Jack Doohan made waves in F1’s free practice 1 today, but his bigger splash around the Yas Marina sands came in his final FIA Formula 2 Qualifying session, in which he secured pole position.
The Invicta Virtuosi driver’s time of a 1:35.567 put him ahead of fellow Alpine Academy members Victor Martins and Kush Maini in a banner day for the French marque’s junior squad.
But earlier in the day, the Alpine F1 Team also ran Doohan in free practice 1 for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, a session that featured five current F2 drivers. Doohan completed 23 laps and finished as the second fastest of those in 13th place, 0.793 seconds off pacesetter George Russell and 0.145 behind the other Alpine of Pierre Gasly.
The tight turnaround between the sessions – 30 minutes, to be exact – gave the Australian little time to prepare for the F2 session. He did not even return to the support paddock between the sessions as PREMA drivers Frederik Vesti and Ollie Bearman hurriedly did.
The Alpine A523 laps the Yas Marina Circuit nearly 10 seconds faster than the Dallara F2 2018, which has a substantially different aerodynamic formula to its F1 counterpart. How did Doohan find the change from one to the other?
“To be honest, there’s not much really to transition because everything is so different,” he told InsideF2 in the post-qualifying press conference. “The wind direction was a little bit the same, so having that same characteristic, but again, the wind is so much more powerful in a Formula 1 car than in a Formula 2 car.
“Taking things across, it was really trying to reset and just forget what I’d done in Formula 1 and completely go back into Formula 2 mode. So [I’m] happy I was able to do that correctly and make the most of both.”
Doohan has already confirmed that 2023 will be his final season in Formula 2. For 2024, he is set to continue his role as the reserve driver for the Alpine F1 Team alongside another programme that he said would give him track time, the details of which have yet to be announced.
After a two-round cameo with MP Motorsport in 2021, the 20-year-old finished sixth in 2022 with three wins and three further podiums. He currently sits fourth on 140 points, with back-to-back wins at the Hungaroring and Spa the highlights of a season that got off to a rocky start from which he never fully recovered.
In his final race weekend, InsideF2 asked Doohan to reflect on the most important lessons he’d learned across 58 F2 races.
“I think you can learn from everything, good or bad,” he said. “My time hasn’t been easy here, but it’s been fun. It’s been up and down and I’ve had a rollercoaster of emotions.
“Something that I’ve massively learned is Fridays are great, qualifying on pole is great, but the rest of the weekend is so long and especially the Feature Race. So many things can happen.
“Also, you have to manage things that are inside your control, outside your control. You have to really just take everything as it comes. You can prepare as much as you want, but there’s always going to be a spanner in the works, something you need to overcome, like always. So I think [I] just always keep my eyes forward,” he continued.
“There are moments, these poles or little moments – enjoy them and soak them in, but quickly reset because we have a sprint race tomorrow with a reverse-grid top 10.”
Doohan pointed to championship contender Frederik Vesti, who finished ninth in Qualifying but will start second for the Sprint Race with the reversal of the top 10 from the session. That, he said, illustrated the fact that no day in the F2 paddock can be summarised by a single adjective.
“Everyone is always having a bad day and a good day, and the field’s always so tight,” Doohan said. “So [it’s about] always keeping your head down and making sure to overcome those setbacks and manage the circumstances.”
Credit: Formula Motorsport Limited