The F1 2024 season has yet to start, but it’s already set to make history: For the first time in F1’s seven decades of existence, 2024 will be the first season to begin without a rookie driver.
F1 is as much a sport of dynasties as it is one that needs fresh talent. For every icon like Ayrton Senna, there must be a steady stream of rookies filtering into the sport in order to find, say, the future Michael Schumacher.
For the first time ever, though, the 2024 season won’t feature that fresh influx of talent – and it sets a tone for how we’ll see the sport continue to grow in the future.
F1 2024 to begin without a rookie driver
The current prioritisation of experienced drivers highlights F1’s current desire for stability and growth based on metrics it has already established.
While the sport intended for more teams to be able to compete for wins thanks to the introduction of its latest rule set in 2022, it is clear that Red Bull Racing is the only team to have comfortably mastered the changes in technology.
That being said, competition is still tight for everyone else. Mercedes and Ferrari battled for second place in the World Constructors’ Championship until the very final lap of the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, while there was a close four-way battle for fourth place in the World Drivers’ Championship.
These conditions don’t create a significant desire for a drastic lineup change; with the exception of Red Bull and its drivers, every F1 team is fighting for the incremental gains that will set it apart from its competitors, and every team exhibited a capacity for evolution in 2023.
If you evolved quite comfortably, as McLaren did, there’s no incentive to introduce a variable that could harm that growth.
If your changes never quite worked as intended, as was the case for Haas, then keeping two experienced competitors behind the wheel is much better than opting for fresh blood.
Williams and Alfa Romeo, the two 2023 teams most likely to switch things up, have opted instead for the comfort of known quantities and the influx of finances those drivers bring.
Even further to the point of stability are the lengthening terms of driver contracts. Max Verstappen boasts a massive contract with Red Bull that will keep him at the team until 2028, while the bulk of the grid is guaranteed to compete through the end of 2024 or 2025.
This rightly raises questions about the viability of the junior programs utilised by various F1 teams.
Capable young guns like Théo Pourchaire, Jack Doohan, and Felipe Drugovich all have ties to current F1 teams but have been sequestered into reserve or test driver roles that may or may not pay off in the future, while their options for entering other race series around the world dwindle in the face of their dominance.
Modern Formula 1 is a challenging place for a rookie to make a mark.
While the cars are more challenging to drive than any other in the open-wheel world, the hierarchy of F1 itself has rewarded longevity and incremental growth over potential brilliance.
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