F1 US driver ladder: Which American driver most deserves a place on the F1 grid?

Jamie Woodhouse
The flag of the United States displayed at the Circuit of The Americas in 2022

The flag of the United States displayed at the Circuit of The Americas

Formula 1 already has one American driver in Williams’ Logan Sargeant, but which of his compatriots are showing enough promise to one day join, or replace, him on the grid?

As Formula 1 revels in its popularity surge in the United States, the focus to go all-in to exploit it is a no-brainer, with the F1 2023 campaign marking an increase to three rounds of the World Championship taking place in the nation, the debut of the Las Vegas Grand Prix arguably the most highly-anticipated new event yet.

Having an American driver on the grid was seen as the key next step, but with Sargeant still point-less in his rookie F1 campaign and having work to do to really make himself a household name in his home country, let us take a look at his compatriots who could be next best-placed to join the F1 grid.

1. Colton Herta

Arguably the driver best prepared at this stage to take a crack at Formula 1 is Colton Herta, the driver who came so close to joining the grid when Michael Andretti attempted to buy the Sauber team, which went on to partner up with Audi, before then missing out on an AlphaTauri seat for F1 2023 due to insufficient superlicence points.

But, with Andretti pushing on to put his own start-up team on the grid, a response from the FIA expected very soon, Herta is a driver with a clear opening to join Formula 1 in the coming seasons if the Andretti bid is approved.

He must be careful though to ensure that the superlicence saga does not come back to bite him again; Herta is 10th in the 2023 IndyCar standings with four rounds of the season remaining. Staying in that position would give him a grand total of just one point for his superlicence.

Herta still remains very much on the cusp of making his Formula 1 breakthrough, but must make sure he efficiently lays the groundwork over in IndyCar.

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2. Jak Crawford

Charlotte-native Jak Crawford, a member of the Red Bull Junior Team, has shown in flashes some very impressive racing ability during his rookie Formula 2 campaign in 2023.

It is a sign of just how competitive the series is this year that Crawford has a victory and three further podium finishes to his name, yet is P13 in the Drivers’ standings.

Nonetheless, the Red Bull Junior Team is crying out for a new emerging star, and with an F1 2024 seat at Red Bull’s second team AlphaTauri, or whatever it will be called by then, potentially up for grabs, a late season-surge from Crawford will put him right in the mix for that F1 call-up.

3. Nolan Siegel

18-year-old Nolan Siegel is currently making waves over in IndyCar’s answer to the F2 series, Indy NXT.

His rookie season has been impressive, with two wins and two further P2 finishes helping him to P2 in the current Drivers’ standings, his chances of claiming the title still very much on.

Like Herta, superlicence points may be an initial stumbling block, but if Siegel decided to set his sights on Formula 1, then considering his ability to shine from the start in a new series, he could rapidly put himself on the brink of an F1 call-up.

4. Kaylen Frederick

Currently competing in Formula 3, 21-year-old Kaylen Frederick, hailing from Potomac, Maryland, is a driver who has proven his ability further down the European junior ladder, but really needs to step up his game in the remainder of the current campaign to progress towards Formula 1.

Winning the 2020 British Formula 3 title demonstrated what Frederick is capable of, but since then has struggled to unlock the form for a title challenge as he navigates his third F3 campaign. The clock really is ticking for Frederick to get his career on the ascent again.

5. Ugo Ugochukwu

Looking a bit further down the junior ladder on this one, but considering McLaren have one of the hottest junior prospects on the scene, who is also American, it feels like we could not put together such a piece without putting Ugo Ugochukwu in the mix.

The 16-year-old New York native is the only junior racing prospect in the McLaren ranks, the team choosing to focus on quality over quantity when they home in on an exciting racer, and they may have struck gold with Ugochukwu.

It is early days, but he is giving McLaren reason to believe that they may have not just an American driver, but one who could achieve great things in Formula 1 too.

Currently Ugochukwu is engaged in an Italian F4 title battle with Red Bull’s British hot prospect Arvid Lindblad, claiming two wins and a further six podiums so far this season, while he claimed a P3 finish in the 2023 UAE F4 campaign, another one littered with wins and podiums.

With both Oscar Piastri’s and Lando Norris’ McLaren F1 contracts up for renewal in the coming years, keep a close eye on Ugochukwu’s progress.

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