F2 FINALE: Pourchaire, Vesti and Iwasa gear up for three-way title showdown in Abu Dhabi
There are championships on the line at Yas Marina this weekend as both the FIA Formula 2 drivers’ and teams’ titles are up for grabs during the final round of the season.
Theo Pourchaire stands on the brink of claiming the individual honours as he leads Frederik Vesti and Ayumu Iwasa into the finale.
All three have been race winners at least once in 2023, having taken multiple poles and podiums between them – and each have already been snapped up by F1 young driver programmes.
While Pourchaire takes a points advantage into the final round of the year, anything can still happen if previous races this year are anything to go by.
The drivers’ points situation
ART Grand Prix driver Pourchaire is the man to beat. He leads the standings on 191 points, a healthy 25-point buffer over his closest rival, PREMA Racing’s Vesti.
The Mercedes-backed Dane has endured a difficult few rounds, dropping the lead of the championship to the Sauber Academy man after three consecutive point-less results in the most recent trio of Feature Races.
For Pourchaire to clinch the title ahead of the final Sunday of the season, he will need to finish the Sprint Race with at least a 29-point lead over Vesti.
If Vesti does take the title fight into the final day, then all bets are off. He has only raced around the Yas Marina Circuit once, while Pourchaire will be visiting the venue for the third time – yet he has never finished on the podium in Abu Dhabi.
Vesti, meanwhile, was a winner last time out in the Monza Sprint Race and has taken another four race victories across the 2023 campaign to Pourchaire’s one.
A longshot for the title is Iwasa, as the Red Bull Junior Team driver sits 39 points behind the leader. It means he will need a maximum score across the weekend, taking pole, both fastest lap points in the Sprint and Feature Races along with both victories to stay in contention.
It will then take a non-score for Pourchaire for him to stand any chance of overhauling the deficit, and that’s discounting what Vesti might do in the meantime.
The teams’ battle
It’s not just the drivers’ title that will be decided in Abu Dhabi. PREMA are looking to recapture the teams’ championship after MP Motorsport’s success in 2022, battling with ART Grand Prix in an extension of the drivers’ title fight.
With Vesti leading the PREMA charge and Pourchaire the ART challenge, both teams have a lot on the line at the finale.
For PREMA, a comeback would represent a third F2 teams’ success, extending their record in the championship over their rivals. For ART, it would be the team’s first title in F2, and they are well placed to achieve the feat.
It’s the French outfit who lead the way on 322 points ahead of PREMA on 296, despite the latter taking both the Sprint and Feature Race wins at Monza last time out.
For the past three seasons, the drivers’ champion has driven for the title-winning team, with two of those coming courtesy of PREMA. Will ART keep the pattern going or can PREMA overturn the deficit in dramatic fashion?
Top of the (rookie) class
With both championships at stake for ART and PREMA, their two first-year drivers will be battling it out to finish as the top rookie in 2023.
Victor Martins and Oliver Bearman are the duo who are in contention and the margins are incredibly slim. ART’s Martins is currently fifth in the drivers’ championship on 131 points. Bearman is sixth for PREMA, sitting on 130.
Both made a slow start to the season but, after finding their feet, have been undeniably quick.
Bearman’s breakthrough came in style as he dominated the Baku round by taking almost every point available. Pole, Sprint victory and the Feature Race win launched him up the standings, but Martins has been incredibly consistent in his own right.
The Frenchman had a stint of 14 consecutive scoring finishes, including a maiden win at Silverstone to get him off the mark in the championship.
Victory for Bearman and a mechanical fault for Martins in Monza meant the Briton closed the gap to a single point in the standings ahead of this weekend’s Abu Dhabi finale.
Last season, the pair fought for FIA F3 glory, with Martins winning that battle and taking the championship. Bearman, though, will be aiming to cap off an impressive 2023 – which has included F1 practice outings – by finishing ahead of his familiar rival this time out.
It’s all to play for, then, heading to the United Arab Emirates and the final race weekend of the season…