F2 Bahrain preview: new faces, new challengers, new format

This weekend the 2022 Formula 2 championship gets underway in Bahrain, with plenty of new drivers and even a new team looking to open the season with a strong result.

The new weekend schedule

Liam Lawson, Carlin (Bryn Lennon, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

It’s not just the makeup of the grid that’s different this year – the format has also been tweaked for the new season. Last year F2 and Formula 3 ran on separate weekends with three races across Saturday and Sunday, but now they’re back on the same billing and returning to the familiar schedule of one sprint race and one feature race.

It’s not a complete return to the pre-2021 way, however. The sprint race remains on Saturday with the feature race taking place before Sunday’s F1 Bahrain Grand Prix. Qualifying on Friday will set the grid for Sunday’s feature race, while the starting order for Saturday’s sprint race will be decided by reversing the top 10 from qualifying.

The points system has also been tweaked for 2022. The number of points available for pole position and the fastest lap in each race has been halved for this year, meaning pole is now worth two points and the fastest lap is a single point. The points for the sprint race have been adjusted as well – the top eight still score, but victory will now award 10 points with 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 available for the remaining places.

The feature race keeps the same F1 points system as it has always used, with 25 points for the winner down to one point for tenth place.

Will experience lead the way?

Juri Vips, Hitech (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Heading into a new season of F2, the focus will always be on the returning drivers with experience behind them.

In 2022 only four drivers are still with the same team as last year: Juri Vips (Hitech), Theo Pourchaire (ART), Ralph Boschung (Campos) and Roy Nissany (DAMS). Of those Vips and Pourchaire will be expected to be in the title hunt as both are fighting to impress F1 teams, and both have good working relationships with their teams to build on after their successful debuts.

Liam Lawson is another driver who will be one to watch this season and this weekend in particular. After winning on his debut last year with Hitech, the New Zealand Red Bull junior moves to Carlin who finished third in the teams’ championship last year. As one of the winners from Bahrain last year, he should be a threat for the top spot in Sakhir again.

Another driver who will be interesting to watch after moving teams is Felipe Drugovich. The Brazilian has switched from UNI-Virtuosi to MP Motorsport for his third season, which theoretically would be a drop down the grid.

But it was with MP that Drugovich took three victories (including one in Bahrain) during his debut season in 2020. With a more comfortable environment he may return to fighting at the front of the field again this year.

Felipe Drugovich, MP Motorsport (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Fresh faces, big impact

As Oscar Piastri showed last season when he won the title at the first attempt, experience isn’t everything in F2 – and there’s a bumper crop of rookies joining the series for 2022 looking to follow in his footsteps.

Reigning champions Prema are no exception. With Piastri leaving the series, Prema have called up Red Bull junior and reigning Formula 3 champion Dennis Hauger to take his seat. Given his and his team’s recent success, Hauger is considered one of the favourites for the title this year.

Hauger won’t be without his competition though. His F3 title rival Jack Doohan is also joining the grid for a full campaign this year with the UNI-Virtuosi team. His team enjoyed recent championship challenges led by Callum Ilott and Guanyu Zhou, while Doohan himself already has some competitive F2 experience under his belt from running in the final two rounds last year. This is definitely a pairing to watch out for.

Jack Doohan, UNI-Virtuosi (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

Further along the grid there are more impressive rookies joining the field. Logan Sargeant, Frederik Vesti and Clement Novalak will race with Carlin, ART and MP Motorsport respectively after earning plenty of plaudits in F3 in recent years. Meanwhile F3 race winners and podium finishers Olli Caldwell, Ayumu Iwasa, Enzo Fittipaldi and Calan Williams will represent Campos, DAMS, Charouz and Trident respectively, and former F1 eSports driver Cem Bolukbasi joins Charouz after a race-winning Euroformula Open campaign last year.

And last but not least, there is a new team on the grid in the form of Van Amersfoort Racing. The Dutch feeder series stalwarts are taking over HWA’s vacant entry, and for their first season will pair experienced F2 and F3 driver Jake Hughes with rookie Amaury Cordeel.

Racing gets underway this weekend with the F2 sprint race on Saturday at 16:40 UTC and the feature race on Sunday at 10:40 UTC.

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