Daruvala a title favourite? 5 takeaways from F2 testing at Bahrain

The motorsport calendar has reached that time of year again, as well all prepare for the start of the most competitive series in motorsport. Formula 2 returns in less than two weeks and with the three-day pre-season test having concluded on Friday, we wanted to give you the five biggest takeaways from testing to prime yourself for the upcoming championship.

By Tyler Foster

Carlin looks competitive

One of the biggest names in the feeder series business is that of British outfit Carlin. In 2021, they had an underrated F2 season, finishing third in the teams’ championship and less than twenty points away from second. This silent but competitive season may in hindsight see a team in resurgence in Formula 2 after what has been a recent lull in their history at this level. 

In testing, Carlin looked one of the most impressive teams with their new driver line-up of Liam Lawson and Logan Sargeant being consistently quick throughout all three days. The Kiwi, who joined Carlin after an impressive rookie campaign last year with Hitech GP, was quickest in both the first session of testing as well the entirety of day two. His American teammate, Logan Sargeant, finally made the jump to F2 after two strong seasons in F3. He was also quick on day one, finishing P3 and P5 in the two sessions.

The pair only finished outside of the top eight once each throughout all five sessions of testing, showing a mix of good qualifying pace and race pace. This is an incredible start from a driver pairing that looks as good as any on the grid. One thing to keep in mind is that recently, Carlin has tended to perform better at low downforce circuits. It might not be until mid-season testing in Barcelona that we get to see the true package of Carlin. Either way, they certainly look competitive once again in F2.

Daruvala the title favourite?

India’s best current open-wheel racer is Jehan Daruvala. The 23-year-old is entering the third campaign of his Formula 2 career. Having previously been at Carlin for two seasons, he has gradually improved and finished seventh last year, winning two races. For Daruvala, this year is everything. He is part of the Prema machine that saw their drivers last year finish 1-2 in the drivers’ standings. Therefore, his expectation is to compete for the title.

Testing started strongly for the Indian, with a solid P4 in the opening session, before being quickest in the afternoon session on day one. He was usually quicker in one-lap pace over his rookie teammate and F3 champion, Dennis Hauger, but was slightly weaker on the longer runs. After finishing the three days, he had this to say about his sessions.

“We experienced three very productive days of testing. The car felt great on short and long runs. There are a lot of positives to take from the test and most importantly I feel comfortable in the car and ready for the battle on our hands!”

Ultimately, Prema is the team to beat and Daruvala certainly has a level of pressure to perform in what is potentially the most important year of his career. As the senior driver in the team, it’s not far-fetched to argue that he is the title favourite for 2022.

Liam Lawson at testing in Bahrain | Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

Fittipaldi returns

Brazilian driver Enzo Fittipaldi had a very mixed 2021. He achieved a maiden podium in Formula 3 before graduating to Formula 2 during the middle of the season. Racing for Charouz, Fittipaldi scored his debut F2 points in his third round but also suffered a horrific accident at a race start on the same weekend, fracturing his right heel. 

His recovery has been rapid and he has officially returned to his Charouz F2 seat with a solid performance in testing. He was amongst the pack on day one, finishing P12 and P8, however his proudest moment would come on day two. Both him and his teammate Cem Bölükbaşı finished in the top four in the morning session while targeting long runs. Along with this, Fittipaldi clocked up 41 laps which was the fourth most of any driver in that session.

Fittipaldi is remaining realistic about his target for F2 this year but a solid testing has helped bolster his confidence. 

“Our qualifying target is top 10 for sure. Being very realistic, I think we should be targeting from P12 to P8 in qualifying. We already look very competitive at testing, so I am looking forward to it. I’ll hopefully get some podiums this year, spray some champagne and finish in the points – that is the goal.”

Who did the most laps?

When discussing testing in motorsport, it’s not all about the lap times. Of course, being quick is a good indication of ability and a good setup with the car, but sometimes just pounding the laps in is just as important. 

The driver who managed the most mileage in F2 testing may come as a surprise. Any ideas? It was ART GP rookie and Mercedes Junior, Frederik Vesti, who completed a total of 175 laps over the three days. The Dane may have stayed with ART but graduating to F2 means having to learn a whole new car. Those laps certainly won’t do him any harm.

Meanwhile, Vesti’s French teammate and fan favourite, Théo Pourchaire, completed 168 laps. This resulted in ART being the team with the most completed laps in F2 testing, 343 laps in total. Not bad for a rookie paired with an 18-year-old. Lastly, the Carlin duo of Lawson and Sargeant managed 331 laps between them. This mileage coupled with their pace in testing make them a team to fear for this year.

Darude’s Sandstorm

Finally, the last F2 test session on day three was unfortunately cancelled as a result of the Bahraini weather. A sandstorm came across the track during the course of the F3 session. By the time the final F2 session came around, the weather had not passed. The gusty wind caused the sandstorm to make visibility on the circuit almost impossible for the drivers. This was announced on the F2 Twitter page in the only way possible, with a reference to one of the most memed songs of all time… Darude’s Sandstorm.

On the grounds of safety, the final F2 session was cancelled and subsequently the only results from that day were from the morning session. It is a shame that the final session, where the culmination of all the drivers’ and teams’ work comes together to give one final basis of judgement, didn’t occur. 

To an extent however, F1 has proved that the less time that teams have to prepare, the more chaotic races become as the drivers have to compensate for a lack of data. 

Ultimately, the Formula 2 campaign is nearly upon us, with drivers staying in Bahrain for the opening round on the 18th March. It will be a championship of high pressure, high competition and the highest stakes possible. Don’t forget to tune in to the mayhem of Formula 2!

Header photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool

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