Théo Pourchaire, Frederik Vesti and Ayumu Iwasa have each put together strong campaigns to be the top three drivers in the 2023 FIA Formula 2 Championship entering the final round of the season in Abu Dhabi, but none of them have F1 seats lined up for 2024.
Nineteen of the 20 F1 seats for next season have been confirmed, all to be retaken by their current occupants in one of the most stagnant grids from year to year in F1’s history.
Only the second Williams seat, currently occupied by Logan Sargeant, remains open for 2024. Despite a difficult season, the American rookie is the favourite to retain the place, though Mercedes junior Vesti is an outside contender for the seat owing to the team’s engine supply deal with Mercedes.
“It’s extremely difficult to get an F1 seat. It is only 20 cars, and it requires a lot of momentum. It requires really, really good results,” PREMA Racing’s Vesti told InsideF2.
The Danish driver is second in the standings with 166 points and five wins: feature race victories in Jeddah and Monaco and sprint race victories in Barcelona, Silverstone and Monza. The F2 sophomore remains, however, 25 points off championship leader Pourchaire, his 2022 teammate at ART Grand Prix.
Vesti said, “I think I put a very strong season together this year, but even in the past, we’ve seen, for example, Oscar [Piastri, 2021 F2 champion] dominating in F2 and still having to wait a year out.
“I think I probably look a bit at Oscar and say, ‘Okay, even he had to stay out one year.’ And it just proves how difficult it is.
“From my side, I’m just staying really, really motivated, really engaged with Mercedes, pushing really hard to improve in areas where I need to improve. Hopefully on Sunday, we can leave this track extremely proud of what we have achieved and feeling like we have maximised this season.”
In the past two seasons, the top two drivers in the championship have not moved up to F1 for the following year. 2021 champion Piastri has now gotten his chance at McLaren, but 2022 champion Felipe Drugovich and 2021 runner-up Robert Shwartzman remain reserve drivers at Aston Martin and Ferrari respectively with no sign of race seats on the horizon, while Pourchaire returned to F2 this year after being the 2022 runner-up.
ART’s Pourchaire is the favourite for the 2023 drivers’ title after a season defined by consistency rather than headline results, but he has an uncertain future in F1 beyond his continuing role as the reserve driver for Sauber. Does he feel he’s done enough to merit a future race seat, never mind the F2 title this year?
“I think I have done a great job during this season and also during the past seasons, so I mean of course, I want to win this title. This Formula 2 title would mean a lot to me and can help me to have a bright future hopefully in Formula 1,” Pourchaire told InsideF2.
“I’m just focused on this race. I’m a bit disappointed for sure to not be in F1 next year, but that’s part of motorsport. I’m young and I still have time, and I know I will have an opportunity in the future.”
Pourchaire’s most likely destination for 2024 is a Super Formula seat with the Toyota-powered Team Impul.
Interestingly, drivers who’ve finished third in F3 have had the best luck at getting F1 seats recently, with Yuki Tsunoda and Zhou Guanyu both still on the grid and Liam Lawson getting five race starts this season as a stand-in for the injured Daniel Ricciardo at AlphaTauri.
Lawson does not have a 2024 seat in F1, and current third-place F2 driver Iwasa, likewise a Red Bull junior, has been confirmed to be taking over his Super Formula seat at Team Mugen next year.
It is understood that a 2024 F1 seat was never a serious possibility for the Japanese driver, who is 39 points adrift of Pourchaire entering the season finale with three wins and three further podiums to his name.
“As you know, it’s a really difficult situation for some people, for example for me. Still, Red Bull have some good drivers like Liam, who was doing really well in F1 this year,” DAMS driver Iwasa said.
“If I have a race in front of me, [I need] to do my best on track to show my performance. And then we need to see what I can do, but at the moment, it’s a difficult position.
“But still, if I perform well, everyone is watching me, and then I can … show my performance potential on track in F1.”
Pourchaire and Vesti will appear in free practice 1 for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with Alfa Romeo and Mercedes respectively, while Iwasa will join AlphaTauri on Tuesday for F1’s post-season young driver test.
Credit: Formula Motorsport Limited