F2 leader Pourchaire hoping ‘to have same destiny’ as Drugovich

It certainly hasn’t been a perfect campaign for Théo Pourchaire, yet the 19-year-old Frenchman sits atop the Formula 2 championship as they hit the streets of Monaco. The Sauber junior recently spoke to Feeder Series and selected media about the strength of this year’s F2 grid, while giving an early take on his title ambitions.

By Tyler Foster

In an ultra-competitive year so far, Pourchaire currently holds a narrow lead in the drivers’ standings, three points ahead of Prema’s Frederik Vesti.

Due to the cancellation of Imola, the calendar was shortened to thirteen race weekends, with the ongoing round at Monaco being the fifth edition.

In the opening round at Bahrain, Pourchaire started his season with purpose, taking his second pole in F2 in dominant fashion by a whopping seven-tenths of a second. He comfortably converted this into a fifth F2 feature race victory, leaving with the championship lead. However, a scoreless visit to Jeddah saw Campos’ Ralph Boschung replace him at the top.

A strong qualifying run has enabled the Frenchman to target the feature race as his main source of points. Second place in Melbourne was followed by third place in Baku, both results seeing Pourchaire finish where he started. Astonishingly, the 19-year-old has qualified inside the top three in every round so far this season. This consistent showing of strong one-lap pace has filled Pourchaire with confidence. Furthermore, he recognises the importance of this in winning a championship.

“I could have been five times on pole,” Pourchaire sarcastically suggested. “There’s always room for improvement, but I’m very proud of it. It’s not necessary to do every time the pole by five-tenths. It’s just better to start in the top three than to start outside of the top ten or close to the top ten. I have worked a lot on myself, the car is better as well in quali. It helps a lot to start at the front.”

As an F1 hopeful, Pourchaire’s future is directly tied to his current performance. Residing on a grand total of 65 points prior to Monaco, the Sauber junior has spent half of the campaign at the top of the standings thus far. He is most certainly a title favourite alongside the likes of Ayumu Iwasa and the Prema duo of Bearman and Vesti. At this same stage last season, Pourchaire had 60 points but was already a concerning 26 points behind eventual champion Felipe Drugovich. The Frenchman gave his thoughts on his development in the new year.

“I’m in a lot better position than last year. In qualifying I’m better. In the races, I’m more consistent. So, it’s a great thing to be leading the championship, but it’s really early. Better to be P1 than really far down in the championship. We have a lot of work to do if we want to keep that position. I’m not superstitious a lot, but I think Felipe [Drugovich] finished P3 last year [in Baku] in the Feature Race, so hopefully I have the same destiny.”

Théo Pourchaire leaving the Baku pitlane | Credit: FIA Formula 2

In particular, a singular incident threatened to plant a seed of doubt into Pourchaire’s title equation. Having qualified third in Jeddah, he ruined a prosperous weekend by embarrassingly colliding with Prema rookie Ollie Bearman during the Sprint Race. This resulted in a double DNF, with the Sauber junior receiving a five-place grid penalty that hindered his efforts in the feature event.

Sauber had hoped that the title battle with Drugovich in 2022 would be worth its weight in gold in experience. However, the desperate lunge that initiated Pourchaire’s pointless Jeddah journey highlighted a worrying lack of maturity. He apologised to Bearman and Prema, admitting his fault in the crash, before vowing to learn his lesson and improve his conduct. Pourchaire has since stayed true to his words, seemingly prioritising the importance of staying clean to his championship goals.

It was in the Feature Race in Baku where we saw this the most. After starting third, Pourchaire overtook Enzo Fittipaldi for second place. A few laps later, Fittipaldi attempted to repass the ART Grand Prix driver and did so under lessened aggression in defence. While Pourchaire was unable to retake P2, he still scored a solid podium finish and enough points to take the championship lead off of Iwasa. He later said that he “didn’t want to get into a stupid mistake,” citing his greater experience in his third season of F2 as a factor.

As the standings have so far shown, there is yet to be one clear standout of a tight pack in Formula 2 this season. There lies just 12 points in separation of Ollie Bearman in fourth from Richard Verschoor in twelfth. A total of six different race winners from eight races so far gives credence to the greater parity that epitomises the competitiveness of F2. After retaking the championship lead in Baku, Pourchaire gave his thoughts on the year’s tough competitors.

“It’s very competitive this year for sure, but I’ve competed in so many difficult championships; I remember the F3 in 2020, F1… not yet,” Pourchaire joked. “Hopefully F1 in the future, it’s my dream, but [also] F2 in 2021 and also last year was not easy. This year, I feel like there is experienced drivers and there are rookie drivers [who are] really fast. And many teams who are really fast; ART Grand Prix we are fast, Prema, MP, there’s Carlin, DAMS as well now. So, they are all really quick and some teams are quicker on some tracks than others, so it’s difficult every weekend.”

Header photo credit: FIA Formula 2


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