Graduating to Formula 2 this weekend, both Franco Colapinto and Paul Aron are anticipating a tough but exciting race ahead of them as they make the step up from Formula 3.

They will be driving for MP Motorsport and Trident respectively at Yas Marina in what will be their first time in the F2 car. It’s a tough proposition but one neither is daunted by, with extensive preparations in the books already.

For Colapinto, it will be the first weekend in which he is competing with the Dutch outfit he’ll race for in 2024. The Argentine says the 2023 F2 finale will be a sort of prologue to his first full season of racing in the Championship, making it a useful few days to learn and experience as much as possible ahead of his rookie campaign.

“I'm really looking forward to this race looking forward to work with engineers and mechanics and all the personnel from F2. It’s another dream come true. It’s a good thing to have a race under my belt before next year, it's a privilege to be able to.

“I'm just very grateful for this opportunity and to start to prepare the next season. I'm just gonna try to give my best and let's see where we end up, but the main thing is to learn as much as possible and take the most amount of experience for the 2024 season.”

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Aron meanwhile lines up with Trident who have been winners in F2 as recently as Zandvoort. The Estonian has been preparing ever since the Formula 3 campaign ended at Monza in his efforts to be as ready as possible.

Still, there are some things that will be brand new regardless of how much simulator work he undertakes, with pitstops and strategy crucial in F2.

“It's obviously very, very exciting. I think for me, F2 is quite a big step because it's the first Championship where you actually need to do pitstops, so there's much more to consider.

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“After Monza, my main focus was driving on different simulators and my mindset was about Formula 2. I was learning the characteristics of the car, the characteristics of race weekend, the tyre compounds and the pitstops - how to do them and how to maximise them as much as possible. So there's been a lot of preparation.

“You need to push the pit entries. You need to stop on your marks at the pit stop and then you need to also push on cold tyres. From what I've heard, it's quite a big difference as we have 18-inch tires in Formula 2 the engine has a big turbo. So, for sure it will be important to get up to speed with the car quickly and then in the races, the main thing will be the pitstops and different compounds.

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“In Formula 3, we just have one compound for the whole weekend but in Formula 2, you have two, so it's another thing to consider. I think there will be a lot of stuff to learn but the most important thing will be to get as comfortable with the car as possible. Then I think everything else will fall into place naturally.”

Even if Colapinto has familiar faces around him, he too will start from zero as he tackles a new car for the first time. While he has been with MP throughout 2023 during the F3 campaign, things will be different in Abu Dhabi.

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What he hopes to accomplish is familiarity with everyone in order to speed up the learning process ahead of next year, as all of the drivers and teams wrap their heads around a brand-new car. He hopes that with a race weekend under his belt, the confidence will already be in place for next season.

“Some people are the same, some people are different but the main thing I think is to start working with people you already know from a new car and how you know, already have confidence with each other and kind of know how each person works and I think it's a pretty important thing.

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“We understand each other quite well and I think the last part of the year was pretty strong in F3. Working with this group of people around me, it's been really nice, and they have been really supportive and we’ve enjoyed every weekend. It always takes time to get used to everyone, to understand each other and I think staying in the same team and in a place I know well, I'm just very positive about what we can do next year in F2.

“Still, we have to start with from zero, but I know and trust them a lot and I have confidence that they will give me the tools to fight for the Championship if everything's right.”

Like in F3, there is limited time before the all-important Qualifying session to set the grid. Both expect to go in fairly blind with such little track time on the race weekend, but are hopeful of pulling off a good performance regardless of their relative inexperience.

“I'm gonna try to give my best. Of course, I've never driven an F2 car before, so with very little time to practice in FP and only a few push laps, it's always tricky to be 100% on it in Qualifying,” Colapinto said.

Aron added: “I think I will make a big step development wise from Free Practice to Qualifying after I've had the first taste and the first feeling with the F2 car, and my brain starts to settle the information a bit more. I think going into Qualifying, everything will be much clearer on how to drive the car compared to Free Practice.”