Formula Two Preview: Imola
Written by Olly Radley, Edited by Sasha Macmillen
After a four-week hiatus from Formula 2 action, the series says hello to the first ever F2 round at the Imola circuit that has played host to F1 for decades. After a 14 year absence on the calendar, the Emilia Romagne Grand Prix will be a permanent fixture on the F1 calendar until at least 2025, like it had been from 1981 to 2006. To couple its return to F1, Imola will be hosting its first ever F2 and F3 rounds, so let’s hope they’ll be as action packed as the F1 has been in the past two years.
The track itself is one of the most famed in motorsport. It features multiple iconic corners like Tosa, Tamburello, and Acque Minerali, and works its way through the Italian countryside with its unique tricolore red, white, and green curbs. The main overtaking zone at Imola has to be the mammoth 1.2km straight which kinks left and right with DRS in use the whole way until the Tamburello chicane; the first braking zone of the circuit. Another possible overtaking zone on the circuit could be Turn 7, the Tosa hairpin. The tight second gear corner sees the cars swing uphill to the left, with plenty of room for cars to go side by side. A good exit out of the Villeneuve chicane could put cars in a great position to go down the inside or around the outside of Tosa, so we’ll hopefully see a handful of brilliant overtakes there in both F2 and F3 this weekend.
As I mentioned, we’ve had a four week absence from F2 action, and in that time we’ve had a mid-season test at the Circuit Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain, which we’ll be going to in just over a month’s time for round four. After the three-day test, it was championship leader Felipe Drugovich at the top of the timing sheets. Right from the off in the morning session on day one, it was MP’s Brazilian on top, fastest ahead of Theo Pourchaire, who’s recovering from a torrid time in Jeddah with 0 points scored. Drugovich’s fastest time of the test, however, would come in the morning session of Day 3 in the form of a 1:27.529. The closest time to that was Liam Lawson’s time of a 1:27.820, which was also set in the morning of Day 3, 0.291s away from Drugovich’s best time. Another piece of news to come out of the 4-week break was that of a fractured rib for Charouz driver Cem Bolukbasi, which has ruled him out of this weekend’s action. To replace him, Charouz have called upon David Beckmann, who finished on the F2 podium twice last season for Charouz. Let’s hope the German can get Charouz a good result and maybe score the Czech team their first points of the season.
Last time out in Jeddah, Drugovich had a stellar double-podium weekend which put him on top of the championship heading into Imola. The Brazilian, who topped the Barcelona test, bagged third in the sprint race before executing a lights to flag victory from pole on Sunday, netting him 33 points from the weekend, which was enough to put him 11 points in the lead of the champion over Liam Lawson. Lawson was actually very unfortunate not to be on top after Jeddah, having kept an 100% podium streak in the first three races of the season, which was abruptly ended by a pitstop mistake from the Carlin team whilst running in P3 during the feature race.
Richard Verschoor’s amazing start to 2022 continued in Jeddah, with another 22 points added to the Dutchman’s tally after his surprising sprint race win for Trident in Bahrain. Verschoor is two points behind Lawson after netting a cracking 18-point second-place finish as well as four points for a fifth place finish in the sprint race. His teammate Calan Williams got his first points of the season in Jeddah with an impressive fourth place finish in the sprint race. The Aussie was on for a good result in the Bahrain feature race, but a pit stop blunder from Trident left Williams stranded in the pits with three wheels on his car.
The teams’ championship leaders Hitech collected more points in Jeddah, putting them three points ahead of MP Motorsport, whose tally consists only of Drugovich’s points with Clement Novalak yet to score this season. Juri Vips is in fourth, just behind Verschoor after a solid 10 point haul in Jeddah which mostly came from his podium in the sprint race. His teammate Armstrong’s results were identical to his Bahrain results, retiring from race 1, and finishing fifth in the feature. In comparison, ART had a weekend to forget in Jeddah, with not a single point scored for either driver in either races. Theo Pourchaire retired from qualifying before setting a lap with an issue, and suffered the same fate in the feature race, making it three mechanical failures for Pourchaire after only two rounds of F2. His teammate Frederik Vesti could only manage 12th in the sprint race.
Another big name who failed to score points was Ralph Boschung, who missed his marks on his grid slot on the grid which cost him eighth place in the sprint race due to the 20-second penalty he received. His feature race just saw him fall back through the pack throughout the race on his way to finishing 15th. Logan Sargeant also had a poor showing in Jeddah, with 0 points on the board for the American Carlin driver. A crash in qualifying left the Williams youngster starting 18th in both races, but to make matters worse, Sergeant was involved in a bizarre safety car restart crash with Jack Doohan and failed to make it to the points in the feature race, finishing twelfth.
Reigning F3 champion Dennis Hauger claimed his first points of the season thanks to a sixth place finish in the feature race, netting the Norwegian eight points. Virtuosi’s Marino Sato also got a sole point from the sprint race. Jehan Daruvala scored well with a third place finish in the Feature race, and Jake Hughes also scored a big 12 points in the feature race after being disqualified from the sprint race, where he had scored his first podium.
As it's our first time coming to Imola, it's hard to say who will do well this weekend. Most of the drivers have raced here before in other junior categories and several of them have won here previously. No matter who wins, we’ll likely see a lot of action this weekend like we always do. That’s it from me then, so goodbye for now and enjoy this weekend's F2 racing!