Like their bigger brother, F1’s feeder series are also heading off on their summer break this August. While the championships don’t join every Grand Prix weekend, there are two races at each round they contest, making the season equally gruelling for these young drivers.
However, while the summer slowdown comes at roughly the halfway point of the Formula One World Championship, it represents the last chance for the future stars to prepare for a final flurry of races that will come thick and fast.
Formula 2 and Formula 3 have a triple-header – three rounds in three weekends – that begins at the end of August. For F3, the 2022 championship will be complete within two weeks of the chequered flag falling at Spa-Francorchamps, the first race of the three. Formula 2 has one final throw of the dice after the hectic trio of rounds, but there’s a lengthy two-month break before they head to Abu Dhabi for their finale.
Formula 2 Championship Favourites
Formula 2 took a couple of rounds for a likely champion to emerge, and when they did, the name surprised nearly everybody. Felipe Drugovich has no affiliation with any F1 team, was outclassed by Guanyu Zhou in 2021, and hadn’t won in F2 for over a year back in March, yet he has now led the standings unopposed since Round 2. As a third-year driver in a championship where many only have a couple of years to prove themselves, people expected him to be a possible challenger. Yet he’s been a runaway success story in 2022.
That story may not have a happy ending for Drugovich, though, as he’s slowly had that championship lead diminish throughout July. After winning three Feature Races in four rounds, including a sensational double win in Spain, the silverware has slowed to a trickle, and victories have evaporated. Some speculate he is managing his championship lead and driving more defensively, but if so, that might be premature.
Theo Pourchaire, the Sauber Academy whizzkid, is itching to be a problem for Alfa Romeo in 2023 by winning F2 and showing he’s ready for an F1 promotion. Pourchaire has been the closest challenger to Drugovich for much of the season, and his Feature Race win in Hungary has closed the gap to P1 to 21 points. So it’s suddenly become feasible that he, not Drugovich, could be the championship leader when the wait for the season finale rolls around after Monza.
Although F2 is firmly a two-horse race now, the story of the championship this year has been the impressive role rookies have played in the fight. Williams’ Logan Sargeant, Mercedes’ Frederik Vesti, Red Bull’s Ayumu Iwasa, and Alpine’s Jack Doohan have all done better than expected and sit ahead of many older, more experienced drivers in the standings after taking wins over the year.
Also, the Academy-less Enzo Fittipaldi now sits P4 in the standings despite no top-step trip to the podium while driving for a team usually found languishing in the doldrums. These names taking the 2022 title would need a miracle, but the 2023 F2 crown looks like it’ll be one hotly contested championship with that collection of future stars.
Formula 3 Championship Favourites
Of these three single-seater championships on the F1 support bill, it’s Formula 3 that has the title fight that’s the toughest to call. Alpine’s Victor Martins and Ferrari’s Arthur Leclerc looked to be the primary antagonists of the season as the year unfolded. However, a rookie protogé from Red Bull’s Junior Team has recently entered the title fight. Isack Hadjar is now level on points with Martins atop the standings in a French stand-off and sits in P1 thanks to his superior win record.
In Formula 3, more than in any other category, there can be unpredictable results. For example, the last weekend in Hungary saw two first-time winners in 2022. So counting half the grid out of the championship hunt with many surprises still to come would be foolish. However, Leclerc’s two teammates are the other young men who might be crowned champion at Monza at the end of the triple-header. American driver Jak Crawford and British rookie Ollie Bearman are also level on points and are one strong weekend away from stealing the crown.
I particularly want to draw attention to Bearman, who has yet to win in 2022 but could be a dark horse in the championship. While Hadjar graduated from Formula Regional to be an F3 rookie this year, Bearman skipped that Regional-level step and went straight from Formula 4. Furthermore, he won the highly-respected Italian and German F4 championships in the same year – an unprecedented feat in the feeder series. Bearman celebrated his third successive Feature Race podium at the Hungaroring and could be hitting a run of form at just the right time.
After three weekends without racing, Formula 2 and Formula 3 will return to action from 27-28 August to support the Belgian Grand Prix. Zandvoort will host Formula 2 for the first time, with F3 returning too, on 3-4 September. F3’s finale and F2’s penultimate round will be at Monza on 10-11 September, before Abu Dhabi will end F2’s campaign on 19-20 November. Put those dates in your diary; you don’t want to miss them.