FIA Formula 2 Championship drivers head to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Montmeló, Spain, this weekend off the back of four consecutive rounds on street circuits.
Round 2 in Jeddah, Round 3 in Melbourne, Round 4 in Baku and Round 6 in Monaco all took place on circuits composed of closed-off public roads. The limited runoff at each of these circuits leaves drivers with minimal room for error – a daunting challenge for even the brightest talents below Formula 1.
With Round 5 at Imola called off, these rounds became consecutive. This means that heading into Barcelona, F2 drivers last raced on a permanent circuit three months ago at the season-opening Bahrain round. For reference, the gap between Bahrain and the final round of 2022 at Yas Marina was three and a half months.
Championship leader Frederik Vesti of PREMA Racing excelled across this stretch of street circuits, taking Feature Race wins in Jeddah and Monaco and finishing each of the remaining six races in the top 10.
That marked a major improvement over his performances in 2022, when he failed to score in both Jeddah and Monaco, as well as a stunning turnaround from his championship position of 21st out of 22 exiting Bahrain this year.
“Street circuits, you learn a lot as a driver. You need to really be confident with the car. If you’re not confident, it’s very difficult to race, for example in Monaco,” Vesti told InsideF2 after winning the Monaco Feature Race.
“Now the challenge is to switch back the mindset to more normal racing.”
The F2 grid has already had a taste of Barcelona at the in-season test from 10–12 May. During this test, drivers also got to try out the modified layout for 2023, which eschews the complex of slow-speed corners that formerly made up Turns 13–15 in favour of a single high-speed right-hander.
Théo Pourchaire of ART Grand Prix set the fastest overall time of that three-day test with a 1:23.943, making him the only driver to breach the 1m24s barrier. After winning the Feature Race in Bahrain, Pourchaire has taken podiums in each of the last three Feature Races.
“Since the beginning of the season, we’re pretty happy with the balance of the car [on] street circuits [and] normal racetracks like Bahrain,” Pourchaire said.
“I’m confident for the rest of the season. In the Barcelona test we were quick as well, so let’s hope for a good more than second half of the season.”
F2 rookie Zane Maloney of Rodin Carlin took his second podium of 2023 in the Feature Race at Monaco, which he said showed the progress he had made since a lackluster round at Jeddah.
“I was [P17] in Jeddah, and now, two months later, I’m P3 here in Monaco, so it shows how well of a job the team is doing to get me up to pace,” Maloney said.
“Initially, I struggled a little bit in the F2 car – still am, but we’re getting there, so they’ve done a great job. I’m really looking forward to getting to tracks that I’ve done many times in my career and always been quick at.”
Maloney also gained street circuit experience at the Formula E rookie test held 24 April at Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport. The Barbadian, testing for Avalanche Andretti, placed third out of 21 drivers.