All 10 F1 teams must run a junior driver during two practice sessions in 2023. Who has done so, and who is yet to announce their plans?
Plenty of new and unfamiliar names appeared during first practice at last weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix, as the 10 teams started rostering drivers in accordance with a rule introduced ahead of the 2022 F1 season.
The rule is a stipulation for all the teams that they must run a junior driver during two practice sessions during the season. For the purposes of defining a junior driver, this refers to one who has done two Grands Prix or fewer – rather than being a reference to a driver’s age!
What new names drove during FP1 at the Mexican Grand Prix?
In the interests of fairness, each team must run their nominated driver with both of their usual race drivers giving up a session. This means that, on the first occasion, the driver takes over, for example, Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari. For the second outing, Carlos Sainz has to give up his car.
However, the rule does not force the teams to run the same junior driver for both sessions, allowing for two junior drivers to get an opportunity if the teams so wish.
An interesting loophole that some of the teams have exploited is running their rookie driver by using their usual race driver in their first races in the sport. For instance, in AlphaTauri’s case, Nyck de Vries’ Bahrain GP FP1 participation counts towards the requirement.
Last weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix had five confirmed junior drivers take part, so let’s run through how each team has conformed with the young driver rookie FP1 requirements in 2023.
What are the F1 team’s junior driver plans for the rest of 2022?
Here’s a rundown of each team’s junior driver plans for FP1 sessions in 2023, including the sessions that have already run.
- – Red Bull: Red Bull has called upon reigning Formula E Champion and previous Red Bull tester Jake Dennis to take part in FP1 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, having enjoyed stints as a Red Bull simulator driver in the past. The World Champion team will also use Isack Hadjar in the other RB19 in the same session, with both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez sitting on the sidelines for FP1.
- – Mercedes: Formula 2 title challenger Frederik Vesti drove George Russell’s Mercedes W14 for FP1 in Mexico, and may be called up for the same session in Abu Dhabi to fulfill the team’s other requirement.
- – Ferrari: Ferrari ticked off one of their rookie requirements early by fielding Robert Shwartzman in FP1 for the Dutch Grand Prix, and he is also set to take over Charles Leclerc’s car for FP1 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
- – McLaren: McLaren has actually already fulfilled their requirement due to Oscar Piastri being a rookie driver at the start of this season, meaning his participation in FP1 in Bahrain ticked one of the boxes as he ‘took over’ his own car. The Woking-based team will field IndyCar star Pato O’Ward for FP1 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as well, meaning Lando Norris will step out of his car.
- – Alpine: The Enstone-based team has turned to reserve driver Jack Doohan to fulfill their rookie requirements, with the Australian driver taking part in FP1 in Mexico in place of Pierre Gasly, and in Abu Dhabi in place of Esteban Ocon.
- – Alfa Romeo: Formula 2 championship leader Theo Pourchaire has had outings with Alfa Romeo before but, with the French driver still yet to take part in a Grand Prix, he’s getting more opportunities to impress – he drove Valtteri Bottas’ car for FP1 in Mexico. Expect him to be behind the wheel in Zhou Guanyu’s car in Abu Dhabi.
- – AlphaTauri: Liam Lawson had been the likely candidate for the mandatory rookie appearances but, due to him standing in for Daniel Ricciardo during the Australian’s time out injured, Lawson became ineligible for these FP1 appearances as of the Singapore Grand Prix. Interestingly, AlphaTauri actually fulfilled their obligations by running De Vries in FP1 in Bahrain and Lawson in FP1 at Monza, but have also given Isack Hadjar an appearance as he drove during FP1 in Mexico in place of Yuki Tsunoda.
- – Aston Martin: Aston Martin reserve driver Felipe Drugovich appeared at the Italian Grand Prix in September to tick off the first of the Silverstone-based team’s requirements, adding to his pre-season experience when he stood in for Lance Stroll during pre-season testing. He’ll likely be behind the wheel for FP1 in Abu Dhabi as well.
- – Williams: Thanks to Logan Sargeant being a rookie at the start of the year, Williams has already fulfilled half of their requirement. Academy driver Zak O’Sullivan will complete their requirement as he will drive during FP1 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
- – Haas: Haas has turned to Ferrari junior Ollie Bearman, multiple race winner in Formula 2 this season, with the 18-year-old taking part in FP1 in Mexico as well as at the season finale in Abu Dhabi. There’s a lot riding on the outings, as Haas will need a new reserve driver for 2024 as Pietro Fittipaldi has secured a full-time seat in IndyCar.