In 2023, the F2 leadership shifted between many drivers. Here are the pre-season title contenders that did not meet the expectations.
2023 was a chaotic year in the F2 Championship. Many accidents, penalties, and mistakes meant that the fight for the title remained open until the last rounds. The opposite of last year, in which Drugovich had dominated most of the season, crowning himself champion with a race in advance.
Last year, before the start of the season, one of the candidates for the title fight was the current championship leader, Theo Pourchaire. It was his second year in Formula 2, and in 2021, he finished fifth in the championship with an important win in Monte Carlo, which made him the youngest driver to have won a Formula 2 race.
Although the Frenchman started the season strongly, he failed to show the same consistency as Drugovich. The Brazilian had 11 podiums and five victories.
This year, Pourchaire seems to have finally reached the finish line in his race for the title, which started in 2021. (if there will be no twists in Abu Dhabi). However, at the beginning of the season, there were a lot of possible contenders for the title, among drivers in their second year in F2 and rookies coming from Formula 3
Frederik Vesti: bad luck and too many mistakes
Frederik Vesti, born in 2001 and driver of the Mercedes Junior Program, led the championship standing until the Belgian GP.
The Dane was one of the highest-rated to win the title. From Jeddah onwards, he has collected a series of victories and podiums that have brought him to the top of the ranking.
Then there is Spa. Both PREMA drivers qualified in the front row. Bearman first and Vesti second.
To Vesti, It could have been a chance to stretch his leadership from Pourchaire, but instead, the race turned out to be a nightmare for the driver. On the formation lap, he crashed into the barriers. He was not able to restart.
At Monza, Vesti seems to have come to his senses and brings home his fifth victory of the season in the Sprint Race. However, during the Feature Race, too optimistic to overtake a driver, he crashed and was forced to retire again. Meanwhile, Pourchaire stood once again on the podium.
— Formula 2 (@Formula2) September 3, 2023
Vesti’s chances of winning the championship are low, and his aspirations for a future in F1 could be affected. Especially with the fast-rising of a younger star in the Mercedes Junior program, Kimi Antonelli.
Ayumu Iwasa: a season of ups and downs
Between the stars of the Red Bull junior program, there is a driver very often underestimated. Ayumu Iwasa, 22 years old, is currently in third place in the championship standing. But his pre-season goals were much more ambitious.
After a good start of the season in Bahrain, at Jeddah he won the Sprint race, his first victory of the 2023 season. But it is in Australia that the Japanese showed all of his talent. After he achieved a magnificent pole, he won the race and, above all, led the championship ahead of Pourchaire.
However, in Baku, he seemed to have lost the determination that had animated him in the first races. He ended both races outside the points.
From there, it was an uphill struggle for Iwasa, who managed to keep third place in the championship standing. However, the gap with Pourchaire is too big to return to fight for the title.
Arthur Leclerc: too much too soon?
Among the drivers on whom there were more expectations at the beginning of the season, there was definitely Arthur Leclerc. Perhaps more for reasons related to his surname.
The Monégasque ended the F3 Championship in sixth place. A disappointing result for the driver, who was also critical of the category.
“That’s the thing about Formula 3 that is good for the viewers watching but for the drivers, maybe a bit less,” Leclerc reflected. “It’s really hard to put everything together. You have 30 drivers that can do a very good job so qualifying in the top 10 or top five, it’s really hard. No one maximised this I think most of the time.”
One of the factors that penalized him the most where the results in qualifying. Leclerc could not perform as he wanted.
This is why, when the DAMS team added him to their lineup, he decided that it was time to demonstrate his skills and learn from the previous year.
Unluckily for him, it was not the case. This year, the young driver stood on the podium only one time, and he got very poor results in the races, which have often seen him out of the points.
Fourth in the Sprint, third in the Feature 🏆
What a weekend for @arthur_leclerc7!
— DAMS (@damsracing) April 2, 2023
Obviously, the unnecessary comparisons with his brother did not help. Also, the DAMS team faced several difficulties this year: pit mistakes, bad strategies, etc. It did not benefit Arthur Leclerc’s rookie season, and now he is only fifteenth in the standings.
It was a difficult season for the driver, who may need more time to adapt to the new car.
Victor Martins: when the impatience gets the better of you
Winner of the Formula 3 Championship and member of the Alpine Junior Program, Victor Martins started this season with two podiums in Bahrain and at Jeddah, giving hope for his chance to fight for the title. However, both weekends were marked by two retirements that prevented him from doubling his results. In Australia, things did not go better. He ended both races outside the points.
He managed to recover in Spain, finishing third in both races.
Martins is a driver with a lot of talent, but he has a serious flaw: impatience. He wants the maximum immediately, risking making easily avoidable mistakes.