Cem Bolukbasi to Race in Formula 2 in 2022! - F1Esports News

Cem Bolukbasi to Race in Formula 2 in 2022!

January 12, 2022

F1 Esports Series alumnus Cem Bolukbasi will race in the 2022 FIA Formula 2 Championship with Charouz Racing System, it has been announced.

After starting his career in the F1 Esports Series, and spending the last few years in sportscar and single-seater championships, the Turkish racer will now step up to the premier single-make series in the world. In doing so, he becomes the first racer from his nation, and indeed from the world of sim racing, to make the step.

“I haven’t really had time to let it sink in!” said the Turkish 23-year-old.

“I think the realisation is kicking in more and more every hour. It was a big dream that has actually happened, so it’s quite difficult to put into words, but it’s very exciting and I’m very happy.”

Bolukbasi first got to grips with the Dallara F2 2018 in the post-season test at Abu Dhabi, turning wheels in anger for Van Amersfoort Racing. However, his 2022 campaign will see him in the Charouz camp, with his team mate for the season yet to be announced.

“I was in Abu Dhabi in 2017 for F1 Esports as an Esports driver,” he reminisced.

“To return after four years testing an F2 car was pretty insane for me, realising everything. I watched the F1 finale, testing, and then a day later I was driving the F2 car. I was like a kid living a dream over those five or six days.”

A New Challenge

With a 14-round calendar, all of which fall on F1 race weekends, the 2022 FIA Formula 2 Championship will be the biggest to date. The series, which experimented with a three-race weekend format in 2021, reverts to the duality of Sprint and Feature once more this season.

As the first racer from the F1 Esports Series to make it to Formula 2, Bolukbasi’s signing represents a singularity moment for the blending of virtual and physical racing.

“If I was never in F1 Esports, I would never have had the chance to get into a real car – I would not be where I am now. The whole starting procedure was down to F1 Esports back in 2017, it really changed my life! It was nothing serious for us back then, but I really wanted to be an F1 driver, because… who doesn’t want to be an F1 driver?

“The only problem was the accessibility, because you can’t just choose to be a Formula 1 driver just because you want to. F1 Esports opened up that accessibility, because the only thing I had was a wheel and pedals set. I joined in, qualified, and if I can go from F1 Esports to FIA Formula 2, I think anyone can.

“I think it’s also very important to be the first gamer to do this, because it can give people hope. If people see that one person can do it, they will believe they can do it as well.”

Bolukbasi is in good company. Fellow F1 Esports forerunner Igor Fraga previously appeared on the Road to F1, contesting the 2020 FIA Formula 3 Championship, also with Charouz. However, Bolukbasi’s presence in F2 will represent the highest level of racing for an Esports racer so far.

G-FORCES AND GGs

A fast sim racer does not a champion make. While simulators, Esports and the like are fantastic acclimatisation tools for racers looking to convert their digital success into physical, nothing can prepare a driver for the sheer brutality of a racing car like the real thing.

“On the mental side you can really understand what it’s like to concentrate for a long time, but on the physical side, it’s more difficult,” he explained.

“The cars are really, really fast, and despite being close to the real thing, the simulators can’t come close to replicating the G-forces and neck strain when you’re going that fast, both accelerating and decelerating.”

“The only thing sim racers are missing compared to real racers is the physical preparation Everyone around us has been racing for so many years, so they’re very used to which muscles they need to use, and they’ve been working on these muscles for years. I kind of need to catch up in a very short time, which is why I’ve spent close to 500 hours in the gym in the last year to catch up!”

CEM’S STORY

Bolukbasi cut his teeth the inaugural F1 Esports Series in 2017, winning the second race around Spa-Francorchamps, at the live final held at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. He finished that year’s championship in fifth place overall, with a total of 35 points.

“I was in Abu Dhabi in 2017 for F1 Esports as an Esports driver,” he reminisced.

“To return after four years as a driver in F2 testing the car, was pretty insane for me, realising everything. I watched the F1 finale, F1 testing, and then a day later I was driving the F2 car. I was like a kid living a dream over the 5-6 days.

It’s become a very emotional track for me, it’s the first place I did F1 Esports, I raced there in the F3 Asian Championship, and it was the first place I jumped in an F2 car, so it has a lot of memories!

As the F1 Esports Series evolved to accommodate teams, he was drafted by Scuderia Toro Rosso Esports in 2018. Though he only ran a partial programme, he scored on all four race appearances, finishing the season with 32 points. He was retained by the team in 2019, and scored points on a further two occasions before his on-track racing career took centre stage.

On-track opportunities appeared mid-way through 2019, and he made his debut in the Formula Renault Europcup at Hockenhiem, as well as in the GT4 European Series. He put in two guest drives for Turkish team Borusan Otomotiv Motorsport in the latter, at Circuit Paul Ricard in France and Misano World Circuit in Italy.

Following impressive performances at both venues, he was given a full-time drive with the team in 2020, driving a BMW M4 GT4 in the Pro-Am category. Along with team mate and compatriot Yagiz Gedik he took two wins, and second in class in that year’s championship. He continued with the team in 2021, dovetailing his GT4 commitments with a stint in the Formula 3 Asian Championship, and EuroFormula Open.

Held at Dubai Autodrome and Yas Marina Circuit in the United Arab Emirates in January and February, this five-round championship consisted of 15 races, with Bolukbasi taking rookie wins in two of the three races in the final round. He finished the winter series in ninth place, behind the likes of proven F2 racers Jehan Daruvala, Roy Nissany, and 2022 Formula 1 driver Guanyu Zhou.

Despite not racing in the opening three rounds, Bolukbasi finished fifth overall in EuroFormula Open, winning his very first race at the Hungaroring. He added another win later in the year around Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and expanded his trophy cabinet with a further six podiums for Van Amersfoort Racing.

Bolukbasi will return to the F2 cockpit when testing gets under way in Bahrain, from March 2-4, with the season commencing two weeks later at the same venue. Good luck, Cem!




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