Today’s Formula One’s junior categories are filled with exciting talents who are waiting to explode and take their place at motorsports’ most coveted seat. With drivers starting their bid to the Formula One grid from the ages of little above ten, we have listed down a few who we think might make a mark on Formula One in the near future.
Current superstars like Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso also took the sport by storm when they arrived as youngsters. As they now enter into what might be the final stages of their illustrious careers (except for Räikkönen – we’re not sure when the Iceman will be done) we take a look at the drivers who will most likely rule Formula One for the next few decades.
Stepping into Formula 3 at the age of 16 may seem daunting for many, but Red Bull junior Liam Lawson acts as proof that it is possible to do so with aplomb.
Now 19, Lawson will hope to use all of his experience for a Formula 2 title challenge. As a member of the Red Bull Junior Program, Lawson will also participate in the 2021 DTM series along with Red Bull reserve driver Alexander Albon.
Although an immediate seat at Red Bull looks unlikely, strong performances in F2 can see the Kiwi become a force to be reckoned with down the line.
Another Red Bull Junior driver, the Indian currently races for Carlin in his second season at Formula 2.
Having partnered current AlphaTauri and fellow Red Bull Junior Team driver Yuki Tsunoda last season in Formula 2, although Daruvala didn’t quite get the success as his teammate did, he did sign off the season with a surprise win at Bahrain.
Like Lawson, Daruvala will probably have to wait out another season or two for a Formula One call up, but with the Indian improving as each race goes by, it will be interesting to see how far up the ladder the 22-year-old progresses.
With an excellent F3 season last year and already having taken his first F2 win at Monaco this year, the 17-year-old Sauber driver is a talent that cannot be ignored.
Pourchaire has only been in car racing for three years but already has two titles to his name. He won the French F4 junior championship in 2018 and then took the ADAC F4 title in Germany in 2019 at the first attempt. Pourchaire is one of the youngest drivers on the FIA F2 grid this year but has all the backing he needs with ART Grand Prix – a team proven in junior Formulae.
If Pourchaire can continue his recent progression, he’ll surely start to stand out as one of the bright young talents who could grace F1 in the future.
A former member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, Guanyu Zhou was quite the sensation in 2019 when he challenged the established Formula 2 stars in his rookie campaign. A member of the Alpine Academy and the official test driver, Zhou has his sights set on the Alpine seats.
Zhou not only has two years of F2 experience under his belt now, he also currently leads the F2 championship table having already been on the top step of the podium twice this season. A Formula 2 championship just might be exactly what Zhou needs to boost his chances for a Formula One drive.
A Formula One seat would also see Zhou become the first ever Chinese driver in Formula One.
Although Yuki Tsunoda jumped the queue and made it to Formula One before Vips, being an important remember of the Red Bull Junior Program makes the Estonian almost certain to feature either for Red Bull or their sister team AlphaTauri soon.
Having already taken part in the young driver test at the end of the 2020 season for Red Bull Racing, and serving as the reserve driver for Red Bull and AlphaTauri for multiple grands prix (Turkey, Bahrain, Sakhir and Abu Dhabi) in 2020, Vips is on the fringes of Formula One.
Currently racing for Hitech, who already proved their worth as worthy F2 championship contenders, a good F2 season for Vips might just see him in F1 sooner than one would expect. The natural choice would be AlphaTauri, but it depends on where Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda also end up for the next season. Irrespective of matters that are out of his hand, Vips is the kind of talent Red Bull will want to nurture and hopefully be able to bask in his glory with the main team.
It is highly unlikely that the Ferrari Driver Academy member doesn’t make it to F1 soon. The Russian has been knocking on Formula One’s door for a while now and it is only a matter of time before he finds himself a seat at the pinnacle of motorsports.
Shwartzman took 4 wins in last season’s F2 championship with Prema Racing, racing alongside current Haas driver Mick Schumacher. Currently, he is third in the championship standings in the 2021 F2 season having taken one win and two podiums. Shwartzman, who served as Haas’ reserve driver in 2020, will most likely take a seat at Alfa Romeo in 2022, with the team having one seat reserved for the Ferrari junior driver. Unless something unexpected happens – the Russian is almost sure to grab a place in the F1 grid next season.
Alfa Romeo’s reserve driver and a member of Ferrari’s junior driver program, Ilott’s entry into Formula One is just a matter of time. He has already appeared in the first practice session in the Portuguese Grand Prix earlier this year.
The motorsport grid saw flashes of his brilliance last year in Formula 2 as he took 3 victories, including a brilliant win in Monza that saw him finish second behind Mick Schumacher in the championship standings.
Although Ilott will face pressure from Shwartzman as they vie for that final Alfa Romeo seat, it is no surprise that the young Ferrari driver will be in the Formula One grid sooner rather than later.
A member of the Alpine Academy, Lundgaard is a talent that should not be ignored.
In his first F2 season last year, the Dutch driver ended up twice on the top step of the podium, but it was his raw pace that caught everyone’s attention.
Currently in his second Formula 2 season, Lundgaard is one to watch out for and one that is destined to make it to Formula One in the near future.
After a title-winning Formula 2 season in 2020, seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher’s son Mick was signed up by Haas for the 2021 F1 drive. Schumacher, who currently races alongside Nikita Mazepin, is one of F1’s most exciting talents in the sport right now.
Having won the Formula 3 and then Formula 2 series, the junior Ferrari driver was linked with a seat either at Alfa Romeo or Haas for the 2021 season. Having made his Formula One practice debut at the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for Haas, Schumacher also participated at the year end 2020 Young Driver Test for the American side.
Although Schumacher has had a tough start to his Formula One career, mainly due to a non-competitive Haas car, he has successfully out-qualified and finished above his teammate for most of the races in the season so far. With Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto stating that Schumacher might be in the Ferrari seat as early as 2023, given the young German’s talent and skill, a long and successful career awaits Schumacher, who would want to write his own Formula One legacy just like his dad.
Another Red Bull Junior driver, Yuki Tsunoda currently races for AlphaTauri in what is his debut season in Formula One.
Having finished third in his debut Formula 2 season, expectations and hopes have been high for the young Japanese. Tsunoda showcased sheer raw pace in his Formula 2 debut season and that was not overlooked by the Red Bull management.
Having made his debut at the season opener at Bahrain in 2021, Tsunoda’s performances that weekend showed the world why the rookie was signed up by the Faenza-based team. Finishing a brilliant ninth and getting points on his debut reaffirmed Red Bull’s faith in him to promote the youngster to their sister team. Racing alongside the extremely talented Pierre Gasly, Tsunoda will surely want to learn a trick or two from his fellow Red Bull driver.