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Abu Dhabi title protagonists bid a fond farewell to F2

For Théo Pourchaire, Frederik Vesti and Ayumu Iwasa, the 2023 F2 season finale in Abu Dhabi isn't just a title-decider, it's a goodbye to the F1 support paddock

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Regardless of the F2 Drivers’ Championship outcome this weekend, Abu Dhabi plays host to the curtain call of this season’s top performers.

F2 Pourchaire Vesti Iwasa Abu Dhabi
Frederik Vesti tracks down Théo Pourchaire. (Image Credit: Rudy Carezzevoli – Formula 1 via Getty Images)

It all comes down to this, so they say. For the three F2 drivers still within a mathematical chance of clinching the 2023 drivers’ title, the final round of the year also represents their last in the series.

Entering the season finale, ART Grand Prix’s Théo Pourchaire leads PREMA’s Frederik Vesti by 25 points. Ayumu Iwasa of DAMS sits a further 14 back.

With 39 points on offer, the Japanese driver needs to sweep the weekend, and hope that Pourchaire goes scoreless whilst Vesti doesn’t equal the Frenchman’s current total of 191.

With Iwasa already confirmed to be taking Liam Lawson’s vacated Super Formula seat with Team Mugen for 2024 and the other two speaking freely about Abu Dhabi being their last weekend in F2, FormulaNerds asked the trio what the series had meant to them and for their personal highlights from their time within it.

“Yeah, I was able to learn a lot of things in F2 since last year, with DAMS,” the Red Bull junior said, reflecting on the past two seasons.

“With DAMS, I love a huge amount of things, and that’s why I was able to improve my performance a lot.”

With a considerable break between Abu Dhabi and the penultimate round in Monza, which was at the start of September, the drivers could be forgiven for feeling like they’ve already left.

“Honestly, I’m already missing a bit F2 and the team. But first of all, I really want to enjoy this weekend with the team – we should be smiling with our performance at the end of this weekend.”

Remembering the good times

Whilst Iwasa requires a near miracle to take the title, Vesti is still an outside bet himself.

Pourchaire needs to score just 15 points across the weekend to take the championship out of the Dane’s grasp, regardless of the results the latter attains.

Nevertheless, the Mercedes Academy member knows that moving on is a good thing, F2 champion or not.

“Obviously, the Formula 2 championship means a lot,” he acknowledged, before looking back on his progress during his time in the series.

“I remember starting in F2 last year and was struggling quite a bit but was just progressively getting better and better.

“And this year with PREMA, I’ve taken it to another level and have been fighting for the championship all year long, which is something I will never forget.”

The 2023 season has seen Vesti experience great triumphs as well as gut-wrenching bad luck and mistakes. Reflecting on the ups and downs of F2, he said:

“The hard moments are very hard, but also the wins are extremely high. Especially, the Monaco weekend [this season] is of course my highlight – to win the pole position and feature race win is something I still remember very clearly.”

With Mick Schumacher moving to WEC with Alpine for the 2024 season, Vesti is expected to step up and into the role of Mercedes F1 reserve driver.

“I love the F2 championship,” he professed, before adding: “It will be difficult to leave it on Sunday [after the Abu Dhabi feature race]. And especially, also, leaving PREMA, of course, will be difficult – I’ve spent three years here.

“But it goes on and it’s only a positive thing that things are moving forward for myself, so I will take it like that and remember all the good times we’ve had.”

Focusing on the job at hand

With soon-to-be three full F2 seasons under his belt – plus a late-season cameo for BWT HWA Racelab in 2020 – Pourchaire is the most experienced of the three drivers at this level, despite being the youngest.

“It’s been a great journey for me, to be also part of ART Grand Prix for four years, and also part of the Road to F1 categories – Formula 3 and Formula 2,” the Sauber junior reflected. “It was great, really good memories.”

A record-holder at the F2 level as well as in FIA F3, Pourchaire has a lot of fond memories to draw upon from his feeder career. Like Vesti, victory around the streets of The Principality has been a standout:

“The Monaco Grand Prix 2021 I think is the best one, for sure, but there are so many others.

“I’m the youngest ever race winner in Formula 3, the youngest ever polesitter and race winner in Formula 2, I won Monaco, I’m a vice-champion in F2 and F3. It’s been an amazing journey.”

The winner of the F2 crown is prohibited from returning to the series, but even if he somehow doesn’t become an actual champion, Sunday will still be Pourchaire’s final weekend in the support paddock.

“It’s going to be my last race with the team and in this category, but I’m going to give everything – I’m just not gonna think about it.

“I know at the end, there’s two titles to win. So as I said, it’s an important weekend, but I will stay focused on the job I have to do.”

Featured Image Credit: @Formula2 on X

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