Formula 2 Preview: Jeddah
Written by Olly Radley, Edited by Morgan Holiday
The season opener at Bahrain was as action-packed as ever, and this weekend we head to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for the second round of the season. The Jeddah Corniche circuit first appeared on both the F1 and F2 calendar last season and is back again in 2022 for both championships, only this time it’s the second race of the season and not the penultimate race. Last season’s Jeddah round was dominated by the eventual champion, Oscar Piastri. The Aussie took pole, the win in Sprint Race 1, and the Feature Race victory, an almost perfect weekend for the Prema driver. Perhaps the most notable event of the weekend was the horrific start line incident between a stalled Theo Pourchaire and an oblivious Enzo Fittipaldi, which resulted in a fractured heel for the Charouz driver. Hopefully, we won’t be seeing that again.
The track is a 3.8 mile high-speed street circuit built in late 2021, just weekends before its inaugural F1 race. The circuit’s first two corners caused multiple pile-ups in the three race F2 weekend, causing six collisions over the course of three races. If there is a melee again this year, it will be important for midfield runners to avoid it and maybe even knick a few positions while they’re at it. After a fast, sweeping section of lefts-and-rights, the 22 drivers head into the tricky Turn 13 hairpin that saw Liam Lawson lose his car under acceleration as the banking of the corner leads the drivers into the second half of the lap. The Turn 22 chicane caught drivers out in both F1 and F2; Charles Leclerc and Pourchaire were amongst the victims of the tricky braking zone.
The new reduced points system for the Sprint Race ensured that a win in the Feature Race was enough to give Pourchaire the championship lead after the first round. The Frenchman retired due to an engine issue from fifth in the Sprint Race, but kept it clean as Vips and Doohan lost any chance of the win in the Feature Race, giving the Sauber junior 25 points to put him top of the championship. Just behind him on 24 points is Liam Lawson, who finished third and second in the Sprint and Feature races. If we had been using the older points system for the sprint, Lawson would’ve been rewarded with four extra points, which would be enough to see him first, but instead he is tucked up right behind Pourchaire in the championship. Lawson’s teammate, Logan Sargeant, had a good debut weekend, scoring nine points, which puts Carlin first in the Teams’ Championship heading to Jeddah.
Juri Vips and Ralph Boschung were towards the front in both races last weekend. In the Feature Race, Vips seemed set to win, but a pit stop blunder from Hitech saw him drop down to fifth and out of contention for victory. The Estonian only recovered to third. Boschung, meanwhile, placed fourth in both races. Felipe Drugovich is fifth in the championship and arguably should be higher. The Brazilian driver ran at the forefront in both races but fell off at the end of both due to tyre wear. In sixth is Sprint Race winner Richard Verschoor, who secured Trident’s first win since 2016 at Bahrain, but was taken out of the feature race while scrapping Roy Nissany and Enzo Fittipaldi.
Another notable event from the prior weekend was Campos’ Olli Caldwell racking up an astonishing 7 penalty points in the Feature Race alone. Bear in mind, if you accumulate 12 over the course of a season, you have to serve a mandatory race ban. Caldwell got these for a multitude of things, including exceeding Turn 4 track limits four times.
At Jeddah last year, the current championship leader Theo Pourchaire, qualified in third, but had a torrid weekend afterwards, crashing at Turn 22 in Sprint Race 1 and stalling in Sprint Race 2. Another good qualifier last season was Felipe Drugovich, who put his Virtuosi fifth in quali. Boschung, Vips, Armstrong, and Lawson were all in the top 10 in that order from seventh to tenth. The only returning race winner from last season is Marcus Armstrong, who won the first sprint race of the weekend.
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