Ayumu Iwasa, wearing his neon yellow and blue helmet and his blue Red Bull–branded racing suit, lifts both fists in celebration

Ayumu Iwasa: ‘I want to focus on next year’ after Abu Dhabi win

The final race of the 2022 Formula 2 Championship saw DAMS’ Ayumu Iwasa take the second victory of his rookie season in a tense affair at the Yas Marina Circuit. Battling for the Feature Race win with Felipe Drugovich, the Japanese driver showed speed and composure to fend off the series champion and move up to fifth in the standings at the season’s close. Backed by both Red Bull and Honda, Iwasa will enter 2023 expecting to take one step closer to F1.

By Tyler Foster

The 2022 season has heralded a transformation for rookie Iwasa, with the second half of his season a major improvement from the first in performance and results. Having scored just 38 points from the first half of the 14-round championship, the 21-year-old Red Bull junior managed to boost his tally by more than a hundred points in the final seven rounds to finish with 141 come the drop of the flag in Abu Dhabi.

In the process, he took a maiden Feature Race win at Paul Ricard as well as a pole position in Hungary prior to this weekend’s pole and win. But this victory was certainly not perfect in Iwasa’s eyes, as he explained in the post-race press conference on Sunday.

“The race was completely different to Paul Ricard, for example. I had such big pressure from Felipe,” Iwasa said. “As we saw, the pace was not so great, and I was struggling a lot. Actually, the car behaviour and balance were okay; I just didn’t have enough speed to make a gap, so I think we need to look at data after this and check what was an improvement of this race. Anyway, I won the race, so I’m really happy about this!”

Still more to come?

Having scored his second pole position of the season earlier in the weekend, Iwasa wanted to make sure that unlike in Hungary, he made his superb qualifying count. A disappointing display in the Sprint Race on Saturday saw him drop back to 13th from his starting spot of 10th. With that in mind, the DAMS squad were vigilant about making specific set-up changes to the car in order to give Iwasa the best chance of staying out front on Sunday.

“The car was quite good with one-lap pace, but I think the car was not so impressive with the pace in the race,” Iwasa explained. “Even yesterday, I was struggling so much and I was losing a lot of places, but we were focusing on the improvements for today’s race and we were working a lot yesterday night. We found some improvements and I was trying everything in this race, but still, it was not enough. Maybe we need to improve the car even more.”

The Red Bull–sponsored DAMS F2 car of Ayumu Iwasa makes a left turn to the right of the foreground as the orange and black MP Motorsport car of Felipe Drugovich in the background prepares to make the same manoeuvre
Ayumu Iwasa held off Felipe Drugovich during the Feature Race | Credit: Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool

On DAMS and 2023

As a result of his outstanding end to the campaign, Iwasa finishes as the second-highest- placed Red Bull junior behind only Liam Lawson, beating out both Jehan Daruvala and Dennis Hauger in the process. He is also the second highest of the rookies, behind only Formula 1–bound Logan Sargeant.

Iwasa is likely to stay in Formula 2 for at least a second season, with rumours swirling that he will remain with DAMS for 2023 and partner Arthur Leclerc, who was confirmed for a seat at the team this morning. The Japanese driver kept his cards close to his chest when discussing next year but was open about his hopes and expectations if he does remain.

“I don’t have anything to say about the next season at the moment. But anyway, I’m really happy about the team improvement and my improvement as well. I want to focus on next year to do better because this year, I couldn’t [put it all] together and I was missing a lot. If I do [F2] next year again, I want to do my best job and then I will try to get points as much as I can,” Iwasa said.

“Sometimes, even this weekend, I was missing a lot, especially yesterday’s Sprint Race. Still, I have quite a lot of improvement on my driving performance.”

Header photo credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd

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