Feeder Series Preview: Australia
Written by Juan Arroyo
Credit: XPB Images
Formula 1’s feeder series will make their return after taking a break following the exhilarating Saudi Arabian round, which provided us with an exciting Sprint Race that allowed Martins to climb up the grid on his way to a second-place finish.
Iwasa put up a tremendous showing, holding off his competitors. On Sunday, we saw more action as the net leaders spun, leaving room for Frederik Vesti to take only his second career win in F2.
This weekend, Formula 2 returns to Australia for the first time in over two decades, with the last visit being in 1997 when the championship was still known as IF3000. It was a time when Juan Pablo Montoya and Pedro de la Rosa were still making a name for themselves on their way to the pinnacle.
The Melbourne round is especially significant for four drivers from all championships: Jack Doohan, Hugh Barter, Christian Mansell, and Tommy Smith, all of whom race under the Australian flag. The eyes of the motorsport world will be on this event, not only for the drivers' sponsors, but also for the future of motorsport in Australia.
Doohan will be the local hero aiming to make a good impression. The Alpine junior has not had the best start this year, but he’ll be hoping to build a run of form from his Feature Race podium in Jeddah. He will be using the support of his home crowd to give him an edge in the competition.
Theo Pourchaire will be looking to recover after a difficult outing in Jeddah. The young driver had started the year in magnificent style, recovering to finish fifth in the sprint race and then dominating the feature race at Bahrain.
However, the Saudi Arabian round proved to be far more challenging, as his desperation to make up positions led to a divebomb incident that took him and Ollie Bearman out of the sprint. Pourchaire left Jeddah with zero points and will be hoping to bounce back in Melbourne.
Pourchaire’s teammate, Victor Martins, will be disappointed not to be higher up in the standings. Despite having two fantastic podium finishes to his name, his non-finishes in both Feature Races have hampered his progress. He took pole by an impressive seven tenths of a second in Jeddah, and the two Frenchmen are expected to battle it out at Albert Park. With four DRS zones expected, ART’s straight-line speed is sure to be of help this weekend.
Ralph Boschung, the championship leader, surely didn’t expect to be in this position coming into the Australian round. However, he will be delighted to have driven a flawless sprint race in Bahrain and kept out of trouble in Saudi Arabia, while the title favourites had incidents in either round. It remains to be seen whether he can continue his run of form, but it looks like this could be his best season yet.
Meanwhile, in Formula 3, all eyes should be on Trident as they head into the weekend at the top of the standings in both championships, thanks in no small part to Gabriel Bortoleto and Oliver Goethe’s heroics in Bahrain. Leonardo Fornaroli also contributed to the points tally, but he’ll be looking for a better time of things after a rough Feature Race last time out.
Franco Colapinto and Pepe Martí’s battle for the Sprint Race lead was a great watch, and we can expect more action like that, as it will mostly be a learning experience for every driver on the grid. No one on the grid has driven the circuit yet, making it an opportunity for the driver with the quickest learning curve to win.
One driver certainly looking to forget about Bahrain will be Gabriele Minì, who will be eager to make amends for his disappointing start to the season. The young Italian driver showed promising pace in Bahrain, but unfortunately, his results didn't reflect his performance.
Despite taking pole position in the opening round, he couldn't convert it into a race win, as a stall at the start of the Sprint Race forced him out of the points.
The Feature Race wasn't any better for Minì, as he was hit with a time penalty for a starting grid infringement, which dropped him down to P8, despite crossing the line first. However, Melbourne provides an opportunity for Minì to turn his fortunes around and prove his potential.
This weekend is a chance for drivers to take advantage of others' inexperience or recover from what's been a wobbly start for many who were expected to be higher up in the order.
It's difficult to predict how the F2/F3 cars will run in Albert Park, but the long sections and DRS zones mean anyone with straight-line speed can be expected to have a good weekend.