Théo Pourchaire: lights and shadows of his journey towards F1

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 17: Theo Pourchaire of France and ART Grand Prix (10) walks in the Paddock during previews ahead of Round 1:Sakhir of the Formula 2 Championship at Bahrain International Circuit on March 17, 2022 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Theo Pourchaire leads this year’s F2 championship. With one race left, the French driver could be the first to win the title with only one win all season.

This is Pourchaire’s third season in Formula 2. The young driver made his debut in F2 in 2020 when he replaced Jake Hughes, driving for HWA Racelab. He took part in the last two races and came back on the grid the following year. In 2021, Théo Pourchaire joined the Art Grand Prix team full-time. In his first official season in F2, Pourchaire achieved two wins, one pole position, and three podiums. He ended the season with 140 points in front of his teammate Christian Lundgaard. 

Because of his excellent performances in F4 and F3, many had great aspirations for the young French driver. In 2019, he became a member of the Sauber Junior Team, and three years later, he moved into a testing role for Alfa Romeo F1 Team.

2022: Fighting for the title

2022 for Pourchaire should have been the year of breakthrough to fight for the title. In the first Sprint Race of the year, he was forced to retire due to a problem with the car. Nevertheless, he won the Feature Race, kicking off the championship fight. However, it didn’t go that way. 

Pourchaire ended the season as vice-champion with three wins and seven podiums. The number of points difference between Felipe Drugovich, 2022 Formula 2 champion, is very high: 101 points separated the two drivers. Not many drivers remain in Formula 2 for a long time. Being a preparatory category, it favors the youngest and changes most of the grid every year. It is why, at the end of 2022, Pourchaire’s future was very uncertain.

2023: Consistency is the key

In January 2023, it was announced that he would still be racing with ART Grand Prix. Despite the great experience in Formula 2, the Frenchman currently won only one race this year. Then, how did he manage to take the lead in the championship with only one race left in Abu Dhabi? 

Consistency. This is the strategy used by Pourchaire during the whole year. Until now, he achieved ten podiums, and even though only one of them was a win, the consistency in getting enough points kept him fighting for the title.

His main opponent, Frederik Vesti, is 25 points behind him but with more victories, five wins during the whole season. Because of a series of mistakes (from him and the Prema team) in the last races, the Danish, who was the leader of the championship before Spa, dropped to second place in the standings. 

Pourchaire also made many mistakes. Being his third year, some would have expected better results from him, especially in the early part of the season. The young driver did not seem to have found the right pace with the car. In Jeddah, the weekend started with a retirement in the Sprint Race and ended with a thirteenth place in the Feature Race. He made another big mistake at Zandvoort. He after leaving the pit lane and trying to warm up the tires, he pushed too much, and the car ended up in the barriers.

Is his future in F1 at risk?

Because of these mistakes, his future in Formula 1 is also uncertain. Even if he were to win the F2 championship. Being the third driver of Alfa Romeo some think that he could take the place of Zhou Guanyu (whose future seems very uncertain at the moment) or Bottas once his contract expires. Yet there are rumors that the Sauber team is looking elsewhere, perhaps starting negotiations with Felipe Drugovich, third driver of Aston Martin. Nothing is confirmed, but if these rumors turn out to be true, Pourchaire’s career in Formula 1 is at risk even before starting. 

There are only two races left in Abu Dhabi, which will decide who will be the 2023 Formula 2 champion. Will Pourchaire be able to prove that experience pays and win the much-desired title? And if so, will it be a turning point for his future in Formula 1, or will he have to look elsewhere?