There were so many feel-good stories about F2’s opening Bahrain weekend. Liam Lawson winning Sprint Race 1. Oscar Piastri winning Sprint Race 2. Guanyu Zhou proving the doubters wrong as he got that first Feature race win. So, that’s three great stories right there. But if I had to find one story or feature of the weekend that made me want to see more, you had to look to a different team. One that had forgone their usual colours and a driver that was only confirmed on the very eve of the weekend. I’m of course talking about MP Motorsport’s late-announced driver. I think Richard Verschoor is the unsung hero of F2 in Bahrain.
MP kept everyone guessing past pre-season testing and in the weeks leading up to Bahrain. We knew Lirim Zendeli was driving one of the cars but who was the second driver? The memes and videos were enormous fun. Eventually, though it was Verschoor, who had tested for the team, who was given the nod. It appears that budget and money as ever remain the sticky but also lubricating factor in seat decisions. It is strongly rumoured Richard Verschoor only has the budget in place for the Bahrain weekend.
With that in mind, to turn up and deliver as he did is nothing short of astonishing. MP Motorsport made terrific strides last season in the development of their car. Bringing in new engineers gave the team a massive lift and delivered four victories in the 2020 season. We all remember Felipe Drugovich’s dominant win in Bahrain towards the end of last season. That was in an MP car.
Bahrain GP: Richard Verschoor Recap
Verschoor qualified P5 on the grid. Just half a second from pole and a tenth from Ticktum in 4th, it was a stunning statement of intent. Bear in mind that last season Verschoor in an MP Motorsport car only came 9th in FIA F3 with a single podium. In 2018 he was 13th with no podiums although he did win the prestigious Macau GP that year. The point is that qualifying 5th in such a rich field of talent is impressive.
Dan Ticktum ended Verschoor’s first Sprint race with an ill-timed move in Turn 1. Verschoor’s car span into retirement. He would fight back with a spirited drive to P5 in Sprint Race 2. The Feature race looked even more promising as Verschoor led in the closing stages of the race. A combination of worn hard tyres and a safety car giving a welcome boost to the prime strategy runners saw him slip to P4 at the flag. It was again, a superb performance.
View from the Grandstand
Unquestionably, Verschoor deserves to be on the F2 grid this season. That Richard Verschoor is the unsung hero of Bahrain is not in doubt. But as we saw with Logan Sargeant or the second Haas seat, sometimes being deserving gets you naff all. Let’s hope that Verschoor’s superb Bahrain weekend encourages more people to back him and let him compete this season. We need to know how he measures up against our benchmark drivers; Zhou, Shwartzman and Lundgaard. If he is racing them week in and week out then we really need to talk more about Richard Verschoor.