Excitement is at an all-time high for the upcoming seasons of Formula 2 and Formula 3, with an overhauled format and points system, a bumper calendar, and a new-look grid.
With less than two weeks to go until we kickstart in Sakhir, we spoke with CEO Bruno Michel to get his thoughts on what we can expect from 2022.
Q: Before we get onto the upcoming 2022 season, what are your thoughts on the 2021 champions and their performances?
Bruno Michel: I will start with Formula 2. I think that Oscar Piastri was an amazing champion. It is always quite special when we have a rookie champion because we know who has achieved that in the past, people like George Russell and Charles Leclerc in F2, and in GP2, people like Lewis Hamilton.
Oscar had a very, very strong season and was very consistent, with some fantastic racing, and he won the Championship in a season where the level of drivers was of high quality. I really think that he has had a tremendous season and I was very impressed.
In Formula 3, Dennis Hauger won the title in his second year. I must say, he had a very impressive season and improved massively from his first year. I wouldn't say that he won it easily, but he dominated at a lot of events. Dennis was a very, very worthy champion and I am sure that he is going to do well in Formula 2.
I believe that we had two very strong champions in 2021, which is a tribute to the level of the two categories.
Q: How do you think they will both fare in 2022, Oscar Piastri in a reserve driver role with the Alpine Formula 1 team and Dennis Hauger in Formula 2 with PREMA Racing?
BM: In a reserve role, Oscar, unfortunately, will not be able to show his talents as much as he did in 2021. I am a little bit sorry to not see him racing this season because he deserves to be. When he gets to Formula 1 - and it is not a question of if, it is a question of when - I am sure that he will be a very strong contender with the right team and the right car.
On the other hand, having one year of test driving is always an asset before getting a seat, even though we will not see him racing like we did last season in Formula 2 and in Formula 3 the year before, which is a little bit disappointing. At the end of the day, I am sure that his future is bright.
I believe that we will see a very interesting season in Formula 2 this year. There are some very, very strong rookie drivers, as well some very strong second and third year drivers. I am sure Dennis can do well.
Will Dennis be able to perform at the same level as Oscar did last season? That is a big question because Formula 2 is a very difficult Championship. Whatever happens, I am sure that we will see him performing well and winning races.
Q: F2 produced a ninth Formula 1 graduate in 2021, with Zhou Guanyu joining Alfa Romeo. How do you think he will perform?
BM: I am really happy for Zhou, I think it is very deserved. He is a very strong and very consistent driver. He didn't win the Championship, but he showed some very interesting things.
He is absolutely at the right level to be in Formula 1. He will perform as well as his car and his team allow him to, and I am sure that Alfa Romeo will have a good car this year. Formula 1 is very difficult and winning a race in an Alfa Romeo car might be a little bit more challenging for him, but I am sure that he will have a great season.
Having a teammate like Valtteri Bottas is going to be a fantastic asset for him, as it will allow him to continue progressing. It is always interesting to see how our drivers perform in Formula 1 because that is the DNA of Formula 2 – it is the job of F2 to prepare drivers or Formula 1. So far, I think that the eight drivers who have gone from our category to Formula 1 have performed well. I don't see why Zhou will not do the same.
Q: How pleased were you to see fans back at races last season?
BM: : It makes a big difference, I must say. The 2020 season was quite bizarre as we were not used to having no fans at the events, although it was great that we were able to race, with the right protocol in place.
The restrictions largely continued in 2021, but we started to see the fans returning throughout the year and we needed it. The drivers needed it. It is really important.
Our fanbase is growing every year and that is fantastic to see. We love to see fans at races. Not only fans but guests in our paddock as well, such as sponsors, suppliers, and partners, all of the people who we were not able to have with us in 2020. These people are part of what I believe a Formula 2 and a Formula 3 race weekend should be. It was great to see the fans, the guests and the teams all back together in a friendly environment, and I am looking forward to that continuing in 2022.
Q: What effect do you think the new format and points system will have in each Championship?
BM: Ultimately, I do not think that it will change the result. The main differences are that we will have two races a weekend, instead of three, and that F2 and F3 will race together on the same weekends again, which we didn't have last year. There will also be more events than in 2021.
I am quite happy with what we did in 2021. I believe that it was the right thing to do in the circumstances, to make sure that economically, we could find a budget that our teams were able to operate within.
For 2022, we will return to having more rounds, but with two races a weekend, and with a key difference: the Feature Race will be on the Sunday, the biggest day of the weekend, ahead of the Formula 1 Grand Prix, which is something that I had always wanted to do. Along with the reverse grid Sprint Race on the Saturday, I think will be great for the categories.
For me, the points system will not make a difference in the end because the best driver will always win.
Q: What are your thoughts on the increased number of events in each Championship and the new circuits that we will be visiting?
BM: I would say that the downside of the format in 2021 was the length of time between the races, which was too much, especially in Formula 2, when we had almost two months between events. This is not so good for the drivers, for the teams or the fans. So, we wanted to correct that for this season.
The calendars are bigger this year, we will have 14 events in Formula 2 and nine in Formula 3. That is the most events that we have had in F2 and the joint-most that we have had in F3, and I think that both calendars are more balanced.
With so many races in F2, there will be a cost implication, so we took the decision to put together some additional financial help for the teams to ensure that they are working towards the same budget as in the past.
It is always interesting to add new events to the calendar. We will be visiting two new tracks in Formula 2, with Imola and Zandvoort joining the calendar. Meanwhile, in Formula 3, as well as going to Imola for the first time, we will also race at Sakhir for the first time.
The event at Zandvoort last year was fantastic, so we are happy to be going there with Formula 2 as well as Formula 3. Imola is a track we know well, having been there with GP2 several times. The first GP2 race was in Imola in 2005, so we are not jumping into the unknown.
It will be very interesting to start the season in Bahrain at the same time as Formula 1 with both Formula 2 and Formula 3. We are really looking forward to that.
Q: A new season brings new title challengers. Which drivers do you see fighting at the front in 2022?
BM: In F2, as usual, there will be a very interesting fight between some strong rookies coming up from Formula 3, 2021 champion Dennis Hauger, of course, being one of them, as well as drivers like Jack Doohan, Clément Novalak and Logan Sargeant, who all had really strong seasons in F3 last year.
It will be interesting to see how they cope with the F2 car at the start of the season and how they compete with the more experienced drivers, like Liam Lawson, Jüri Vips and Théo Pourchaire, who are all in their second seasons.
I believe that it will be quite an open Championship, but predicting who is going to win is something that first of all I do not know, and second of all I don't want to go into. However, I think that we will have a very interesting fight between all of these drivers.
It is always more difficult to predict Formula 3 because we have less information on the rookies who are joining the Championship. Some of them, like Grégoire Saucy and Oliver Bearman, have already won titles, so we know they are strong drivers. They will be competing with second-year drivers like Victor Martins, Arthur Leclerc and Caio Collet.
There are a few drivers in there who we know will be competitive, but others are joining the Championship who we do not have as much information on, so we cannot guess how they will perform straight away. We know that there will always be some surprises in F3.
Q: Van Amersfoort Racing will be joining Formula 2 and Formula 3 as a new team and DAMS have been taken over by Charles Pic in F2. With this in mind, how do you see the Teams’ Championship shaping up?
BM: In F3, we know that the likes of PREMA, Trident and ART Grand Prix will be fighting each other. Trident did a fantastic job last year and won the Teams' Championship. There is always the possibility to see other teams coming into the fight, like Hitech Grand Prix and MP Motorsport. It is a very, very open Championship.
Van Amersfoort are a new team, but we know them. They were in the old FIA European Formula 3 for a long time, and they have been knocking at our door for quite a long time. We wish them good luck, and we know that they will be at the right level for both F2 and F3.
In F2, the Championship is probably even more open. I believe that MP Motorsport and Hitech have strong line-ups, as do Carlin. PREMA, ART and Virtuosi are always up there. Charouz Racing System, Campos, Trident, DAMS and Van Amersfoort can all do a good job as well, so it will be quite open.
DAMS have been purchased by Charles Pic and I think that is a very good thing. It is the end of an era because Jean-Paul Driot had been with us since the very beginning. With his passing two years ago, his sons took over, but it was quite inevitable that this would happen. I am very happy to see Charles take over and I really hope that he does a great job with DAMS.
Like with the Drivers’ Championship, I do not want to name a favourite for the title, but I think that we will see a very interesting season. In both F2 and F3, all of the teams are very professional and strong. We do not have anybody who isn't at the right level, so it is a question of how strong their drivers are this year. As I said, I think we have strong drivers this season, so I think the Teams' Championship is going to be very close.
Q: Do you have a final message ahead of the season?
BM: Follow us and you will not be disappointed. We will have a great season.
I am really happy that our fanbase is extending every year. We have more fans and followers every year and I hope that this number continues to increase. At the end of the day, I think the show on track, whether it is F2 or F3, is always spectacular. That's why the number of fans is always increasing. It is going to be the same this year and if you are following us, you will enjoy it.
There is a very strong sentence from Oscar Piastri in the new series of Chasing The Dream, where he says after a race "If you don't love F2, I think you do now" and that is exactly what I think. Watch a race and you will love it.