on the grid The upcoming stars of F1: the top six young racers vying for a spot on the starting lineup.
Frederik Vesti, Mercedes
The 21-year-old driver from Denmark currently holds the second place position in the F2 championship, which will be determined in Abu Dhabi. This is his second season competing in the series and he is currently 16 points behind Théo Pourchaire with 39 points still up for grabs. Vesti has had a strong season, winning six races and achieving a remarkable victory in the sprint race on Saturday. In 2021, he joined the Mercedes junior program and completed a full young driver test for the team in Abu Dhabi in 2022. He made his debut on a full race weekend at Mexico this season, completing 26 laps and finishing 19th. Team principal Toto Wolff acknowledged that this was not the ideal opportunity to assess Vesti’s skills. However, on Friday, Vesti had a better chance to prove himself when he took over Lewis Hamilton’s car and finished within seven-tenths of George Russell’s time.
Robert Shwartzman, Ferrari
The 24-year-old Israeli, who serves as Ferrari’s backup driver, has already demonstrated his skills. He claimed the F3 championship in 2019 and followed up with fourth and second place finishes in F2 in the following years. He was a member of the Ferrari driver academy and completed extensive testing with the team. He made his debut in a GP practice session at the 2022 US Grand Prix and also participated in another session at Abu Dhabi. In addition, he took part in first practice at this season’s Dutch Grand Prix. Along with his reserve driver duties, he has been competing in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup. During Friday’s session, he delivered his most impressive performance yet in an F1 car, trailing Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari by only two-hundredths of a second in Abu Dhabi, with similar run plans.
Felipe Drugovich is a driver for Aston Martin.
Breaking into Formula 1 can be a challenging task, especially with the increasing length of drivers’ careers and limited testing opportunities. As a result, teams highly value drivers with competitive experience. One example is the 23-year-old Brazilian who won the F2 title in 2022 and joined Aston Martin’s driver development program. He became one of their reserve drivers the following year and has participated in various testing and practice sessions. He even filled in for an injured Lance Stroll during pre-season testing. Recently, he also impressed during free practice at the 2022 Abu Dhabi GP, setting a time within three-tenths of the fastest car and outpacing Stroll. He has also been linked to a potential move to Williams.
Zak O’Sullivan, Williams
After achieving second place in this year’s F3 championship and securing four victories, the British driver is poised to make his F2 debut with the ART Grand Prix team in the upcoming year. The 18-year-old hails from Cheltenham and is highly regarded for his talent, having joined the Williams driver academy in 2022. He has already gained recognition, winning the 2021 Aston Martin Autosport BRDC young driver of the year award while also becoming the GB3 champion. Williams’ principal, James Vowles, praised him as a “very skilled driver who knows how to maximize the potential of his vehicle”, leading the team to allow him to participate in free practice in Abu Dhabi. His performance did not disappoint, as he finished only seven-tenths behind Williams’ Logan Sargeant, a remarkable feat.
Théo Pourchaire, Alfa Romeo
Pourchaire is currently leading the way towards securing his first F2 championship title. Despite only finishing in seventh place during the sprint race on Saturday, he still holds a 16-point lead over Vesti heading into the final feature race of the season. After achieving second place last year, he has shown impressive consistency this season for ART Grand Prix, earning 10 podium finishes. He joined the Sauber junior team in 2019 and currently serves as the test and reserve driver for Alfa Romeo. He made his first practice appearance at the US GP in 2022 and also participated in another session at the Mexican GP this year. He had hoped to secure a seat at Alfa Romeo for next season, but the team ultimately chose to stick with Zhou Guanyu. During practice in Abu Dhabi, he finished six-tenths of a second behind Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas.
Oliver Bearman, Haas
Bearman, an 18-year-old from Chelmsford, is currently ranked sixth in the F2 championship during his first season with Prema Racing. He has achieved four victories so far. In 2021, he joined the Ferrari driver academy and placed third in the 2022 F3 championship. This year, he made history as the youngest British driver to participate in a grand prix weekend, representing Haas in first practice. He impressed as the top-performing F2 driver, finishing in 15th place. He continued to impress in Abu Dhabi on Friday, coming within a tenth of Kevin Magnussen’s time – the closest any of the rookies have come to an established F1 driver.