Written by Vyas Ponnuri, Edited by Sasha Macmillen
After a lull of more than three months, Formula 2 and Formula 3 are set to roar back into action, playing a supporting role in various Grands Prix during the upcoming Formula One season. Once again, another exciting season of racing is on the cards, with both grids sporting a different look for the season to come.
Following the departure of some high-profile names from Formula 2, such as Felipe Drugovich, Logan Sargeant, Liam Lawson, Marcus Armstrong, and Juri Vips, the grid for the upcoming season has changed by leaps and bounds. Felipe Drugovich dominated last season, and took the Formula 2 title with three races to go, and with the rule stating the Reigning Formula 2 champion is not permitted to remain in the series, he has moved up the ladder, securing a reserve driver role at Aston Martin. His teammate Clement Novalak has moved to Trident, and they have been replaced by the Prema driver line-up from last season, both Dennis Hauger and Jehan Daruvala moving to the orange outfit for the upcoming season. While both drivers had plenty of moments to smile about, neither could mount a serious championship challenge across the season, and will be looking to do so for MP Motorsport in the upcoming season.
And speaking of Prema, the Italian outfit had a tougher season last time out, being a shadow of the potent championship-winning force from the past two seasons. Having made multiple errors and lacked overall pace to their rivals, they finished a distant fourth in the standings. Following the move by both their drivers to the Reigning Champions MP Motorsport, they have opted to sign the young talent Oliver Bearman, who is still only 17, alongside Mercedes junior Frederik Vesti, who also drove for the team in Formula 3. Bearman showed tremendous pace across the season for Prema, taking a sprint race win at Spa-Francorchamps alongside a series of podiums on his way to third in the standings, missing out on the title by just seven points. While he fell short of the ultimate prize, his efforts were rewarded with a promotion to Formula 2 with the same team.
Another team with an exciting new line-up is Rodin Carlin, the British outfit opting to place two of the young stars from the Feeder Series in 2022: Enzo Fittipaldi and Zane Maloney. The former had a season of note in 2022, finishing eighth in the standings despite not taking a single victory across the season. He stood out for the erstwhile Charouz outfit, scoring almost all but four points for his team last season. His stellar season and efforts landed him a seat at the prestigious Red Bull driver academy, and he will be looking to strengthen his case for a Formula One seat throughout this upcoming season. And partnering him is the Bajan driver Zane Maloney, another driver whose performances in Formula 3, which included three feature race wins to cap off the season, also earned him a spot at the Red Bull driver academy. He finished runner-up to Victor Martins last season, and will be striving to continue his great form into Formula 2.
And as for Martins, the reigning F3 champion, he signed with ART Grand Prix for 2023, alongside another young French star, Theo Pourchaire. The Sauber Academy driver was at the receiving end of bitter luck in 2022, his title challenge regularly dented due to poor engine reliability. Despite victories at Bahrain, Imola, and Hungary, he finished the season a whopping 101 points behind Drugovich, a large margin by the normally close standards of Formula 2. He will be hungry for success in 2023, and will look to end the year with the prized possession of the Formula 2 trophy in his cabinet. Martins and Pourchaire are a formidable line-up, and this could go a long way in ART’s quest for the Constructors’ championship in 2023.
Another team with an exciting line-up for 2023 is DAMS. Ayumu Iwasa, one of the rising stars of 2022, continues at the team he debuted for last season. The Japanese driver will look to emulate fellow Red Bull academy driver Yuki Tsunoda, who stepped up to Alpha Tauri after a successful showing in the series. Fifth in his rookie season was an impressive showing, and Iwasa will look to build on his strong season from last year. Joining forces with the young Japanese driver is Arthur Leclerc, Charles Leclerc’s younger brother. He had a mixed bag last time out, finishing sixth in a highly competitive field, and showing strong resilience in mega comeback drives across the season. While he was admittedly disappointed with his F3 season, his performances fetched a seat at DAMS, and he will be looking to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Charles.
Meanwhile, changes galore at Hitech Pulse-Eight: a new sponsorship with hardware company Pulse-Eight seeing their name change for the season. This isn’t the only change at the team: with Juri Vips unable to land a seat following his release from the Red Bull Driver Academy, and Marcus Armstrong heading to IndyCar, two young Red Bull Academy drivers step up to the team: Isack Hadjar and Jak Crawford. Both are rookies, and this will make for an interesting team dynamic at Hitech. Hadjar performed the better of the duo, finishing fourth in the F3 standings, even leading the championship at one point. Hadjar claimed three wins across the season, one of them being the opening round of the season at Bahrain, and later at Silverstone and the Red Bull Ring, while Crawford won the Sprint Race at the Red Bull Ring last season.
Another team with a new sponsor for the season is Virtuosi, a sponsorship with watch brand Invicta seeing the team’s name change to Invicta Virtuosi Racing. A regular face for title contenders, they have opted to retain the highly-rated Jack Doohan for the season. The Australian driver impressed last season, finishing fifth, and showing strong pace in his rookie season, triumphing at Silverstone, Hungary, and Spa-Francorchamps. His performances ultimately earned him a spot at the Alpine Driver Academy, and he will be one of the drivers touted to be in the championship fight this season. Alongside Doohan is Belgian driver Amaury Cordeel, who showed flashes of pace in a tough rookie season at Van Amersfoort Racing.
And on the topic of Van Amersfoort Racing, last season’s debutants have chosen an all-new line-up to spearhead the team’s charge in their sophomore season. Richard Verschoor moves from Trident to a team from his home country. One who showed great pace towards the latter half of the season, only time will tell us whether a Dutch driver-team combination can reap benefits. Joining forces with Verschoor is a familiar name from the F2 grid from a few years ago, Juan Manuel Correa. Over three years since the fatal crash of Antoine Hubert, Correa has focused on his recovery from the sustained injuries, and returned to Formula 3 in 2021 for ART Grand Prix. Following a great showing over two seasons, life comes full circle for the American, as he gets a second chance to prove himself in Formula 2.
With Verschoor moving from Trident, the Italian team have opted to sign two relatively lesser-known drivers for 2023: Clement Novalak moving from MP Motorsport, and Roman Stanek making the step up from Formula 3. Novalak’s rookie season was a tough one, having been in Drugovich’s shadow the entire season, his best finish of third at Zandvoort. Moving on to newer pastures, and without the pressure to perform, he will be looking to improve on his rookie season showing, and replicate Verschoor’s performances from the season prior. He will be joined by Stanek, who finished fifth last season, with a pole position at Catalunya, and a win at Imola being his high points.
And now, moving on to the final two teams on the list, we have the debutants for this season: PHM Racing, who took over the assets of the Charouz Racing System last year. With Enzo Fittipaldi and Tatiana Calderon leaving the team, the German outfit have opted to sign veteran Roy Nissany, who heads into his fifth season of Formula 2, alongside Brad Benavides, who steps up from Formula 3. Their progress across the season will certainly be watched, being the new team on the grid.
And finally, we come to Campos Racing, who have signed Kush Maini to partner Ralph Boschung for the upcoming season. Boschung showed flashes of pace during his time on the grid, and took two podium finishes, on his way to 15th in the standings. He missed a significant portion of the season due to persisting neck injuries, and will be looking to make up for lost ground in 2023. His partner for the season, Maini, also showed pace at times in Formula 3, finishing on the podium at Hungary. He was involved in numerous crashes across the season, and will look to keep out of trouble in his inaugural showing in Formula 2. He could also be looking to learn from Boschung as their campaigns progress.
Coming to the calendar for this season, there is only one distinct change from last season: Formula 2 is set to go down under for its maiden outing at Albert Park, supporting the main Formula One event alongside its counterpart, Formula 3. The French Grand Prix drops off the calendar, having ended its deal with Formula One last year.
Formula 2 and Formula 3 are set to run with 55% sustainable fuels in 2023, in a bid to move to usage of 100% sustainable fuels by 2027. The fuel will be supplied by Aramco, who replace Elf Aquitaine as the official fuel partner of the series.
Alongside Formula 2, Formula 3 is also set to kick off this weekend, the inaugural round of the season being held at Bahrain. The changes for the Formula 3 calendar are that of its counterpart, Formula 2. Albert Park is set to play host to a Formula 3 race for the first time, and the French Grand Prix drops off the calendar. Another high-profile change sees Monaco become one of the rounds of the Formula 3 season, with 30 cars set to roar around the streets of the Principality in May, for round four of the season.
The same fuel change for Formula 2 applies to Formula 3 as well, with cars running 55% sustainable fuels supplied by Aramco.
With as many as 10 drivers making the step up to Formula 2, the grid for 2023 wears a different look, with new names entering the series to fill the gap, alongside existing names making moves, all in a bid to guarantee themselves a shot at silverware for the upcoming season. Among the driver moves for existing drivers, three moves took centerstage. Argentine driver Franco Colapinto moved from Van Amersfoort Racing to MP Motorsport, joining forces with Mari Boya and Jonny Edgar. Colapinto had a stellar rookie season, taking pole position for the first race of the season at Bahrain, and going on to win at Imola and Monza on his way to ninth in the standings. A seat at the Williams Driver Academy gives him more drive to succeed, and he will be looking to improve on his strong rookie showing in his sophomore season.
Caio Collet goes the other way round, from MP Motorsport to Van Amersfoort Racing, partnering Rafael Villagomez and Tommy Smith for the season. Collet, a veteran of the series, heads into his third season of Formula 3, looking to contend for the title, and show his competitive ability in a grid of younger, lesser-experienced drivers. The Brazilian took victories at Hungary and Zandvoort, as he finished just ahead of Colapinto in the standings. He will be looking to spearhead Van Amersfoort Racing’s charge in their sophomore season.
The third and final high-profile mover on the F3 grid is Zak O’Sullivan, who moves to the championship-winning outfit from last season, Prema, from Carlin. The Williams junior driver had an off-colour rookie season, his star performance coming at the Hungaroring, when a late switch to dry tyres on a drying track saw him go on an overtaking spree to finish fourth by the flag. He is partnered by 2022 Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine (FRECA) champion Dino Beganovic, and Mercedes junior Paul Aron, who finished third in FRECA last season, with seven poles to his name. An exciting driver line-up at Prema once again, and they would be expected to carry their strong showing in the series into 2023 as well.
Coming to the rookies, apart from the aforementioned Beganovic and Aron, Gabriele Mini will also be one to watch out for, driving for Hitech Pulse-eight. Runners-up to Beganovic in FRECA, the Italian showed a strong turn of pace across the season, taking a string of podiums. He ultimately finished runner-up, and will be looking to show his potential in the series. Another driver to keep an eye on would be Leonardo Fornaroli, the best-placed rookie in the FRECA series, who will be driving for Trident next year, alongside Gabriel Bortoleto and last season’s substitute driver Oliver Goethe. Sebastian Montoya will be one to keep an eye on too, as he performed strongly on his sole stand-in appearance last season. The Red Bull Academy driver will be driving for Hitech Pulse-eight this year alongside Mini and Luke Browning for the upcoming season. Another driver who has a strong junior career is Nikita Bedrin, driving for Jenzer Motorsport alongside Taylor Barnard, protege of F1 champion Nico Rosberg, and Alex Garcia.
And finally, coming to the debutants for the upcoming season, PHM Racing. The German outfit have signed Sophia Florsch for the season, alongside two lesser-known talents, Piotr Wiśnicki and Roberto Faria.
With the line-ups for next season covered, the perfect place to kick off the season is the Sakhir International Circuit, Bahrain. At 5.412 km (3.363 mi) long, this track is relatively long, and features plenty of overtaking zones, most notably turn one, turn four, turn 11, and turn 13 seeing majority of the action. The incredible last lap battle between Zhou Guanyu, Oscar Piastri, and Christian Lundgaard in the second sprint race of the season in 2021 is an idea of the side-by-side capability of the Formula 2 cars. Turn back the clock, and we get to other moments of brilliance from drivers: This track also witnessed Charles Leclerc make a rapid comeback from 14th to 1st in a span of eight laps, which remains one of the best drives in the series’ history. Lando Norris also got his first win of the 2018 Formula 2 season at Bahrain. A couple of years later, Bahrain played host to four exciting races to conclude the shortened season, one that included plenty of highlights: Mick Schumacher and Jehan Daruvala battling hard, with the latter coming out on top to take his first podium finish; a crazy sequence of laps towards the end of the Sakhir Grand Prix leading to Yuki Tsunoda, Zhou Guanyu and Felipe Drugovich taking podium finishes, among many great moments to savour.
Last year’s Bahrain round saw Richard Verschoor win the sprint race, with Jehan Daruvala finishing second for Prema after a battle with Ralph Boschung, who finished third. The feature race was won by Theo Pourchaire, with Liam Lawson and Juri Vips rounding out the podium. If anything, Bahrain is always capable of providing exciting racing action, and this year is set to be more of the same.
As for last year’s Formula 3 event, Franco Colapinto took pole position for debutants Van Amersfoort Racing, and on his debut as well. Although, he couldn’t convert a maiden pole into victory, as eventual champion Victor Martins took the win for the feature race win. The sprint race win was taken by Isack Hadjar, after Oliver Bearman’s post-race penalty demoted him to second. Arthur Leclerc drove a great race, just missing out on a podium position to Zane Maloney by the slender margin of 0.015 seconds. Kush Maini also finished 15th after starting from the pit lane, a truly remarkable drive by the Indian on debut.
Bahrain is a track capable of producing plenty of action, and it won’t be long until we see 30 cars zoom around the Sakhir International Circuit, as Formula 3 kicks off this weekend.
With many questions to be answered, and plenty of silverware to be won, the Sakhir International Circuit is the perfect place to kick off the 2023 Formula 2 and Formula 3 seasons, alongside the 2023 Formula 1 season.