Written by Sasha Macmillen
The Dutch lowlands are set to be provided with a high-adrenaline spark this weekend, as Formula 3's championship battle reaches its boiling point at the penultimate round of 2022. Whilst Formula 2's championship contest is looking rather distant, fierce fights continue up and down the field, seeking to score valuable championship points.
Having only returned to Formula 1 and its Feeder Series in 2021, Zandvoort's standout feature is its number of banked corners, including an 18-degree final turn. The track is littered with high-speed corners, demanding a lot out of the tyres. Tyre strategy and management will be vital this weekend, especially in Formula 2 where pitstops are mandatory in the Feature Race. Overtaking is difficult, but the heavy braking zones at the end of the two DRS straights, as well as the banked turn 3 should provide some decent opportunities for drivers to make their way past.
Whilst Formula 2 did not visit Zandvoort last year, Formula 3 saw Victor Martins and Arthur Leclerc win the Saturday sprint races, in a time where we saw 3 races per weekend, whilst polesitter and eventual champion Dennis Hauger emerged victorious in Sunday's feature. Of course, Martins and Leclerc are two of the names embroiled in Formula 3's championship fight as it heads into round eight of a total nine this season. Ten points separate Isack Hadjar, the championship leader, and Roman Stanek, currently sat fifth in the standings. Ollie Bearman is currently on a strong run of form, having finished on the podium in four consecutive feature races, capped off with his first victory in the sprint race in Spa last weekend. He heads into the Zandvoort weekend with 41 points across the two weekends previous, and will be hoping that his sparkling form can guide him into the championship lead. Martins and Leclerc have been finding it rather more difficult as of late, with the Frenchman failing to score a single point last weekend.
Formula 2's championship battle has rather collapsed after Theo Pourchaire's mecachrome engine gave way during the feature race in Spa. His deficit to Felipe Drugovich now stands at 43 points, and with 3 rounds remaining, to overhaul such a margin would be a mammoth task for the Sauber junior. The fight for P3 in the standings however, is extremely tight, and superb weekends from Jack Doohan and Liam Lawson in Belgium saw them fight their way into contention for that 'best of the rest' spot. 15 points separates Sargeant in third and Lawson in fifth, and this battle is sure to carry on until the end of the season. Carlin, ART and MP Motorsport are also closely matched in the teams' championship, with only 20 points covering the trio.
The bigger and bulkier Formula Two cars will likely struggle more for wheel-to-wheel action relative to their F3 relatives. This won't stop traditionally epic battles up and down the order in what is Formula One's junior driver playground. I expect Prema to be strong, as they almost always are, and and in-form Ollie Bearman to be well in the fight. Whether Isack Hadjar can continue to work his magic in a Hitech car that his teammates have struggled to perform in, is a mystery but would surely be an incredible feat if he manages it.
As Formula One's Feeder Series embark upon the latter stages of their season, the scales are finely balanced in the fight for the championship and vital positions up and down the order, with the end goal always to impress the Formula One teams for the ultimate dream of a F1 seat. What will the Netherlands see? A surprise winner, a fairytale story, or a championship contender cement their grip on the trophy? This weekend holds the answers.