The first qualifying session of the new Formula 2 season finished with a surprise, as Australian rookie Jack Doohan took pole position with an electrifying lap. He finished over a tenth of a second ahead of Théo Pourchaire and Jüri Vips, with American rookie Logan Sargeant filling out the second row.
By Tyler Foster
“To be honest, it was a little bit unknown”, he told F1 Feeder Series and selected media. “We knew we had the potential to do pole, but we hadn’t really run this trim so far in testing or even in free practice so it was a little bit going into the unknown, but I had the confidence; I had the pace. We committed to a different strategy than everyone else. Also, just with one push on both runs, but it worked out.”
“I definitely really wanted that pole and I’ve been working very hard towards it. That last ten minutes where I was still waiting for the final result was definitely nerve-racking. I’m still learning with the car and I feel like I’ve gotten to grips with it quite well.”
Van Amersfoort Racing’s Jake Hughes was the first driver to really put an early rapid time on the board, and remained there until the second half of the session. With all of the drivers pitting for fresh rubber after their first runs, it was Doohan who committed to the different strategy and reaped the rewards on the empty track, going more than half a second clear of Hughes.
Hitech GP’s Jüri Vips was the first to come close to the Aussie but was still two tenths off. It was then the turn of the 18-year-old Pourchaire to put himself on the front row. The young Frenchman had to do this twice after he had his earlier lap time deleted. Meanwhile, the Prema squad had a shocker, with Dennis Hauger way down in fifteenth and Jehan Daruvala relying on a last lap push to get himself up to seventh.
Speaking to F1 Feeder Series after qualifying, Doohan spoke about the extent of his achievement but downplayed his expectations, stating that he avoided the pressure of being a rookie at this level.
“I think the best thing was I didn’t really have any expectations going into the last two rounds of last year, which gave me a good foundation to go forward on. As well as that, I was just learning as much as I possibly could and working with MP Motorsport in order for me to gain experience for this year. Yet again, I definitely had a target for this round but your expectation versus reality can be two different things. I always just try to keep in the back of my mind that I am still a rookie and that if I’m not on pole, it’s still a good job.”
After finishing his Formula 3 season last year with an impressive run that saw him win the final feature race of the season in Sochi after getting pole, Doohan made a brief cameo in F2 as he stepped up for the final two rounds in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi with MP Motorsport. He performed admirably and managed a highest finish of fifth in just his second race.
It is clear that his brief spell with MP Motorsport last year has given Doohan all the confidence he needs for this year’s F2 rookie campaign. Since then he has joined the impressive Virtuosi Racing team for this season. Meanwhile, Doohan’s teammate Marino Sato, who is in his third full time F2 season, finished fourteenth. A gentle reminder of just how impressive Doohan’s achievement is as a rookie at this level. It is still extremely early in the season to be making declarations, but it’s clear that Doohan will be fighting amongst the big boys.
With the first race of the season on Saturday being the sprint race, Doohan will find himself in tenth as a result of the reverse-grid format. Subsequently, it will be MP Motorsport’s Felipe Drugovich who lines up on Pole for Saturday, with Trident’s Richard Verschoor alongside him on the front row.
The Sprint Race will start at 4:40pm GMT (5:40pm CET) on Saturday afternoon.
Header photo credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd
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