RACE DEBRIEF

    “If you don’t love F2, I think you do now.” If Oscar Piastri’s claim at the end of the 2021 season hadn’t already convinced you that following the Road to F1 was worthwhile, then there’s still time to change your mind.

    The Australian’s throttlehold of the F2 title was one of many showcase moments on the Road to F1 last year, and with F2 and F3 set to join F1 at the season opener for the first time this weekend in Bahrain, we’re approaching another unforgettable and unmissable campaign.

    Has Dennis Hauger got what it takes to succeed Piastri at PREMA? Can Liam Lawson or Theo Pourchaire wrestle the title away from the Italian team for the first time since 2019? And who will emerge as motorsport’s newest star in Formula 3?

    Here, we take a look at why you should be watching…

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    More races than ever before

    With 14 rounds and two brand-new tracks, the F2 season will be bigger than ever before, with visits to Imola and Zandvoort added to a bumper calendar, as well as returning favourites Barcelona, Budapest, Spielberg and Spa, all of which were sorely missed in 2021.

    Meanwhile, F3 will host its joint-largest campaign, welcoming Silverstone and Monza back to the fold, as well as the additions of Sakhir and Imola.

    Oscar Piastri's road to F2 glory

    An overhauled points system and a new-look format

    The two categories will return to their successful two-race weekend format, but with several key changes. Notably, the Feature Races will be in a prime slot on Sundays just before the F1 Grand Prix.

    Held over a longer distance, with more points available and a grid set by qualifying – as well as a mandatory pitstops in F2 – the Feature Race is considered the main event for both F2 and F3 and the perfect appetiser for F1’s race.

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    What’s more, the importance of the Feature Races in 2022 will be greater than ever before, with fewer points now available for the reversed grid Sprint Races – a short, sharp lights-to-flag dash to the finish line – as well as for fastest laps and pole.

    Full details on the changes can be found on the F2 and F3 websites.

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    The Feature Race will get a prime slot on Sundays ahead of the F1 Grand Prix

    The grids change completely every year

    Unlike in F1, the F2 and F3 fields vastly differ from year to year. Only four drivers of 22 will start the F2 season in the same seats they began 2021 in, while in F3 that number stands at three from 30.

    Around half of the two grids are rookies, with a smattering of never-before-seen talent stepping up to an F1 weekend for the first time.

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    Among the newcomers in the second tier are F3’s top two, Dennis Hauger and Jack Doohan, stepping up with PREMA and Virtuosi respectively. Both enjoyed remarkable second seasons in F3 on the back of disappointing rookie years.

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    Dennis Hauger will be driving for PREMA this season after a remarkable season in F3 last year

    There is also the hotly-anticipated arrival of Williams’ newest junior, Logan Sargeant, a year after originally being tipped to earn a place on the grid.

    Among the 16 rookies in F3 are several stars in the making, including PREMA’s Ferrari junior Olli Bearman, who at 16 became the first driver to win both ADAC and Italian F4 in the same season.

    Formula Regional winner Gregoire Saucy (ART) and Barbadian Zane Maloney (Trident) are also both in race-winning seats for their first seasons, while there are high hopes for Williams junior Zak O’Sullivan.

    READ MORE: Alfa Romeo boss explains why rising F2 star Pourchaire was 'too risky' a prospect for 2022 F1 seat

    The champions are impossible to predict

    The title fight looks wide open in F2 following the departures of four title contenders. None of Oscar Piastri, Robert Shwartzman, Zhou Guanyu and Dan Ticktum will return for 2022, having taken up the first four spots in the drivers’ championship last time around.

    The early-season favourites include Sauber prodigy Theo Pourchaire of ART Grand Prix and Red Bull prospect Liam Lawson at Carlin – both teams who have been responsible for leading George Russell and Yuki Tsunoda to F1 seats in recent years.

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    Eyes will be on Theo Pourchaire this season...

    Red Bull junior Jehan Daruvala fought for the title with PREMA in F3, and after two years with Carlin, he’ll now drive for the Italian side in F2, meaning that he is surely a contender. Juri Vips also can’t be ruled out, if he can get on top of qualifying with Hitech this season.

    As for F3, it really is anybody’s guess. On paper, PREMA and ART possess the strongest line-ups, but given the transformations of Hauger and Doohan from midfield stragglers to title contenders, it’s hard to predict who might emerge.

    READ MORE: Ferrari Driver Academy announces 2022 roster and line-up changes

    Alpine’s Victor Martins was the pick of the rookies last season and he’s switched from MP to ART, while Red Bull’s Jak Crawford has joined Arthur Leclerc at PREMA, taking arguably the most desirable seat on the grid.

    And that’s to say nothing of Jonny Edgar, a highly-rated Red Bull prodigy who has joined teams’ champions Trident for his second year, and Juan Manuel Correa, who has said that he feels back to “100%” after a rehabilitative first year in F3.

    *F2 and F3 will kickstart on the same weekend as F1, March 18-20, in Bahrain. Don't want to miss a minute? Subscribe to F1 TV Pro to watch every single session live.

    For more on the Road to F1, visit www.fiaformula2.com and www.fiaformula3.com