F2: 5 Takeaways from the Dutch Grand Prix

Felipa Drugovich
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Another fantastic weekend of F2 racing which saw overtakes, safety cars, red flags, and in the end Drugovich marching ever closer to the title.

Zandvoort was never expected to be a great track to overtake on but that wasn’t stopping the F2 drivers from trying. It definitely allowed the cream to rise to the top as some of the grid still managed to get moves done.

A mixed weekend down the grid as again those chasing the championship leader fumbled and mathematically it is now a two-horse race. A two-horse race with only two race weekends left to go.

1 – Champion Elect

After such an impressive weekend in Spa following the summer break, the other title contenders needed a strong showing, like Pourchaire in Hungary, to have any hope of keeping the championship alive.

Partly due to their misfortune and partly down to Drugovich’s results that didn’t happen. The momentum is fully with Drugovich at the moment

Taking back-to-back pole positions, Drugovich knew he was in the driving seat for the Feature Race. A strong drive in the Sprint kept him out of the trouble and secured a point. Then came the Feature Race and despite pressure from Doohan, Drugovich kept his cool and took a very dominant win.

This weekend has put him 70 points ahead of Pourchaire with only 78 left to play for. It will take one of the biggest turns in fortune to deny him that title now.

2 – Pourchaire Heartbreak

Coming into the weekend, Pourchaire knew he had to have a weekend like Hungary to keep the pressure on Drugovich.

Whether the pressure actually got to Pourchaire rather than Drugovich we don’t know but the weekend certainly got away from him. Pourchaire started qualifying strongly and was in the pole fight. That was until red flags were brought out. The cause?

Pourchaire struggled with a snap of oversteer when pushing which sent him into the barriers and ended his session. Starting in sixteenth he knew he had it all to do.

Again Pourchaire decided to throw caution to the wind in the Sprint Race. Out-braking himself on Lap 2 he went off into the gravel. Demoting him to the back of the grid and ending his small chance of getting anything out of the Sprint.

The Feature Race presented more of a chance, though still small, to earn himself a stronger finish. He made good progress at the start and used the early red flag to get another set of soft tyres. This didn’t count as his mandatory pitstop. He would still have to pit but could hopefully make some more places up beforehand.

Again he made good early progress as the hard tyre cars struggled to get up to speed. Until another safety car wiped out the lead he’d built. When we were back racing he still made good progress to finish in the points. Promoted to ninth due to a post-race penalty for Beckmann. Another weekend that did not go his way.

Mathematically he can still win the title but he needs everything to go his way to have any chance.

3 – Battle of the Rookies

This weekend ended the championship hopes of everyone except Pourchaire. That doesn’t stop there still being something to fight for. Not only do drivers want to finish as high as possible, but there is also the honour of being the best rookie.

Logan Sargeant, Jack Doohan, and Ayumu Iwasa are all fighting for this with only 16 points between them.

Sargeant leads but his mid-season momentum has definitely faulted. A strong showing in qualifying meant he was further down the order for the Sprint Race. Making little progress he finished in eighth but was targeting the Feature Race.

It ended almost as quickly as it started. Locking up into turn 1 he was off and through the gravel, re-joining towards the back. Trying to make up places he banged wheels with Borschung, breaking the car’s suspension and sending Sargeant into the barriers. This put him out of the race, ended his championship hopes, and brought out the red flag.

Doohan is the rookie with the most momentum at the moment. His Feature Race win in Spa over Drugovich would have filled him with hope of a repeat this week considering the two would be lining up together. In the Sprint Race Doohan had a reasonable race, like Sargeant, not making progress but scoring points.

The Feature Race was looking good, he was pressuring Drugovich and seemed to be much happier on the tyres. Until the safety car for Sato when Lawson decided to take the restart as late as possible. Doohan was hit from behind by Vershoor, who hadn’t anticipated a late restart, and put into the wall. Another rookie’s race ended.

Iwasa had the stronger weekend of the three, vaulting himself into the conversation. A strong strategy in the Feature Race along with some bold overtaking moves allowed Iwasa to make gains. A sixth in the Sprint and a third place podium in the Feature. Expect this fight to go down to the last race of the season.

4 – Safety Car Madness

The track layout of Zandvoort was expected to make overtaking difficult. So drivers knew they had to take more risks than normal. That always leads to potential incidents and resulting safety cars.

The Sprint Race was looking to be a little flat. Little overtaking and no alternative strategies to spice things up. Until, with 3 laps to go, Tatiana Calderon spun off the track on her fading tyres, hitting the barrier. This brought out the safety car and set us up for a last-lap shootout.

Armstrong, who was leading, went early and created the gap to secure the win for him. Further back there was more jostling but only Iwasa made it count taking the outside line around turn 1, securing sixth.

The Feature Race was much more affected by safety cars. A rule clarification before the weekend meant that drivers could not pit under the safety car. This was due to the very tight pit lane and the potential for incidents should everyone try to pile in. Meaning that those on a different strategy in the Feature could no longer be helped with an opportune safety car.

The first Feature Race safety car was early when Sargeant put himself into the barriers. The damage led to a red flag for barrier repairs & a rolling restart behind the safety car.

A relatively clean restart meant the race settled down as the soft runners pulled out a gap. Sato pitted on lap 17 to get rid of his soft tires, one was incorrectly fitted and came off as he accelerated away. Sato went into the barriers with his red-hot brakes setting the advertising aflame. This brought out the second safety car and wiped out the gap the hard tyred drivers had to those behind who’d pitted.

The restart was a mess, Lawson going as late as possible.

To be clear, Lawson was within the rules as he didn’t alter his pace unnecessarily. The drivers behind were the ones not paying attention and were caught out. Trying to get a jump on the drivers in front of them, some went early when they shouldn’t have. Verschoor hit the rear of Doohan sending him into the wall. Novalak and Calderon also got caught out in the carnage and had to retire from the race.

It was a mess and not a great look for F2. Considering this has happened before in Mugello it’s a surprise the rules haven’t been updated. It needs to be high up the list of matters to sort this off-season.

Some drivers bolted straight for the pits on the restart, managing to sneak in before the safety car was called out and the pit lane closed. Luckily this time the restart was much cleaner as Lawson bolted earlier at a more traditional spot.

Under the safety car, there had been contact by Nissany and Beckmann as they drove erratically. Both drivers received 10-second time penalties after the race, dropping them down the order. Nissany also received two penalty points on top of the previous ones he received at Silverstone. He will be suspended for the next round at Monza.

5 – Red Bull Juniors

Last week we discussed the potential opening at Alpha Tauri F1 team should Gasly move to Alpine. This week the Gasly rumour has gathered pace, with the buyout apparently agreed and just personal terms remaining. That meant the Red Bull junior drivers would have been hoping to impress their sponsors more than normal considering the chance they had.

However, following the weekend it became apparent that Red Bull don’t see their junior drivers ready yet. In a shock announcement, Helmut Marko confirmed their first choice would be IndyCar’s Colton Herta!

That has thrown cold water all over those Red Bull juniors in F2. The bigger ramifications being it would be the first junior driver Alpha Tauri have taken outside of their junior programme, setting a precedent. Even though Liam Lawson is the current Red Bull reserve driver, none of them appears to be viable.

It is not yet a guaranteed move. Gasly still needs to confirm his departure and Herta doesn’t yet have a super licence. Herta would require an exception from the FIA to receive a super licence.

The Red Bull juniors could still get a call-up if that fails but this has to hurt their pride.

Other F1 seats could still be available. However, with Haas looking at Ricciardo or sticking with Schumacher and Alfa Romeo likely to stick with Zhou. That would leave Williams as the most viable option, but Williams has their own F2 junior in Sargeant. Rumours suggest 2019 F2 champion Nyck De Vries is in with a shout for that seat as well.

Looks like another year in F2 for those Red Bull drivers and hoping that Herta or Tsunoda have a poor year in 2023.

Championship Standings

The F2 championship standings show just how big a lead Drugovich has but also how tight the team fight has become:

Drivers

  1. Felipe Drugovich – 233 points
  2. Theo Pourchaire – 164 points
  3. Logan Sargeant – 130 points
  4. Jack Doohan – 121 points

Teams

  1. MP Motorsport – 269 points
  2. ART Grand Prix – 255 points
  3. Carlin – 249 points
  4. Hitech Grand Prix – 190 points

We will be back for the penultimate F2 weekend at Monza on the 9-11th September. Will Drugovich wrap up the title in Italy or will Pourchaire send it down to Abu Dhabi?

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Featured Image Credit: Dan Mullan/Getty Images