Ayumu Iwasa’s mighty charge: 5 takeaways from F2 Round 1 at Bahrain

The opening round of the 2022 F2 Championship gave us a lot to think about. We had a surprise Sprint Race winner, a rookie on pole and an eventful battle for the Feature Race. With a lot of anticipation coming into the season, let’s dive into a brief summary of the weekend’s action, with five takeaways from Round 1 of FIA Formula 2.

By Tyler Foster

Pourchaire starts strong

The 18-year-old Sauber Junior driver had a solid start to a year in which he said that his goal was to become F2 champion. He was quick on Friday, putting his ART GP on the front row alongside pole sitter Jack Doohan. 

Subsequently, the Frenchman started in ninth for the reverse-grid Sprint Race on Saturday. He made early progress but after reaching as high as fifth, suffered from an engine failure and had to retire. After climbing out of the car, he was visibly distraught, knowing that any points dropped this year could be the difference between winning and losing the title.

However, Pourchaire still had Sunday’s Feature Race to contend with. Red Bull Junior Jüri Vips took the lead from the start and looked on for a comfortable victory, however a slow pit-stop resulted in the Estonian losing the lead. The French driver then took the lead after pole sitter Jack Doohan damaged his front wing on exit from the pits, tagging Pourchaire lightly on the exit of turn one. Doohan had to pit again and Pourchaire managed a Safety Car restart to win the second Feature Race of his career.

Pourchaire leads the standings after the first round and certainly looks the real deal this year, as a genuine title favourite.

Verschoor gets fairy-tale win

21-year-old Dutchman Richard Verschoor won the inaugural race of the F2 season in what was an emotional moment for the new Trident driver. It wasn’t long ago that his future in motorsport was looking shaky, due to financial reasons. 

Despite winning a Sprint Race last year in Silverstone, Verschoor found himself out of the MP Motorsport seat. He did make a return with Charouz for the final round of the F2 season and ultimately finished eleventh in the standings, highlighting his talent. However, coming into 2022, Verschoor’s chances of returning to F2 looked slim. 

Eventually, he managed to find the sponsors he needed and has been massively thankful for his chance to return this year. He certainly didn’t have to wait long to prove himself again though, with a win on debut for his new team Trident. He may not be fighting for the title this year, but Verschoor certainly has the pace to win more Sprint Races this year.

Richard Verschoor with the trophy for his Sprint Race win | Credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd

Doohan slips up

The son of Australian great Mick Doohan, has been on a mission ever since halfway through 2021. His excellent end to his second F2 season resulted in three victories and a couple of Poles. Since his graduation to F2 for this year with Virtuosi Racing, fans were unsure as to whether Doohan had the ability to contend for the title in his rookie year in F2. 

He quickly proved that he did, after securing pole position in the first qualifying session of the year. From that point on however, Doohan’s weekend slowly went downhill. He failed to make any progress in the Sprint Race, finishing where started in tenth. 

Then in the Feature Race, he lost the lead from the start with a poor getaway. He looked able to regain the lead after Jüri Vips experienced a slow pit-stop, but Doohan made a slight error on cold tyres exiting the pits. He didn’t see Pourchaire alongside him as they both entered turn one and Doohan turned in too quickly, resulting in the most minor of collisions with the Aussie knocking his front wing and missing out on what otherwise could have been a big victory in his career.

He will surely remain in the title hunt for the rest of the season, as both Doohan and Virtuosi look strong but losing so many points in the first round always puts you on the back foot for the rest of the season. 

Jack Doohan (Virtuosi Racing) takes pole at Bahrain | Credit: Dutch Photo Agency

Iwasa impresses from the back

Japanese Red Bull Junior Ayumu Iwasa was a surprise addition to the F2 grid for many this year, due to his mediocre performance in his rookie season in F3. However, he has certainly made an impression after his excellent performances in both races at the weekend.

His weekend got off to the worst possible start after losing control of his car on his outlap within the first minute of qualifying on Friday and beaching his car in the gravel. This embarrassing mistake could have set the tone for the rest of his weekend.

Instead, Iwasa made a ridiculous recovery driver in both the Sprint Race and the Feature Race, at one point leading the Feature Race on the alternate strategy. He ultimately wasn’t able to finish in the points on Sunday but did pick up a point for eighth in the Sprint Race. 

These displays from Iwasa have certainly highlighted him as one-to-watch and raises the question of just how good the Red Bull Junior truly is.

Prema disappoint

The team that has dominated everything in F2 for the last two seasons has had a weak start to 2022. They came into the season off the back of two consecutive Drivers’ and Teams’ Championships, but had a disastrous qualifying. 2021 F3 Champion Dennis Hauger qualified in fifteenth, while Jehan Daruvala only managed seventh with a last gasp lap.

From there on, the highlight of their weekend was Daruvala’s second place in the Sprint Race. He did show the pace to contend for the win but again disappointed on Sunday, finishing twelfth. Meanwhile, Hauger finished outside of the points in both races, with his Feature Race ending on just three tyres after a disastrous pit-stop late on.

The question of Prema’s dominance ending was an interesting one coming into this year, but most people did not expect this level of regression from the Italian team. While Daruvala has shown the pace to fight for wins, he may not be as strong as first thought. For Hauger, it could be a difficult year and will need to bounce back strongly if he has any hope of competing with the big boys.

Header photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool

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