Jack Doohan claimed the final win of the 2023 Formula 2 season while Théo Pourchaire clinched the Drivers’ Championship in a spirited battle against Frederik Vesti.
The ART Grand Prix driver did what he needed to do, finishing fifth on the road and with teammate Victor Martins second, ART Grand Prix also claimed their first F2 Teams’ title.
Despite his best efforts, Vesti ended the season third after fighting his way up from ninth on the reverse grid and capped off his campaign with another podium finish.
AS IT HAPPENED
Doohan held the lead comfortably at lights out while Kush Maini cleared Martins to take second, with the latter opting for mediums for the start. Further back, Vesti was up to eighth at Turn 1, passing Richard Verschoor having also started on the yellow-walled tires.
Starting on the softs, Pourchaire was on the cusp of the points by the end of the opening lap, but an opportunistic Oliver Bearman snatched 10th from the ART driver to leave him 11th going into Lap 2.
Those on softs nursed their tires in the early stages, and Iwasa was in as soon as the pitstop window opened on Lap 7. He was joined by Pourchaire, both swapping to the medium compound tires and rejoining in 19th and 20th respectively.
Maini pitted from second on Lap 8 as Bearman also pitted in response to Pourchaire’s stop one lap earlier. The PREMA Racing driver rejoined ahead on the road, but with his tires up to temperature, the Frenchman got the traction he needed to set up a pass on the run to Turn 6.
Zane Maloney, Isack Hadjar and Dennis Hauger made their way to the pits on Lap 9 for their mandatory stops, but a slow release for the Hitech Pulse-Eight driver dropped him behind the Norwegian on pit exit. Pourchaire was ahead of all three after a dive to the inside of Hauger at Turn 5 as he continued to make the most of his fresh rubber.
Having led from the start, Doohan relinquished the lead on Lap 10 to fit the mediums. The Australian was back out in 12th position, three seconds clear of Maini, who found himself under pressure from Iwasa. The DAMS driver was able to make a move stick, clearing the Campos Racing man at Turn 9 with a late dive down the inside.
Now in clear air, Vesti set about closing the gap to new leader Martins, who was six seconds up the road. That gap was down to four seconds by Lap 15 as the PREMA driver took a minimum of two-tenths of a second per lap out of the Alpine junior’s advantage.
Having been closing on Maini ahead, Rodin Carlin’s Maloney passed the Indian driver into Turn 6 to take 11th on the road on Lap 18.
Bearman was out of the running with an issue just past the halfway stage, pulling to the side of pit entry to retire.
Still yet to pit, Vesti had the lead down to 3.8s by Lap 21 as he was informed over the radio the following three laps were crucial to his chances. The Dane was in on Lap 23 to switch to soft tires, and rejoined directly behind title rival Pourchaire in ninth place. Martins pitted from the lead in immediate response to Vesti’s stop, and he was back out in third.
After forcing Iwasa to defend one lap earlier, Maloney was pressuring the #11 DAMS for P5 on the road as the Japanese driver desperately attempted to keep him back. The Rodin Carlin man fought his way by at Turn 6 and was late on the brakes at Turn 9 in his efforts to keep the position, but Iwasa bravely fought back around the outside to hold on.
Their battling allowed Vesti to close onto the rear wing of Pourchaire and with DRS, he scythed down the inside of his title rival to take the place. The ART driver fought back through immediately at Turn 9 to retake sixth.
Defense turned to attack immediately as the French driver battled by Maini in the final sector, improved to fifth, while Vesti made a late dive to the inside of the last corner to pass the Campos and keep within touching distance of Pourchaire.
Onto Lap 26 and Vesti managed to pass Pourchaire into Turn 6 and once again, Pourchaire slip streamed his way past by Turn 9. It was third time lucky for Vesti as he waited for DRS out of Turn 8 to clear his Championship rival and claim fifth position.
Maloney finally passed Iwasa for third on Lap 28 after their extensive battle in the second half of the race, jumping to the inside at Turn 9 to clear the DAMS.
Vesti was next to pass Iwasa, breezing by with DRS to claim fourth position, though with Pourchaire running in sixth, the Dane knew he needed a victory to overturn the points deficit.
Entering the final lap of the season, Vesti drew to within DRS range of Maloney in the fight for third. The Bajan driver went defensive into Turn 6, opening up the chance for Vesti on the run to Turn 9. The pair banged wheels on corner exit, sending Maloney into a spin and leaving the PREMA driver in third.
Doohan secured a comfortable victory by 3.8s from Martins with Vesti rounding out the podium, but it was Pourchaire and ART Grand Prix’s day, as they secured the double with the Drivers’ and Teams’ titles.
Iwasa crossed the line in fourth ahead of Pourchaire in P5. Arthur Leclerc claimed sixth for DAMS as Hauger, Hadjar, Maini and Jak Crawford rounded out the final top 10 of the season.
KEY QUOTE – Jack Doohan, Invicta Virtuosi Racing
“Great to finish off my F2 campaign with a win. It was a tricky race in the end, I don’t think that option-prime was ideal, but we made it work and were able to keep the tires alive at a crucial stage in the race and bring home a win. To sign off like this with Invicta Virtuosi Racing, I couldn’t be happier. Looking forward to the future and big kisses and hugs to all you F2 supporters and to all of those who’ve supported us the last two years, I’m so, so grateful for it and I’m already missing you guys.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
Théo Pourchaire is the 2023 FIA Formula 2 Drivers’ Champion with 203 points. Frederik Vesti finishes up 192 points adrift in second after his huge comeback effort, while Jack Doohan’s victory lifts the Invicta Virtuosi Racing driver up to third in the final standings, ending up on 168 points.
Iwasa ends his F2 career fourth overall on 165, while Victor Martins’ P2 finish leaves him as the highest-placed rookie, fifth in the Drivers’ Standings on 150.
ART Grand Prix are Teams’ Champions for the first time in their F2 history, finishing up with 353 points. PREMA Racing end up on 322 points in second, with Rodin Carlin third on 220 points.
Post-season testing wraps up the 2023 season, beginning on Wednesday, November 29 at Yas Marina Circuit and running across three days until December 1.
Abu Dhabi Feature Race Results – 33 Laps
|ART Grand Prix
|ART Grand Prix
|PHM by Charouz
|Juan Manuel Correa
|Van Amersfoort Racing
|PHM by Charouz
|Van Amersfoort Racing
|Fastest lap: Martins, 1m38.319s