Written by Jasmin Low, Edited by Juan Arroyo and Vyas Ponnuri
So far, this year’s Formula 2 championship has seen 11 different drivers take to the top step of the podium across 10 race weekends, or 20 races (not including Imola), and three of those drivers are in their rookie season of the championship.
In this article, let’s take a look at each of the 10 drivers who made their Formula 2 debuts this season, and who we can expect to be in the battle for rookie of the year.
At the time of the long-awaited summer break, Alpine Academy driver Victor Martins leads the rookies in the points standings and sits in fifth overall on 120 points. The 2022 Formula 3 champion made the jump from F3 to F2 with French team ART Grand Prix, taking his first and only win of the season so far in the Silverstone Feature Race.
The Frenchman’s start to the season was marred by some disappointing race outcomes, after front row worthy qualifying results, scoring 24 points in the first 5 race weekends despite having qualified within the top three four times - even taking a pole position - and landing on the podium twice.
Martins has picked up the pace after Monaco, claiming third place in both the sprint and feature races in Barcelona, as well as the feature race in Budapest, second in the Austrian sprint race, and his win from pole position around Silverstone. Whilst already a force to be reckoned with in qualifying, he has now begun to convert his qualifying results into consistent points finishes, meaning that he has the potential to end up in the top three of the standings, should he keep up his current form.
Oliver Bearman, a member of the prestigious Ferrari Driver Academy, took the Formula 2 world by storm, becoming the first driver to top all four sessions of a race weekend, around the streets of Baku. (Free Practice, Qualifying, Sprint Race, and Feature Race).
He is the second-highest performing rookie of the season so far, sixth in the overall standings, 18 points behind Victor Martins. Like Martins, his season to date has been one of many ups and downs, from only scoring three points in the first three rounds of the season, to 38 points at the next round in Baku. Bearman then had a points-free weekend in Monaco before taking another feature race win in Barcelona, and later a third place in the Hungarian sprint race. However, he was unable to convert his pole position in Spa-Francorchamps to a podium, as he was penalised, putting him in seventh place at the race finish.
Bearman is the youngest driver on the grid at 18 years of age, and is only in his third full season of single-seater racing. He finished 3rd in his first and only season in the F3 championship in 2022, just seven points shy of Martins.
In Formula 3, the Ferrari protege managed to turn around what was a difficult season start into a season of more consistent podium finishes. Whilst it is all to play for with both him and Martins for top rookie, due to both of their inconsistencies race-to-race, it would take consistent top three finishes, and sub-optimal results for Vesti, Pourchaire, and Iwasa for Bearman to become champion.
Zane Maloney is a Red Bull Junior driving for Rodin Carlin this year. The runner-up to the Formula 3 championship is currently 10th in the Drivers’ Championship, 24 points off Bearman.
‘The Boy from Barbados’ had the most successful debut weekend of all the rookies, placing third in the Bahrain feature race, and despite this early podium, he has only appeared on the podium twice since. Third in the Monaco feature, and second in Silverstone. Maloney has had 13 races without points, meaning he is without points 65% of the time.
Carlin as a team has managed to gain some upwards momentum just before the summer break, which could mean Maloney has a chance to propel himself up the drivers’ standings, as long as he keeps consistently in the higher end of the points. Maloney could easily catch Bearman in the fight for the best of the rookies, and needs to gain 57 points in the final three rounds of the championship in order to snatch P3 from Ayumu Iwasa, as the standings are now. Given the struggles that Maloney and Carlin have been facing this year, and the competitiveness of the grid, it is unlikely Maloney will finish in the top 3 of the drivers’ championship.
Kush Maini has had what you could call a backward season, compared to the other drivers mentioned so far. He races for Spanish outfit Campos Racing, and is 11th in the standings, having scored 56 points. Maini was labelled 'Mr. Consistent' at the beginning of the season, finishing in the top 10 eight times in the first 10 races (five rounds) of the season. Maini then went three race weekends without scoring points; Barcelona, Austria, and the British Grand Prix. Since then, Maini has only scored 7 points across the remaining two race weekends before the summer break.
Yet, even if Maini had a sudden turnaround and managed to annihilate the field for the rest of the season, would he be able to win the championship? The answer is no. Even if Maini scored maximum points every race weekend for the rest of the season (3 feature race wins, 3 sprint race wins, and 6 fastest laps), he would still finish behind current championship leader Theo Pourchaire by 1 point, granted that Theo doesn’t score for the rest of the season.
To be able to battle with Maloney, and potentially Bearman in the rookie standings, Maini will need to reclaim his title as Mr. Consistent, heading into the final three rounds in Zandvoort, Monza, and Abu Dhabi.
Jak Crawford is another Red Bull Junior who drives for Hitech in an all-rookie lineup alongside Isack Hadjar. He sits 13th in the drivers’ standings on 39 points, equal with two fellow rookies, Arthur Leclerc of DAMS, and Hadjar.
Crawford took his first podium of the season at Melbourne, also his first points of the season. In Baku, he shared the podium with old teammate Oliver Bearman, placing third in the sprint race and then ninth in the feature, a pattern he repeated later in Monaco. A weekend outside the top 10 in Spain was followed by his first and only race win of the season, the sprint race at Austria’s Red Bull Ring. However, across the following three race weekends in Silverstone, Budapest, and Spa, Crawford only added one point to his tally.
The American driver joined the Red Bull Junior team in 2020, and his best championship finish was 2nd place in the ADAC German F4, before he competed in two seasons of F3, in 2021 and 2022, finishing 13th and 7th overall respectively.
Charles Leclerc is not the only one in the family who has been struggling in a championship this year. The Monegasque’s younger brother, Arthur drives for DAMS alongside Ayumu Iwasa, and is equal on points with Jak Crawford. He has only made one podium appearance this season, finishing third in the feature race in Melbourne. In fact, his time in the Land Down Under was one of only two weekends where he has scored points in both the sprint and feature races. The other instance of this was in Silverstone, although he collected only three points from that weekend. Leclerc has only finished eight of the twenty races so far in the points, but only just inside the top 10, giving him a 40% points rate. Similar to Maini, Leclerc’s season has taken a downwards turn, scoring most of his points in the first three race weekends, but only gaining six points from the other seven weekends.
‘The Monaco Curse’ has seemed to haunt Charles throughout his F1 career, and the bad luck on home turf seemed to be handed over to Arthur, whose first taste of driving around the famous street track ended in heartbreak, as he crashed out of qualifying.
Arthur is likely to spend more time in Formula 2 before potentially following in his brother’s footsteps, and joining the Formula 1 grid in the future.
Isack Hadjar is another one of the Red Bull Juniors driving for Hitech, sitting 15th in the championship on 39 points. Hadjar had a successful 2022 Formula 3 campaign, finishing fourth in the standings, and also competed in the Formula Regional Asian Championship, placing third.
The Frenchman has seen a number of races end in utter heartbreak, for example, the Sprint race in Monaco, when the Frenchman started from reverse-grid pole, but did not finish the race; as well as running into the wall at the pit lane exit in Spa, putting him out of the race. His most successful race so far is the feature race in Budapest, where he finished fifth, sandwiched between title contenders Iwasa and Pourchaire. With the competitiveness of the grid this year, Hadjar’s luck will have to take a turn for the better, in order for him to finish higher in the standings.
Roman Stanek sits a lowly 17th in the standings, on just 13 points. The nineteen year old Formula 3 race winner spent three years in F3, finishing 21st, 16th, and finally 5th in the championship before making the jump to F2, staying with his team Trident. Stanek also spent a short span of time as a member of the Sauber Junior Team.
In the first four rounds of this year's championship, Stanek only scored one point, and his highest race finish was his seventh in Monte Carlo. He has only scored points on two other occasions, Spielberg, and Spa. If Stanek were to score maximum points for the rest of the season, he would finish in fifth place as it stands currently. Roman has spent 16 races outside the top ten, but is in front of his teammate Clement Novalak, who is in his second full year in the championship (he also competed in 6 races of the 2021 F2 season) by 12 points.
Brad Benavides is one of four drivers yet to score points this Formula 2 season, in 22nd place. Benavides finished 23rd in Formula 3 in 2022, scoring three points, all of which came from the sprint race in Spa. This year, Benavides did not drive in Spa, with Joshua Mason driving in his place in the PHM car. Benavides drives along Roy Nissany, who has been in F2 since 2018. In the 2021 Euroformula Open season, Benavides achieved his best championship finish of 13th overall.
Joshua made an unexpected Formula 2 debut around Spa, driving in place of Brad Benavides. He is currently competing in Euroformula Open. The tricky wet conditions at the Belgian circuit caught out Mason during qualifying, and the debutant started last on the grid after an incident. He received multiple penalties in the sprint, and then spun during the feature race. Mason will once again drive for 2023 debutants PHM Racing in the next round at Zandvoort.
Heading into the final three rounds of the 2023 Formula 2 season, nothing is guaranteed. Could Martins finish in the top three? Can Rodin Carlin continue their upward momentum? It is all to play for until the season finale in Abu Dhabi.