Formula 2-Bearman Tops All Sessions On The Streets of Baku

Ollie Bearman Sprint and Feature race winner at Baku 2023. Image courtesy of Ferrari

The Ferrari Junior Driver had his best weekend in Formula 2 yet with the 17 year old finishing every single session across round 4 of the FIA Formula 2 World Championship around the streets of Baku.

Bearman first of all topped the one and only Free Practice Session of the weekend with a 1:54.063. Hadjar and Maini followed behind in second and third respectfully.  Qualifying was very tight with the 17 year old setting a lap time just 0.012 ahead of Red Bull Junior Enzo Fittipaldi.

Sprint Race:

The sprint race got underway in Baku with the ART of Victor Martins immediatel cutting across the Red Bull Junior of Zane Maloney. The reverse pole sitter Richard Verschoor nearly lost the rear end, tapped the wall and got both front and rear damage. Maloney lead from Hauger and Martins in P3. The Boy from Barbados Maloney got a puncture and went from 1st to last on lap 1 of the sprint. Boschung tapped the wall by the castle section and had to retire which brought out the safety car. We went 2 laps under the SC and when the safety car was brought in,  Hauger lead the way from Martins and daruvala. Bearman managed to make a chagre up to P4 by lap 11 out of 21.

The PHM of Roy Nissany then crashed on lap 14 which brought out a safety car and saw the pack bunch up again. The drivers spent 5 laps under the safety car and from then, a 3 lap shootout for the win resulted in a huge crash into turn 1. Hauger and Martins locked up and went into the wall, Daruvala hit Martins due to him also locking up and Leclerc and Pourchaire tapped the wall and the engine stalled. Vesti and Martins were then battling for the lead which saw Bearman take the lead just before the safety car was deployed and the race was then over due to the amount of cleanup required. Bearman took home his first victory of his F2 career ahead of Vesti and Crawford finishing the top 3. Maini, Fittipaldi, Correa and Novalak finished off the top 7. Hadjar did finish P8 but got a penalty post race so Stanek got the final points position.

The Formula 2 2023 Baku Sprint Podium with a Prema 1-2 and Crawford in P3. Image Credit: Prema Racing Photos and Videos

Feature Race:

The feature race saw a very clean getaway from everyone and a clean first lap from everyone. Pourchaire got up to P2 on Lap 2 after overtaking Fittipaldi but he wasn’t finished there. Pourchaire got past bearman on lap 3 for the lead of the race and both Premas of Vesti and Bearman were attacking Fittipaldi and Pourchaire respectfully. Bearman wasn’t finished as he got up to P1 on lap 4 with the assist of the DRS system. Hauger and Crawford went wheel to wheel with Hauger getting the advantage. the top 2 pitted on lap 9 due to yellow flags and Bearman managed to hold the lead ahead of Pourchaire.

Brad Benevides stopped on an escape road after a touch with the barriers and brought out a VSC as he was recovered. Daruvala ried to get past Maloney on lap 14 but ended up getting a 10s time penalty for rejoining unsafely.  Fittipaldi was challenging Pourchaire on lap 24 for P2 and he eventually got the moce done in turn 3. Bearman crossed the line to take the feature race victory in Baku and make it a perfect weekend. Fittipaldi finished P2 and Pourchaire in P3. Martins was P4 but got disqualified due to a technical infringement. This pushed Vest, Maini, Hauger, Hadjer, Verschoor, Crawford and Leclerc up to P4-P10 respectfully after Daruvala’s penalty pushed him down to P13, originally P14.

Formula 2 Jeddah Sprint Race and Feature Race Recap

The 2 races in Formula 2 saw drama, conteroversy, safety cars and good, hard, fair racing across many of the young drivers hoping to make a step up to F1.

Sprint Race
Lap 1-Crawford lead from Iwasa and Boschung. Doohan goes off the track as Bearman gets up a place. Iwasa took the lead on lap 2 into turn 1. Zane Maloney lost the rear after coming out of turn 2 and that brought out the safety car. Boshchung and Crawford fought after the restart. Theo Pourchaire went for a lunge which paid off as he made up a place.
Theo Pourchaire made the same lunge on lap 7 but he misjudged it and collided with the Prema rookie of Ollie Bearman and that brought both of their races to an end. Pourchaire was given a 5 place grid drop for that collision. Iwasa lead them into turn 10 and Martins made up a place as the sprint race ended up at 50% distance. Lap 11 saw 3 wide into turn 1 between Doohan, Maini and Crawford. Daruvala went for a lunge into turn 1 against boschung in on lap 13 and went up into the podium places.

Martins got a big tow into turn 1 and went for a lunge and made it stick against Boschung. Daruvala went for the lead of the race on lap 17 but as he went for it into turn 2, Martins took 2nd place from Daruvala. Iwasa took the Sprint Race Victory with Martins finishing P2 and Daruvala P3.

Frederik Vesti 2023 images curtsey of premaracing.com

Feature Race
The Feature Race in F2 at the Jeddah Corniche Street Circuit saw Bearman overtake Martins from lights out and into turn 1. Martins was P2 and Doohan P3. Haugher battled with Leclerc as lap 1 went on. Benevides brought out the virtual safety car after Amaury Cordeel collided with him. It was a 7 car battle going into turn 1 on lap 6 of the race There was no collisions. Bearman and Martins came into the pits at the same time but all maintained positions. Bearman and Martins battled into turn 1 on lap 10 for the race lead after all pit stops occurred. Martins tried again on lap 11 after Martins got DRS but Vesti managed to catch up with his teammate and get him. Bearman had a spin on lap 16 which saw him drop down to 11th place. Vesti and Martins battled into turn 1 on lap 17 and Martins spun on lap 17 which brought out the virtual safety car even though he kept the car running but then engine eventually cut out. Hadjar was battling Bearman for the P9. Vesti managed to win the Feature Race with Doohan in P2 and Daruvala in P3.

Featured Image courtesy of Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool

Formula 2 2023 Grid Announced

After many months of speculation, the Formula 2 Grid for 2023 has been announced and there are a lot of changes in comparison to the 2022 Grid.

Felipe Drugovich, Liam Lawson, Logan Sargeant, Juri Vips, Jake Hughes, Marino Sato, Marcus Armstrong, Olli Caldwell, Calan Williams and Cem Bolukbasi have all left the series. Bolukbasi was replaced mid season in 2022 by Tatiana Calderon but she will not be returning either.

2023 will see a lot of drivers make the step from Formula 3 to Formula 2 this season. Arthur Leclerc, Oliver Bearman, Brad Benavides, Roman Stanek, Isack Hadjar, Kush Maini, Victor Martins, Jak Crawford and Zane Maloney have all made this jump. Maloney finished P2 in the F3 2022 season finishing behind Martins with Bearman, Hadjar, Stanek and Leclerc rounding out the top six.

In total, six Red Bull Junior Drivers make up the 22 places on the grid. Of the eleven teams on the grid, eight of them are holding at least one rookie, with MP Motorsport, VAR Amersfoort Racing and Virtuosi Racing are the only teams without any rookies this season.

The Red Bull Junior Drivers for Formula 2 and Formula 3 in 2023. Credit: Formula 2 on Twitter

Some returning faces to the F2 grid also include Roy Nissany, Frederik Vesti, Dennis Hauger, Jehan Daruvala and Richard Verschoor to name a few. Juan Manuel Correa will also be returning to the sport full time since his accident in Spa 2019. All have competed in at least one F2 season before with some proven winners, pole sitters and points scorers.

The Formula 2 2023 Grid. Credit: Formula 2 on Twitter

What do you think of the F2 2023 grid? Will this be a year of redemption for some returning drivers or will a rookie grasp the fame? Who do you think will take the all important F2 2023 World Champion title?

Alpine Academy launches their 2021 line-up

Alpine Academy rebrand (Courtesy of AlpineCars)

Alpine has relaunched their young driver academy with the aim of nurturing emerging talent towards Formula 1.

Alpine – until recently known as the Renault F1 Team – has a rich history of developing young talent, including Robert Kubica, Pastor Maldonado, Heikki Kovalainen, Romain Grosjean and Esteban Ocon.

Since 2002, the programme has gone through multiple iterations including the RF1 Driver Programme, Renault Driver Development Programme, LRGP Academy, Lotus F1 Team iRace Professional Programme, Lotus F1 Junior Team and until recently the Renault Sport Academy.

Their FIA Formula 2 roster will include Guanyu Zhou, who will race alongside Felipe Drugovich at UNI-Virtuosi. Zhou will be returning for his third season having claimed his maiden victory in the series last at Sochi.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Christian Lungaard will be alongside Theo Pourchaire at ART after a rookie season in which he scored two sprint race victories, six podiums and a maiden pole position at Mugello.

Christian Lundgaard, ART (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

FIA Formula F3 champion Oscar Piastri will also debut alongside Ferrari protégé Robert Schwartzman at Prema.

With six combined wins across two championships last year, Alpine are confident their drivers will have no trouble competing at the very top in 2021. In particular, Alpine Academy Director,Mia Sharizman has high hopes that the likes of Zhou and Lungaard will challenge for the title:

“For Zhou and Lungaard it is to challenge for the title, and they know that themselves.” Mia said during the official Alpine Academy launch.

“That is always the aim and especially when you are a returning driver with knowledge and experience. That is something for us to look at moving forward with a view to Formula 1. “

Likewise, for debutant Oscar Piastri there are high hopes the Australian who impressed against Logan Sargeant for the Formula  3 title. It will be a tough learning year for Oscar, Mia suggested:

“For Oscar, the approach is similar to when he started in Formula 3. You take it step by step. You get your first pole, your first podium, your first win and suddenly it just rolls on.”

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

Alpine have been reluctant to promote their junior drivers to Formula 1 for a number of years with Fernando Alonso getting the nod for 2021 over its academy prospects. However, they wlll certainly have their targets set for 2022-2023.

“At the end of the day for all of them there has to be a good pressure, a good target because whatever they do this year it will impact the plans for them next year.”

Meanwhile, Victor Martins and Ciao Collet will race as teammates at MP Motorsports in FIA Formula 3. Mia was keen to underplay the pressure on both drivers, citing experience and learning as key targets.

“If you look at the level below the FIA Formula 3, Ciao and Victor were the top two drivers in that level of category. […] we believe they will be able to work together, raise the bar and we’re quietly confident of them making their mark. Again, step by step with the team the right package and the engineers.”

Caio Collet, R-Ace (François Flamand, DPPI / Alpine Racing Media)

Laurent Rossi, Chief Executive Officer at Alpine presented a clear case for the academy, placing it central to Alpine’s future plans:

We are proud to announce the Academy’s sixth ever driver line-up and its first as part of the Alpine Racing universe. Having a young driver programme is part of our DNA as a race team and as in previous years, the Academy will draw benefits from the development of the Formula 1 team.

Rossi also made it clear of Alpine’s intentions to see an academy prospect in Formula 1 in the near future:

“The Academy’s goal has been to develop and push our young drivers into Formula 1 to become a champion with the F1 team, and we remain committed as ever to seeing this goal achieved. This year we are eager to watch our Academy prospects in both Formula 2 and Formula 3 continue to go from strength to strength as they represent the Alpine name.”

Hubert hooks up Monaco F2 sprint win

Anthoine Hubert became the first rookie of F2’s field to snatch victory in the 2019 championship, but was made to work for it on the tricky streets of Monaco by Louis Deletraz, who set up a nail-biting photo finish. Guanyu Zhou rounded off the podium and made it a day to remember for a pair of Renault junior drivers.

Hubert started the race much as he finished it, competent but under pressure. The same can’t be said of Mahaveer Raghunathan, who cut across the pit lane exit and gained four places, only to (quite deservedly) be given a 10-second time penalty. Zhou, meanwhile, went around the outside of Artem Markelov for third, and Ralph Boschung worked his way up into P7.

Luca Ghiotto caused the first accident of the day, making contact with the sidepod of Tatiana Calderon at Mirabeau and sending the Colombian into the wall. After the stricken Arden was removed from the track, Ghiotto too found his day ruined when he crashed with Raghunathan into Loews corner, ending both their races.

Boschung was forced into retirement shortly after, while Nobuharu Matsushita climbed to 9th and feature race winner Nyck De Vries into P6. Sean Gelael added a large dose of spice to proceedings with a forceful double-punt on Giuliano Alesi, the second contact forcing the Italian out of the race.

The front four drivers began to pull away from fifth-place Dorian Boccolacci, to the tune of over ten seconds, while Deletraz continued to hound and press Hubert into a possible mistake up front. The chance would ultimately not come, however close he made it across the line – Hubert was on the right side of a photo finish and recorded his maiden F2 win.

Nicholas Latifi just managed to cling on to his title lead by a point from De Vries, with the fastest lap putting him on 95 points. Ghiotto finds himself third on 67 points, while Jack Aitken and Guanyu Zhou have 62 and 54 respectively. DAMS leads the teams’ table with 147 points, while Virtuosi Racing remain second on 121 points.

 

[Featured image courtesy of Joe Portlock/FIA F2]

Aitken survives the carnage in Baku’s feature race

Struck with the same fever that’s become all too typical of Baku, the carnage we all bay for was present in the F2 feature race. Jack Aitken was the one to prevail amidst a tornado of carnage. Nyck De Vries and Jordan King joined him on the podium, a product of their experienced heads.

Chaos was an ever-present, even from the start. Mick Schumacher steamed into Turn 1 with an unfruitful late-braking move, and Giuliano Alesi hit his Trident teammate Ralph Boschung, bringing a permanent end to Alesi’s race and badly compromising Boschung.

The start of the 2019 Formula 2 feature race at Baku. Image courtesy of FiaFormula2

A safety car was brought out, which allowed De Vries to cement a lead he had taken from experienced driver Nobuharu Matsushita and gave him hope he would be the one to prevail among the carnage.

De Vries was in fine form after the restart, building up a six-second lead on the pack, but Matsushita’s car gave up on him and left the Japanese driver with scant reward for his fine qualifying performance.

Not long after, the pitstops started to come to the fore, with Tatiana Calderon the only one to stay out and attempt the alternate strategy – the same move in Bahrain a month prior worked to her advantage.

De Vries suffered a slow stop, and although it could have been much worse, the fact it allowed Aitken to get a run on him and pass into Turn 2 was a bitter blow. He also fell behind Nicolas Latifi, but that didn’t last long – he was soon back past the title contender.

The second restart, after Schumacher dropped his Prema out of Turn 16 and into retirement, was where the real carnage happened. Sergio Sette Camara was sent into a spin by Luca Ghiotto as the cars were weaving, while Louis Deletraz bashed into the wall as a result of avoiding contact, with Aitken bunching up the field until the last possible metre of track.

Jack Aitken, winner of the Formula F2, Baku 2019 race. Image courtesy of FiaFormula2

This kept the safety car out for another two laps, and when it did finally pull in Anthoine Hubert took to the Turn 1 escape road and lost his shot at big points, while Mahaveer Raghunathan was unable to hold on to tenth due to the Frenchman reeling him in, to the tune of 5 seconds a lap.

Other retirements were Calderon and Callum Ilott, and notable points finishers were Sean Gelael, who recovered well after his qualifying exclusion, Juan Manuel Correa, and Latifi, coming in sixth, seventh and fourth respectively after penalties.

Mick Schumacher joins Ferrari Driver Academy

Ferrari have announced that they have signed Mick Schumacher to their Driver Academy ahead of the 2019 season.

In a press statement, Schumacher said, “I am thrilled that Ferrari has entered into a partnership with me and [that] my next future in motorsport will be in red, being part of the Ferrari Driver Academy and also of the Scuderia Ferrari family.

“This is another step forward in the right direction, and I can only profit from the immense amount of expertise bundled there. Be sure I will make everything to extract whatever helps me achieve my dream [of] racing in Formula 1.

“It is more than obvious that Ferrari has a big place in my heart since I was born and also in the hearts of our family, so I am delighted on a personal level about this opportunity as well. At this stage it is, however, also time to say thank you to my family, friends and partners who supported me all along and helped me arrive at this point.”

Zak Mauger / FIA Formula 2

Past alumni include Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll, Antonio Giovinazzi and the late Jules Bianchi, who was the first driver to be signed to the program when it was formed back in 2009.

Schumacher joins the Academy on the back of his title-winning campaign in the Formula Three European Championship, where he won eight races and finished on the podium on six other occasions. He finished the season 57 points ahead of second-place Dan Ticktum.

New Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said that despite the more sentimental aspects of the signing, Schumacher had been picked first and foremost because of his racing talent.

“For someone like me who has known him from birth, there’s no doubt that welcoming Mick into Ferrari has a special emotional meaning,” he said, “but we have chosen him for his talent and the human and professional qualities that have already distinguished him despite his young age.”

Alongside his duties with the Academy in 2019, Schumacher will make his debut in FIA Formula 2, where he will compete with Prema Racing.

 

Featured image – Joe Portlock / FIA Formula 2

Battle of the Brazilians: who will be next to fly the flag in Formula 1?

Since the (final) departure of Felipe Massa at the end of the 2017 season, Formula 1 has been without a Brazilian driver for the first time since 1969. It goes without saying that Brazil has long had an important presence on the grid, and has produced some of the true legends of the sport. So, who will be the next Brazilian hope?

Two teams have recently announced Brazilian additions to their test and reserve driver lineups. McLaren have appointed F2 race winner (and Lando Norris’ current Carlin teammate) Sergio Sette Câmara, while IndyCar driver Pietro Fittipaldi will take on the role of test driver at Haas.

But of the two, who is more likely to find themselves in a race seat in Formula 1 in years to come? Let’s take a look at their prospects.

Careers so far

Pietro Fittipaldi (Dale Coyne Racing), IndyCar at Portland International Raceway. Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media

2018 has been a difficult year for Fittipaldi. Plans for a packed season in IndyCar, Super Formula and the World Endurance Championship were put on hold by a leg-breaking crash during qualifying for the 6 Hours of Spa in May. However, he returned to IndyCar later in the year, scoring a best 9th place finish in Portland.

Prior to 2018, Fittipaldi was no stranger to variety, having tried his hand at everything from stock cars to endurance racing to European single seaters over the years. His results are a bit of a mixed bag on first glance, though there are some standout performances in there: in 2017 Fittipaldi won the World Series Formula V8 3.5 series, taking 10 out of 18 pole positions and 6 race wins.

Sergio Sette Camara (Carlin), FIA Formula 2 in Monza, Italy. Zak Mauger / FIA Formula 2

Sette Câmara, a former Red Bull junior, has twice been heartbreakingly close to victory at the Macau Grand Prix. In 2016 he led comfortably for much of the race but ultimately lost out to two-time winner Antonio Felix da Costa. The following year he led until the very last corner of the final lap, but found himself in the wall with the finish line in sight defending against Ferdinand Habsburg.

In F2 this year, Sette Câmara’s shown a lot of promise and taken eight podiums so far, although an unfortunate dose of bad luck has left him adrift from teammate Lando Norris in the standings.

The only cross point of reference between Fittipaldi and Sette Câmara is the 2015 Formula 3 season. Sette Câmara finished the higher of the two with 57.5 points to Fittipaldi’s 32, and displayed good defence and some handy starts as well as scoring two podiums.

Super Licence Points

Pietro Fittipaldi (Dale Coyne Racing), IndyCar at Gateway Motorsports Park. Matt Fraver / IndyCar Media

Of course, you can’t get into F1 these days if the numbers don’t add up, so it’s time to get the calculator out and see how these two would fare if they were after their super licence.

As it currently stands, neither driver is eligible to race in F1 next year. Due to his leg injuries benching him for much of this year, Fittipaldi has only 15 super licence points from his 2017 Formula V8 3.5 championship.

Sergio Sette Camara (Carlin), FIA Formula 2 in Sochi, Russia.
Zak Mauger, LAT Images / FIA Formula 2

Sette Câmara is currently 6th in the F2 standings which would give him 10 points. However, he ’s a mere two points behind Artem Markelov in 5th, and overtaking him at the last round in Abu Dhabi would give him 20 points.

If he manages to outscore Markelov this year, another 5th place in F2 next year would see Sette Câmara become eligible for a 2020 F1 seat. If he remains in 6th, he’ll need a top four finish next year.

Fittipaldi is yet to announce his racing plans for 2019, but he will need another 25 points to bridge the gap. It will be a challenge for him to get these next year, as he’d need a top 4 F2 finish, or possibly a championship win in the new International F3 series (although the points for this series have not yet been announced). Either seems unlikely as he would be a rookie in what would likely be a very competitive field.

The verdict

Age matters, or at least that’s been the trend of late in Formula 1. While at 22 Fittipaldi is hardly over the hill, he’s still got a long way to go before he is likely to collect the required super licence points and will likely be in his mid-twenties when that happens. (Fittipaldi’s younger brother Enzo may be a more likely prospect in years to come, having won the Italian F4 title this year as part of the Ferrari Driver Academy.)

Pietro Fittipaldi (Dale Coyne Racing), IndyCar at Sonoma Raceway. Chris Jones / IndyCar Media

Time is more on Sette Câmara’s side. At 20, he’s still younger than most of the 2019 F1 field (excepting only Norris and Stroll) and his F2 performances have already got the attention of McLaren.

If there’s one area Sette Câmara could do with improving, it’s race pace. Lacklustre race pace isn’t the sort of drawback that can be easily fixed, but perhaps working closely with an F1 team like McLaren can improve his skills in this area.

However, while Sette Câmara does seem the more likely of the two Brazilians to find himself in an F1 race seat in the future, empty seats are not easy to come by these days. With contractual musical chairs seeing plenty of talented drivers without race seats in 2019, it’s going to take some poor showings by current drivers for Sette Câmara to be rewarded with an opportunity.

Sergio Sette Camara (Carlin), FIA Formula 2 in Paul Ricard, France. Zak Mauger, LAT Images / FIA Formula 2
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