Which young drivers deserve race seats in 2013?

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With Michael Schumacher on his way out of F1 a space has opened for a driver who isn’t currently on the grid.

There’s no shortage of talent out there looking for an opportunity. But in tough financial times sheer ability may need a bit of cash to go with it.

F1’s Young Driver Tests ended in Abu Dhabi yesterday and several of the top racers from championships such as GP2 and Formula Renault 3.5 were in attendance.

But who will claim a place on the 2013 grid? Here are 20 drivers who’ve impressed in the leading feeder series recently:

Davide Valsecchi

CV: 2012 GP2 champion, 2009 GP2 Asia champion
Age: 25

Valsecchi took the DAMS GP2 seat vacated by outgoing champion Romain Grosjean and delivered the title himself. But it took the five-year veteran of the category until the final weekend in Singapore to do it, and a tally of four wins (three at the same track) from 24 races showed it was not an emphatic triumph.

Still he got the job done, and few are the drivers who’ve finished in the top two in GP2 and not progressed to F1. Worryingly for Valsecchi, the only two who have are fellow Italians Giorgio Pantano (in 2008) and Luca Filippi (last year).

Valsecchi might not be the third – he is known to F1 teams having tested for HRT in 2010, Lotus (now Caterham) in 2011 and the other Lotus this year. But as with so many drivers at this level he’s likely to require a budget to progress further.

Luiz Razia

CV: 2012 GP2 runner-up, 2006 F3 Sudamerica champion
Age: 23

Razia led much of this year’s GP2 championship, only to falter in the final rounds and end up second-best to Valsecchi.

He drove in two first practice sessions last year and has already made Young Drivers’ Test appearances for Force India (at Magny-Cours) and Toro Rosso (at Yas Marina). The latter declared themselves happy with his progress but with two drivers already confirmed for next year and a third waiting in line (see below) there’s no room for Razia there.

Esteban Gutierrez

CV: Third in GP2 this year, 2010 GP3 champion, 2008 Formula BMW Europe champion
Age: 21

Gutierrez is following Sergio Perez up the ladder on Mexico’s Escuderia Telmex driver programme. He’s considered Sauber’s most likely choice of driver to partner Nico Hulkenberg next year (see today’s round-up).

This is despite a somewhat disappointing second season of GP2 this year. Gutierrez gave Jules Bianchi a run for his money at ART in 2011 but this year rookie team mate James Calado often outshone him, and the pressure that brought seemed to provoke over-driving.

Max Chilton

CV: Fourth in GP2 this year
Age: 21

Max Chilton didn’t place higher than ninth during his first season of GP2 last year, but showed considerable progress in 2012. He began the year as a regular visitor to the points, and although that tailed off on he did land a pair of feature race wins.

This timely success and the backing of insurance company Aon (who his father Grahame sits on the board of) may help him land a seat at Marussia next year, having made his practice debut for them in Abu Dhabi last week.

Robin Frijns

CV: 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 champion, 2011 Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup champion, 2010 Formula BMW Europe champion
Age: 21

Frijns stepped up from karting to to Formula BMW Europe in 2009, winning a race in his first season. He’s won a championship every year since, starting with the last Formula BMW title in 2010, then Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup the next year. From there he stepped up to Formula Renault 3.5, with its considerably quicker 2012 machines, and spent most of the year leading that championship.

The title nearly slipped from his grasp after a poor weekend in France. He bounced back in Spain and eventually claimed the championship after a controversial clash with rival Jules Bianchi.

That earned him a test for Red Bull and he also drove for Sauber in Abu Dhabi. Frijns brings little backing but he’s clearly got potential.

Jules Bianchi

CV: 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 runner-up, 2009 F3 Euroseries champion, 2008 F3 Masters winner, 2007 Formula Renault France champion
Age: 23

Bianchi has probably still not come to terms with losing the Formula Renault 3.5 title to Frijns yet. “I’d be lying if I said that what happened two weeks ago in Barcelona is now all behind me,” he said last week.

He has been a Ferrari test driver for four years and has driven in nine practice sessions for Force India, who have a vacancy at their team for next year. Now is surely the time for Bianchi to make the move up.

Sam Bird

CV: Third in Formula Renault 3.5 this year
Age: 25

Bird joined Bianchi in switching from GP2 to Formula Renault 3.5 this year, which promised quicker cars, F1 tracks to race on and the possibility of dovetailing a race programme with appearances in F1 practice sessions. But unlike Bianchi, Bird hasn’t had that kind of seat time.

It’s easy to overlook that he ended the season just ten points behind Frijns. Bird won brilliantly in Monaco and has tested for Mercedes several times. But it’s hard to see where he might fit into the 2012 F1 driver line-up.

Antonio Felix da Costa

CV: Third in GP3 and fourth in Formula Renault 3.5 this year, 2009 Formula Renault NEC champion
Age: 21

Red Bull-backed Antonio Felix da Costa had a solid season in GP3, winning three times and ending the year third.

But it was in Formula Renault 3.5 that he impressed most, finishing the season fourth overall despite only joining the category at round six. He out-scored Bird, Bianchi and Frijns throughout those races and his last five starts yielded four wins and a second.

Da Costa will surely be the next talent to find himself at the wheel of a Toro Rosso, the question is when? This is the guy Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne have to be wary of.

Kevin Magnussen

CV: Seventh in Formula Renault 3.5 this year, 2011 British F3 runner-up, 2008 Formula Ford Denmark champion
Age: 20

Magnussen excelled in qualifying in Formula Renault 3.5 this year but only had one win to show from his efforts – though he also retired while leading in Hungary.

The son of former F1 driver Jan Magnussen is on McLaren’s driver development programme and drove for the team in Abu Dhabi.

James Calado

CV: Fifth in GP2 this year, 2011 GP3 runner-up, 2010 British F3 runner-up, 2009 Formula Renault 2.0 UK runner-up
Age: 23

Calado was pipped to the GP3 title last year by ART team mate Valtteri Bottas. While Bottas was snapped up by Williams, Calado moved up the ladder to GP2 where he enjoyed almost immediate success, winning in Abu Dhabi at the end of the year.

He won again in the second race of this year, holding off team mate Gutierrez. Calado was a regular fixture at the front of the field and was robbed of a likely win in Valencia by poor strategy.

He slipped from third to fifth in the championship standings over the final four rounds in which he failed to score, partly due to racing while ill in Singapore. Nonetheless Calado was clearly the top rookie in GP2 this year. But where is the interest from F1 teams?

Giedo van der Garde

CV: Sixth in GP2 this year, 2008 Formula Renault 3.5 champion
Age: 27

Finishing outside the top five in GP2 this year (though level on points with Calado) was a poor return on the experience van der Garde has accumulated at this level.

Nonetheless he has had plenty of F1 track time with Caterham lately and may be in with a shot of landing a seat for next year. He has prior F1 experience too, having tested for Spyker as long ago as 2007.

Johnny Cecotto Jnr

CV: Ninth in GP2 this year
Age: 23

Could Venezuela have two F1 drivers in the near future? Johnny Cecotto Jnr had a mixed season in GP2 but impressed with a feature race win in Monaco.

He drove for Force India in last year’s Young Driver Test and turned out for Toro Rosso in Abu Dhabi this week. But was this a case of them sizing up a potential talent of the future or tapping into a source of quick cash?

Felipe Nasr

CV: Tenth in GP2 this year, 2011 British F3 champion, 2009 Formula BMW Europe champion
Age: 20

Last year’s British F3 champion had the highly experienced Valsecchi to learn from at DAMS and made clear progress throughout the season: he scored 28 points in the first half of the season and 66 in the second.

Alexander Rossi

CV: Eleventh in Formula Renault 3.5 this year, 2009 Formula BMW Americas champion
Age: 21

Caterham’s American test driver Alexander Rossi had a tough year in Formula Renault 3.5 with Caterham, then was soundly beaten by Da Costa when he arrived. He drove in first practice for the Spanish Grand Prix, appeared at the Abu Dhabi Young Driver Test and has also tested for Caterham’s GP2 squad.

Rio Haryanto

CV: 2009 Formula BMW Pacific champion
Age: 19

Haryanto tested for Marussia at Silverstone in July. The highlight of his GP2 season was taking pole position in a wet qualifying session at Spa. He ended the year 14th, but he looks like Indonesia’s best prospect for its first Grand Prix driver.

Edoardo Mortara

CV: Fifth in DTM this year, 2010 F3 Euroseries champion, 2009 and 2010 Macau Grand Prix winner
Age: 25

Mortara did the double in Macau in 2009 and 2010, but has been racing in the DTM since then. It’s a path used by a few drivers to reach F1, notably Paul di Resta and Christijan Albers, but will it work for him?

In the ten-round series Mortara stood out by being the only driver to win for Audi – twice – ending the year fifth overall. Lotus gave him a test in Abu Dhabi and he admitted: “it was pretty tough – I’ve come from a car which is a lot slower and the first laps were certainly an eye-opener.”

Robert Wickens

CV: 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 champion, 2006 Formula BMW USA champion
Age: 23

What of last year’s Formula Renault 3.5 champion? Robert Wickens tested for Virgin (now Marussia) at the end of last year but joined Mortara in the DTM. He didn’t enjoy as successful a year with Mercedes, two seventh places the highlight for him.

Luca Filippi

CV: 2011 GP2 runner-up, 2005 F3000 Italy champion
Age: 27

Still among the ranks of Italy’s upcoming drivers trying to get an F1 break is Luca Filippi. He appeared in the final two GP2 weekends this year and impressed by winning at Monza on his return and claiming pole position in Singapore.

But if it hasn’t happened for him by now you have to wonder if it’s ever going to. IndyCar may be a more likely destination.

Valtteri Bottas

CV: 2011 GP3 champion
Age: 23

Last year’s GP3 champion has driven in most first practice sessions for Williams this year, invariably at the expense of Bruno Senna. He is strongly tipped to take over Senna’s race seat next year.

In his 14 practice appearances he’s impressed the team with his speed, outpacing Pastor Maldonado six times.

But is a year out of competition really the best way to prepare for an F1 race seat?

Fabio Leimer

CV: Seventh in GP2 this year, 2009 Formula Master champion, 2008 Formula Master runner-up
Age: 23

Leimer tested for Sauber last year but wasn’t in action at the Young Driver Tests this year after a somewhat disappointing GP2 season for Racing Engineering with no wins.

Over to you

Which of these drivers deserves a place on the 2013 grid? Cast your vote below – you can pick as many drivers as you like.

Which young drivers deserve race seats in 2013?

  • Fabio Leimer (0%)
  • Valtteri Bottas (19%)
  • Luca Filippi (2%)
  • Robert Wickens (3%)
  • Edoardo Mortara (2%)
  • Rio Haryanto (1%)
  • Alexander Rossi (2%)
  • Felipe Nasr (2%)
  • Johnny Cecotto Jnr (0%)
  • Giedo van der Garde (4%)
  • James Calado (3%)
  • Kevin Magnussen (4%)
  • Antonio Felix da Costa (13%)
  • Sam Bird (2%)
  • Jules Bianchi (9%)
  • Robin Frijns (14%)
  • Max Chilton (2%)
  • Esteban Gutierrez (6%)
  • Luiz Razia (4%)
  • Davide Valsecchi (9%)

Total Voters: 287

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Who else should be considered for a 2013 race seat? What about former F1 drivers such as Jerome D ‘Ambrosio, Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastien Buemi – or even the injured Robert Kubica?

Have your say in the comments.

See the list of 2013 F1 drivers and teams

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Image © Lotus F1 Team/LAT, Sauber F1 Team, Sauber F1 Team, Red Bull/Getty images, Caterham/LAT, Lotus F1 Team/LAT, Williams/LAT

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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102 comments on “Which young drivers deserve race seats in 2013?”

  1. Bottas -> Williams.
    Da Costa should get put into a HRT by Red Bull like Ricciardo was.
    And get rid of Petrov and put Frijns there.

  2. Bob (@bobthevulcan)
    9th November 2012, 8:10

    If you squint looking at that picture, da Costa somewhat resembles Vettel in his Red Bull garb. Talk about grooming a successor… Da Costa has both strong potential and a powerful backer, so I’d rate his chances are pretty highly.

  3. In the poll question it should say 2013 :)
    I hope Felix da Costa, Frijns and Gutierrez get their chances next season.

    1. But where would da Costa go? He’s part of the Red Bull driver development programme, and both the Red Bull and both the Toro Rosso seats are taken.

      1. HRT like Ricciardo

        1. There has been nothing to link da Costa to an HRT seat. In fact, I believe he has already revealed that his plans for 2013 are to stay in the World Series by Renault full-time.

    2. @jerichokane Fixed, thanks.

      1. @keithcollantine Seems like there is a vote counting glitch. Bottas 64% Da Costa 41% Valescchi 30%? ;)

        1. @arrrang As it says in the article, people can vote for as many people as they like, so there’s nothing wrong with the tally.

  4. I think the below would happen in 2013
    Esteban Gutierrez –> Sauber
    Jamie Alguersuari –> Force India
    Robin Frijns –> Sauber or FA reserve
    Antonio Felix da Costa –> Toro rosso Reserve
    Valtteri Bottas –> Williams

    1. @prdsh ‘FA reserve’?

      1. Understudy to Mr. Alonso?

      2. oops!.. Force India i meant..but understudy to Alonso wudn’t be a bad option

        1. That’s two really good reserve-driver roles that will need filling, if Bianchi is promoted to race for Force India. He’d be their 4th driver in a row to make that step up, and he had several runs in both their car and the Ferrari. Perez also had some Ferrari tests.

          So 2 or 3 of these guys could be chasing these test drives, and the Williams one (replacing Bottas).

    2. (@prdsh)
      I agree with most of it except with Frijns, I would write Sauber reserve.

    3. It’s sad that being a reserve driver also means skipping a year. Except when you are racing somewhere + get at least 6-8 Friday outings.

      1. Like Bianchi this year. He’s had a busy year, and has got a brilliant CV. I’d be disappointed to see him not taken by FI next year.

    4. Nice movers list,
      Would add Magnussen to McLaren reserve, they should make him ready to step in if Perez doesn’t deliver (still find it quite a gamble from McLaren on Perez, not sure he is ready yet, at least on the consistancy part)

      1. Surely if they think Perez can’t be consistent enough then sticking Magnussen in the car would be daft – if they want Magnussen F1 ready I would imagine he’ll find his way into the FI or Maurussia reserve drive who McLaren already have technical partnerships with. They’ll put Paffert or Turvey in the car if they want consistency or buy out Heiki or Glock.

  5. Went for Razia, Gutierrez, Chilton, Bianchi, Bird, van der Garde & Bottas.
    I feel all of these drivers have a realistic chance to progress to F1 based on their experience, talent and backing. Of them I think only Gutierrez and Bottas are likely to be on the F1 grid next year.

    I’ve left out Frijns and Felix da Costa as I think they need more time to grow before being put into an F1 seat. We’ve seen what happens when a driver is put into an F1 car too early and with such mega talents as Frijns and da Costa, another year in junior formulae will not do them any harm

    1. Should also say that I think Bianchi will get the now vacant Force India seat in 2013

      1. I think all the suggestions indicate otherwise. Bianchi WON’T get the Force India seat.

        I think it’s safe to say that Bianchi has underperformed during his test sessions this year. He’s been around 1 second off the pace of DIR and HUL in most sessions. He’s obviously had his chance to prove himself but, unlike with DIR in 2010 and HUL in 2011, it appears that the Force India team don’t think Bianchi’s good enough for a race drive.

    2. Frijns needs more experience so you went for Chilton ??

      1. I can’t see Frijns in F1 next year but there is a small chance Chilton will be with his Marussia connections

  6. I think Frijns is the only driver who really deserves a shot. Bottas might get one, but if he really was as highly-rated as Williams make him out to be, they would have ditched Senna long ago and put Bottas in his car full-time. The rest have either taken too long to become competitive (ie Valsecchi), need more work (Nasr), don’t really have any options for race seats (da Costa), have suffered phenomenal bad luck in the timing of their career choices (Wickens), or have already risen as far as they are going to (Cecotto Jr.).

    1. +1. da Costa and Bottas probably aren’t quite ready, but Frijns looks outstanding. I would be disgusted if he doesn’t get a seat but Giedo van der Garde buys his way in at the expense of Kovalainen, the man has been hanging around for years like a bad smell that won’t go away. I have to admit I was happy to have less manufacturer involvement in F1, but with drivers now needing to bring money to get a seat it seems to be affecting the merit of the grid quite badly.

      1. @olliej

        Frijns looks outstanding. I would be disgusted if he doesn’t get a seat but Giedo van der Garde buys his way in at the expense of Kovalainen, the man has been hanging around for years like a bad smell that won’t go away.

        Frijns’ rise through the ranks has been astronomical, but I think it might be too soon to put him into a seat. A bad debut season with no sponsorship to his name could kill his career. A smarter option would be to draft him in as a third driver and give him regular runs in free practice with a view to putting him in a seat full-time seat from 2014. This would make him an all-round smarter and faster driver. Frijns is still young; he can afford to take his time.

        Giedo van der Garde buys his way in at the expense of Kovalainen, the man has been hanging around for years like a bad smell that won’t go away.

        I have heard that Kovalainen could be on his way out at Caterham. Apparently Tony Fernandes offered him a multi-year deal, but Kovalainen only wanted a one-year extension. I’ve also heard he looked elsewhere – namely Force India – but was told he needed sponsors, and by the time he came back to Caterham, their patience was wearing thin. Giedo van der Garde would replace him, with Charles Pic taking Petrov’s seat. I have reason to question this entire story though, because it is founded on talk (supposedly from people in Renault Sport F1) that Vitaly Petrov would move to Williams, taking Maldonado’s seat. Quite what happens to Maldonado in this case is unresolved.

        I don’t think Kovalainen is as bad as you make him out to be – I just seem him as a driver condemned to the midfield. He has enough talent to be an asset to smaller teams, but not enough to cut it at the front end of the grid. His problem is his race pace; he might be out-qualifying Petrov, but Petrov is out-racing him.

        1. Sorry @prisoner-monkeys I don’t think i phrased my reply very well. I meant to say that van der Garde is the one who’s been hanging around GP2 too long and isn’t worthy of an F1 drive (I may have phrased it harshly though!) I think Kovalainen is a decent driver and respect what he’s done at Caterham in poor equipment. I hadn’t noticed that he was being outraced by Petrov though, that could cost him dearly.

    2. @prisoner-monkeys I believe Williams have needed all the cash Senna has brought to the team, so dropping him in the middle of the season never was an option even if they wanted to do that. And he hasn’t been that bad recently, so I don’t see any reason to drop him now.

    3. Agree on Frijns, Valsecchi, Nasr (whom I rate less highly than Calado) and Cecotto, but don’t agree on Bottas as I believe the guy is outstanding (his CV is mighty impressive). No option for a race seat for da Costa is hardly a reason to vote against him, although I think he could do with winning either GP2 or FR3.5 next year. Regarding Wickens, I’d like to see him in F1 but really can’t see it, unless in a Gary Paffett sort of role or after a few seasons a la di Resta.

  7. too much drivers, noth enough seats available.

  8. Frijns, Bottas and Costa as far as Im concerned.

  9. William Brierty
    9th November 2012, 9:13

    I don’t understand this Da Costa mania. OK, he was fast in the 2nd halves of both the GP3 and World Series this year, but in the first halves he has been at best average and at worst inconsistent. Razia, Valsecchi, Frijns, Bianchi and Bottas are the only drivers good enough, at the moment, to earn a F1 drive on pure talent. And where is GP3 champion Mitch Evans in the list?

    1. Da Costa had a few mechanical problems throughout the GP3 season. It was only bad fortune that robbed him of a shot at the title, even if he was only an outside chance going into the Monza round.

      As for his Formula Renault campaign, I would hardly say he was average, considering that he stepped into the car halfway through the season, but started scoring point at a rate that suggested he easily would have won the championship if he had had the chance to race for a full season.

      1. Of course, one should always temper one’s expectations. Many have come to F1 with perfect CVs and have been out of depth with the competition at the top level. Having said that, I think da Costa’s been pretty impressive this year, although strangely his upswing in form came right after Red Bull snatched him. I remember Will Buxton saying that da Costa’s first feature win at Hungary would be ‘hard for him to repeat’, but he’s done that many times over. I guess the Red Bull management(Formula One’s You-Know-Who) have worked towards maybe changing his mindset towards racing, as a result of which they have been able to bring out his till-then untapped potential.
        However, fast-tracking a driver to F1 generally yields poor dividends. I know it is tempting for Red Bull, but I’m sure they’ll let better sense prevail and let him have a shot at the FR3.5 series title. If he shows the kind of pace he showed this year, he’ll end up dominating the series and then they can bring him to F1. Thus, 2013 will be a real test for the young Iberian. I wish him the very best.

    2. I agree that da Costa is overrated in the sense that every young driver is is suddenly ‘the next big thing’ is inevitably subject to hyperbole. And I don’t really agree with PM that bad luck cost him the GP3 title because I don’t think his luck was substantially worse over the year than his competitors (bar maybe Abt, who I still think was a bit lucky to get as close to the title as he did). However, they guy is clearly very talented and hugely fast, as his quick adaptation to WSbR showed. Personally I found him more impressive in that series than GP3, which can only be a good sign given that it’s a much more powerful car. Whether he can replicate that when the pressure is on next year is another question, but the potential is clearly there for a title win and Toro Rosso seat.

      As for the second part of your post, I think the phrase ‘leading feeder series’ in the introduction answers it. GP3 is turning out to be a good stepping stone but it isn’t a direct step before F1. The only driver on Keith’s list not to have done either GP2 or FR3.5 is Bottas, who has spent the year driving FP1s. And even in his case I still question the wisdom of not racing for a year and getting the experience of a faster car in anger.

    3. William Brierty
      9th November 2012, 10:51

      I watched the GP3 series this from start to finish, and Da Costa was nowhere at the start of the season, and only picked up that monstrous pace towards the end of the season, too late in other words. Evans was better over the season as a whole. Fact. And yet he’s not on the list? @keith_collantine, how can you include Felipe Nasr and Fabio Leimar without including GP3 champion? I know what you will say, that he’s not yet ready for F1, but saying that is like saying Cecotto and Nasr is!

      1. This is a list generally consisting of Reserve, GP2 and WSbR drivers, which would explain why Evans isn’t on the list.
        He’s no where near ready for it anyway.

      2. Not entirely true that he was nowhere, he may well have won the title if he hadn’t jumped the start at the first race. His mistake and his fault, but his pace wasn’t the problem.

        Evans is good but he’s too young and inexperienced for this poll – which is about *next year*

        1. William Brierty
          9th November 2012, 15:43

          As is da Costa.

      3. William Brierty

        The portuguese driver had a few issues in the first part of the season:
        In the first race he made the pole, but was found penalized due to a arguable false start, that ruined his second race too.
        Then in Valencia a technical infringement sent him to the back of the grid, he was making a fantastic recovery but crashed when overtaking I think Suranovich. In the second race another strong race from the back finishing 8th over all. I think this was when RB got impressed.
        Another bad race was at Hockenheim when started to rain just before the start and some drivers had to pit for wets including himself. When recovering he had a wheel bang with another driver and retired, again the second race compromised.
        Finally in Monza when he was fighting at the front he had to stop the car and reset it because of gears problems.
        So he had a few problems in the first part of the season but the pace was always there.
        If you followed closely GP3 you will notice that two teams had supremacy (I don´t believe that it was due to have the best drivers)- Lotus and MW Arden – and only one driver sistematically brought the fight to them – António Felix da Costa.

      4. Are you sure you watched the whole GP3 season? Da costa wasn’t nowhere in the early races, he was quite certainly somewhere… like on pole position in Barcelona for Race 1. He made a silly jump start, but without that he could and should have been leading the championship after that first weekend. I’ve made the point in this month’s GPInternational mag (excuse the blatant plug) that for me, Da Costa has been the driver of 2012, in any championship. Doubling up championships as he did, and impressing so instantly in WSR was brilliant to watch. And Red Bull were hugely, and I mean hugely, impressed with him in Abu Dhabi this week. His out and out pace is quite staggering. I have a very good feeling about Antonio.

  10. You could fill up the entire grid with these hopefuls :-) If F1 were in the business of giving guys a chance, then surely quite a few of the above names would deserve a seat. Not to mention that Alguersuari, Buemi, Sutil, etc. also ‘deserve’ another shot. Of the drivers I think actually have a shot:

    Gutierrez to Sauber: he’s clearly got some talent, and some experience too, and his sponsor is already on the car.
    Bianchi to Force India: he looks very fast, has plenty of experience, though he should still reduce the number of silly mistakes he makes.
    Bottas to Williams: it’s a shame Williams didn’t put Bottas in GP2 or WSR 3.5 this year, it would have been better for all involved. Bottas could have kept racing and rack up some experience, while Bruno Senna would have had a better chance of getting to grips with his car. Nevertheless, he’s been consistently on the pace of Maldonado in FP1 this year, so Williams should stop dawdling and put him in the car.
    Van der Garde to Caterham: I think Guido did a good job in the YDT for Caterham, and I think he can do a reasonable job for Caterham in 2013, but he’ll only get the seat, I think, if he brings enough money.
    Valsecchi to Caterham/HRT/Lotus: in case Lotus decide they have had enough of Grosjean, they might try the next GP2 champion instead. What impressed me about Davide in this year’s GP2 season was the maturity of and intelligence of his driving. He stayed out of trouble, and was able to make better use of his tyres than many of his rivals; perhaps this is just the sort of ‘number 2 driver’ that Lotus are looking for. Whether he is quick enough to keep up with Grosjean or Raikkonen is another matter of course.
    Chilton to Marussia: I didn’t actually select Chilton as one I think deserves a seat, but he might get one anyway…
    Someone to HRT: I have no idea who HRT are eyeing to partner De La Rosa next year.

    My predictions leave Frijns, Razia and Bird and others without a drive next year. I’d like to see Frijns land a drive in GP2 next season (if indeed he doesn’t make it into F1). It’s a sideways step in terms of the performance of the cars, but it’s a good opportunity to gain experience on F1-relevant tracks and F1-relevant tyres (because he admitted to finding the Pirellis difficult to drive with). For Sam Bird, it’s less obvious what his next move should be. The problem of being affiliated with a team like Mercedes is that, unless you’re obviously a superstar, you’re never going to get a race seat with them, and no Friday practice sessions either. As for Razia, perhaps he can still emulate Bird and Bianchi and switch to WSR next year.

    1. The problem of being affiliated with a team like Mercedes is that, unless you’re obviously a superstar, you’re never going to get a race seat with them, and no Friday practice sessions either.

      Except for that time they placed di Resta at Force India. They probably would have promoted him when Schumacher retired if Hamilton had stayed with McLaren.

  11. Bottas Williams
    Magnussen FI or Sauber with Kaumi

  12. what about nicholas prost ?

    1. What about him? He’s in his thirties, so he’s probably too old to make his debut, but even so, he hardly blew everyone away at the Young Driver Tests.

    2. Even his dad is quoted as saying his career is probably in touring cars now. He’s simply too old.

      His dad also said though that his son is “the only driver to have gone to Columbia”, referring to the university rather the country ;) Different priorities.

  13. Bottas, no question. Felix Da Costa has managed to impress me with his speed as well, while I always had a soft spot for Van Der Garde.

    However, I don’t know what to make of those impressions as I have a strong feeling Gutierrez and Chilton might get a seat before these guys.

    1. I agree with pretty much all you have said but honestly I think Gutierrez hasn’t been good enough to deserve a race seat. I would love to see Da Costa driving next year but it’s unlikely given Toro Rosso have confirmed their driver line-up already, unless he goes to HRT for a year.

      1. @vettel1 – I kind of share your opinion on Gutierrez. I don’t think he hasn’t been good enough of he doesn’t have potential. I just think a season as a test/reserve driver for Sauber with a solid FP1 outings programme might help him better understand how that F1 car behaves on track and help him get his driving right. He’s just too inexperienced for a full season seat with probably the best midfield team.

        Da Costa and Frinjs might just be Torro Rosso’s 2014 line-up. Unless Webber retires and Red Bull have a different plan in store for Da Costa.

        I have a feeling that HRT seat is Ma Qing Hua’s already…

        1. @tony031r – I doubt Da Costa would be driving for HRT anyway; I was merely suggesting possible race seats for him! I could imagine that one of the current Toro Rosso drivers will take Webber’s race seat (if he retires) in 2014 who will probably be pairing Vettel (as honestly at this stage I can’t see him leaving the current top-team in F1 to pair with Alonso of all people), which obviously would leave at least one seat vacant at Toro Rosso (which I’d expect Da Costa to take).

          Frijns I’m not so sure of. I don’t think he’d join the Red Bull young driver’s squad given the comments he has supposedly made about that but he has got a chance of joining Sauber (and hence possibly Ferrari). I can only speculate though as I honestly don’t have a clue what his intentions are!

        2. Antonio Nartea
          “Da Costa and Frinjs might just be Torro Rosso’s 2014 line-up.”

          I trully believe that Frijns blew his chances with RB or STR with his statements regarding RB young driver program management.

  14. Frijns is the obvious one for me. But he won’t get a seat sadly :( Valsechhi is pretty decent and will probably land a seat, only to lose it again after 1 year. Da costa is fast but needs another year in FR 3.5 and clich the title. Bird , I’m not impressed with. Bottas I think will get Williams, but I fear he’ll dissapoint after a year spent mostly on the sidelines. Esteban will get Sauber, Carlos slim has bought his seat. razzia i think is out of luck.

    the other ones….don’t think so

  15. Hope Frijns gets a drive.
    Question: Do the teams use a completely new engine, gearbox etc. for the young drivers test?
    If so are there rules stating how similar these components need to be to those used during the season?

  16. Think there’s a fair few drivers on that list who aren’t quite good enough to cut it but considering there are 20 I suppose that’s to be expected.

    Even if Frijns did taint his season for me at the final round he’s clearly very talented. I don’t think he’ll make the jump but that’s not a surprise – given all the hype about this year’s field, FR3.5 still hasn’t proven that it’s a good platform to promote non-Red Bull drivers to F1. He’s young enough that a year as a reserve driver could set him up for a race seat in 2014 though.

    Da Costa also deserves an F1 shot but a full season in FR3.5 can’t hurt before then.

    Calado was probably the most impressive driver in GP2 this year so on that basis deserves a shot for next year, but there seems to be very little interest in him from the teams. I can only imagine it’s down to a combination of his age and there being no real commercial desire for more than 4 British drivers on the grid. It’s a shame, because he deserves a go.

    I said 4 British drivers because of course it looks like Chilton will get the Marussia seat. He’s been slightly better this season than he has been before but I still can’t say it’s deserved.

    I get the impression that Bottas hasn’t quite got the momentum that he had 12 months ago – now that I’ve said that, he’ll probably be signed tomorrow! I have to admit I found him overrated in the past but Williams seem to find him impressive so maybe he does deserve a shot. But it seems to be a question of whether they can afford to put him in the car.

  17. Valsecchi – I think he perhaps deserves the chance ahead of at least some of the other GP2 drivers on the list, but hard to see where he would go. Still, I wouldn’t be upset to see him land a seat at one of the backmarkers.

    Razia – As above, but hardly set the world on fire in his YDT.

    Gutierrez – Irrespective of whether I think he deserves it, it seems pretty clear he is going to partner Hulkenberg next year.

    Chilton – Money may prevail over talent, meaning that Marussia may continue its tradition of a new driver from GP2 each year. Hopefully Pic (who, frankly, has gone better than I expected this year) is headed for a better team if that happens, maybe Caterham?

    Frijns – certainly wouldn’t be out of place in F1, but it seems to me that the best he can hope for is a reserve driver slot, with some FP1 sessions. Given that FR 3.5 doesn’t ban former champions from competing, maybe another season there could dovetail nicely with third driver duties.

    Bianchi – obviously a chance for the other FI drive. If not, it may be his best opportunity has passed him by.

    Bird – no. Good but not great, and no obvious positions for him. His best chance would be putting together a fat sponsorship package. I suspect a long career in DTM is the best thing he might hope for.

    da Costa – maybe third driver duties with STR, and some FP1 slots on some but not all GP weekends. I doubt that he would get all 19/20 weekends – I suspect that Red Bull want to give Ricciardo and Vergne pretty close to full seasons next year to get a proper look at them as potential 2014 drivers at the senior team. At worst a full season of FR 3.5 awaits, before 2014 with Toro Rosso.

    Magnussen – again, no obvious spot for him. Time is on his side, and another tilt at the FR 3.5 title awaits.

    Calado – impressive this year, but I have no idea about his ability to raise the sort of dollars for a seat with a lower team. Otherwise, another season in GP2.

    van der Garde – the typical mid-level GP 2 driver who does not deserve a seat in F1, but may get the chance due to money. Would be a retrograde step for a team like Caterham if they gave him a full time seat.

    Nasr – I expected him to do a bit better in his first season of GP2, but perhaps I was expecting a bit much. Certainly, 2013 is too soon for him.

    Rossi – a disappointment this year, although the struggles at his team were by no means all his fault. Will need a strong season next year to have a chance at a 2014 Caterham seat.

    Wickens – I had hoped he would land a seat this year, and remains perhaps (in my view) the most deserving on the list. But where he might find a seat, I have no idea.

    Bottas – both deserves a seat, and likely to get one (Wolf’s description of Senna’s season as “okay” sounds like a death sentence to me). Will be very interested to see how he goes in the Williams if that is the case, I really rate him.

    Haryanto, Mortaro, Cecotto Jnr, Filipi, Leimer – No.

    1. You are not sure of Gutierrez deserving it but you think Wickens is the most deserving one ?

      Gutierrez blitzed Wickens along with the whole field in his first GP3 Season..

      he also got a race win in his first GP2 season (wetrace, and overtaking grosjean in the process)

      1. @joac21 perhaps I could have been a bit more expansive in expressing my views about Gutierrez.

        Clearly he is quick and has talent. But as Keith’s summary pointed out, Gutierrez didn’t have the greatest GP2 season this year. I just think he has some rough edges to iron out, and if Grosjean’s troubles this year have demonstrated anything, it’s that F1 is not a finishing school. Another season in GP2 would do him good.

        Anyway, as I said it looks like he is going to get a seat at Sauber. He may ending up proving me wrong by the end of 2013. Good luck to him.

        And yes, I think that Wickens is arguably the most deserving. I don’t think it’s always valid to say driver A beat driver B several years ago in a particular season, therefore A must be better than B. Drivers don’t always develop at the same rate. Just because di Resta beat Vettel in 2006, doesn’t make the former a better driver than the latter (IMHO).

  18. I picked 5 drivers.

    Valsecchi, Van der Garde and Filippi have been performing well at a high level of racing for enough years to deserve the chance and, given their age, it’s a bit of ‘now or never’ for them, too. Even if these three haven’t looked like next Alonsos so far, their achievements shouldn’t be lessened.

    I would like to see what Mortara is capable of in an F1 car. Given his record, I see no reason why he couldn’t become another Paul di Resta, although more F1 testing would probably be necessary before the start.

    Bottas seems to have delivered strong results in the FP1 and other test sessions after his successes in lower series so the decision to sign him should be a no-brainer.

    What I worry about is that there are not enough free seats in F1 at the moment and that the rookies get far too little experience before their first race. F1 needs at least two more teams, more testing opportunities for the young drivers and the small teams should get more support from FOM and FIA to reduce the number of pay drivers.

    1. Even though i am Dutch, I really do not think Vd Garde has enough in him to really deserve an F1 seat. I think the other two should.

      Mortara, maybe, but its hard to tell. And I fear he would end up doing one season at Marussia and then be gone, like DiGrassi before him. Bottas is probably ready.

      I think Frijns, Colado, Guttierez etc could well do with some extra time to come of age. And Bianchi seems to be somewhere near but not quite good enough for me.

      1. @BasCB Yeah, I also guess that da Costa, Frijns and maybe Calado and Gutierrez as well are very promising drivers that deserve to go to F1 but I think it would be better for them to gain some more experience and then arrive at F1 well prepared, not like e.g. Alguersuari or Grosjean did in 2009.

  19. I don’t think Chilton deserves a race seat in F1 but I think he’ll get it anyway at the expense of Pic. Doesn’t his dad have an involvement in the Marussia team, something which he’s done for both his sons in recent years (has anyone noticed Carlin and Arena have the same logo?).

  20. I was a little bit surprised to see Brendon Hartley got a chance to test again this year, since as far as I understand he hasn’t been making a lot of waves anywhere the last couple of years. He’s still young though, so as a fellow kiwi I wish him luck! And who’s the other kiwi again, the one Mark Webber’s mentoring?

    1. Oh, Mitch Evans. He’s still super young, but hopefully in a few years…

  21. Jayfreese (@)
    9th November 2012, 11:50

    Nicolas Prost is not on the poll, why? By the way I voted bump-drafter-rising-star Antonio Felix Da Costa

    1. @jayfreese – Because he’s not a “young driver” per se and he isn’t Lotus’ first option and his lap times in the YDT were far from impressive. But the main fact is this: at his 30+ age I don’t think an F1 debut is in question anymore. He just does for Lotus what Gary Paffett does for McLaren.

      Plus, his career in endurance started off on the right foot with Rebellion Racing. He’s been driving well for the last two years or so. Why throw that away? He could very well become a highly rated driver in the Le Mans paddock. WEC is the place for him, I believe.

  22. Voted Frijns, Bianchi, Calado, Bottas and da Costa
    Frijns won WSBR in his debut year, and Bianchi has been thereabouts for 2 or 3 years. da Costa has burst on the scene from nowhere in spectacular fashion. Calado did great in GP2 and was very unlucky not to take it right to the wire and Bottas has done admirably for Williams and looks a shoe-in for Sennas seat

  23. Obviously he is not in the run for 2013, but I like what I’ve seen so far of Aaro Vainio.

    I think he will fight for the title if he competes in WSR3.5 next year. Like Félix da Costa he quickly got used to the car coming from GP3, and had some strong races already against the big boys. Just turned 19.

    1. Jayfreese (@)
      9th November 2012, 19:08

      Yep for Aaro Vainio mate! GP3 field was massively awesome this year. Mitch Evans, Daniel Abt, Antonio Felix Da Costa, Aaro Vainio, Matias Laine, Tio Ellinas, Patric Niederhauser, Lewis Williamson and the three girls!

  24. Every introduction to Bottas starts with “the highly rated”. Personally I don’t see it and it seems to me just because one person said it, now everyone must. At least Williams are giving him a lot of car time so he will be well prepared, you have to wonder whether Senna would have done better with more practise time.

    1. @snowman-john

      Every introduction to Bottas starts with “the highly rated”.

      Mine didn’t!

    2. @snowman-john are you aware of Bottas’ junior record? Any driver who wins three junior formula titles (FR 2.0 NEC, FR 2.0 Euro and GP3) has serious talent. Also Williams, who have access to the telemetry from his FP1 sessions, seem to genuinely rate the guy. Neither of those factors is an absolute guarantee he will succeed at F1 level, but I’d be curious to know why you seem to rate him less highly than most others.

  25. Young drivers should be in F1 only if they impress in junior categories initially. Then it shows, that he has the potential. If a driver drives for 5 years in junior categories, he doesn’t deserve seat in F1. So in my opinion, only 3 drivers really impressed in this or previous years: da Cost, Frijns and Bottas. Others should drive in other racing categories or try their abilities in other proffesions.

  26. So to make way for more than just one of these young guns, there will have to be more than just Schumacher leaving the field.
    Who else will be leaving? Or is that tomorrow’s article, Keith? :)

  27. Is Bottas as good as he is made out to be? Difficult to say, but I can think of one way to find out! I’d obviously like to see another Finnish driver in the sport, especially as Kovalainen’s future remains uncertain, so I voted for Bottas alongside Frijns and da Costa. I’m not sure where the latter would find a seat though.

  28. My pick, on drivers who deserve F1 based on their talent/results. Not saying they will have success or the others won’t.
    Valsecchi He’s won GP2, i.e. is currently better than most of the GP2 drivers, which, in turn, should be second-best to F1 drivers. If winning F1’s feeder series doesn’t make you worthy of an F1 seat, what does? And although he has more experience in the category than most others, Maldonado still did quite well in F1.
    Frijns His results have been impressive, not only this year. Winning titles in different categories in consecutive years is impressive, and above all the way in which he beat good drivers such as Bianchi and Bird, as a rookie.
    Bianchi He’s had some bad luck and some down moments in his career but he clearly has speed as both Ferrari and Force India have high hopes for him. After a strong season in FR3.5, if he doesn’t enter F1 in 2013, apart from a slight hope to do so in 2014 there are little chances for him.
    Da Costa His results this year in GP3 and most of all in FR3.5 have shown his talent is undeniable. However, I think he could do with a full season in Formula Renault before entering F1, just for the experience.
    Calado He has greatly impressed in GP2 and he thus deserves to be in F1. However, as was the case with Da Costa, I think an extra GP2 season could improve his driving a lot.
    Wickens He deserves F1 in 2013 as much as he did in 2012, and I hope he finally takes a seat because lately few drivers who have won championships have been promoted to the following category, which is unfair and strange.
    Filippi He has proved he is miles better than anyone in GP2, and as is the case with Valsecchi he must therefore be F1 material. If his deserved chance doesn’t come immediately, though, I fear it will never come.
    Bottas His CV is impressive and his outings so far this year have been impressive as well. I’ve never found someone who has not admitted the Finn has talent.

  29. Fernando Cruz
    9th November 2012, 16:05

    I think Da Costa is the one who would do the best job if he was given a F1 seat next year. I hope he wins WSR next year and gets the Toro Rosso drive in 2014, but I would have liked to see him in F1 already in 2013. Bottas is not as good as him and won’t do better than Senna can do in a second year. Consistency is very important and doing only FP1 is not the best way to develop a driver. He should have raced somewhere, maybe in WSR. I’ d like to see Bottas in a Marussia or a Caterham and Senna getting a proper chance to develop, without losing all those FP1. But I also would like to see Bottas in Williams if Senna gets a seat in Force India.

  30. I think that in 2014 we will see some very hot prospects ascending F1:
    James Calado – best driver in this year´s GP2 field and probably next year´s champion.
    Robin Frijns – this year WSR 3.5 champion and I believe next year he will defend his title or challenge Calado
    António Félix da Costa – an ascending star that will try next year´s WSR 3.5 and then join STR

    These drivers alongside with Bottas and Magnussen can be in F1 just for their talent while all the others… only if they complete their talent with money.
    So I am guessing that neither one of these will reach F1 next season, while all the others that actually do, it will only be for one season, because it´s hard to get there but much harder to stay.

  31. Snice i´m Portuguese i picked Da Costa but the truth is if Redbull Racing picked for his Racing junior team the kid has to have talent and he has proven that way more than i would ever expect in such a short time.
    Now if i was an F1 team boss i would give a chance to Mortara, he has been the best driving the Audis in the DTM series. Don´t forget Di Resta came to F1 from there.
    There´s also a kid that has impressed me a lot, Aaro Vainio.
    So my F1 team would be with Da Costa and Mortara.

  32. William Brierty
    9th November 2012, 17:08

    This is what I think will happen…
    Bottas – Williams
    Gutierrez – Sauber
    Bianchi – Force India
    Valsecchi – Caterham
    Chilton (groan) – Marussia
    Razia – HRT
    Fijns, Da Costa, Magnessun, Evans, Bird – GP2
    Abt, Vainio, Neiderhauser, Mortara – Formula Renault 3.5
    Shame about Wickens, but drivers that get to the top of single seaters only to find that there is no room in F1 often end up the DTM, or Le Mans racing, as with GP2 star Nicholas Lapierre.

    1. Da Costa will not be in GP2. He has said he will be in WSR 3.5 next year. Red Bull put all their juniors through GP2 as the final step to F1, they never go through GP2. Helmut Marko is on record as saying GP2 is too expensive.

      1. Da Costa will not be in GP2. He has said he will be in WSR 3.5 next year. Red Bull put all their juniors through GP2 as the final step to F1, they never go through GP2. Helmut Marko is on record as saying GP2 is too expensive.

        Correction – Red Bull put all their juniors through WSR 3.5 as the final step to F1, they never go through GP2.

        1. Sebastien Buemi being the exception that proves the rule.

          1. Of course, I had forgotten about Buemi, quite right.

  33. If anyone “deserves” a seat then I think it has to be Robert Wickens for me. Renault 3.5 Champion last year and is unfortunately stuck in DTM.

  34. Bottas deffo next year, and da Costa I don’t think is ready for F1 next year; 2014/2015 maybe

  35. I was glad to see Wickens on this list. His results in DTM are more representative of his amateur-rank team than his ability. He matched DC for results and out-drove him often.

    He won’t be in F1 next year, having already been confirmed by Merc for next year. Let’s hope they promote him to a more senior squad so he can show what he can do!

  36. F1 NEEDS a Canadian driver! Robert Wickens should be getting a seat with a decent team…. but it all comes down to money and he apparently doesn’t have enough.

  37. Only Valtteri Bottas. Finnish sisu!
    The other drivers are too inexperienced for Formula 1.

  38. Young drivers? ***
    F1 is no longer the place for the “best only”. It is actually the place for the one whose sponsors can afford it.

    Just look at Kobayashi’s situation. He is having to look for sponsors to be able to stay in F1 when he is clearly a top driver, possibly better than Massa and even Perez.
    Sauber will probably ditch a really talented driver to welcome a paying “mummys boy” – Young driver

  39. Davide Valsecchi is the best in my opinion. Of course it is hard to judge accurately where all the drivers from the Young Driver Test are, but to beat Mclarens and Red Bulls straight up is quite impressive. Again the teams may have different bits to test in addition to tyre strategies over the course of the day. For da Costa and Magnussen to be approached by two teams such as Red Bull and Mclaren requires a high ability, but Valsecchi beat them in a car arguably not as good (looking at qualifying times this year). Where he compares to Bottas and Bianchi who were quickest in their YDTs is impossible to tell, but nevertheless a strong achievement by Davide.

  40. No one stands out for me in all honesty however I did vote for Valsecchi, Razia and Gutierrez. I voted for them as one of them is the incumbent GP2 champion with the other two not far behind. Nasr impressed me this year quite a bit and so did Da Costa at times but they’re not ready yet. Two of our recent additions to the F1 grid have come with some amateur habits so we shouldn’t be so keen to promote anyone too quickly.

  41. Lets be honest, those who deserve the seats wont get them unfortunately :(

    I think that Davide Valsecchi, Robin Frijns and Luca Filippi deserve the seats the most. Magnussen, Da Costa, Bottas, and Calado will deserve seats but need another year or two in lower formulas to fully cement their reputation.

    It’s a shame the FIA don’t do a scheme like Ginetta did in 2010 and 2011 (where the Ginetta G50/55 champion got funding for a BTCC ride the following year) where they provide funding for a proven, decent, unsponsored driver to get into the big time.

    Also, another great question could be who in F1 doesn’t deserve their seats. There are a few drivers who could/should(?) make way for some of the talented youngsters mentioned in the article.

    Ooooor… even better – bring back the 3 car idea BUT, have an age limit imposed on the third car, or possibly insist that it is driven by more than one person and limit/prevent it from scoring constructors points, just to give young drivers chance to prove themselves without giving anyone an unfair advantage.

  42. I can confirm that Gutierrez has signed with Sauber. Expect an official announcement in the next few weeks

    1. According to who?

  43. Jaime Alguersuari (@AlguersuariJA) on twitter on the 20th Sep said, “Soon you’ll all know where i will be driving next year. Thank you all again”

    1. @warfieldf1 Almost two months has passed which I think exceeds any definition of “soon”.

      1. True,
        i assumed he had signed but was unable to say at that time; however as you point out a LOT of time has passed which would make any deal signed 20th Sept either unlikely or somewhere other than F1. A “drive” would get him off the radio, which was my main hope!!

  44. what we need is…………a lady driver in a reasonably competitive car……………it will be good for the sports, the TV rating, and the fans

  45. I want Cecotto to be there :-)

  46. frinjs – ferrari

    they need a guy to put vettel out of way

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