One of the title favourites coming into the 2023 Formula 2 season, Théo Pourchaire has excelled at the first time of asking. The ART driver secured pole for the Bahrain feature race in dominant fashion under the lights in the opening qualifying session. Speaking to Feeder Series and selected media afterwards, Pourchaire discussed the implications of this strong start.
By Tyler Foster
Twelve months ago, a then 18-year-old Pourchaire won the opening feature race of the year at the Bahrain International Circuit. Now in his third season in F2, the returning driver has given himself the best possible chance of repeating this feat. A stunning lap of a 1:40.903 saw the Frenchman grab pole over his rookie teammate Victor Martins by a jaw-dropping three-quarters of a second.
This margin of superiority over the rest of the field is extremely unusual in the second tier and is the largest gap between P1 and P2 in the FIA Formula 2 Championship’s history.
During testing, ART boss Sébastien Philippe told Feeder Series that Pourchaire’s third season of F2 will give him more experience and maturity on his path towards F1. However, yesterday’s display of mastery may illustrate to some that the Sauber Academy driver is already ready to take the step and graduate. Feeder Series asked him whether he felt this was the case.
“I think it was a good decision to go in F2 again this year,” Pourchaire said. “I will follow Sauber. They did it for me. They are helping me a lot and if they feel that I am ready one day for F1, they will put me in F1. So I just want to give my best in F2. They told me to push a lot, to give my best, and let’s see in the future, but I cannot judge myself like that. I’m still young.”
Improved qualifying pace
Having failed to score any pole positions during last year’s campaign, the ART star focused on improving qualifying in the off-season. Arriving in Bahrain for the start of the new season, Pourchaire quickly showed that his work had paid off. While there were expectations for him to be towards the top, few would have predicted the degree of improvement he has exhibited.
“I was expecting to fight around top five, top three for sure, but I [was] also a bit worried if the teams or drivers were hiding a bit of performance in the test or the free practice,” Pourchaire explained. “You are not 100% confident going into the first quali that you will do the pole only because you did some good lap times in the test. It’s not a big surprise, but we are very happy to have that pace.
“All the winter, I worked a lot on my qualifying pace because last year I struggled a lot. It worked pretty well because I am P1 and Victor is P2. We have to give credit to the team. The car was very good and I felt confident in the car – very good setup, so I could push a lot. I don’t know how to explain it – I was just quick.”
All the winter, I worked a lot on my qualifying pace because last year I struggled a lotThéo Pourchaire after taking pole by 0.751 seconds
With this perfect start to the season, many may assume that Pourchaire can easily convert this pole in a second consecutive Sakhir feature race win. However, the varying temperature in Bahrain throughout the day will play havoc when it comes to tyre degradation and race strategy.
For Sunday’s race, the 19-year-old isn’t worried about ART’s pace.
“In the test, the race performance was good. It will be tight for sure. I know the other drivers, they are really good. I will focus on myself,” Pourchaire said.
“The most important thing is to take a very good start and to do a good pit stop. After that, the strategy will be important. I am confident. The car is good, so if it’s good in quali, it will be good in the race.”
Header photo credit: Dutch Photo Agency / ART Grand Prix
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