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Formula 2: A New Champion is Crowned in Abu Dhabi

Written by Jasmin Low, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

The title battle went down to the wire; Image Credits - Formula 2

After a thrilling sprint race, Frederik Vesti closed the gap to title rival Theo Pourchaire to just 16 points, taking the championship decider all the way to the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi. The feature race would also prove instrumental in deciding the teams’ championship, a hotly-contested battle between ART and PREMA for the top spot.

However, both drivers were in for a tough race, with Vesti starting down in ninth on the grid, and Pourchaire in fourteenth. The championship contenders duelled side-by-side multiple times, with Vesti finishing third and Pourchaire in fifth, however Pourchaire had enough of a points lead to claim the title.

The battle for 2023’s top rookie between Victor Martins and Oliver Bearman too concluded, as a one-point gap separated them going into the feature race, with Martins qualifying second and Bearman in seventeenth. Bearman retired on lap 18, whilst Martins finished second, sealing his spot as the top rookie, as well as the teams’ championship for ART.

The Race:

Three Alpine Academy drivers headed up the grid, Jack Doohan starting on pole position, with Martins and Kush Maini behind. Joshua Mason and Franco Colapinto both stalled before beginning the formation lap, and had to begin the race from the pitlane. Neither driver completed the race, as Colapinto retired in the pitlane on lap 16, and Mason pulled over to the side of the track on lap 30.

Another frantic race start ensued; Image Credits - Formula 2

Doohan was off to a flying start, and quickly left the rest behind, as the Red-Bull liveried cars scrapped for track position in the background. Oliver Bearman had made up seven places by the second lap, as Pourchaire improved to eleventh, and Vesti to eighth.

The action calmed, as the midfield saw a few battles, before Pourchaire, Iwasa, and Boschung made their way to the pit lane, to trade their soft tyres for mediums on lap 7 with Bearman, Maini, and Jak Crawford following suit a lap later.

On lap 9, Pourchaire made a crucial move on Bearman, who had just swapped tyres, and more of the cars at the front of the field pitted. On lap 10, race leader Doohan pitted, promoting Martins to the race lead, and Vesti to second place, putting a 31-second gap between him and Pourchaire’s ART, with Vesti yet to pit.

Arthur Leclerc was handed a 5-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage on lap 15. The first of four retirements came on lap 16 as Franco Colapinto in the MP car retired from his first F2 feature race. By lap 17, Vesti continued to chip away at Martins’ lead, crucially whilst lapping consistently faster than Pourchaire down in thirteenth place.

Lap 18 saw a temporary roadblock (quite literally) as Bearman’s engine failed, and he returned to the pit lane with smoke pouring from the back of his car to retire. However, his red and white PREMA partially blocked the pit lane entry, stuck in gear and stationary, so the pit lane entry was closed until lap 20.

Zane Maloney and Ayumu Iwasa battled from the beginning of the race for the final podium spot, as Vesti made his crucial pit stop on lap 23. Vesti came out of the underground pit exit behind Pourchaire, as the gap opened up to three seconds.

Martins pitted from the race lead on the next lap, returning to the track in third place as Paul Aron was delivered a five-second penalty, and Richard Verschoor retired from the race.

Vesti and Pourchaire scrapped over points in the late stages of the race; Image Credits - Formula 2

Vesti and Pourchaire’s different race strategies came together as Vesti executed a double overtake on the ART of Pourchaire and Kush Maini’s Campos. However, Pourchaire narrowly repassed to reclaim position from the duo of cars behind.

Vesti and Pourchaire stayed glued together through lap 26, as Maini and Pourchaire came together momentarily, forcing the Frenchman off the road, and allowing Vesti through, but Pourchaire again switched back the track positions with the help of DRS.

It wasn’t until lap 27 when Vesti’s soft tyres gave him the speed to repass Pourchaire for fifth, as Arthur Leclerc put in the fastest lap. Maloney and Iwasa continued to battle, going side-by-side until Maloney finally passed the DAMS of Iwasa for third place.

With just three laps to go, Vesti stepped one place closer to the podium, as Iwasa locked his tyres, allowing Vesti to pass. A Virtual Safety Car was brought out for Joshua Mason’s retirement, which lasted for just one lap of the Yas Marina Circuit.

On the final lap, Vesti had caught up to third-placed Maloney, and climbed his way onto the podium in a daring move that ended in contact between the two cars, with Maloney spinning around, and Vesti clouting the kerb at turn nine, and veering off the track.

However, it was Jack Doohan who converted pole position to victory, with Victor Martins in second, and Vesti in third. With Bearman out of the race, and both ART cars comfortably in the points, the teams’ championship was sealed for ART, as well as Martins becoming the top rookie for 2023, proving that consistency is crucial in the fight for a championship.

It was an emotional post-race celebration for Pourchaire, despite not finishing on the podium, as he now finally reigns as champion after three seasons in Formula 2, joining the likes of Felipe Drugovich, Oscar Piastri, Mick Schumacher, Nyck de Vries, George Russell, and Charles Leclerc in the Formula 2 Hall of Fame.

Pourchaire was Formula 2 champion, finally; Image Credit - Formula 2

And with that, the 2023 Formula 2 season comes to an end. The standings reset back to zero, as 2024 will see new drivers on the grid, and a new generation car will be introduced for drivers and teams to get up to speed with. Formula 2 returns on the 29th of February, 2024 in Sakhir, Bahrain.


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