Written by Billy Thomas, Edited by Elisabeth Brown
Before the F2 season began in 2022, people were gaining excitement over how incredibly competitive the field looked. With seven F2 race winners on the grid and five F3 race winners coming in as rookies, it looked like the title battle could be extremely tight and be won by any number of talents. Jüri Vips, Théo Pourchaire, Dennis Hauger and Liam Lawson were all touted as the championship favourites. One name that very few people touted as title-winning material, however, was Felipe Drugovich. Yet, after ten races, it is the 22 year-old Brazilian who tops the standings, with a relatively commanding lead.
Drugovich first began single-seater racing in 2016, and for the first couple of years tried out multiple different series, finishing third overall in the ADAC Formula 4 Championship being the main highlight. It was 2018 that proved to be his breakout year, though, as he won three titles: MRF Challenge Formula 2000, Euroformula Open Championship and Spanish Formula 3 Championship. The Euroformula victory was the most impressive, winning 14 out of the 16 races and never finishing a race below second. This show of talent earned him a seat in F3 for 2019 racing for the Carlin team, where he managed only one points finish but still finished ahead of teammate Logan Sargeant. Stepping up to F2 in 2020, he found much more success, winning three races in his debut season. Going into 2021, he switched from MP Motorsport to UNI-Virtuosi Racing, and expectations were high after his impressive debut campaign. These expectations were unfortunately not met, as Drugovich failed to take a step forward, garnering four podiums and zero victories.
Heading into 2022, he switched back to MP Motorsport hoping to regain the momentum he had with them in 2020, and although some did note that he could be a surprise package or one to watch, few could have predicted what a strong start to the season he would have. Every time he’s finished a race he’s been in the points, collecting five podiums, four of which were wins. Drugovich sits comfortably at the top of the leaderboard, 32 points ahead of nearest rival Pourchaire.
Normally, such a strong showing in F2 would have a driver undoubtedly linked to a drive in Formula 1 for the following season. The difference here is that Drugovich, unlike many of his F2 rivals, has no affiliation to any F1 teams through an academy. This makes his path into the top tier of motorsport much harder than those beneath him in the standings, such as Pourchaire, who is part of the Sauber Junior Team. It wouldn’t be unheard of for an unaffiliated driver to win F2, but only one of F2’s five champions weren’t affiliated when they won their title.
The F1 regulations for 2022 mean that each team must run a rookie driver in FP1 at least twice this season. This is a great opportunity for current F2 drivers to drive an F1 car and show what they can do. But while the likes of Pourchaire, Vips and Lawson will all participate, Drugovich looks set to miss out due to his lack of links with any team.
There are multiple seats in F1 which could be free going into 2022, but the competition in the driver market makes a move from F2 hard for any driver. Daniel Ricciardo appears to have his seat in jeopardy at the moment, but McLaren would likely opt for a current driver over a rookie. Alpha Tauri drivers Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda are out of contract at the end of 2022, but any free seats would go straight to a member of the Red Bull Junior Team like Vips. Similarly, were Zhou Guanyu to lose his drive, it would be Pourchaire that would take the seat. If Fernando Alonso were to retire, Alpine would call upon reserve driver Oscar Piastri and if Sebastian Vettel retired, Aston Martin would likely want an experienced driver to partner Lance Stroll. That leaves just Williams and Haas. Williams look unlikely to drop the in-form Alex Albon, but were Nicholas Latifi to leave, Nyck de Vries would surely be the favourite. At Haas, there are question marks over Mick Schumacher’s place in the team, which would lead to a relatively open race for his seat, though again Drugovich isn’t one of the names currently being touted to be in with a chance.
Ultimately, even if Drugovich does win the F2 title, he will be behind fellow champions Piastri and de Vries in the pecking order for an F1 seat. If he remains unaffiliated, he will likely also be behind some of his fellow F2 drivers as well. The fact that only one of the previous three F2 champions has instantly made the jump to F1 shows how competitive the current driver market is. If Drugovich wants to have a chance of making that step, he needs to join an academy so that he can start to form a path to F1. Even then, he still may have to sit on the sidelines for a year or two. But, of course, above all that, he needs to stay focused on winning the F2 title. It’s a long season ahead, and we’re not even halfway through, but as long as he can keep his current form, Drugovich’s F1 dream may yet still become reality.