Not every year in junior series is a stand out. The natural cycles of talent can leave some Formula 2 years short.
The 2022 season, however, had a strong crop of rookies running at the front of the points and enough experienced drivers for that to be proven on merit.
Felipe Drugovich and Théo Pourchaire’s title fight was done with by Monza, but the five-way battle for third place to the last round in Abu Dhabi showed how competitive the field was. In total, 12 different drivers claimed race wins across the season and six succeeded in claiming a pole position. Here’s the ten that stood out, to RaceFans.
10 – Richard Verschoor – Trident
Having secured enough Web3 funding to run a whole season, Richard Verschoor finds himself lower down this list than last year. Which might be unfair, to weigh his performances in a race-by-race seat higher than those in a relatively secure position, but he also did not quite pull out the same stand-out performances as he put together at times during his disrupted 2021 campaign.
Despite starting the year strong with a win in the Bahrain sprint race, Verschoor wasn’t able to carry on the promising form. Scoring 96% of Trident’s points and bringing home four podiums was muted by a long, mid-season failure to score points.
9 – Frederik Vesti – ART
Having one of the title contenders as your team mate in a rookie year is a tough prospect for any driver stepping up into Formula 2. Mercedes junior Vesti started off the F2 season quietly, while team mate Pourchaire was staking an early claim to the top end of the standings.
However, despite not scoring in the first two rounds, Vesti had a breakthrough podium in the Barcelona feature race, before going on to win the sprint in Baku. Pole in Spielberg didn’t quite translate into victory but Vesti’s performance in Monza saw him secure second in both races – an extremely tricky accomplishment with F2’s partially reversed grid.
8 – Enzo Fittipaldi – Charouz
The start of Enzo Fittipaldi’s F2 season would not have suggested he was going to make this list, with the first two rounds free of points and the next one largely unexceptional. However, Fittipaldi’s star rose mid-season, at a stage when a lot of drivers found themselves in point-less no-man’s-land, during the rapid-fire European rounds.
Consistently scoring kept Fittipaldi high up in the standings, however a disappointing final round saw him come away with no extra points – the only thing keeping him down.
Fittipaldi’s on-track performances also got stronger and stronger. From looking initially a little lost in the F2 pack and without much wheel-to-wheel form, by the end of the season he was slicing through the pack on a regular basis.
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7 – Jehan Daruvala – Prema
From 2020 to 2021 there was no question about which Formula 2 team you wanted to be with if you wanted to have a serious shot at the title: Prema. Jehan Daruvala must have thought things were finally going his way when he acquired one of the two coveted Prema seats for 2022, alongside F3 champion Dennis Hauger; this was surely the Red-Bull-backed place that had a serious shot at the title.
It wasn’t to be. Although F2 is a spec series, sometimes teams get it more right or wrong and Prema’s years of being right had apparently run out. Both drivers struggled for qualifying pace and previously strong reliability faded away.
Daruvala was able to use his prior F2 experience to make more of it than Hauger and although Hauger took two sprint wins, it was Daruvala’s Monza feature win that felt more like a statement.
6 – Théo Pourchaire – ART
Pourchaire placed second in the championship, well ahead of any other driver who could challenge for it, and left the field scrapping for third. He was the only driver this year to contest Drugovich’s dominance and at times showed inspired speed and race craft. But even Pourchaire himself would say that this season was a disappointment.
Coming into F2 extremely young have only just turned 17 and immediately being in line to contest a title in 2021 has possibly not flattered Pourchaire. Across the season, he talked about immense pressure he had put himself under that led to him making mistakes, as well as being haunted by a violent crash in Jeddah at the end of the 2021 season.
Reliability can knock any drivers’ confidence and Pourchaire suffered from it, including a retirement in the final race due to a mechanical issue that seemed to summarise his season.
His season unravelled from the Red Bull Ring onwards. Poor qualifying saw him often involved in contact in races and despite a final win of the year in the Hungary feature race, all hope of catching up to Drugovich seemed fairly lost. He scored just two points in the final three rounds, finishing 101 points behind Drugovich in the standings.
5 – Liam Lawson – Carlin
Lawson’s second year of Formula 2 comes at a strange time. From a plethora of Red Bull junior team members, he emerged the front runner for promotion and yet somehow also looking less favourable to achieve that than after his near-miss with the DTM title last year.
Consistent podiums and no gigantic errors made Lawson’s season solid but he was outperformed by his rookie team mate at Carlin, Logan Sargeant, in races and qualifying until an end-of-season up-tick in form saw him take third place by just a single point. A modern Formula 2 car is difficult to drive and first practice outings for both Red Bull and AlphaTauri will have only driven home that better equipment is out there but until the final weekend in Abu Dhabi, Lawson looked solidly midfield for most of the year.
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4 – Jack Doohan – Virtuosi
One of a trio of strong rookies, alongside Ayumu Iwasa and Sargeant, Doohan’s first Formula 2 season was maybe only marred by not having a team mate to benchmark him against.
Marino Sato was as comprehensively drubbed at Virtuosi by Doohan as Clement Novalak was by Drugovich at MP. All the more impressive with Doohan being the less experienced of the two and yet able to claim pole in the very first round in Bahrain.
As is the way with Formula 2, that didn’t easily translate into a race win and Doohan had to watch Drugovich take wins from his second pole in Barcelona, before finally taking the top step for the first time during the Silverstone sprint race.
Doohan has, overall, arguably been the most front-running of the high-placed rookies this season. His main flaw has been not taking wins from his multiple pole positions but otherwise his confidence with the F2 car and speed has been obvious.
3 – Logan Sargeant – Carlin
The only graduate from Formula 2 to Formula 1 this year, Williams junior – and now grand prix driver – Logan Sargeant has outperformed expectations. He led experienced team mate Lawson in the standings for most of the season, out qualifying and out-racing Lawson and was arguably only cheated out of third place – or even the chance to challenge for second – in the standings by poor luck.
Five retirements in the last six rounds of the year gave Lawson the chance to catch up and snatch third by a point, but Sargeant’s consistent qualifying and race performances otherwise kept him deservedly in line for a superlicence. Winning both the Silverstone and Red Bull Ring feature races, in particular, showed his strengths as a driver and resisting pressure to make sure he secured fourth during the final round shows he can handle the heat at critical points.
2 – Ayumu Iwasa – DAMS
In the massive crop of Red Bull-backed hopefuls competing in F2 this year, Ayumu Iwasa would have reasonably been considered as one of the outliers. Dennis Hauger and Jehan Daruvala had got the then-coveted Prema places, Liam Lawson and then-Red Bull favourite Jüri Vips the Hitechs, but Iwasa saw himself sidelined to a DAMS drive, a long time after the team had shown dominant form.
One of the final Honda Formula Dream Project intakes to the programme and without Red Bull seemingly needing to please the manufacturer anymore, Iwasa’s chances might have looked a bit slim. However, his rookie season in F2 has been a revelation.
After finishing 12th in Formula 3 last year, Iwasa seemed to really find his feet in F2. A breakthrough podium in the sprint race in Barcelona turned into a frustrating mid-season run, but he returned to form from Silverstone onwards, taking his first victory in the Paul Ricard feature race. Making team mate Roy Nissany look ordinary might, arguably, not be Formula 2’s greatest challenge, but Iwasa’s results are DAMS’ strongest since 2019.
1 – Felipe Drugovich – MP
Coming into his third year in Formula 2, Drugovich – unbacked by any F1 programme and having flown largely under the radar in the previous two years – returned to MP Motorsport. It was a move that paid off and then some, Drugovich’s campaign coming alive with a podium and win at the second round in Jeddah and then never losing momentum.
Right to the final corner of the final lap, Drugovich proved how much more he could extract from the tricky Formula 2 car than any other driver. MP’s engineering shouldn’t be given all the credit for his performance, with team mate Clement Novalak struggling to find similar pace in the car and Drugovich scoring 87% of the points to take the team’s title.
Patient, hardworking and clean on track, Drugovich avoided radio meltdowns, collisions disastrous traffic or poor strategy calls to take a well-earned title. F2 could definitely be accused of having concealed some talents with reliability problems in both clutch and engine and some erratic team errors during races – such as botched pit stops that saw drivers leaving with tyres unattached but Drugovich’s season was largely flawless and maybe without the pressure of a junior programme (only that of journalists asking him when he would join one) he was more free to enjoy focusing purely on F2.
A superb weekend in Barcelona saw him take both wins and fastest lap, after which the title was pretty much his to run away with. Despite only taking another two wins, Drugovich’s strong qualifying performances put him in line for points in every race and he only finished outside the top ten twice across the whole season. Consistently making the most of MP’s performance, Drugovich is an extremely worthy champion and the 2022 standout driver.
And the rest…
Juri Vips has no one but himself to blame for losing his place on Red Bull’s young driver programme after using a racial slur during a live video broadcast. Often very quick, Vips squandered a few changes for wins and pole positions, but was able to complete his season after Hitech opted to keep him on.
Ralph Boschung deserves praise for his bravery – if, perhaps, not his wisdom – in racing on despite the discouragement of a doctor, by his own admission due to the health problems he suffered during 2022. Facet Syndrome, a severe spinal neck condition, forced him out of the Barcelona feature race and several subsequent rounds. Nonetheless, he returned with a sprint race podium in Belgium and a 15th place finish in the standings that reflects the strength of his performances when he could put them in.
Last year’s FIA Formula 3 champion Dennis Hauger struggled to adapt to F2 at first, it seemed. The Prema car definitely not working any magic for him in the first few rounds and a combination of bad qualifying and ending up in the more push-and-shove part of the pack seeing him struggle in a number of rounds. Wins in Monaco and Baku, however, proved he hadn’t lost any talent and despite struggling at times to score points he was able to end the season with two solid fourth places in Abu Dhabi.
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