Every season of racing has its ups and downs, and the 2022 edition of F2 has certainly had drivers who had outstanding years and drivers who fell far short of expectations. With one round left in Abu Dhabi, here are our three biggest winners and losers from the current campaign’s action.
By Tyler FosterCurious about where your favourite Formula 2 driver might be headed next season? Read our 2023 grid projections here.: The 3 biggest winners and losers from the 2022 F2 season
Here at F1 Feeder Series, we have praised the expected newest addition to F1’s 2023 grid a lot recently, albeit for very good reason. Sargeant entered the 2022 season off the back of three years in F3, scoring a victory in two of those. A plucky campaign in 2021 with the smaller Charouz team resulted in a seventh-place finish for Sargeant, who gifted the Czech squad their first F3 victory in the process.
After a brief F2 cameo with HWA toward the back end of last year, Sargeant wound up at Carlin for 2022 with the help of his Williams connections. Partnered alongside Liam Lawson, Sargeant had mild expectations as a rookie. But thirteen rounds later, Sargeant is currently third in the standings and 12 points ahead of his more experienced Red Bull junior teammate. So how has Sargeant got ahead of not just Lawson but several others?
To start, the Carlin package has once again been strong, but while Lawson has admitted to struggling to extract the maximum from it consistently, Sargeant has only improved as time has passed. It took Sargeant four rounds to score his first F2 podium, which he took in Spain, but only a further three for his first pole and Feature Race win. These achievements at Silverstone helped him rise to third in the championship while propelling him into the early silly-season discussions about a seat at Williams.
A second consecutive Feature Race victory followed in Austria, making Sargeant the only driver other than Felipe Drugovich to achieve back-to-back Feature Race wins in 2022. Having risen to a season high of second in the standings, Sargeant looked to be on a title charge after scoring a second pole in France. However, a disappointing retirement in that Feature Race marked the end of Sargeant’s glorious run of form.
Ultimately, these mid-season performances, alongside an impressive 9–4 qualifying record against Lawson, have been the main plus points in Sargeant’s résumé for an F1 seat with Williams. With the F2 championship having been so tight in the midfield throughout the year, Sargeant saved the best of his talent for the most key moments, taking two crucial Feature Race wins as well as a P2 in Baku. As a result, despite still being a rookie in F2, Logan Sargeant looks set to leave the series after just eight months to become a Williams F1 driver and the first American to reach F1 since Alexander Rossi in 2015.
Sargeant is only ahead of Drugovich on our list because the American will be on the F1 grid for 2023 while the Brazilian will be sat on the sidelines as an F1 reserve driver with Aston Martin. Nevertheless, we regard this year’s dominance from Drugovich as historic: If he maintains or increases his current 77-point lead over Théo Pourchaire, Drugovich will have the largest winning margin for a driver in the modern F2 era, exceeding Charles Leclerc’s 72-point gap over Artem Markelov in 2017. What makes these performances from Drugovich so impressive is that he has improved leaps and bounds from his two previous seasons in F2.
Starting as a rookie with MP Motorsport back in 2020, Drugovich was victorious thrice and finished ninth. A year later, the Brazilian switched to the Virtuosi squad, and while his consistency may have improved, his pace didn’t. This season, on his return to MP, everything has come together for the 22-year-old. Four pole positions, four Feature Race wins and a further five podiums make up an extensive highlight reel. Having comfortably claimed the drivers’ title with three races to spare at Monza, Drugovich has one final round to help the Dutch squad take home the teams’ title as well. Along the way, he has soundly defeated chief rival Pourchaire, whose 2022 performances have varied from well above to well below expectations.
It truly has been an exceptional campaign from ‘Drugo’ as he has somewhat unexpectedly risen above all else in an unpredictable year of Formula 2 racing. It has been dominant and as crushing a victory as you will see at this level. He deserves a lot of praise, yet he will most likely spend a year or two on the front benches of Formula 1 before having a shot at joining the illustrious grid. This is the lurking disappointment of his young career, and he may never get the opportunity that his talent surely deserves.
Picking a third winner from this current F2 field is a harder task than one might think. A number of the more experienced members of the grid are having disappointing seasons, but a number of rookies have likewise improved to surprising extents. Sargeant is definitely in this crowd, as are Jack Doohan and Frederik Vesti and a certain Ayumu Iwasa.
This 21-year-old from Osaka has surprised more than a few fans over the last eight months. Iwasa has been one of five drivers on this F2 grid connected to the Austrian F1 team Red Bull Racing (along with Jehan Daruvala, Lawson, Jüri Vips and Dennis Hauger). He is currently third of those five in the standings, but he may have had the best year in terms of personal performance and improvement. Having won once in 2021 as a rookie in Formula 3, Iwasa perhaps demanded more respect than many first gave him. The DAMS driver is on course to have the best season for a driver at the French team since Nicholas Latifi finished second in 2019.
A couple of second places in the Sprint Races helped Iwasa gain early points, but just as for Sargeant, a mid-season surge elevated him in the standings. Iwasa’s high point was his maiden Feature Race win at Paul Ricard after nearly taking pole, which he followed with pole at the Hungaroring and two further Feature Race podiums.
Iwasa is currently ninth in the standings and with a big final weekend could finish as the best-performing Red Bull junior. With Yuki Tsunoda’s presence in Formula 1 at the moment, AlphaTauri could be looking at an all-Japanese driver line-up in the future. But first, surprise rookie Iwasa will be looking to go from strength to strength in his second year, for which he is set to remain with DAMS. Could we be talking about an unexpected title contender?
What about Jüri Vips’ 2022 went well? The then 21-year-old Estonian entered the year as the main Red Bull Test and Reserve Driver while also carrying an FIA Super Licence. Then, in the first Feature Race of the season at Bahrain, leading comfortably and looking at an amazing start to the year, Vips lost out because of an extremely slow pit stop. This just about set the tone for what was to come. Someone who was regarded most highly within the Red Bull junior stable has had the definition of a season to forget, with any hopes of making it to F1 truly crushed and his career appearing to rely on his performance in an IndyCar test with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing about a month ago.
Some see Vips’s case as unfortunate, as a prime example of talent being wasted. But beyond racing, it also illustrates that certain lines cannot be crossed in motorsport – that certain off-track mistakes overshadow on-track ability. In June 2021, Vips uttered a racial slur during a Twitch stream. While he apologized and said he was learning from his behaviour, the consequences brought upon him were severe: a loss of Red Bull backing and public condemnation of his actions by F2 itself.
Even before this matter, Vips was having a season akin to a nightmare. The Estonian admitted to having ‘over-pushed at times’, a weakness that has kept him from realising his true potential and ruined any hopes of a special year. Despite qualifying well in the first six rounds, including taking two pole positions, Vips only scored 33 points from those first six Feature Races. In both the Imola and Baku Feature Races, the Estonian was in a front-running position after starting from pole but threw away a potential haul of 25 points in each race because of individual errors. At Imola, Vips was the quickest driver across the weekend but beached his Hitech in the gravel early on Sunday to ruin his chances of winning. The driver immediately behind him at that point, Pourchaire, went on to win that race. Then, in Baku, Vips made the exact same fateful error, crashing out from the lead.
We believe it is unlikely that Vips will have a seat in either IndyCar or F2 from the start of the next campaign, leaving his future career status up in the air. This is a major shame for a driver who entered 2022 with high expectations and the goal of entering F1 in 2023. If Liam Lawson is able to reach F1, remember that it could have been Jüri Vips. One could even argue that the Colton Herta Super Licence fiasco and Nyck de Vries’ signing with AlphaTauri wouldn’t have happened if Vips had had a clean 2022 as he was the leading Red Bull junior at the start of the year. Instead, he may soon be added to the long list of young talents in motorsport who were so close yet so far. His Red Bull exit has certainly restricted his opportunities and importantly damaged his legacy.
Entering his third year of Formula 2 having switched to Prema from Carlin, Jehan Daruvala was our predicted champion for this season. Though expectations were at an all-time high for Daruvala, he has been mediocre at best this season. He has proven himself a talented and consistent driver over the years, but with a Prema team that had come off the back of two consecutive drivers’ and teams’ titles, anything but a fight at the front would be considered a failure. Fifth in the standings, 115 points behind champion Drugovich, just will not do.
In his second year in F2, Daruvala made some genuine progress with Carlin, jumping from 72 points in 2020 to 113 points in 2021, but this has not continued and has even appeared stunted in his third season. Despite joining Prema, Daruvala has averaged a very similar points output to his time with Carlin. Even more disappointingly, the 24-year-old was the clear lead driver within Prema, so in comparison with the performances of previous Prema number ones like Oscar Piastri, Mick Schumacher and Leclerc, Daruvala’s results are a clear outlier.
Daruvala sits fifth, in the midst of a close midfield battle from third to tenth. A series of Sprint Race podiums early in the season were for most of 2022 Daruvala’s season highlights, but a double podium and maiden F2 Feature Race victory last time out at Monza have taken that spot and may give him renewed confidence. But is it all too late for Daruvala?
Whether Daruvala would have fared better alongside a stronger teammate is unknown, as F2 rookie and 2021 F3 champion Hauger has not been as quick as expected, but Prema’s driver line-up hasn’t been as strong as hoped with the Indian as the lead driver. It is highly rumoured that Daruvala will remain with Hauger for next year but at MP Motorsport, where he would have his fourth and possibly final chance to win the FIA Formula 2 Championship. There will be no excuses.
Clément Novalak has been an easy target for criticism this season. The soft-spoken but quietly confident driver has struggled perhaps the most compared to expectations. Having finished third on a strong 2021 F3 grid, he was labelled ‘Mr Consistent’ by fans and pundits alike during his time with Trident. However, since his graduation to F2 with MP Motorsport, Novalak has mostly been behind other cars.
The 21-year-old has stated throughout the season that he is adapting slower than expected and is not on pace with his champion teammate. Coming up to F2 and having to face off against a dominant Drugovich certainly hasn’t helped the confidence of Novalak over his rookie campaign. In comparison to his F3 rivals from last season, Novalak has performed way below par, with several of those other rookies scoring wins, podiums and poles.
Novalak clearly has talent, with a Sprint Race podium in Zandvoort being his season highlight. The fact that Novalak is the second highest scoring driver without a race win this season suggests that victory next year might be on the horizon. It is expected that for 2023, he will switch away from MP Motorsport and return to Trident, with the hope of rekindling the form that saw him challenge for the top step in Formula 3. It will have to be some improvement, but a career reset could see Novalak go on to have a similar trajectory to that of his current teammate Drugovich.
Header photo credit: Formula Motorsport Limited
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