I woke up at the start of the week, beginning on the 24th of July, expecting, as always, that I’d be watching Formula 2 at home that weekend.
It was nearing midnight on Tuesday when my dad called. “Josh, an opportunity has come up. You’ll be racing in F2 this weekend.” I spent that entire night wide awake and the following days in a mad panic to get all my stuff ready and upgrade my licence. By Thursday, I’m in the paddock at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, officially announced as an FIA Formula 2 driver, ready to learn a new car, new procedures, a new format, etc. And I had to learn it as I went along, this weekend. The team planted a huge book in front of me; I had one day to absorb it all.
To be racing on an F1 weekend, surrounded by all that comes with that, was at times a little overwhelming, but ultimately, I was just there to perform. So I made the decision to ignore the ‘circus’. To this same end and following the advice of fellow racing drivers Fred Lubin and Christian Mansell, I decided to hand over control of my social media for the weekend. I knew that, at this level, positive and negative opinions would be thrown at me, and I didn’t need the noise.
Ultimately, pressure, scrutiny, and criticism are part of the job. I will never be able to please everyone, so I focus on meeting my own expectations.
I had 45 minutes to familiarise myself with the car around Spa in very tricky conditions. Formula 2’s Free Practice session was wet—'wet tyres’ wet—so I did what I could. While the jump in power, from 200 hp in Euroformula to 650 hp in F2, is huge, I adapted to it quickly. The more noticeable change for me was the weight of the car.
The qualifying session was my first behind the wheel of the No. 17 car on slicks. It was a lesson learned but overall a session to forget, with no representative lap time on the drying track.
The Sprint Race at Spa was a great step for me. My PHM Racing by Charouz machine felt good, and it was a good 17 laps to get to grips with the car in racing trim.
By the Feature Race, I was up to speed and able to build on what I’d learnt on Saturday, but now with added confidence. I had to learn to do a pit stop, here and now, mid-race, and my first-ever pit stop went smoothly. I started from the very back of the 22-car Feature Race grid, but was fourteenth to the flag.
All in all, it was a baptism by fire, but I came out the other side unburnt, having learnt more in a single weekend than I probably ever have before.
Zandvoort and Monza were rounds 12 and 13 of the F2’s 2023 calendar, but my second, and third on the final step on the ladder to F1.
Since making my F2 debut, I’ve learnt a lot, improved a lot, and proven to myself that I can fight at this level. The fact that I proved that to others too is only a bonus.