As a member of the Sauber Academy Théo Pourchaire has had links with Formula 1 since 2019. Now the 18 year old Formula 2 driver is set to play an even bigger role at Alfa Romeo F1. F1 Feeder Series spoke to Pourchaire about his F1 program, his hopes for the future and Alfa Romeo’s driver situation for 2023.
By Perceval Wolff
F4 in 2019, F3 in 2020, F2 in 2021… Théo Pourchaire edges closer to F1 by the year. During his rookie F2 season, the Frenchman drove the 2019 Alfa Romeo C38 at the Hungaroring. His first time in a Formula 1, but by all accounts certainly not his last one: Alfa Romeo’s boss Frédéric Vasseur has planned several F1 outings for his young countryman.
Private testing and FP1
Talking to F1 Feeder Series, Pourchaire expands on his F1 involvement. “I’ll play a bigger role in the F1 team compared to last year. I’ll most likely be there for the launch of the 2022 car on the 27th of February,” he reveals. “I’ll have the opportunity to get more experience in F1 with a private testing program in an older car. And I can reveal that I’ll do at least one FP1 this season. I already know on which weekend it will take place but I can’t say for the moment.”
In the past F2 drivers sometimes took part in FP1 sessions during an F2 race weekend, but that will not be the case for the Frenchman. “We agreed with Fred [Vasseur] that it was better not to drive in F1 on the same weekend as F2 rounds. It is paramount for me to focus on F2. F1 testing is a bonus, it’s for the future if I do become the F2 champion.”
If an opportunity would arise to replace a driver mid-season, would Pourchaire step up to the challenge, despite being in title-contention in F2? “If there is an opportunity, clearly I would accept! I already have my Super License, so I would be keen to do it. I will be at several GPs with Alfa Romeo so if there is ever an opportunity, I’ll take it.”
Pourchaire is touted by many as the favourite for the F2 title with ART GP. The title is a goal he also set for himself. “Well, you never know exactly what’s going to happen, the championship hasn’t even started yet. But yes, the title is the target. It’s an objective that Fred and I set for this season. It’s not necessarily a requirement but it’s the target.”
Roadblock for 2023?
But even a Formula 2 title won’t guarantee Pourchaire an F1 seat with Alfa Romeo for 2023. Valtteri Bottas is on a multi-year deal, while Guanyu Zhou has just joined the team, bringing important sponsors to the team. Pourchaire could face the same situation as Oscar Piastri today, the Australian F2 champion who is sidelined at Alpine where Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon occupy the seats.
“We’re not there yet, there are several possibilities. It’s a fact that Bottas has a contract for several years and it’s also sure that Guanyu Zhou brings a lot of budget, he is doing a lot of good for the team. In my opinion, it is in the team’s interest to keep him because he is one of the main reasons the team can survive. But once again, we’re not there yet. And I think there can be some other options, arrangements with Sauber,” he explains.
Pourchaire seems to hint at possibly joining another F1 team if things don’t work out, but also reiterates his seemingly strong bond with Alfa Romeo. “It’s all contracts, they can be modified or bought. But my objective is to do F1 with Alfa Romeo. They’ve helped me for so many years, it would be the logical step for the team and for me. But we don’t hold each other back,” he says.
Does that mean that Pourchaire is opening the door to other F1 teams? “Obviously. We’re not there yet and I have an F2 season to do before having to think about that. But I put all my faith in Sauber and Fred Vasseur. They have helped me since nearly the start of my single-seaters career and I know I can fully trust them.”
It’s Théo Pourchaire’s fourth season as a Sauber Junior driver. The Sauber Academy is one of the least known F1 academies, sporting just a few members. “It’s more of a family. They don’t have a lot of drivers, there will only be two this year, the second one will be announced shortly. I’m their biggest hope for the moment. It gives me important financial help for F2 and all these F1 testings. It also gives me the opportunity to use the simulator, to work with the F1 team. I’m already one foot in the world of Formula One,” he says.
Header photo credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd
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