There was a time just a few years ago when Theo Pourchaire was being touted as 'the next big thing.'
Now, the sad reality facing the newest FIA Formula 2 champion is that at just 20-years-old, it is increasingly clear that Formula 1 is going to pass him by - and that is simply because he took too long to win the title.
Pourchaire arrived onto the FIA ladder in 2020 with a glowing reputation - seemingly set to follow the route trailblazed by Charles Leclerc.
He won 16 of 21 races in the 2018 French F4 junior championship, before following up with the ADAC F4 title in 2019.
His momentum continued with two wins in FIA F3 in 2020 as he finished just three points behind a rival with as strong a junior career in one Oscar Piastri.
But in 2021, his star started to dim as he only managed fifth in the standings while Piastri romped to the title at the first attempt, before losing out to Felipe Drugovich in 2022, landing the crown at the third attempt, against a field not as strong as in previous years, in 2023.
Considering the fact that Leclerc (2017), George Russell (2018) and Piastri (2021) all won the F2 title at their first attempts and are now mainstays at the front of the F1 grid, Pourchaire's predicament becomes clear.
Simply put, F1 teams now expect their juniors to win the F2 title at the first try, maybe at the second if it is a tight battle that goes to the wire.
Three years against mediocre F2 fields is not going to earn Pourchaire a full-time seat in F1.
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Pourchaire did not have options
What also goes against him is the fact that Sauber has elected to keep Zhou Guanyu on for a third season alongside Valtteri Bottas in 2024.
If Pourchaire was the real deal and the team were completely convinced that this star rookie on their hands was worth it, he'd be in the car. After all, as Max Verstappen proved, if you are fast enough, you are old enough.
It would be wrong to completely end Pourchaire's hopes of an F1 career at this stage, but what does it say to other teams sniffing around that his own F1 team don't feel he is worthy enough of a seat.
If Pourchaire was 'the real deal', like in the case of Piastri, there would have been a tug of war for his services and Sauber would have found a way, anyway, to get him in the car.
That the Piranhas weren't circling around him trying to lure him away speaks volumes for a driver heading to Super Formula in 2024.
Pourchaire does join a mixed record for GP2/F2 champions in recent years, with the only champion since 2019 on the grid in '24, set to be Piastri himself.
GP2/F2 champions and how they fared in F1
|2016 World Champion
|Seven-time World Champion
|91 starts - 2004, 2008-2012
|14 starts - 2004
|203 starts - no podiums
|95 starts 2011 - 2015, one win
|179 starts - 2009, 2012-2020, one miraculous escape
|Third driver outings, passed over for Lotus seat
|FP1 at 2015 Hungarian GP for Manor
|35 starts - 2016-2017
|42 starts - 2016-2018
|130 starts - one win
|123 starts - five wins
|104 starts - one win
|Nyck de Vries
|11 starts - 2022-2023
|Toyota WEC, Mahindra Formula E
|43 starts - 2021-2022
|Alpine WEC, Mercedes reserve
|22 starts - one Sprint win
|Reverse driver outings in 2023
|Aston Martin reserve
|Reverse driver outings in 2021-2023
|Sauber reserve, Super Formula