Today, I made a great decision. Today, I woke up early and I watched Formula 2.
For those who aren’t in the know, Formula 2 is the feeder category to Formula 1, and Saturday morning marked the first race of the season for the young guns trying to make an impression at the Bahrain International Circuit under the watchful eyes of F1 team principals and big sponsors. And it was so good.
Formula 2 used to be called GP2 until the FIA decided to take a look at the Super License system in 2017 and realized it would actually be a lot more streamlined to call F1's major feeder series F2. It’s a push toward the FIA Global Pathway, which is supposed to streamline the process from karting to F1 by denoting a series of racing categories that drivers can progress through. These things are important. What is more important is the fact that F2 is awesome.
I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but when I drag myself out of bed for motorsport at 5am, I am usually not in the mood to enjoy anything. Formula 2 has shown me the light.
If you’re a motorsport fan in general, Lando Norris is a name that might be on your radar. He’s been dominating European feeder categories since 2014, but he got a lot of publicity earlier this year when he shared a car at the 24 Hours of Daytona with Fernando Alonso and Philip Hanson. He qualified on pole for Saturday’s race and took off like a rocket, building up a ten second gap between himself and his competitors.
This kid has been getting a lot of attention in the media, who like to compare him to the next Lewis Hamilton. He didn’t falter once during the weekend and even managed to finish a stunning 7.6 seconds ahead of his Carlin teammate Sergio Sette Camara, despite reporting that he was lacking power.
But the really exciting stuff was going on behind him.
Namely, Artem Markelov’s mad dash from pit lane to podium.
Markelov’s name is one I remember from my very brief dip into GP2 back when there was actually an American racing in the series and I had a reason to watch. Normally, drivers don’t stay in a feeder series for long, and if they do, their results remain pretty unspectacular. But Markelov has wildly improved from his disastrous first season (where he DNF’d seven times) to 2017 (where he finished as a runner-up to current F1 driver Charles Leclerc). And that definitely showed on Saturday morning.
Markelov stalled on the warm-up lap and was sent to the back of the grid. Somehow, he managed to overtake his way up to the top ten within the first five laps and still preserve his tires well enough to stay out longer than the rest of the grid during their pit stops. Markelov then proceeded to dive-bomb his way further and further, until he was breathing down second-place Sette Camara’s neck. On the last lap, Markelov went in again, but Sette Camara’s defense was incredibly skilled, and he was able to keep Markelov behind. You can check out a video of that incredible action here:
There were neck-and-neck battles between Prema teammates Sean Gelael and Nyck de Vries. Luca Ghiotto was forced to serve a penalty after hitting Tadasuke Makasino. Alexander Albon, who is currently signed to DAMS for just a single race gave the team something to think about when he scored a solid 4th place, and last year’s GP3 champion couldn’t fight him off and had to be happy in fifth. And if you remember Roberto Merhi from his brief stint in Formula 1, well—he’s on the grid, too... and was the only driver who didn’t finish. Oops.
The feature race was incredible. I am not going to presume that I know anything about this series and its recent storylines because this is my first time watching in a handful of years, but I am here to share the glory of this racing series that has actually made me excited about waking up before the sun rises to watch a 31-lap race. It’s fun! It’s exciting! There was so much overtaking that I didn’t even know what to do with myself! I was just making noises at my computer screen because everything was happening!
So, this is my plea. Join me on this Formula 2 adventure. These young drivers are fighting for their careers and their futures, and they’re taking every corner with the kind of balls-to-the-wall passion that makes motorsport so viscerally fun. I have officially boarded the hype train, and if you would like to join me, the next race is a sprint race on Sunday at 7:15 AM EDT.
Trust me. You’re not gonna want to miss this one.