Young drivers you have high hopes for

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    Prisoner Monkeys

    Lately, I’ve been following the feeder series into Formula 1 more and more. Not just because it means more racing, but because I forsee a whole host of vacancies opening up on the Formula 1 grid in the future. Barrichello and Trulli are out, and I expect that de la Rosa, Karthikeyan, Webber, and Schumacher will all retire (for good) over the next few years, and I feel that some of the younger drivers aren’t going to last long.

    This, naturally, begs the question: where is the next generation of racing driver going to come from? The feeder series, obviously. So, who are you paying close attention to in the junior leagues? Which young drivers do you think have the potential to make it into Formula 1 some day soon?

    I, personally, have my eye on a few: Kevin Korjus in Formula Renault 3.5 is one of them, particularly if he beats Jules Bianchi and/or wins the title this year. He’s with a good team, Tech 1, and he’s already had some success in the category already, including three wins in his debut season. Best of all, he is only nineteen, so he can afford to take his time a little – his career isn’t going to take a deathblow if he has a bad year.

    I’m also watching Robin Frijns, who is also in Formula Renault 3.5 this year. Like Korjus, he is pretty young, is with a very experienced team in Fortec Motorsport, and has had plenty of success in the lower categories.

    Sixteen year-old Sergey Sirotkin is another interesting prospect. He’s very young, and has had plenty of success. His first race at Monza in AutoGP was a disaster, but he did qualify on the front row. If he keeps it up, I think he’s bound to land in Formula 1 sooner rather than later.

    Robert Visiou is also sixteen, and looks pretty promising. He defaintely needs some work to refine his racecraft, but I think the potential is there. Jenzer is an okay team for GP3, but with Lotus ART dominating everything, Visiou has his work cut out for him – which might be exactly what he needs.

    It’s at this point that I’ve noticed a decidedly Eastern European flavour to this line-up (except Frijns); motorsport seems to have undergone a real renaissance there in the last few years (while it hasn’t in the Middle East or Korea or China … are you reading this, Bernie?), but my final entry is Brazilian Felipe Nasr, who is racing for DAMS in GP2 this season. He has dominated just about everything he has entered, including British F3 and Formula BMW. I think he’s definately being watched by Formula 1 teams, and a strong season in GP2 could make him a suprise entry to the 2013 grid.

    So, who do you think has a real chance at Formula 1?


    Korjus would be amongst my choices as well. Also worth mentioning are two Kiwis, Mitch Evans (supported by Webber) and Richie Stanaway. Evans is only 18, he was incredible in his rookie season in GP3 last year, but had some bad luck towards the end – I expect him to win the title this year. Stanaway only did two race weekends in GP3, yet managed to win the sprint race in Spa – he’s doing 3.5 this year.

    Also on my watch is Nick Yelloly – he only did a few race weekends in Formula Renault 3.5 last year, but was competitive from the minute he joined. Also managed a great 2nd in the season finale, so I’ll be closely following how he does in a full-time 3.5 this year.


    The main junior formula I take notice of is Formula Renault UK but over the last few years a few drivers have caught my attention. Firstly there’s Lewis Williamson who is now backed by Red Bull and drives in Formula Renault 3.5 which in itself is great considering plenty of drivers seem to drop off the radar after driving in Renault 2.0.

    Second would have to be Alex Lynn who dominated his rookie season in Formula Renault UK, taking the title and now moving on to British F3 for 2012. It’ll be interesting to see how he does in a series which is dominated by Carlin while driving for Fortec, apparently he’s doing well in testing though.

    Finally I think Josh Hill and Alice Powell are good enough to get to F1 or at least near it, but Josh has funding while Alice struggles to get a budget together which is a shame. Both did well in Formula Renault UK last year and they were at least consistent driving for a team which clearly wasn’t able to match Fortec.


    As you mentioned, I’m impressed by Felipe Nasr…
    It’s his first GP2 year and he’ll have experienced Valsecchi as his team mate…
    I expect him to do well already in his first year …

    As a brazilian I have high hopes for him, however, we had Pizzonia (jungle boy) winning every lower categories until F3000, Ricardo Zonta (F3000 champion 1997) ….. let’s just wait and see ….


    Obviously as a Webber fan I’ve been following Mitch Evans for a couple of years, before he came to Europe and he’s been up around the top of GP3 testing this year and looks like he’ll be in with a good shout at the title. Freakishly he’s actually still only 17!
    Another to watch is fellow Kiwi Nick Cassidy, also 17, who has followed his friend Evans in the Toyota series and will be in WSR, Eurocup series this year.

    Since following Charles Pic at Arden, I’ve been watching his brother Arthur, who steps up from Eurocup to WSR 3.5 this year with Tech 1, naturally.


    The title somewhat mislead me. I thought we were talking about young drivers on currently on the grid.

    Promising young drivers on their way into F1:
    – Roberto Mehri – 20 year old future superstar who is already F3 Euroseries champion. I’m surprised nobody mentioned him yet!
    – Valterri Bottas – A given, look at his junior formula record.
    – Kevin Korjus – Formula 3.5 Champion.
    – Mirko Bortolotti – won the 2011 F2 championship.

    Prisoner Monkeys

    Since following Charles Pic at Arden, I’ve been watching his brother Arthur, who steps up from Eurocup to WSR 3.5 this year with Tech 1, naturally.

    Arthur Pic isn’t racing with Tech 1. Korjus and Bianchi are. He raced for them last year, but for 2012 he is with DAMS (at least according to Wikipedia – but their motorsport pages are generally pretty good). Looking at his results from 2011, it doesn’t come as much surprise – despite being with Tech 1, he scored just twelve points.

    I think the Pics are like the Chiltons: they’ve got the idea of becoming a racing dynasty, and their money allows them to soar a little higher than their talent alone would. Charles has promise; he’s gotten decent results, even if he is a little inconsistent. But (based on his results alone) Arthur needs work.


    Right, I see now, not sure where I read that.

    Joel Holland

    Josh Hill? Really? Without the name he wouldn’t get a second look. An average (at best) driver.

    Can’t believe no-one’s mentioned another ex-F1 driver’s son: Kevin Magnussen! He’s mega, and with Carlin’s 3.5 team has a real shot at that title. And of course his old F3 sparring partner Nasr also looks the real deal.

    Couple of kids stepping up from karting to Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup to watch: Nick de Vries (who is already fairly famous for being managed by Hamilton’s old man) and Brit Alexander Albon. Also a Red Bull-backed German named Stefan Wackerbauer (not 100% on the spelling of that though).

    @prisoner-monkeys Have to agree with all of your choices – isn’t it nice to agree! Frijns doesn’t get talked about much but back-to-back titles in F.BMW and then FR 2.0 is impressive, and as you say Fortec are a top squad. I also think the Chiltons-Pics comparison is spot on.

    @kingshark Mehri is likely to end up in DTM this year as he can’t afford GP2, which is a total indictment on that series and its boss, Bruno Michel. Bortolotti beat a very average F2 field, which is pretty much the only kind of field F2 attracts, and probably isn’t worth getting excited about. Korjus isn’t an FR3.5 champion, he won 2.0 Eurocup and now races in 3.5. He’s very good though

    There are a few decent drivers in GP3 but the one who’s really caught my eye is Tio Ellinas – very quick, an all-round better package than Lynn (who beat him to FR.2.0 UK last year) to my mind. And of course Mitch Evans, who has a very good chance of winning that title. With Webber’s support he’s definitely one to watch out for.

    And Lewis Williamson (as someone mentioned) has an absolutely gold opportunity this year. With full Red Bull backing and the prospect of a vacancy at Toro Rosso in 2013 a strong Formula Renault 2.5 campaign could catapult him in F1; a bad one, however, would see him leapfrogged by Carlos Sainz Jr., who will be mighty in British F3 this year.

    I can think of a load more but I doubt anyone’s even read down this far, so I’ll stop

    Felipe Bomeny

    I whole-heartedly agree with @prisoner-monkeys and @Joel Holland’s driver selections, but I have a few more drivers on my list. As a Brazilian, I really like André Negrão (along with Nasr, of course). I think he’s massively underrated but I think he’s very quick- he struggled a bit in WSR last year because he was very inexperienced. Nico Müller will be a good benchmark for André this year.

    In GP3, I have a couple of drivers I support- Ellinas, Visoiu, and Aaro Vainio. Vainio is managed by Nic Todt and had a promising (although rather unfortunate) campaign last year. But my real favourite is Antonio Felix da Costa. He’s the one I want to win the championship.

    In Formula 2, this David Zhu kid looks like he could be good. In Formula Pilota China, he seemed to match Visoiu, and I’m quite the Visoiu fan!

    Finally, in FR2.0, Nyck de Vries has been impressive in testing. But the real championship favourite is Danni Kvyat, who’s also on my list.


    Joel Holland

    @Portugoose Is da Costa confirmed in GP3 for this season? Should be a title threat if he is.

    There’s a Japanese karter who’s first name is Ukyo, after Katayama – his dad’s a huge fan and the lad races in the same helmet. Forget his surname though.

    And no-one’s mentioned Alexander Rossi, whose pace and passport should see him in F1 in the next few seasons.

    Prisoner Monkeys

    @portugoose – I think Chinese involvement in Formula 1 is inevitable. We have the Chinese Grand Prix, and it’s starting to attract Chinese audiences (it helps that the last two races have been fantastic). It’s only a matter of time before we get a Chinese team and/or driver. Ho-Pin Tung managed to get a superlicence in 2010, but he never made it into the car.

    So I wonder if Zhu joining Formula 2 is a political appointment. For one, the series is (as @jholland says), fairly average – but each of its champions has been highly-rated. Andy Soucek was really there to lend credibility to the series, but he was Virgin’s test driver at the same time. Dean Stoneman had a lot of potential before he was diagnosed with cancer, and Mirko Bortolotti is perhaps the Italian driver with thr best prospects of getting into Formula 1. If Zhu has a good season, it might set him up for promotion to Formula 1.

    @jholland – Yes, da Costa has been confirmed in GP3. He was announced as racing for Carlin two days ago (news was subsequently lost in the flood of stories from Melbourne). He’s racing alongside Alex Brundle (and a yet-to-be-confirmed third driver) in car #27.

    Joel Holland

    Brundle’s average in single-seaters. Glad to see he’s building for a possible long-term future by doing LMP2 this season. I’m sure his old man encouraged that one.

    Felipe Bomeny


    Regarding your “political appointment” comment, I agree. After all, Korean driver Sung-hak Mun raced in the series last year with little sponsorship. I think Palmer is trying to make Formula 2 a more international series; he wants more than just Brits, Germans, and Spaniards racing in the category. That’s why the series has had three Indians (Armaan Ebrahim, Parthiva Sureshwaren, and actor Ajith Kumar); along with Eastern Europeans Mihai Marinescu (Romania), Kazim Vasiliauskas (Lithuania), and Plamen Kralev (Bulgaria). Marinescu was decent in Formula 2 but was simply embarassing in GP2 at the GP2 Final; Kralev is simply unspectacular; Mun was worse than Kralev; and Vasiliauskas showed a lot of potential but has quit racing, unfortunately.
    The title favorites this year, so far, are probably Alex Fontana and Luciano Bacheta.

    Prisoner Monkeys

    @portugoose – I don’t think Palmer is trying to make the series “more international”. I think he’s trying to make it relevant. Ever since its inception, the category has been hamstrung by mediocre drivers. Although winning the series qualifies one for a superlicence, nobody has actually graduated to Formula 1. Andy Soucek was Virgin’s test driver, but he only ever did straight-line aero tests (which you don’t need a superlicence for), and was under the impression he would be running on Fridays (and when he didn’t get to, he left). I think the series was originally created as as rival to GP2, to try and create an alternate route for drivers to get into the sport (instead of going GP3-GP2-Formula 1, they would go Formula 3-Formula 2-Formula 1). The problem is that if you rank each of the categories in terms of the talent racing in the category, and the effect success in that category has on a young driver’s career, then Formula 2 probably comes out somewhere behind GP3 and ahead of Formula Renault 2.0 when it was originally intended to be equal to GP2. Palmer needs to bolster Formula 2’s credibility, especially since GP2 and GP3 support Formula 1, which is why I think he’s pushed for international drivers like Zhu and Mun, and removed the likes of the Red Bull Ring and Magny-Cours from the calendar in favour of the Hungaroring and Paul Ricard, circuits that host (or are planned to host) Formula 1 races.

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