Formula 2’s third feature race of 2023 saw a victorious Ayumu Iwasa of DAMS become the first repeat winner of the year and take the championship lead as teammate Arthur Leclerc also made it onto the podium at Melbourne’s Albert Park. Afterwards, the DAMS drivers told Feeder Series and selected media how their relationship within the team has helped them strike early success.
By Tyler Foster
Since the arrival of new management in former F1 driver Charles Pic, DAMS have been one of the strongest teams on the grid, and the emergence of Ayumu Iwasa has coincided with the team’s upturn in form. The Japanese driver has now won three of the last nine feature races in Formula 2.
His burgeoning partnership with his teammate – Ferrari Academy driver Arthur Leclerc – has, in Iwasa’s own opinion, been a factor in the French team’s electric start to the season.
“It’s quite an important point for me because since the Abu Dhabi test last year, I was feeling that we are able to improve together. We are pushing each other all the time in terms of the car and driving. So, I think it’s really positive and that’s why we are able to do a double podium here,” the 21-year-old from Osaka said.
We are pushing each other all the time in terms of the car and drivingIwasa on being teammates with Leclerc
“I think it would be possible even until to the end of the season. It should be good for us as a team, but still I’m finding a lot of improvements on my side from Arthur [Leclerc].”
A strong relationship
The Monégasque rookie reciprocated his feelings towards his Red Bull junior teammate, citing Iwasa’s pace on flying laps as a major strength against which he can compare himself.
“It’s great to have Ayumu [Iwasa] as a teammate, especially because he has a lot of experience. He already won some races last year. It’s a good reference. He’s pretty strong in one lap as well, so it’s good to have his data, to have him alongside to learn a lot from him,” he said.
It’s good to have his data, to have him alongside to learn a lot from himLeclerc on being teammates with Iwasa
“He’s great. We are pushing the team in a good way, and I can already see their improvements even if I started two months ago to work with the team.”
A challenging race
After qualifying on pole by over six tenths in extremely wet conditions, Iwasa didn’t find the race much less of a challenge. He had to contend with two safety car restarts, all while defending from the ART of Théo Pourchaire.
“It was not an easy one,” he said. “I think the pace was good until the last safety car because I was able to keep a good gap behind me.
“But I think after the final safety car, it was quite difficult to keep the temperature in the tyre, so that’s why I was struggling a bit. Still, it was enough to keep the position, but the last lap was quite tight.”
Top of the standings
Following this second victory, Iwasa now leads the drivers’ standings by eight points over Théo Pourchaire, as Formula 2 breaks for three weeks before returning at Baku on 28 April. DAMS simultaneously hold a 24-point lead in the teams’ championship.
Iwasa said that his position in the drivers’ championship wasn’t top of mind.
“Before this weekend, I didn’t think about this so much. I just wanted to go for a win,” he said. “Also, we were just thinking we wanted to improve as a team, so together we are trying to improve the car and our performance.
“That is the reason why we have a double podium in the feature race. As a team, it’s really big points.”
This is down to the supportive role that rookie Leclerc has played. Going from strength to strength, he scored an impressive 20 points in Melbourne, with a fourth-place finish in the sprint followed by third place in the feature race.
This maiden podium is a major achievement for the 22-year-old, who is one podium visit away from matching his tally for last season in Formula 3.
“It’s amazing. Yesterday we just touched the podium… P4, really close. We were P3 at one point but got overtaken by [Kush] Maini, so to be on the podium really means a lot to me.
“It means that we are going in a good direction. We just keep pushing as a team and I keep pushing as well to work on my driving to get the best.
“We did a really good job this weekend. Like I said, we have been working massively since the beginning of the year. ART was quite strong, let’s say in the first two races, especially in qualifying,” the Monégasque driver said.
We are doing a really good job with DAMS and they gave us a really good car all weekend long to finish on the podium and to take the winLeclerc on the success of DAMS so far in the 2023 F2 season
“This weekend was wet and especially as well on the new track, so obviously it’s new for everyone. Let’s see on the following tracks. But one thing is for sure: we are doing a really good job with DAMS and they gave us a really good car all weekend long to finish on the podium and to take the win.”
Header photo credit: Dutch Photo Agency
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