For the second yr in a row, and third time in 4 seasons, Components 2’s champion doesn’t look like in competition for a Components 1 commencement.
Like Oscar Piastri and Nyck de Vries of their title-winning campaigns, Felipe Drugovich – who sealed his 2022 title with three races to spare whereas watching on from the pitwall after mid-pack contact broke his suspension – barely warrants a point out in a run-down of significant choices within the F1 driver market.
And Drugovich will most likely really feel arduous carried out by that he hasn’t even merited the type of outrage that Piastri a minimum of benefited from final season.
There was a common consensus in 2021 that the very fact Piastri was being neglected was a critical sporting injustice. Drugovich is barely ever talked about as after-thought in 2022.
None of that is said to insult Drugovich, who’s clearly a great driver and who has been the star of the F2 season. He’s a deserving and spectacular champion. However it’s a proven fact that in a unstable driver market, his title has barely surfaced.
No workforce is believed to have actively thought of Drugovich for a race seat in 2023. The one hypothesis round him has linked him to a possible reserve position. This regardless of being the stand-out driver in F1’s primary feeder collection and coming with the promise, it’s stated, of a minimum of $10m in backing.
So, the query is easy sufficient. Why does no one care concerning the F2 champion?
Drugovich’s personal status might be one cause. He’s a third-year driver who has been on the F1 help package deal for 4 seasons with out enormous fanfare.
A race-winning rookie F2 marketing campaign created huge expectations for his second season, on the much-fancied UNI Virtuosi workforce, however that was an opportunity Drugovich failed to know.
This season he has been very spectacular – fast, constant, relentless – however he can’t escape the very fact it’s his third yr within the class. Married to his efficiency in 2021, it creates a notion (honest or not) that this season is a results of longevity moderately than outright capability.
One other issue is the opposition. Sadly for Drugovich, this yr’s F2 crop is kind of weak. The rookies have been erratic, the returning drivers disappointing. Very similar to when de Vries beat Nicholas Latifi to the 2019 F2 title, the checklist of drivers Drugovich is thrashing elicits little greater than a shrug.
That’s possibly too disrespectful, however bluntly it’s how this grid is perceived. One F1 workforce boss informed The Race earlier this yr that no one from this F2 crop was price selecting up. Now that Drugovich has run away with the title, in a commanding vogue, and nonetheless instructions no curiosity, we will see simply how correct that judgement was.
There’s one remaining factor to think about. Take a look at the best way F1 groups are structured and it’s simple to see the place their curiosity in drivers lies.
Mercedes, Crimson Bull, Ferrari, Alpine and Williams have their very own driver programmes.
AlphaTauri is linked to Crimson Bull on this. The very fact is none of these groups are thinking about spurning their very own investments to favour an out of doors recruit until there’s a compelling argument to take action. Drugovich has carried out sufficient to place himself on Crimson Bull’s radar however nothing extra.
McLaren, Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo and Haas haven’t obtained an inventory of F1-ready junior abilities at their disposal so as a substitute are targeted on taking a look at established drivers. Aston Martin seemed nowhere close to the F2 grid for a Sebastian Vettel alternative. McLaren has gone for a rookie for 2023 however Piastri has a way more superior status and extra F1 expertise than Drugovich. Haas is actively dismissing the concept of recruiting rookies once more. Alfa Romeo is predicted to re-sign Zhou Guanyu.
There’s no room on the inn and, within the eyes of many within the paddock, no cause to consider that Drugovich is sufficient of a prospect that another person ought to be shunted apart.
It’s nonetheless harsh on Drugovich that the crowning glory of his junior years doesn’t have the profession momentum or adulation to match.
He may take some consolation from figuring out he’s removed from the primary F2 champion to be considered in such a light-weight and can nearly actually not be the final. So, sure, it’s type of a private slight, nevertheless it’s additionally a political challenge, one which F1 and F2 want to significantly take into consideration fixing.
Successful essentially the most prestigious junior class within the pyramid doesn’t have to ensure a driver something. It relies on the driving force, the opposition, the circumstances. Not each F2 champion goes to be a world-beater; some years and champions might be weaker than others.
However one would think about any champion deserves an F1 alternative of some form.
And whereas Drugovich may not be essentially the most thrilling F2 champion in historical past, it’s a shock, a disgrace, and a headache for F1 and F2, that his coronation could be met with relative apathy within the grand prix paddock.