In motorsport, your best reference will always be your teammate. Most top drivers are paired with other strong drivers in the top teams, but sometimes in Formula 2 you have a scenario whereby drivers of differing abilities are partnered up. For Virtuosi’s Jack Doohan this is the reality and he told F1 Feeder Series how it has acted as a disadvantage for him.
By Tyler Foster
Despite being a rookie this year, Jack Doohan, last year’s Formula 3 vice-champion, has excelled at points and shown his raw speed and talent. The 19-year-old Aussie has scored two pole positions, a victory and two further podiums and currently sits P6 in the championship. In contrast, his Japanese teammate Marino Sato has struggled despite this being his third full season in the series.
The contrast between the two is obvious. With at least two years more experience, 23-year-old Sato first appeared in F2 back in 2019 but has only scored a cumulative 8 points in four years, while Doohan as a rookie currently has scored 78 points in this year alone. Doohan seems destined for more and possibly Formula 1 in the future but is suffering from not having a comparable teammate.
Starting from scratch
Speaking to Doohan on Thursday, we asked whether respectfully having a ‘weaker’ teammate was having a negative impact on his progress over the season.
“Obviously for one reason or another,” Doohan said when speaking to F1 Feeder Series, “it’s different for me. Marino [Sato] is still finding his feet within the team for what he likes and trying to find his ultimate package, which is just taking a little bit longer than for me.”
“Obviously for now and earlier in the season, it’s difficult not having any reference. Everything since day one [with Virtuosi in 2022] has really been just on my own. To be honest, it’s a little bit of a disadvantage when comparing to having a teammate who’s at the same level and comfortable with their package. It is what it is and there’s nothing you can do.”
Without much of a comparison, it makes it much harder for Doohan to have a good understanding of the true pace of his Virtuosi car. This applies for every session but most importantly for the qualifying and race runs in practice, where having different sets of data from both drivers is more of a hindrance than a help to the Virtuosi engineers and mechanics.
Telling it like it is
It may seem brutally honest from Doohan, but this is a factor that the young Australian has had to deal with as a rookie, and despite the lack of a reference, he still is sixth in the standings. This highlights just how much talent Doohan has and how well he has gelled with the Virtuosi team. It is worth noting that both Doohan and Sato are racing with Virtuosi for the first time having both previously raced for Trident in F3 and F2 respectively last year.
“I think [Sato] has great potential”, Doohan continues, “and could have easily been inside the top ten in qualifying in France, so I think he’s making some solid progress. I’m sure he’ll probably be fighting in the top ten and maybe even a little bit closer towards the end of the year.”
With Doohan having scored two pole positions so far this year, we also asked him whether he felt any pressure coming to a circuit where overtaking is more difficult and therefore qualifying at the front is paramount.
“We’ll see how the weekend goes. I think we should be good if everything comes together. There’s definitely no external or any more pressure at all. We’ll just stick to the process and I’m sure we can do a good job.”
Despite this, the Alpine Academy driver struggled in qualifying on Friday evening and only managed tenth but will subsequently start on reverse-grid pole for the Sprint Race on Saturday.
Header photo credit: Virtuosi Racing
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