PREMA Racing team principal René Rosin and ART Grand Prix team principal Sébastien Philippe confirmed that they do not intend to implement team orders before the final round of the FIA Formula 2 Championship as their lead drivers battle for the title.
PREMA driver Frederik Vesti currently leads the standings entering Round 11 of 14 at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps this weekend on 153 points. His nearest rival is 2022 F2 runner-up Théo Pourchaire of ART on 142 points.
ART also fields 2022 F3 champion Victor Martins, currently fourth on 105 points, while PREMA’s Ollie Bearman, one of Martins’ title rivals in F3 last year, is sixth on 94 points.
The two squads are also tied on 247 points at the top of the teams’ championship, though PREMA is placed ahead of ART by virtue of having seven wins to the French team’s two.
At last weekend’s F2 round at the Hungaroring, a tense moment between Martins and Pourchaire on Lap 24 of the 37-lap Feature Race saw the two teammates go side by side through Turns 3 and 4 at the Hungaroring.
Pourchaire, running 10-lap-old mediums, conceded the duel when he ran wide at Turn 4 while attempting a pass around the outside of Martins, who had just emerged from the pits on new medium tyres.
Consequently, Pourchaire lost pace through the middle sector and dropped behind Isack Hadjar a few corners later. As Vesti finished second, Pourchaire eventually came home sixth, three positions and nearly 20 seconds behind Martins, who said in the post-race press conference that he thought his teammate’s attempts were ‘a bit optimistic’.
When asked by InsideF2 if they believed team orders had a place in junior series or if they had plans to implement them later in the year, both Rosin and Philippe suggested that they would only use them as a last resort.
“In junior formulae, because the drivers bring in the budget and drivers on the other hand can be supported by different Formula 1 academies and so on, everybody is free to race,” PREMA’s Rosin said.
“Of course, team orders you can think just on the final round if it’s mandatory to win the championship and one is out of the game, but theoretically and in principle, there is not team orders going on. At least in our team, all drivers are free to race.
“Of course, they need to remember that they are racing for the same teams because we are looking also [at] the team championship.”
ART’s Philippe echoed Rosin’s viewpoint.
“It’s not possible to put team orders with drivers coming from different academies and being supported financially by different persons, so the only thing we ask them is to try not to crash into each other.
“But both of them have the same aim at the end of the day, to try to find a way to go in F1, so I would never put team orders at this level, maybe except at the last race if someone needs. But until [then], we let them free to race.”
The subject of team orders in junior single-seaters notably came to a head in the final F3 race of 2021 at Sochi. In the closing laps of the race, Jack Doohan refused to follow multiple orders from Trident to let teammate Clément Novalak through for first place in order to preserve the team’s narrow lead in the teams’ standings.
After Doohan refused to concede in a side-by-side battle with Novalak on Lap 17 of 20, Vesti passed Novalak for second. Doohan then defended his decision in a heated post-race radio exchange with the team by saying he was ‘racing for [his] own career’ and was ‘not going to be Clem’s wingman’.
Image: PREMA Racing