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A New Face in F2: Who is Joshua Mason?

Written by Ineke Lavers, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Josh Mason made his F2 debut at Spa. Image Credits: Joe Portlock, Getty Images

Tuning into the Belgian Grand-Prix’s Friday practice session for Formula 2, many would have been surprised to see a new name on the grid. Just before the summer break, at short notice, and at a wet Spa weekend nonetheless — a rookie’s first run wasn’t on most people's cards.

The British driver of Caribbean and Nigerian descent is the latest shake-up for the freshly rebranded PHM Racing by Charouz, replacing the American Brad Benavides for the remainder of the Formula 2 season.

Not only has the new driver line-up come as a surprise, but Mason’s participation in Formula 2 appears to have come from nowhere. From cameo appearances in the 2023 Euroformula Open series at Spa and the Hungaroring this summer, to arguably the most widely watched FIA feeder series within a matter of weeks, Mason’s Spa debut was sure to raise eyebrows.

Self-described as a ‘baptism of fire’, Mason’s first outing in an F2 car was anything but smooth. Under difficult conditions, Mason took to the track in Friday practice to get his first laps in, but ran into trouble at the end of pitlane, red-flagging the session with two minutes on the clock. Later on, Mason again brought the red-flags out, this time in qualifying, with a slip up on Turn nine ending in the gravel. After a rather unlucky Friday, Mason sat 21st, with no time set.

Mason had to brave the Belgian rains on debut; Image credit - Joe Portlock, Getty Images

Things looked up for the number 17 car come Saturday’s sprint race. Despite finishing at the back of the pack, Mason managed to keep his car moving, this time. Things took a turn on Sunday, and despite multiple race retirements, Mason was not amongst them. He finished his first F2 feature race 14th, ahead of Cordeel and Correa (who suffered a ten-second time penalty) and just two positions behind his new teammate Nissany in P12.

Despite having jumped up the proverbial career ladder of Formula 1, Mason’s initial laps in Formula 2 didn’t go half as badly as some may have initially presumed. Jumping from Euroformula to F2 in a wet-dry Spa with zero practice, he managed to hold it together, albeit with some expected rookie errors, for a tough weekend.

Where Has Mason Been?

Mason commenced his racing career at a relatively later stage. With most drivers starting their karting journey at the age of six or seven, Mason was late to the game, aged 14.

Graduating to car racing in 2018 with Lanan Racing, in BRDC British F3, his first win came that year, with a reverse grid race in Silverstone. Staying with Lanan Racing for the next two seasons, Mason managed podium appearances, but finished 16th in the series in 2020, behind both his teammates.

Mason raced for Lanan Racing in British F3; Image credit - Jakob Ebrey Photography

He debuted in the Euroformula Open Championship in 2021, one of the junior Formula racing series that make up the gradual stepping stones to F1. This season was a mixed bag for Mason, his best result for Double R Racing coming in fourth at a wet Hungaroring, and an overall ninth in the series, won dominantly by current F2 driver Jak Crawford.

The 2022 Euroformula season cemented the then 20-year old Mason as a contender. Changing seats to CryptoTower Racing, partnering current F3 driver Christian Mansell, his first wins rolled in at the Hungaroring, Imola, and Monza circuits respectively. This led to a final fifth place finish in the Championship, behind soon-to-be F3 drivers Mansell, and Oliver Goethe.

While most of his Euroformula counterparts began their F3 journeys, Mason’s 2023 racing career seemed to have taken a back seat. With appearances in Oceania Formula Regional in the early weeks of the year, and a couple of cameo appearances in Euroformula at Spa and the Hungaroring (winning the latter), the abrupt move to F2 comes as even more of a surprise. A more reasonable move would have no doubt been another Formula Regional series, or even F3 at a stretch. With multiple logical rungs on the F1 ladder skipped, accusations of buying his seat have been rife across social media.

Mason won at the Hungaroring in Euroformula Open earlier this year; Image credit - Euroformula Open 2023

An Unstable PHM?

Although a surprise, the sudden departure of Brad Benavides from PHM Racing by Charouz doesn’t necessarily come as a shock. With both him and Nissany largely towards the back of the pack, and with only occasional hope for a point or two, their F2 performances haven’t been much to write home about.

However, Benavides’ departure from the championship doesn’t necessarily reflect on his driving; word on the street is that the money simply ran dry. With an estimated $1 to $2 million needed to compete in F2, who can blame him? The changes at PHM Racing by Charouz serve as just another reminder of the cutthroat and acutely expensive nature of motorsport; money and those that have it still call the shots.

F2 isn’t the only series in which PHM Racing by Charouz have been toying with their driver line up. Formula 3’s line up of Sophia Floersch, Roberto Faria, and Piotr Wisnicki saw the latter replaced by two drivers: First by GB3’s McKinley Cresswell, and then by Woohyun Shin.

For a team who’s self professed goal is to ‘grow the next generation of F1 talents' – the high turnover of drivers, and last-minute changes this season has no doubt caused a few brows to furrow. As a relatively new entry into the F3 and F2 series, whether they can successfully feed a driver into F1 remains to be seen.

PHM's stability in their driver line-ups have certainly been questionable in 2023; Image credits - Joe Portlock, Getty Images

Three Rounds Left

With just three rounds to conclude the season, time is short for Mason to make a memorable mark on F2 this year. On one hand, his presence has been clouded by accusations of having bought his way into the championship, but on the other, his ‘baptism of fire’ in the mixed conditions of Spa was by all means, not too bad.

After the deluge and drama of Spa, perhaps a more substantial judgment of Mason’s place in F2 should be reserved for future outings.

His next race appearance (and opportunity to prove his critics wrong) is at the Dutch Grand-Prix, at Zandvoort, on August 25th.


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