What To Expect From Jake Hughes In F2 Debut?
F3 Veteran Hughes gets his F2 breakthrough with HWA Racelab, stepping in for the departing Giuliano Alesi in Russia.
BWT HWA Racelab will see a new face in their pink car this weekend in Russia as FIA Formula 3 driver Jake Hughes gets his first shot in Formula 2.
The British driver, who raced with HWA Racelab's F3 team this year, recently completed the 2020 season with two wins and finishing seventh overall in the drivers' championship. Hughes' ended his tenure in F3 with wins at Spain and Italy in 2020.
After two seasons with the German outfit in Formula 3, the twenty-six year old gets a promotion into F2 at the Russian Grand Prix, replacing Giuliano Alesi, son of F1 legend, Jean.
Hughes looks forward to the challenge ahead, expecting the F2 cars to be a big leap in terms of power and performance from the F3 cars he's driven this year.
“I am really looking forward to my first races in Formula 2," said Hughes. "Many thanks to BWT HWA RACELAB for giving me this chance. The Formula 3 season finished recently after nine race weekends in eleven weeks, so I am totally in the racing routine.
Jake Hughes tasted victory twice in 2020 // Image Credit: Formula Motorsport Limited
“I will have to get used to the cars first, as they have significantly more power than the Formula 3 cars. But I am looking forward to taking on this challenge.”
Hughes will be joined by Artem Markelov as his teammate, who's F2 experience will be handy for the Brit ahead of his debut. Markelov currently has five points to his name this season.
Alesi meanwhile, will remain in the F2 grid as he switches from HWA to MP. The Frenchman scored HWA's first points in their F2 history. HWA is currently competing in their first season of F2, following their takeover entry from Arden International last year.
HWA Racelab has 13 points to their name, currently holding 10th place so far in the teams' championship.
“We are delighted that we can give Jake the chance to prove his undeniable talent in Formula 2 in Sochi," said Team Principal Thomas Strick.
Hughes & HWA have enjoyed a successful period in F3 together // Image Credit: Formula Motorsport Limited
"This perfectly matches our philosophy of building up talented youngsters step by step and leading them to the top level of motorsport.
“Over recent years, Jake has delivered convincing performances as a driver out on the circuit and as a real team player. We would like to thank Giuliano for his efforts in his appearances for the team.
“He scored the first points for us in Formula 2 to write his name in the team history of BWT HWA RACELAB. We wish him all the best for the future.”
Alesi in his second season of F2 will make the transition to MP this weekend at Sochi, stepping in for Japanese driver Matsushita.
What Challenges Are To Come in Russia For Hughes?
The transition from Hughes from F3 to F2 is a move long been coming for the Birmingham-born driver. Hughes has been competing in the F3/GP3 series since 2016 and has been looking to make the step up to F2 for some time.
After finishing seventh in Formula 3 in 2019, many expected Hughes to make the leap into F2 with HWA or a lower team with his experience in the junior formula and outright speed.
But due to budget, Hughes hasn't been able to make that move. He admitted this year that he competed in F3 for a second season with HWA was down to a lack of budget but was impressed with the workforce and factory HWA provided in their first outing in F3. His loyalty with HWA is being rewarded with a chance to prove himself in F2.
Whilst Hughes won't be expected to produce strong lap times in his first laps in an F2 car, the Brit is well experienced in racing and should get up to speed with the F2 car and working with the HWA mechanics with ease.
What could Hughes in a HWA F2 car produce in Russia? // Image Credit: Formula Motorsport Limited.
Hughes will also have the experience of Markelov at hand too to provide feedback and assitance if needed.
The main feature Hughes will need to get upto speed with will be the difference in tyres. F3 doesn't perform pit stops or suffer degrading tyres compared to F2, so practice will be vital to get a feel with the 18-inch tyres and the durability of the Pirelli compounds.
Qualifying will be a task too. HWA hasn't got a strong qualifying record this year in F2 under Markelov and Alesi. But the recruitment of Hughes, who is known to be a decent qualifier, could help improve that if he can get up to speed.
Hughes is only confirmed to compete with HWA for Russia, but it shouldn't be a surprise if the British driver sticks with the team for the Bahrain double-header finale. This is a chance for Hughes to audition for a 2021 seat with the team.
Whilst it could be tough for Hughes, DAMS' Juri Vips was in a similar position when he stepped in for Sean Gelael. The Estonian had never driven an F2 car before joining the grid and was able to get up to speed with the car. He finished 11th three times before he earned his first points at Mugello.
Juri Vips clinched a podium last time out at Mugello // Image Credit: Formula Motorsport Limited.
A podium finish for Vips followed the next day, collecting third place to bring home his first F2 podium. Vips is confirmed to race in Russia this weekend, continuing his stand-in role for the injured Gelael.
Whilst podiums and potentailly points might be a challenge to reach, never rule it out. What will be important for Hughes is to make use of this chance and gain valuable experience for the future.
The Formula 2 Championship heads to Russia this weekend as the series starts its final three rounds of the 2020 season.
Mick Schumacher holds the championship lead but rivals Callum Ilott, Christian Lundgaard, and Robert Shwartzman are not far behind the German heading into the weekend at the Sochi Autodrom.