The driver substitute situation was the same as in France, with Roberto Merhi fast becoming a part of the F2 2022 furniture and David Beckmann remaining as much a piece of F2 furniture as it feels like he’s always been. Lucky for Merhi and Beckmann (unlucky for Boschung and Hughes), because apparently drivers LOVE this track, as they kept saying. All weekend. Their reason? Because it’s fast and cool? No, because it’s really technical. The geeks.
Practice: No rain
The most exciting thing in Practice, as evidenced by its extensive discussion on social media, was a hare running up the track. It didn’t get run over and all was well. Things were going less well for Marino Sato, who stopped at the end of the pit lane, having stalled while attempting a practice start. Meanwhile, on track, Amaury Cordeel was angrily waving at Logan Sargeant, as Cordeel struggled to come to terms with having to share the track with someone else.
As the session drew to an end, everyone else probably thought they had got away without anything bad happening. Not Jack Doohan though, as he pulled over to the edge of the track with a broken car and Dennis Hauger spun, narrowly avoiding crashing into a wall. The chequered flag waved and, despite his slow ending, Doohan was fastest of the session, while Ayumu Iwasa was second and Beckmann went third fastest at some point while we were all distracted by the Doohan/Hauger dramas.
Qualifying: Still no rain
Marcus Armstrong set the benchmark early in the session, while everyone else tried to go faster but had their lap times deleted for exceeding track limits. A familiar sight. However, Frederik Vesti soon got it together and took the provisional top spot.
After everyone had made their first qualifying attempts, we patiently waited through the traditional quali-pause before they made their final runs. Cue lots of shots of drivers sitting in cars and people looking busy in the pit lane. Then all of a sudden, Olli Caldwell was speeding round the track and his name pinged to the top of the timing screen. Armstrong was probably unhappy about that so he went back out (as did everyone) and did an even faster lap, leading the way ahead of a flurry of fast laps and lap-time deletions. With two minutes to go, Ayumu Iwasa was flying and there was nothing Armstrong could do to protect his top spot. Apparently everyone else had run out of tyres or fuel or something, so we just watched the clock tick down to zero. After waiting to see if anyone would have their lap time deleted, Iwasa was on pole, Armstrong second and championship leader Felipe Drugovich was third. Caldwell’s random lap left him in 13th, while Doohan took 10th and reverse-grid pole for the Sprint Race.
Sprint Race: Prepared for rain
Starting just behind Doohan were Enzo Fittipaldi and Hauger. They all excitedly talked about how prepared they were for the rain. It was not raining. A dry track didn’t stop the start being exciting though, as Fittipaldi launched himself into the lead. At the same time, Hauger managed to get himself in a three-wide situation with Logan Sargeant (who started sixth) and Drugovich (who started eighth), resulting in Hauger being tipped into a spin at the first corner. Théo Pourchaire (who started between Sargeant and Drugovich) managed to dodge Hauger by taking an extremely long way round, dropping him almost to the back of the pack. Pourchaire was lucky though, compared to Hauger who was out and Sargeant who was on the radio screaming to his team, “I’m out, I’m out, I’m out”. Before the Safety Car could be called, up front Fittipaldi was also taking the long way round a corner, having locked up and gone very wide. His mistake allowed Doohan to get into the lead and Jüri Vips into second.
As the Safety Car ended, third-place Fittipaldi kept Vips busy, giving Doohan a stress-free restart. Further back, Clément Novalak crashed in Roy Nissany and was given a ten-second penalty for causing a collision.
They all soon settled into driving just over one second apart from each other, to avoid any DRS excitement. Pourchaire was having his own excitement though, as he struggled with his “recovery” drive, while Daruvala struggled with his tyres. “What a fucking joke” he complained, as he barged Armstrong off track. The stewards weren’t laughing and handed Daruvala a ten-second time penalty.
In the closing laps, they all inched a little closer to each other, threatening a bit of racing (apart from Doohan, who was four seconds in the lead), but it was not to be. The race was so uneventful that even Doohan didn’t look too happy. His Dad did though. Vips was a bit happy and Fittipaldi was a bit disappointed.
Most miserable of all after the Sprint Race was Richard Verschoor, who had tried to serve a 15-second time penalty during the race (presumably for track limits violations because what would a race be without those?) but the team had done it wrong so he was given a boat-load more penalties, because why let someone be last when they can be ultra last?
Feature Race: Rain! Or no rain?
We were told there was “rain in the air” at the start of the Feature Race. Promises promises.
Iwasa was on pole, with Armstrong second and Drugovich third. Drugovich said he was all about the points, Armstrong spoke with the confidence of someone who has been told off by his team one too many times, tentatively explaining, “from my point of view… [racing, tyres, strategy] …in my opinion”. Iwasa highlighted that the start is everything, and managing the tyres, and the strategy. Easy.
Armstrong didn’t lack confidence at the start, taking the lead right away, while Pourchaire (who started fourth) leapt into second place ahead of Iwasa and Drugovich. Doohan, meanwhile, was driving around slowly at the back before heading to the pits to retire. Things were also going badly for Vesti, who got a five-second time penalty for forcing another driver (Vips? I think it was Vips) off track at the start, while Nissany crashed into Merhi, damaging Merhi’s suspension and leaving Nissany with a ten-second time penalty.
At the first opportunity, Drugovich opted to pit to swap his horrible soft tyres for horrible medium tyres. Despite no one else probably wanting to do the same, Armstrong, Pourchaire and Iwasa all hurriedly took their mandatory stops in case Drugovich was too fast on his new tyres. Unfortunately for Armstrong, just as his pit stop was done so too were Pourchaire and Iwasa’s, meaning Armstrong had to wait for them both to pass before he could safely exit his pit box. Not only did he lose places to Pourchaire and Iwasa, but he also found himself behind Drugovich once back out on track. From first to fourth in just a pit stop.
Meanwhile, Fittipaldi also didn’t seem to be having fun, as his team told him to stay out for another lap. “No, no no!” he screamed, “Box this lap! Box this lap!” before carrying on in misery with tyres that even the people in the grandstands could see looked horrific. Somehow though, Fittipaldi managed to make a good job of it, as he pitted the next lap and came out ahead of Iwasa and Drugovich, in what would become second place (behind Pourchaire), once everyone had completed their pit stops.
With rumours going around that it might rain (namely from Verschoor’s engineer), those on the alternative strategy, who were yet to take a pit stop, tried desperately to manage on their warn-out old tyres just in case they needed to pop on the wet tyres in a minute. Vesti was locking up and barely driving on track, while Hauger’s team asked him if he could hold on. “I’ll try,” Hauger answered valiantly, before shortly after asking if he could pit yet. “No! Stay out! Stay out!” his team replied.
Soon, the weather radar decided that rain actually wasn’t expected and the remaining alternative strategy guys dived into the pits. Everyone except Hauger and Cordeel, who could barely drive on his tyres any more but was staying out just in case. With only a few laps to go Drugovich suddenly declared, “it’s starting to rain!” Cue everyone looking for Cordeel, only to see him on his way out of the pits, with Hauger following shortly behind, apparently unable to take any more punishment.
The rest of the race was the people sitting on the pit wall sticking their hands out to check whether it really was raining or not (it was not), while Vesti on his new soft tyres menaced everyone, making his way from sixth to fourth (passing Drugovich and Armstrong) in a couple of laps. Drugovich, on his old harder tyres, was having the opposite experience, struggling to keep in a position that would pay out his beloved points as he dropped back through the field.
On the last lap, as Pourchaire crossed the line to win, Fittipaldi was going slowly. The world (everyone watches F2 right?) held its breath, waiting to see if he would finish. Luckily for us all, he sorted it out and kept his second place, ahead of Iwasa in third. Drugovich just managed to get some points, finishing in ninth place.
Championship Standings: Drugovich’s reign?
Shock! After Pourchaire’s victory and Drugovich’s misery, Pourchaire has closed the gap in the championship to only 21 points. Maybe this will be exciting after all. Sargeant remains in third place (119 points), albeit quite far behind Pourchaire (159 points). Daruvala’s disappointing weekend drops him down to fifth (94 points) behind Fittipaldi (100 points). Now it’s time for a big break where we watch the F1 teams and drivers fight with each other over social media.