Fifth in his maiden season last year with two wins, Théo Pourchaire will be the highest-placed returning driver of the Formula 2 field in 2022. The Frenchman, the youngest race winner in Formula 2, has only one goal this year: getting the title.
By Perceval Wolff
Pourchaire has experienced all sorts of emotions during his 2021 season. While he was the absolute hero of the Monaco weekend, became the youngest F2 pole sitter and race winner and showed very strong drives in Monza and Sochi, the ART GP driver also faced some major crashes in Baku and Jeddah. Did he manage to overcome these obstacles and fulfil his goals?
“At the start of the season, my target was a top 3,” concedes the Frenchman. “But I’m still more than satisfied with my championship with all that happened. It was complicated for me last year, I lacked experience at some points, like in Jeddah. It’s totally my mistake, I stalled on the grid… I have been working a lot on it this winter, and I hope it won’t happen again.”
“We’ve had a great season, but there were a lot of little issues and a lack of consistency”Théo Pourchaire
“However, I still managed to finish P5 in the championship, by winning at Monaco, the most beautiful race. But just after that, I got my radius broken in Baku and it prevented me from being at 100 percent at the two rounds coming after: all my preparation for Silverstone was compromised. I don’t want to be a driver that always complains. We’ve had a great season, but there were a lot of little issues and a lack of consistency. And we will fix this in 2022 in order to win.”
With a mechanical failure in the opening race in Bahrain, an injury in Baku and another major crash in Jeddah, Théo Pourchaire may not have been the luckiest driver last season. “I know that I need to make my own luck too. It’s too easy to say I was unlucky last season. But if I do everything right, if I succeed in being the best on every point and if I improve, I will put all the luck on my side and results will follow.”
Same team, new opponents
By being the highest-placed returning driver this season in F2, Pourchaire’s objectives are clear: “My goal is to be champion of Formula 2. Normally, I’m holding all the cards for it. The team has progressed, and we will keep improving during the season anyway. The championship will not be decided after the first two races, it will be a very long championship with 14 weekends. It’s the first time in my single-seaters career that I will have so many races. But that’s my goal: I definitely want to be champion”.
The Alfa Romeo test driver will face strong opposition in his title hunt. From his 2019 ADAC F4 title rival Dennis Hauger for instance. The Frenchman took the title in front of the Norwegian after an intense battle that lasted the whole season. “Hauger will be very strong. He’s the reigning F3 champion, he’s with Prema, these are two good reasons to say he’ll be in the fight,” explains Pourchaire.
“Last year, a lot of people compared me with Oscar Piastri, and I take it as a real compliment to be compared to him”Théo Pourchaire
“In my opinion, if there’s a driver that people can compare me to, it’s Hauger. Last year, a lot of people compared me with Oscar Piastri, and I take it as a real compliment to be compared to him. But he is older than me, he has more experience, etc. My real rival is Hauger. We’ve driven together in karting, we’re the same age, we have the same amount of experience.”
“And there will also be some other drivers who will be very, very strong, like Liam Lawson. Or Logan Sargeant too, the two Carlins will be very quick for sure. Jüri Vips as well. So, yes, there will be a great battle and the level will be once again very high this season.”
After being Christian Lundgaard’s teammate last year, Pourchaire will be lined-up alongside another Dane, in the person of Frederik Vesti. “I already knew him a little from F3, but I really discovered him at the post-season tests. He looks really cool, he has a totally different personality compared to Christian. He looks calm, he wants to improve, I think he can really help the team and me. I need somebody to push me to my limits. But my teammate is always my first rival, so I hope I will beat him!”
New pressure of the favourite?
For the first time in his whole single-seaters career, Pourchaire is the championship favourite. He’s not a rookie without any expectations anymore, like he was in ADAC F4, in F3 or in F2 the previous years. How does he deal with this new status? “I just try to stay the same. For sure, there’s stress, but as much as the previous seasons. I know that if I want to go to F1, this could be the year to shine. I don’t really feel more pressure: I know how to win, I’ve done it in ADAC F4, I’ve nearly done it in F3 too.”
Despite being in his second F2 season, the 18-year-old driver will still be the youngest driver of the field this year. “I’m trying not to think too much about my age. Whatever the experience of the others, their age, whatever, I have to beat them. I think it’s really possible. That said, the fact of being the youngest is still pretty cool (laughs).”
Busy calendar and beautiful tracks
Fourteen tracks are on the F2 calendar this year. And for the first time in his career, Pourchaire has already raced on each of these circuits (except Imola). “It will be an advantage compared to the previous years. It will be really important to have experience of some tricky tracks like Jeddah, Monaco, Baku, it will clearly help me. But even if I have some little advantages on some points, I know that each weekend, I need to give the best of myself, to work a lot. It never works if you think your opponents will struggle to learn.”
And of all these tracks, which are the ones he is the most looking forward to? “I would say Monaco. It’s always a wonderful weekend, not only because I have won there last year. It’s just… beautiful, it’s amazing to drive. I’m just so hyped to return to Monaco. Otherwise, we have a beautiful calendar with some of the most interesting European tracks, and I’m really looking forward to Zandvoort.”
“It will really be an interesting challenge to drive with the F2 cars on Zandvoort, with all the bankings. I’m thinking about the first part of the track, there were a lot of spins and crashes in F1 and in F3. We don’t have power steering in F2, so the long curbs and blind turns are going to be a great challenge. And obviously, Verstappen’s fans are totally crazy, I love it so much. This atmosphere is what we want to see in motorsport.”
“Last year was much too much for drivers, mechanics, engineers… and we had lost this sportive aspect a bit”Théo Pourchaire
New weekend format
And what does Pourchaire think about the new weekend format? After controversial three-race weekends last season, Formula 2 is coming back to two-race weekends with a single reversed-grid race. “Really, really happy! Last year was much too much for drivers, mechanics, engineers… and we had lost this sportive aspect a bit. Two reverse-grid races awarding 15 points to the winner was too much. It gave more points than the Feature Race. And when you had a problem at the first race of the weekend, your weekend was nearly ruined.”
“Now, the driver who will have scored the most points during the whole weekend will be the most deserving one. And it’s good to keep one reverse-grid race for the show. We will all take more risks in this sprint race. It is only 10 points but it’s not insignificant. There will be much less to lose so we will be able to try some moves in Monaco, Baku, etc. I’m really happy about this change”.
Pourchaire will start his year with 3 days of pre-season testing at Bahrain this week, and will have his opening race weekend in less than 3 weeks on the same track.
Header photo credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd
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