Compromised qualifying halts Jack's charge in Australia 🇦🇺
Jack Doohan's Australian Grand Prix weekend started with promise before ending in frustration at Albert Park, the 20-year-old failing to get the payoff his pace demonstrated after scoring four points in Formula 2's maiden visit to Melbourne.
In his first car race on home soil and as the only Australian in the F2 field, Jack showed his hand early by comfortably topping Friday's practice session in his Invicta Virtuosi Racing entry, but was unlucky to get caught out in qualifying after a late red flag caused by a crash for Frenchman Victor Martins (ART), leaving him in 15th on the grid. It was a piece of poor fortune that largely dictated the rest of his weekend.
In Saturday's 22-lap sprint race held in cold, slippery conditions, Jack moved steadily towards the fringes of the top 10 before being tapped into a spin by American Juan Manuel Correa (Van Amersfoort Racing) on lap 14 at Turn 3, Jack forced to retire on the spot. Correa was later issued a 10-second time penalty for causing the accident.
Sunday's 33-lap feature under sunny skies immediately looked brighter for Jack, who made up four spots in the first four laps using an alternate tyre strategy to rise to 11th place. Contact with Jak Crawford (Hitech) on lap 7 at Turn 11 left the American in the barriers and prompted a five-lap safety car period, where Jack pitted twice to switch from medium to soft tyres, and then back to mediums for the remainder of the race. From 18th, it looked a tall order for Jack to advance to the top 10 points-paying positions in the final 20 laps, but he made big gains when a second safety car period caused by Roy Nissany (Charouz) crashing on lap 26 saw several rivals pit, setting up a three-lap sprint to the line. Jack took the chequered flag in ninth, and was promoted to eighth after Isack Hadjar (Hitech) was assessed a 10-second post-race penalty for re-joining the track unsafely at Turn 13 earlier in the race, securing four points for Jack in his own backyard.
"We started off with an amazing free practice – fastest by three-and-a-half tenths (of a second) – and we were heading into an amazing weekend," Jack said.
"It was just unfortunate timing with qualifying and trying to be on track for the perfect time, and I was unfortunately placed when the red flag came out and we weren't able to get a lap down, and the session didn't get resumed.
"Being out of position in the Sprint Race led to me being taken out from 12th, and then the Feature race was going really good on the alternative strategy before I got hit on my rear left on a good overtake, which gave me a puncture. Having to do two stops meant we lost over 30 seconds. To be able to come back to finish where I did, I was quite happy."
Jack slipped from sixth to 11th in the standings after six of 28 races this season, but was able to find some positives from the weekend at Albert Park.
"It wasn't where I wanted to be, but it's still a few points and that could be critical at the end of the year when fighting for the championship," he said.
"Obviously that was nowhere near my hopes or expectations for my home race weekend, but all in all it was a real privilege to be able to experience the home crowd support and to be racing in Australia for the first time."
Jack is next in action in Baku, with F2 on the support bill for Formula 1 at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix from April 28-30.
FIA Formula 2 World Championship: Round 3 Australia results
Sprint race (23 laps): Started 15th, did not finish
Feature race (33 laps): Started 15th, Finished 8th
2023 F2 World Championship standings: 24 points (11th overall)
Next F2 event: Baku, Azerbaijan (April 28-30)