Entering his third season in Formula 2, Alfa Romeo reserve driver Theo Pourchaire is clear that this upcoming season brings with it a wealth of opportunity, with a potential seat in Formula 1 possibly on offer.
Having become the youngest winner in F2 after claiming his maiden win at the 2021 Monaco Feature Race, Pourchaire faced a trying second season in the championship with the ART Grand Prix driver finishing second in the championship despite a series of mechanical failures, including one that saw him retire at the season finale in Yas Marina after hitting a bird.
That said, 2023 represents a fresh start for the Sauber junior and unlike his first two years, Poruchaire also faces the added challenge of being a reserve driver for the Alfa Romeo F1 team, an opportunity that Pourchaire believes might lead to a full-time drive in 2024.
“At the moment I don’t know what I will do in 2024,” Pourchaire exclusively told Total-Motorsport.
“I will focus on this year and will give my best because I know I have a great opportunity this season to do something really good and to change the future of my career.
“I think there are some great opportunities for 2024 and there might maybe be some space in the best championship in the world so let’s see.”
Competition in F2
Pourchaire is also aware that in order to turn his dream into a reality he will have to prevail against some of the best junior drivers in the world, who all harbor the same ambition as him.
“I think it will be a very competitive championship this year,” Pourchaire continued.
“There are some really good drivers coming from F3 and also some experienced drivers in F2. MP motorsport is a very good team.
“They were champions last year and they have Dennis Hauger who is an F3 champion, I know him very well we used to be together in go-karts, and he will be very tough to beat.
“Also Jehan Daravula and my teammate [Victor Martins], who is F3 champion, there are a lot of good drivers and I’m sure there will be at least 10 good drivers fighting for some wins and podiums.”
Long-term plan with Sauber
Having been a Sauber junior since 2019, Pourchaire’s association with the program could pay off handsomely in the near future with the Sauber Group officially welcoming Audi as a shareholder, and partner in 2026.
The reigning F2 vice champion believes the incoming investment could represent a great opportunity for the team to rocket up F1’s current pecking order.
“I think it’s a very good opportunity for the team because the team will grow a lot,” Pourchaire stated.
“Right now it’s one of the smallest F1 teams in terms of the number of people working there, in terms of factory size, it’s not like the top three teams who have a lot more money to spend. The budget cap has made it easier to catch up but still, it is difficult.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for a brand like Audi to be behind the team and it will be interesting to see what happens in the future.”
However, it is also important to note that the man who brought Pourchaire to Sauber will no longer be with the team, with Frederic Vassuer now leading Ferrari.
In Vassuer’s place will be former McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl, who is Sauber’s new CEO and Alessandro Alunni Bravi, who will serve as team principal, two individuals Poruchaire believes he can learn from.
“I met with Andreas [Seidl] and he’s a very, very nice person with a lot of experience and success,” Pourchaire explained.
“He won a lot of things with Porsche, with Sauber-BMW, and was with McLaren these past few years. He can share his experiences with me and is also very nice.
“Also Alessandro Alunni Bravi is someone I know well, he is now the team representative of Alfa Romeo so it’s two nice people coming in that represents the biggest change in the team.”
Potential link to FDA
With Pourchaire’s former mentor now at Ferrari, the question arises if Poruchaire might be tempted to swap alliances and join F1’s most historic team if the opportunity presented itself.
While the Frenchman is grateful to Vassuer for the opportunities he has received, Pourchaire reiterated his commitment to Sauber.
“Thanks to Fred [Vassuer], I joined Sauber,” Pourchaire said.
“I’m grateful for this, he’s a really nice person and I learned a lot with him. He gave me a great opportunity so I will be forever grateful to him. I will also give my best this season for him, because if this season I’m doing F2 it’s thanks to him.
“I hope he will do a great job with Ferrari. I wish him the best. Now I’m working with new people, such as Andreas and Alessandro great people I know very well. And yeah, it’s like a new boss for me.”
And while Pourchaire is keen to keep an open line with his old boss the current ART driver is clear about staying loyal to the organization that brought him this far.
“I know Fred very well, he has my phone number and I have his phone number so let’s see,” Pourchaire joked.
“Right now I’m linked with Sauber and Sauber is helping me a lot. Financially, technically, and they are basically helping me 100% this year, along with the French Federation. I’m driving in F2 thanks to Sauber and without the Sauber Academy I wouldn’t be anywhere so I will be loyal to Sauber.”
Expectations for the year
Having missed out on the title during his sophomore campaign in F2, Pourchaire will be keen to claim the championship in 2023.
However, with two years’ worth of experience under his belt the five-time race winner is realistic about his expectations for the upcoming season.
“It will not be an easy season, I want to be more consistent, that’s for sure,” Poirchaire stated.
“Even if I have a difficult weekend I want to grab as many points as possible to show that I can extract the maximum out of myself and out of the car. I will do the best job possible, I will try to avoid making too many mistakes as possible and show my pace.
“Last season we faced a lot of mechanical failures and Sauber knows that I cannot win a championship with five engine failures.
“So let’s see if I am champion I will be very happy if I am not champion because of mechanical failures and bad luck it’s not a big problem.”
What’s different this year?
While Pourchaire stays with ART for a third consecutive year, the French driver has an all-new set of engineers and mechanics to work with, including his former lead engineer in F3.
The duo ultimately lost the F3 title to current McLaren F1 rookie Oscar Piastri by three points in 2020.
“Inside the team, we changed quite a bit,” Pourchaire explained.
“I have different engineers, I have different mechanics. It’s a good thing because I wanted a bit of change. It’s also good to stay with the same team because we know each other very well.
“It’s not new people, for example, my race engineer this year, will be the race engineer had in Formula 3 when we were three points away from the title, someone that I really like, and we work very well together.
“It’s so important to have that connection with the engineers and drivers. I think we can extract the best of the team and the best of myself this year.”
Pourchaire kick off his 2023 Formula 2 campaign by taking a stunning pole position at the Bahrain International Circuit.