Felipe Nasr, Williams, Bahrain, 2014

Introducing F1’s three new drivers for 2015

2015 F1 season

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There may be four fewer spaces on the F1 grid in 2015 but there’s still room for three new faces.

Two of them will be found at Toro Rosso, who will have F1’s youngest ever driver pairing when Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jnr line up on the grid at Melbourne in two months’ time.

Another team with a reputation for developing young talent is Sauber, which also has an all-new line-up for this year. Felipe Nasr will make his grand prix debut alongside one of last year’s rookies, Marcus Ericsson, who joins them from Caterham.

Under next year’s rules only one of them would be eligible to race. Luckily for them, they got in before the FIA’s clamp down. Find out more about F1’s three newest drivers below.

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, Suzuka, 20142014: Third in European Formula Three

However Verstappen’s career unfolds, he will always be remembered as the driver whose first grand prix came so early it prompted the FIA to impose an age limit on racing Formula One cars. As well as being the first 17-year-old to take to the track, he will probably be the last as well.

Amid the media frenzy over Jos Verstappen’s teenage son last August one significant point which tended to get overlooked was that both his parents have a motor racing pedigree. His mother Sophie-Marie Kumpen was a highly proficient kart racer in the mid-nineties.

Verstappen’s stunning achievements in karting, which culminated in a clutch of championship silverware in 2013, shows he is a chip off both blocks. He was electrifying in Formula Three last year, winning more races than champion Esteban Ocon.

But it’s a big ask of someone so young to continue doing justice to that ability in the Formula One pressure cooker. And Helmut Marko is not one to play the ‘managing expectations’ game: he’s already described Verstappen as another Ayrton Senna.

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Carlos Sainz Jnr

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Toro Rosso, Young Drivers' Test, Silverstone, 20132011: Formula Renault 2.0 NEC champion
2014: Formula Renault 3.5 champion

The son of two-times rally world champion Carlos Sainz did not progress through Red Bull’s driver programme as quickly as Verstappen or even Daniil Kvyat, both of which he might have been expected to reach F1 before.

That owed something to the fact he kept being moved from championship to championship: in the past five years he has raced in Formula BMW, Formula Renault 2.0, Formula Three, GP3 and Formula Renault 3.5. Crucially, he delivered the title in the latter – something previous Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne failed to do – and thanks to Sebastian Vettel’s defection to Ferrari a place opened up for him in F1.

So while Verstappen bears a huge weight of expectation, the same is not true of his team mate. There were days last year when Sainz turned up a blew away the opposition – if it all clicks for him at Faenza he could surprise everyone.

Felipe Nasr

Felipe Nasr, Williams, Bahrain, 20142009: Formula BMW Europe champion
2011: British Formula Three champion
2014: Third in GP2

Felipe Nasr’s practice outings for Williams last year alongside Felipe Massa presented the greatest challenge to the pronunciation capabilities of F1’s television commentators since Mark Blundell and Martin Brundle teamed up at Ligier.

More significantly, it gave Nasr valuable seat time in current F1 machinery. That will be all the more important as he makes his debut at a team which does not have its own F1 simulator for him to acclimatise in.

Sauber has not disguised the fact that Nasr’s support from Banco do Brasil played a part in him gaining a seat for this year. But his smooth progress through the lower ranks shows he brings talent as well as cash. He beat his new team mate in GP2 two years ago despite Ericsson having considerably more experience and driving for the team which won the previous two championships.

Over to you

Which new F1 drivers are you most excited about? And was anyone overlooked for a seat who should have got one?

Have your say in the comments.

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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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Posted on Categories 2015 F1 season, 2015 F1 season preview, Carlos Sainz Jnr, Felipe Nasr, Max Verstappen

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  • 51 comments on “Introducing F1’s three new drivers for 2015”

    1. I’m really looking forward to seeing Nasr in F1, he is more than a pay driver, he actually has the talent to stay in F1, unlike some in recent years.

      He should easily beat Ericsson in my eyes, I just hope he gets the car to show off his abilities.

      1. My impression of Nasr in his GP2 years has been that he is a quick and capable driver, but his racecraft isn’t great. However, racecraft is something that can be improved upon (example being Grosjean). Although I still expect him to be solid from the start, I think we will really see what he is capable of after he has a decent amount of experience.

    2. Regarding some names that may appear in this feature twelve months from now, Red Bull have just signed Lynn and Gasly to the DAMS GP2 team after outbidding Ocon who was vying for the seat alongside Gasly – an obvious response to the FIA’s outrageous new license system which values a FR3.5 championship victory as twenty points less than a GP2 title. It is confirmation, if it were needed, that Formula Renault 3.5, perhaps my favourite single seater series outside F1, has been dealt a fatal blow by a bitter FIA. We can expect McLaren to promptly cancel the FR3.5 contract that their young Dutchman De Vries has with DAMS in favour of a GP2 deal.

      1. @countrygent That’s not all bad news.. Lynn needs to learn racing in traffic, for which GP2 is ideal. He also has good backing – so might as well drive in the more expensive category, and this gives Red Bull a direct comparison of both junior drivers, should a replacement be needed soon.

        Ocon can drive FR3.5, score no points, and still have enough for F1 in 2016. This championship will save him a million quid he can then put towards F1, maybe at cash-poor Lotus. De Vries would need to win the title – but he is in no rush, with Magnussen and Vandoorne backed up ahead of him – he can do well in FR3.5, before moving to GP2, to get the rest of his points.

        But yes, this is somewhat a blow for the WSR, and a bean particularly to Aussie F3, as was pointed out yesterday! Would the FIA not be best served by making FR3.5 the next FIA F2?

        1. @fastiesty I am sad that we have been denied the Lynn vs De Vries vs Rowland title battle in FR3.5, and I am a touch concerned about how little GP2 testing Lynn has done relative to Gasly, but there is no getting away from the following conclusion: the 2015 GP2 grid, with Gasly, Lynn, Marciello, Evans and especially Vandoorne, is the finest junior grid I’ve seen since the 2012 FR3.5 grid, and we may yet see De Vries and Ocon there too. Can the combined total of Gasly, Lynn, Marciello and Evans’ efforts prevent Vandoorne and ART’s march to the title though? Not a chance, Vandoorne is not just GP2 champion material, but F1 champion material.

          Ocon is of no concern to me – his F1 future is secured in the backing of the Lotus Team, the impression he has made in tests and in the FIA’s vested interests in seeing his promotion following his FIA F3 success. The writing is similarly on the wall for Vandoorne and Marciello, with Stoffel set to succeed Button in 2016, and the Italian set for a Sauber drive – he could even replace Raikkonen if he really impresses.

          Lynn is more worrying though. He goes into the battle with the talented Gasly with one hand behind his back having not tested for DAMS in Abu Dhabi, and 2015 will be paramount in tackling a particularly rife misconception. Don’t believe a word of what Gary Anderson was twittering on about how Lynn has issues in traffic all year – in F3 in 2013 he pulled numerous outstanding overtaking maneuvers and invariably moved forward from his grid position in race: Q.E.D. he is no one-trick pony. It is was merely inherent in a) Lynn’s maturity and championship focus that we saw no Dan-dare (or Dan-Ric!) moves from him, and b) an illustration of the car’s aerodynamic issues. Whilst I am paid not to have favourites, I do root for Alex: I genuinely believe he has a lot of potential to offer. I would have chosen him over Sainz as he is more consistent and not as prone to ragged and off-colour weekends.

          I hope a series written and discussed about for years now can weather the storm and produce and enticing grid for 2015. However, as things stand, FR3.5 cannot survive. Renault must either enact legal action against the FIA or seek to use their framework and their splendid Dallara chassis in the formation of FIA F2.

          1. @countrygent Yes, Lynn vs. Rowland (pt.II) would have been interesting to see. I was impressed with both of them in the last year of British Formula Renault, along with Tio Ellinas. Adding de Vries in to the mix would have been interesting. 3 years of FR3.5 better than GP2 have now ended, sadly, as it was like an F2 replacement.

            I agree – in 2012, lower costs were probably prioritised, so talent moved from GP2 to FR3.5. But the FIA has now effectively whipped that talent back to expensive GP2 – Lynn could effectively bar Gasly and Evans from being able at all to step up to F1, to secure the place himself.

            Vandoorne, Marciello and Ocon are also guaranteed eligibility – so that makes top 4 for Evans and Gasly a tougher ask indeed. I can see those three in F1, at McLaren, Sauber and Lotus. Lynn may struggle initially in GP2 from less experience, but he did mix it well in F3, so GP3 was indeed an exercise in championship winning.

            Lynn does have good consistency, so if any of the RB drivers struggle, I imagine he or Gasly (if he wins more) will be well placed to replace them (Sainz does lack it slightly now). Would Ricciardo eventually move to Ferrari and gazump Vettel yet again? Ferrari running DanRic and JEV before Marciello would be hilarious!

          2. @countrygent Vandoorne replacing Button sounds like the best option, with Magnussen at a team like Force India until Alonso retires, then replaced there by de Vries or Barnicoat.

            But McLaren don’t have that sway anymore, so I can see another crunch moment at the end of this year. Red Bull, interestingly enough, are on the creditors committee for Caterham? While McLaren/Ferrari bartered services to Marussia, who could’ve continued this arrangement, if they got any money from FOM.

            Button I’m sure wants Stoffel to replace him, so that he can continue after retirement as part of his management. Wedding Jessica now shows that this will happen sooner rather than later (first wedding, second children?)..

      2. For me, that’s a price list. Shame on FIA.

    3. Why did Red Bull choose Max Verstappen? I mean he didnt even win his ONLY season he has raced in a formula car. And formula 3 is nothing compared to the world of formula 1.
      Surely there were better drivers out there who deserved the seat more than a third place man.
      I am all for Carlos Sainz Jnr being chosen to drive the torro rosso’s this year, so he has every reason to do well in my opinion.
      Felipe Nasr’s hiring can be understood though because he does bring a massive amount of money with him which Sauber team so badly needs after a “pointless”(he-he) season last year.

      1. He won 2 more races than Ocon, he took 6 of those wins in a row and he also took the triple race victories at 2 events. Verstappen was unlucky in that he had many mechanical issues that hindered his assault on the title. If you’ve seen any of his F3 races then you”l understand why he’s been chosen, there’s something different and unique about his racing on track.

      2. For all his PR about ‘Red Bull being the better long-term option’, its clear they offered the Verstappen’s more money on the table and a drive quicker than Mercedes could.

      3. Senna jumped from F3 into F1, so yeah he is the next Senna.

        1. Or the next Martin Brundle

          1. Or the next Jos Verstappen.

      4. They chose him, or better lured him over into their fold, with an F1 contract for this year to beat Mercedes to signing this exceptional talent @andone89.

        1. I am all for drivers getting a seat in f1 for their talent, that’s they it should be. But Red Bull offering f1 contract to lure this talented youngster to their team at that low age is a bit of a risk and very questionable.
          But truth being told, I can’t wait untill he gets to show his skills in 2 months time at the Australian GP.

          1. It’s as risky as and as questionable as Hamilton move to Mercedes.

            1. @deongunner So, a sure-fire winner from the second year?

            2. Not really– Hamilton moving to Mercedes was almost a no-brainer, with no real risk. It was obvious of all the teams, Mercedes was taking 2014 the most seriously.

            3. BMW was most prepped for 2009, look how that turned out

            4. Hardly – I’d say Honda/Brawn were best prepped, along with Red Bull, Toyota and Williams. BMW messed up on the KERS, while Renault were slow to start, same with McLaren and Ferrari. BMW should have concentrated more on challenging in 2008 with Kubica.

      5. His performance in the simulator and telemetry data gathered was astounding.

      6. They chose him because of his potential, mostly. While I admit I haven’t watched F3 closely, I lucked out into watching one of the races at Imola this season and he was absolutely superb: great racecraft, immense speed, head and shoulders above the competition. This move from RedBull resembles the period in which NBA teams drafted directly from highschools: the gap between competitions, the unproven talent they faced, the question of going directly in the spotlight. The good news for Max from this comparison is that the prospects whom were highly touted (as he is, being compared to Senna) went on to become superstars in the NBA, with very few exceptions (mostly regarding health issues).

        1. People also heaped praise upon Jan Magnussen after the considerable success he enjoyed in karting and in Formula 3, where he remains the most successful driver to have ever raced in the British Formula 3 series. However, when given his opportunity to move up into F1, Jan, by his own admission, completely fell apart and never delivered on the promise that he had shown in junior series.

          Yes, it is possible that Red Bull have seen that potential and believe that they can build on it, but in an extremely high pressure environment like Red Bull’s Young Driver program, I can also see such a decision going very badly wrong.

          1. I thought K.Mag did OK. Not stunning but OK. Didn’t hear him say he completely fell apart either.

            1. He means Jan, K.Mag’s father, who wasted his F1 opportunity. We’ll see more of his son, Kevin, in the future. McLaren just needed more experience for their resurgence.

        2. Let’s just hope Max will stay single for the rest of his life, if his dad smacked his wife after the career he had, Max’s gonna outright off his SO after two-three years of Toro Rosso and nothing else.

          1. That wasn’t supposed a reply. Dammit.

      7. @andone89 Regarding Verstappen, he took a bold and highly unusual step in chosing a large, FIA-backed, international series as his first taste of car racing. It is a decision that has ruined careers in the past, and yet Max was from mid-season onwards perhaps the fastest driver on the grid. That is unprecedented for a newcomer fresh from karting – unheard of even. Couple that to a legendary karting record, the speed, confidence and ease he has shown in F1 tests and practice sessions so far, and the fact that none other than Trevor Carlin can be quoted as saying that Max “is the best I’ve ever seen”, and Red Bull can be quite confident they’ve found a star. Should he have been promoted to F1 instead of having a season in FR3.5 or GP2? That’s another story.

      8. I agree, it does seem strange.
        Really it is up to Red Bull to decide who should drive their $100M car, and … well that is their choice.
        I guess one question that Verstappen’s appointment does raise is “Does the format of GP2 need to be improved if one of its functions is to be a feeder series for F1?”, because the implication is the format does need improving.
        Anyway, Congratulations to Verstappen for his appointment as an F1 driver, I hope he does well.

      9. I wonder if Ocon and Verstappen is going to end up like Di Resta and Vettel? ‘Did I tell you about the time I beat him in F3?’ :D

    4. The best positioned rookie is Carlos Sainz Jr and I think he will be the surprise of the season or at least he will beat his ”baby-superstar” team-mate. I mean all the pressure is on Max, and I expect him to crack under it pretty fast as starting from the first test the media will be all over him. While Carlos is considered more like a last minute seat-filling, he might benefit from a more calm environment and will be able to focus more on racing and not on fulfilling expectations. Unfortunately he will have to destroy Max in order to retain his seat, something like Alonso-Massa, or Alonso-Raikkonen. A simple Button-Hamilton 2011 won’t be enough I feel…

      1. @klaas I don’t think Sainz has to destroy Max to retain his seat for at least one more year. RB always give their rookies at least 2 years so it has to be a disaster of epic proportions for Carlos to be dropped after 1 year

      2. Klaas,
        Max did not crack after the first tests and all media attention.
        According to the experts the Toro Rosso performed exceptional in his hands.
        I think he will be the revelation of 2015 and my bets are on him :-)

    5. I expect Sainz to perform the best out of the three in 2015. Verstappen lacks the experience and I simply do not rate Nasr all that highly. The battle at Toro Rosso is almost going to be as intriguing to watch as the battle at McLaren, Mercedes or Ferrari.

    6. I hope Sauber can score points this season. Nasr and Ericsson might put points in the bag. And also I hope Marussia and Caterham don’t get some financial troubles otherwise there will be a small grid and a full of arguments. Hopefully Palmer is looking for Formula 1 race debut.

      1. As it stands I’d be amazed to see what was Marussia even make it onto the grid this year. They have laid off all there staff & had there factory & other equipment sold off in an auction & are over $30m in dept.

        I would say there’s a higher chance Caterham could make it, They seem to have more interested partied looking at them & still have all there facilities, equipment & a fair chunk if not all of the work force ready to go should someone opt to make the investment to save them.

        1. this article shows just how bad Marussia’s financial situation actually was & still is & who they owe money to.
          http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/117284

          They still owe Timo Glock £600,000+ & he hasn’t driven for them since 2012.

          1. That’s even longer for salary to be owed than Hulk at Force India, and Raikkonen at Lotus.. but they got paid. Glock will not.

    7. ColdFly F1 (@)
      8th January 2015, 15:34

      Under next year’s rules only one of them would be eligible to race.

      actually under next year’s rules two of them would be eligible to race.
      – Nasr based on points in junior series
      – Ericsson based on 5 races in previous season (and/or 15 races in previous 3 seasons)

      1. ColdFly F1 (@)
        8th January 2015, 15:44

        my bad – Ericsson was mentioned but not the subject of this article.

      2. Ericsson isn’t a rookie for 2015, the article is about them.

    8. How do you pronounce Nasr?

      1. Ben Edwards was saying ‘nah-seer’ during commentary. However Will Buxton always said ‘Nahs-er’. I’ll go with the former, otherwise I’m going to get even more confused between him and Felipe Massa, who is not Felipe Nasr.

      2. That is a good question:
        How to pronounce “Riccardo”? Should we use the Australian or the Italian pronunciation?
        “Nasr” has the same problem (Brazilian or Arabian?)
        By the way, I got this from wikipedia:

        Nasr is a very common Arabic given name and surname, which is usually translated as “Victory”.

        A very good sign for his fans.

    9. The question nobody’s asking is what will happen to Sainz and Verstappen after their 2 years at Toro Rosso? I can’t imagine either Kvyat or Ricciardo will be going out of there any time soon, and if Max is really talented it would be a waste to have him in the B-team longer than that.
      I guess RBR will have to fire one of their drivers to make way for Max, which would be a bit of a shame but at least they’re much more likely to find a seat than the Toro Rosso rejects.

      1. I suspect they’ll get three years. Buemi and Vergne got 3 years, no doubt Ricciardo would’ve gotten a third year had Webber not left, Alguersuari got 2.5 years, Liuzzi got 3 years (the first of which as test driver with some races at RBR as well).

        It’s not set in stone that drivers are discarded after 2 years. In fact that only really counts for Speed and Bourdais.
        And in 3 years a lot can happen. I suspect at least Ricciardo, if he keeps this performance level up, will be in great demand within a few years.

    10. This year, Max has to get the max. out of his car under max. pressure.

      1. Without the risk of crashing with Max Chilton.

    11. Ambrose (@spoonsthegreatest)
      9th January 2015, 9:46

      Personally, im looking forward t having verstappen in

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