Hadrien David is undoubtedly one of the biggest feeder series talents below FIA F3. Second and fourth in the last two FRECA seasons, he tested F3 cars for the first time in post-season testing. However, it is likely this could be the first and last time the Frenchman will drive this type of car as he is facing budget issues. David talked to F1 Feeder Series about his 2022 season and his future.
By Perceval Wolff
After a brilliant 2021 that saw him finish runner-up in FRECA, David should have stepped up to FIA F3 in 2022 as his teammates Zane Maloney and Isack Hadjar (fourth and fifth in the standings) did. However, the Frenchman was forced to do another year in FRECA because of a lack of budget.
Finishing on a high
Despite a slow start to his season, the Alpine Affiliate driver took his maiden win in the streets of Monaco. He then collected two other wins and several other podiums that enabled him to finish fourth. Even though he aimed for the title at the beginning of the year, David is satisfied with the way he finished the season.
“In hindsight, I think we can say it was a good year, and even a very good one if we focus on the second half. If we only take into account the last five rounds, I am champion,” says the Frenchman, who has collected 124 points in these final 10 races while FRECA champion Dino Beganovic claimed only 108 points, Minì 107 and Aron 103.
It’s in the five first rounds that we lost the championship, especially in the two first ones.Hadrien David
“It’s in the first five rounds that we lost the championship, especially in the first two. We lost a lot of points before Monaco. Beganovic and Prema were really a class above the field at that moment. At the end of the year, in the final standings, it counts.
“But I’m really happy about the way we improved with R-ace GP. We started fighting just for points to finish battling for wins and pole positions at each round. So I’m not happy with the final P4, but I’m happy about the way we finished for sure,” David explains.
Monaco, the highlight of the year
But what prevented David and his team from fighting for top positions at the start of the year? “During the winter, we changed tyres. We went from the DMA to the DMB Pirelli. The structure of the rear tyre changed and we had to modify our set-up because we really struggled to warm these rear tyres up. We had a lot of tyre degradation too and we were slow in qualifying.
“Throughout the year, we eventually managed to understand these tyres. The first weekend where we performed was Monaco and it was the hottest weekend of the season, so we didn’t have any of these warm-up problems. When I won the race in Monaco, it was 29°C at 10 am,” David detailed.
“It has been a real click in my season, it boosted my self-confidence, it boosted everyone in the team. We really started to understand how these tyres worked. Overall, after this round, we always were in the fight for podiums, poles and wins.”
Logically, the win on the streets of Monaco was the peak of David’s season. “When I learnt I would do another year in FRECA, I told myself that a win in Monaco would be my biggest target. Last year, I had been so close to the win, but Zane beat me in the final lap of qualifying.
“This year, what happened was the exact opposite. Last season, I had been first in free practice, first during the whole qualifying session until the last thirty seconds. This year, I crashed in free practice and the mechanics had to work on my car the whole night to repair it. And for the qualifying, I spent the whole session in P2 before the final lap. I gave everything and I went to the absolute limit. It was literally all or nothing. And this final lap gave me pole position. It was such an emotion, especially after the start of the weekend we’d had.”
Studying and racing
Monaco was not David’s only achievement this year as he also graduated high school and entered the prestigious Sciences Po Paris university. How does a racing driver cope with high-level studies?
“For five years, I had online school and it was really difficult. I didn’t have any friends; everything was online. I recently met WRC driver Pierre-Louis Loubet, who went to Sciences Po and who really encouraged me to go there as they are used to welcoming high-level athletes. Political science, economics, history… I knew I could have fun in this school, so I applied and I entered!”
Several drivers continue their studies alongside their racing activities such as fellow countryman Macéo Capietto, who drove this year in FRECA and also entered famous engineering school ESTACA. The Monolite driver told F1 Feeder Series about how his studies could influence his performances on track as he sometimes had to work up to 2 am before race weekends. Does David think his studies can have a negative impact on his racing?
“That’s a really good question, actually. We talked about that a lot with R-ace Team Principal Thibaut de Mérindol during the year. According to him, this is the main explanation for why I was back on top in the second half of the season. I graduated high school in June, so he thinks that after this, I was more focused on racing than at the start of the year. I don’t agree at all with him, but it’s still interesting to note.”
I graduated high school in June, so [R-ace team principal Thibaut de Mérindol] thinks that after this, I was more focused on racing than at the start of the yearHadrien David
A first (and last?) FIA F3 experience
At the end of September, David got his first taste of an FIA F3 car in post-season testing at Jerez. After three years of competing in the heavy and difficult Formula Regional car, the Frenchman was delighted by this machinery.
“It is like night and day. It has four wheels, a steering wheel, a halo, but that’s all, these are the only similarities, these cars are so different. The FIA F3 car is wonderful. Dallara is known for designing excellent cars anyway,” he said.
“These two days with Carlin were a super experience, but it was a bit difficult as I think they have the same problem I had with R-ace at the start of the year with warming up the tyres. But I spent two amazing days, and I really have to thank Carlin for this opportunity.”
This maiden experience could unfortunately also be the last for the Frenchman. “It’s definitely not going in the right direction. The main problem is budget, and even though I got a really good offer and a price that is cheaper than an Italian F4 season, I simply don’t have the budget. Alpine doesn’t want to invest more in F3 than what they currently do. I think there is at least a 90 percent chance I don’t do FIA F3 next year.”
“I had a really good offer from Carlin, but the problem is that Alpine was not really interested in putting me in a team where a fight for the title would have been unlikely. All F1 junior teams are much more reluctant to invest and spend all their money after Piastrigate.”
Even though I got a really good offer and a price that is cheaper than an Italian F4 season, I simply don’t have the budget. Alpine doesn’t want to invest more in F3 than what they currently doHadrien David
David understands Alpine’s decision and hopes to stay a part of the French constructor in the future. “I love Alpine, I love the brand and I have a good relation with everyone, but of course, this is not automatic. They can’t open all the doors,” he says.
“I don’t know what I will do, but for sure it’s very frustrating. I’m the recordholder of podiums in FRECA, I won seven times… so yeah, I’m really gutted not to step up next year.”
A future in endurance
F1 Feeder Series understands that David has been in talks to join the LMP2 category in 2023 for several months. Is it where the future of the Alpine affiliate lies?
“I don’t have much choice. The plan would be to perform well without bringing too much budget, do a very good first year and get a professional contract for 2024,” he explains.
“Unfortunately, I’m a Gold driver since this year, so that doesn’t help me for an LMP2 seat. But I still think there are several interesting seats, and I need to see with Alpine as they want to build a program in LMP2. It’s quite likely that if I do endurance, it will be with Alpine,” David reveals. “The objective is to stay in their junior programme in endurance to hopefully get a seat in the future in their hypercar programme. It’s Plan B. Now that I can’t rise in single-seaters, I will try to rise in endurance and go to hypercar.”
The objective is to stay in their Junior programme in endurance to hopefully get a seat in the future in their Hypercar programHadrien David
F1 Feeder Series can reveal that David will be taking part in his first endurance competition this weekend at the Circuit Paul Ricard, running in the LMP3 category of the Ultimate Cup Series with CD Sport.
Header photo credit: FRECA
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