F2 is in Australia and it’s SO EXCITING because NO ONE has EVER driven in Australia before!! No seriously, it’s exciting. I am excited. Be excited.
As NO ONE had EVER driven in Australia before it was important to get as much practice as possible, particularly since there are so many big walls. Clément Novalak cleverly avoided the walls by driving through the gravel, but Roy Nissany was not so clever and hit a wall, bringing out the red flags. Ten minutes later and everyone was back out on track, just for Jehan Daruvala to spin. Red flags again.
With only around ten minutes left to go once the track was clear, everyone desperately headed out to try and get some actual practice, but Ollie Bearman spun himself onto the grass and that was that. The session ended 30 seconds early, with home-hero Jack Doohan the fastest, Red Bull junior Isack Hadjar second and Alpine junior Victor Martins third.
Qualifying: Exciting rain
As the practice session was such a success, I’m sure all the drivers were happy about the rain that had set in for Qualifying. The whole thing didn’t look horrific at all as they tentatively made their way out of the pits and slid around a bit. It was only until Bearman hit the wall, Jak Crawford lost his front wing and Arthur Leclerc spun that it was decided to pause the session.
The rain appeared to be less intense when the session resumed and Doohan was out first to try and recreate his success from Practice. As time ticked down, Doohan, Hadjar and Frederik Vesti all seemed in the running for pole position, with the lap times getting faster as the track dried (somewhat). With four minutes to go, Théo Pourchaire went fastest, followed quickly by Ayumu Iwasa, followed quickly by Martins ramming the entire side of his car into the wall. Red flag. The session did not resume, which left Iwasa on pole, Pourchaire second and Martins, with his smashed up car, third. “Yep, ok” was Iwasa’s low-key radio response. Extra confirming him as my new F2 fav.
Sprint Race: Exciting confusing
The first ever F2 Australian Sprint Race got off to a great start, with Enzo Fittipaldi and Ralph Boschung crashing on the reconnaissance lap. Bad news for them, good news for everyone who was supposed to start behind them as they had already gained two positions. Kush Maini also spun on the reconnaissance lap, but luckily didn’t hit anything so took up his position in third place, behind Crawford in second and Dennis Hauger on reverse-grid pole.
As the mechanics rushed to the sidelines and the cars sat, engines running, waiting for the signal to start the formation lap, Race Control decided they needed more time to clear up the pre-race carnage. Cue mild confusion, as there was no way 20 F2 cars could idol on the grid for five minutes without terminal consequences. After a suspenseful few moments, the mechanics were allowed back on the grid and the whole pre-race procedure fun restarted.
Once the race start finally happened, it was all a bit bargy, but everyone seemed to stay broadly on track, despite their attempts at going five-wide round corners. There was no change to the top few, but they were all very close and trying to stress each other out. Iwasa was also presumably stressed as he got a puncture and had to pit.
With much mid-field fighting going on, it wasn’t long before 12th-placed Doohan got hit by Juan Manuel Correa. Doohan spun, his race was over, bringing disappointment to the Australian fans and also apparently angering the Australian rain gods. The Safety Car was called and Correa also suffered the wrath of the stewards with a ten-second time penalty for causing a collision. As it began to proper rain, a few of those experiencing less successful races decided to take a gamble and put on wet tyres. Roman Stanek was one of those and, despite coming out of the pits very slowly, still under Safety Car conditions, he immediately found himself off the track. He recovered and kept going, only to be followed a few moments later by Correa, also giving the wet tyres a go. Just as the rain and the Safety Car were ending, Brad Benavides threw his car in the wall. More mild confusion. Is the Safety Car ending? It shouldn’t end. It says it’s still ending. It did not end.
A few laps later and everyone had managed to stop crashing. The Safety Car went away and we had an oddly drama-free restart. Hauger still in the lead, followed by Crawford and Maini, which is how it remained until the chequered flag flew, making Hauger the fifth winner in five races. I would have watched the podium and the press conferences and all that, but I went to sleep so you can just let me know if I missed anything and I’ll add it here…
Feature Race: Even more exciting confusing
Pole-man Iwasa described qualifying as “extremely crazy difficult,” which I think was also how I described the first F3 race in a tweet. Pourchaire was starting second and Martins in third.
Iwasa made the start look easy and pulled away from everyone else, while Pourchaire and Martins fought over second (Pourchaire won that battle). Further back Bearman was busy forcing Zane Maloney off track and getting a five-second time penalty, while, a few laps later, Correa had a puncture after yet again tangling with other drivers, this time Novalak. Then the full chaos began. Crawford was suddenly in the wall and calling Doohan an “idiot”, while the Safety Car was deployed. All those on the soft tyres then decided to take rather panicked pit stops. Hadjar hit Bearman on the way out of the pits, giving Bearman a puncture on his brand new tyres and meaning that he had to trundle round a whole lap just to go back in again. This for some reason made Hadjar Tsunoda-levels of screamy angry. Bad luck anyone watching the race with headphones on.
After a seemingly unnecessary ten-minute Safety Car period, providing a small nap opportunity for spectators, they got back to the racing. Novalak and Nissany decided to go driving in the gravel instead of on track, while Hauger got in front of Martins, which he would probably come to regret later.
Just to make life even harder for Nissany, Fittipaldi then came along and started the best move ever seen, but finished it by just bashing Nissany off the track. Nissany lost a load of places and Fittipaldi got a five-second time penalty. Meanwhile Hadjar was off the road and full screaming and some overtaking happened. I actually have no idea what went on and I don’t think Campos were totally on top of things either, as Boschung got a five-second penalty for an unsafe release from the pit lane and then dared to ask him to go two seconds a lap faster. I believe they didn’t try to argue with his “I can’t” response. Regardless, we all got a pause when Nissany binned it into the wall and the Safety Car was back out.
A Safety Car was just what those on the alternative strategy had been waiting for and they all took their mandatory pit stops, leaving Iwasa to resume his place in the lead of the race, with Pourchaire behind him, Hauger in third and Martins fourth. Apparently coming out of the pits on cold tyres wasn’t all that easy, even at Safety Car speeds, as Vesti went straight across the grass, followed by Fittipaldi who spun, hit a wall and then got going again only for his now broken car to give up and smash him into a wall even more, scarily just avoiding Nissany’s already stricken car. Needless to say, with all that to clear up they were a while behind the Safety Car, during which time Hadjar received a ten-second time penalty for rejoining the track in an unsafe manner. Presumably his team didn’t bother to tell him because there were no radio messages of murderous screams.
The Safety Car ended with two laps to go; both exciting and stressful. Exciting for Iwasa, who didn’t struggle to keep the lead. Stressful for Hauger who had Martins lock up and run into the back of him, leaving both cars flailing around as the whole field went past them. “WHAT THE FUCK!” screamed Hauger, still not managing to sound quite as terrifying as Hadjar.
Leclerc was pleased though, as Hauger and Martins disappearing boosted him to the podium, crossing the line in third behind second-place Pourchaire and winner Iwasa. “The pit stop was very good”, Iwasa declared in celebration. I love him.
After the race, Stanek received a five-second time penalty for overtaking Maini under the Safety Car, Bearman got a ten-second time penalty for failing to take his five-second time penalty properly and Martins got a ten-second penalty for destroying Hauger’s race, dropping him from last to last, so that showed him.
Championship standings: Still exciting
Boschung’s glory days are over, as he has now dropped to fourth in the championship standings (33 points), Vesti is up to third (42 points), Pourchaire is still hanging about in second (50 points) and Iwasa is now leading the way by eight points, which hopefully remains the case because I need to see what he would say if he won the championship.