successive feature race in Austria.

“To be honest, I think we still have a chance [of being champion], of course, and there is a lot to play for.”

His team-mate Hauger has the right to be even more frustrated than Hadjar, since he has been the fastest on outright pace and has four podiums but has only led 16 laps, a tally bettered by 11 drivers. He led Melbourne’s feature race from pole before crashing on cold tyres, and two race-ending crashes since means he has missed 86 laps of the season already. Bearman has done more racing than he and Bortoleto.

Laps led

1 Maloney 47   2 Aron 42   3 Verschoor 35   4 Bearman 34   =5 Maini, Hadjar & Barnard 30   =8 Martins & Colapinto 26   10 Cordeel 25   11 Correa 24   =12 Hauger & Crawford 16   14 Bortoleto 12   15 O’Sullivan 11   16 Duerksen 8   17 Fittipaldi 7  18 Antonelli 2   19 Villagomez 1


=1 Aron 7   =2 Hadjar, Hauger & Maloney 4   =5 Bortoleto, Colapinto, Maini & Marti 3   =9 Crawford & Fittipaldi 2   =11 Barnard, Bearman, Correa, Duerksen, Martins, O’Sullivan & Stanek 1

Race laps completed

1 Aron 422   2 Miyata 416   3 Maini 414   =4 Antonelli & Colapinto 408   6 Villagomez 398   7 Correa 391   8 Barnard 389   9 O’Sullivan 388   10 Maloney 378   11 Verschoor 373   =12 Fittipaldi & Stanek 365   14 Crawford 364  15 Hadjar 356   16 Bearman 354   17 Duerksen 345   18 Bortoleto 344  19 Marti 340   20 Hauger 336  21 Cordeel 329  22 Martins 320

Consistency has been the word every driver has reached for as an answer to multiple questions, ranging from what they’ve learned from the season’s first half to what’s the key to fighting for the 2024 title. Many cite Aron’s campaign as proof of that and it’s something they aim to emulate. Which means several have explicitely stated they’re not aiming for race wins.

The logic to that is not just about scoring points, but also about what F1 teams are looking for. Bearman’s season has obviously been a disappointment so far, but in the context of Prema losing its usual dominant position and his eye-catching F1 debut, neither Ferrari or Haas seem to be swayed by his F2 form. They see him as F1-ready regardless of recent results.

How about team-mate Antonelli then, whose season is also under public scrutiny due to his F1 connections? He’s only twice qualified lower than seventh, kept out of trouble to finish all but one race and score in half of them, and generally belied his inexperience having jumped up the single-seater ladder from Formula Regional. But he’s one of the five drivers without a podium, and hit a rough patch of form just as F1’s news circus went into overdrive about his future.

He has repeatedly talked about struggling with starts, on average losing one place on the first lap of races, and also finds a good balance difficult to find on Pirelli’s hard compound tyres. But his feedback tends to be consistent with Bearman’s, suggesting it’s a team issue holding back two very talented drivers.

Antonelli’s also had reliability issues, most recently in the Red Bull Ring sprint race where “it was a shame that we had engine issues since lap one, with quite a big loss of power in the straights” that restricted him to 15th. The next day he finished 13th, but anyone watching the laptimes closely would have seen he was the fastest driver on long-run pace.

To summarise the mixed messages of this season’s data, when the paddock heads to Silverstone this weekend there will only be one team still looking for a first win of 2024. That’s local squad Hitech, which is one point off the top of the teams’ standings and is running the championship leader.