Firstly of 2022, most individuals would have predicted Theo Pourchaire would win the FIA Formulation 2 title. A protracted-time Sauber Academy member, the Frenchman was getting ready for his second season with ART, having completed fifth in his rookie marketing campaign and turn into the youngest-ever F2 race winner within the course of.
However these individuals had not accounted for a Brazilian underdog who had lengthy proven flashes of brilliance. Although few would have named Felipe Drugovich because the inheritor to Oscar Piastri’s crown, the MP Motorsport driver, getting into his third season within the sequence, had at all times proven robust tempo.
With three wins and eight podiums to his title throughout his first two campaigns, Drugovich had quietly improved, regardless of a disappointing 2021 season with Virtuosi the place he failed to attain a single win and completed eighth within the standings.
It was his return to MP that proved the important thing issue, regardless of the group having by no means completed increased than sixth within the groups’ championship in F2’s fashionable period. One thing had clicked between group and driver, and along with his Virtuosi marketing campaign having proved underwhelming, they reunited for a bid to lastly take the title, Drugovich’s engineer telling him on the finish of 2021 it was their solely objective.
Win, they did – in spectacular vogue. An exhilarating season featured Drugovich declare 5 wins and an extra 4 podiums in an enthralling year-long battle with Pourchaire. The pair exchanged the lead a number of instances within the early levels, however doing the double in Barcelona whereas Pourchaire scored simply eight factors gave Drugovich a 26-point lead.
The hole was as much as 39 following the French spherical, and a powerful exhibiting at Zandvoort, the place Pourchaire crashed out of qualifying, meant that lead grew to 69 factors. From there, Drugovich was unstoppable.
Pourchaire was firmly within the title combine to start with, earlier than inconsistency set in
Picture by: Formulation Motorsport Ltd
Watching from the Monza pitlane after he was compelled to retire from the dash race, Drugovich noticed as his rival’s luck went from unhealthy to worse, with Pourchaire ending the race final after contact and a penalty, and it was sufficient to seal him the title with three races remaining.
Sat within the press convention room at Monza on Saturday, draped in a Brazilian flag, the affect of Drugovich’s win was nonetheless to sink in. Although it was not how he anticipated to say the title, it was made no much less candy by the circumstances.
“I believe it takes a little bit of time to sink in, then you definately really realise you are the champion,” he advised journalists.
“While you begin, you at all times have a dream of being in F1, however then going by you realise how troublesome it’s to be an F2 champion as properly, which is the whole lot you are able to do to match that dream, and it instantly it turns into a dream to be an F2 champion.
“Clearly, you begin desirous about it very early within the championship. You attempt to not however, while you really realise you will get it, it is one thing actually particular. I believe it was round Spa once I received a spot once more – then I actually thought that it was doable” Felipe Drugovich
“Since a child I used to be already dreaming about this second. It is such an unreal feeling to be right here.
“It was for certain not how I anticipated it. Firstly, I used to be somewhat bit nervous as a result of Theo was making up some positions. Ultimately, we discovered it was fairly troublesome for him to go up the order and the sensation was the identical as if I might been within the automotive.
“It is simply one thing unreal and I believe I will actually get pleasure from this for a very long time.”
Drugovich says he did not need to suppose an excessive amount of concerning the title throughout early rounds
Picture by: Formulation Motorsport Ltd
Repeatedly, Drugovich, as many drivers do, had advised journalists he wasn’t desirous about the title. However it was at Spa the place he started to see his probabilities.
The beginning of the post-summer break triple-header marked a closing cost in the direction of the top of the season, and the 22-year-old seized the second, taking 25 factors at a spherical the place Pourchaire snared simply three. A cushty pole place enabled him to steer the pack into the characteristic race and, regardless of ending second to Jack Doohan, Drugovich prolonged his factors lead.
“Clearly, you begin desirous about it very early within the championship,” he mentioned. “You attempt to not, however I believe while you really realise you will get it, it is one thing actually particular.
“I believe it was round Spa once I received a spot once more and I noticed that we had come again from the break very properly. Then I actually thought that it was doable.
“Regardless that it was already virtually the top of the championship, the eleventh spherical, I believe there I actually began to consider it.”
Drugovich credit his group, and the ambiance inside it, for a lot of his success, saying he has “actually loved it, in all probability the most effective 12 months I’ve ever had”.
Brazilian has paid tribute to the ambiance within the MP Motorsport squad
Picture by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Photos
Led by Sander Dorsman, the Dutch outfit has loved a lot success in Spanish F4, successful 5 of the final six titles, and has additionally had robust ends in the Formulation Renault Eurocup lately. However that is the squad’s largest outcome but, and Drugovich says the group’s dedication was essential.
“I believe they helped me quite a bit by being extraordinarily dedicated this 12 months,” he mentioned. “I believe they actually took it clearly very severely however with loads of ardour, and that’s one thing I actually admire.
“I struggled somewhat bit within the robust moments. I solely wished to win on a regular basis and misplaced loads of factors due to that and I believe that’s actually helped me to be prepared now. I really feel like a very totally different driver and only a lot higher” Felipe Drugovich
“I believe they had been actually centered on getting this title, one of many issues my engineer mentioned to me on the finish of final 12 months was if you happen to come to me, there’s one factor we have to do and it’s win the championship and that’s it, there’s nothing else. I believe I actually helped them win it.
“My expertise from final 12 months additionally helped them enhance the automotive and be constant, I believe one thing we actually missed in 2020 was being constant and we actually pushed on for them to be constant. For those who do a apply and also you realise you’re not robust at that monitor, it’s worthwhile to do one thing, something, simply to be fast in quali and save the weekend. That’s one thing we’ve accomplished this 12 months.”
Although he has secured the drivers’ title, the marketing campaign for MP’s first F2 groups’ trophy continues, and he says his crew “simply must go for it. From my aspect, I’ve received nothing to lose anymore, but additionally I would like to consider the group and produce the factors dwelling as a result of they actually deserve it as properly.”
After a difficult 2021 marketing campaign with Virtuosi, Drugovich wasn’t anticipating to be again in F2 this 12 months
Picture by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Photos
Drugovich freely admits persevering with in F2 wasn’t on the playing cards for 2022, however now says persisting was the most effective determination of his profession to date. He additionally says that final 12 months he “wasn’t fully prepared, particularly mentally”.
He added: “I believe I struggled somewhat bit within the robust moments. I solely wished to win on a regular basis and misplaced loads of factors due to that and I believe that’s actually helped me to be prepared now. I really feel like a very totally different driver and only a lot higher.”
Drugovich can also be his nation’s first second-tier champion since Bruno Junqueira gained F3000 in 2000, and says there are “lots of people cheering, particularly as a result of there is no Brazilian in F1.
“I believe if you happen to go down the ladder, I am the primary one which they’ll choose and it is particular to get the job accomplished for them. They’re actually lacking somebody in F1 and, hopefully, I might be there at some point to signify the nation.”
That dream now appears to be like somewhat nearer to actuality, with Drugovich named the primary member of Aston Martin’s driver growth programme lower than 48 hours after sealing the title. He would be the group’s reserve driver for 2023, and is ready to make his first Formulation 1 outing in FP1 on the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Although the shortage of race seat for such a deserving candidate appears disappointing, at the least Drugovich has one foot within the door in the direction of reaching his largest dream but.
Drugovich has been rewarded with an Aston Martin F1 reserve position
Picture by: Aston Martin