Soucek wraps up 2009 with yet another victory

Andy Soucek demonstrated once again that he is the class of this year's FIA Formula Two championship, adding a second-race victory on Circuit de Catalunya to his first win yesterday. The Spaniard had already clinched the title with three races remaining in 2009 but the celebration took place today in his homeland: Spain.

2009 F2 Champion Andy Soucek celebrates on the Championship podium with Jonathan Palmer Motorsport Vision Chief Executive.
Photo by FIA Formula Two Championship.

The victory was seventh of the season, in sixteen races, for Soucek, and the third in a row. In a level of domination rarely seen at this level of racing, Soucek's season points tally was nearly double that of his closest challenger: he finished the year with 115 points, with Robert Wickens well back at 64.

"I don't have many words, honestly," Soucek said. "It has been amazing. I'm sure this victory is not only the work I did on the championship, I think it is also thanks to a couple of people that have really helped me throughout my career. I had everything I needed to win it, that's true; nothing was missing.

"I think I did a good job but everybody surrounding me really pushed hard as well," he continued. "Now I can only say thank you to everybody: seven wins is huge, I think 11 podiums, I don't know I lost count, and it's the best result of my career and my life. Hopefully this gives me the chance to be in Formula One next year!"

Soucek's title wins him a test with the Williams F1 team, and he has already tested with Toyota after winning the 2006 Spanish F3 championship. With the dominance he showed this F2 season, that Williams test will surely not be the last time he drives a Formula One car.

The win was, to some extent, a replay of yesterday's first race: Soucek again started second, again next to polesitter Wickens -- and again beat Wickens to the first corner, while the Canadian fell back to third.

Nicola de Marco followed Soucek past Wickens, and took second place into the first corner. The two were closely followed by Kazim Vasiliauskas and Tobias Hegewald, and the foursome would continue in close formation while Soucek disappeared into the distance, lapping a second faster than de Marco.

Soucek eased off toward the end of the race, but still finished an easy 7.538 seconds in front of de Marco, who capped a tough year with a season-best second-place finish.

Mikhail Aleshin, Andy Soucek and Robert Wickens.
Photo by FIA Formula Two Championship.

Wickens, who only needed to finish in front of Mikhail Aleshin to ensure a second place in the championship, drove a conservative race, not risking anything by attempting to make a move on de Marco.

"Going into the race, I knew that basically as long as I was ahead of Aleshin I had second, so once I got through the first lap safe and sound I just started being consistent and mistake-free," Wickens recalled. "I didn't really even really try and charge on de Marco: it was a pretty conservative race from my part and I was happy to get second."

Wickens finished the race a scant 0.552 seconds ahead of Vasiliauskas, but that was enough to give him a five-point margin in the final standings over Aleshin, who had to settle for seventh place and two points, having also started in seventh. Both now qualify, along with Soucek, for FIA SuperLicences, the prerequisite for driving in Formula One.

"For sure it's great to be the first person from your country (to be granted a Superlicence)," Aleshin said of his achievement. "But I think it will also be good if I can use it! For me it was important to finish in the points -- that was my goal this race."

Behind Vasiliauskas, the gaps were much bigger: Hegewald could not keep up with the Lithuanian and finished a further 4.5 seconds adrift, with F2 newcomer Tristan Vautier taking sixth in his second F2 race. The young Frenchman took hom an impressive nine points from his first F2 outing, with Formula Palmer Audi the top experience on his CV prior to this weekend.

With the first "new" season complete, the revival of Formula Two must be considered a success. While the season was marred by the death of Henry Surtees in a freak accident at Brands Hatch, the new spec formula provided an outstanding opportunity for young drivers to match their talents against each other.

The equal equipment removes much of the uncertainty about the driver skill vs equipment equation as Formula One team bosses evaluate prospective young drivers. With the F1 field growing to 26 cars in 2010, it remains to be seen how many F2 graduates find race -- or test -- driver positions with F1 teams for next season.