Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen sit out as 10 F1 rookies look to shine

Sam Cooper
Isack Hadjar, Pato O'Ward and Frederik Vesti

These three will be on track in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

There will be plenty of new faces on the grid as 10 rookies take part in FP1 in Abu Dhabi.

With Abu Dhabi having an end-of-school feel, some drivers are even going to sit out FP1 as teams look to fulfil a certain FIA criteria.

Rules from the governing body say a rookie – a driver who has raced in two or fewer grands prix – must take part in two FP1 sessions in a season and plenty of teams have left it until the last minute. Here’s a rundown of all 10 rookies taking part:

Red Bull

Jake Dennis and Isack Hadjar in for Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez

Red Bull have taken the unusual approach of leaving not one but two of their first team drivers out, for they have yet to run a rookie in a session this year.

Their original plan of giving Liam Lawson some time in the RB19 took a turn when he was parachuted into Daniel Ricciardo’s AlphaTauri meaning he is no longer classed as a rookie.

Instead then, Red Bull will look to Jake Dennis and Isack Hadjar.

The latter is a member of Red Bull’s junior programme having joined in 2022 and currently competes in F2 with Hitech, meaning he has a busy schedule ahead of him this weekend.

Dennis meanwhile is a 28-year-old British driver who is the development driver for Red Bull. The F1 test caps a successful year for Dennis after he won the Formula E world title with Andretti.


Frederik Vesti in for Lewis Hamilton

The 21-year-old Dane joined the Silver Arrows driver academy in 2021 and like Hadjar, he also competes in F2 for Prema.

Vesti completed the young drivers test last season and also got his first taste of FP1 earlier this season in Mexico.

Away from F1, he won the inaugural season of the Formula Regional European Championship in 2019.


Robert Shwartzman in for Charles Leclerc

Russo-Israeli Robert Shwartzman is a familiar face within the Ferrari team having been a member of their driver academy from 2017 to 2022.

His first experience behind the wheel of an F1 car came in 2021 when he participated in the young driver test with both Ferrari and Haas before being given an FP1 session last year at the same grand prix at this year and the US race.

Earlier this season, he completed FP1 at Zandvoort and serves as Ferrari’s reserve driver.


Jack Doohan in for Esteban Ocon

Australian Doohan left the Red Bull academy in 2021 after a four-year stint to join Alpine and in that same year, he drove the A521.

He took part in his first FP1 sessions in Mexico and Abu Dhabi last year and will drive in the same sessions this season.

Doohan had an excellent rookie F2 year in 2022 that even made him an outside contender for the Alpine seat that was eventually filled by Pierre Gasly.


Pato O’Ward in for Lando Norris

One of the more experienced members on the grid, McLaren’s IndyCar driver Pato O’Ward will have another chance to drive an F1 car after tests this year.

O’Ward, who spoke to PlanetF1.com ahead of the session, feels he cracked driving an F1 car after his recent test in Barcelona and has not given up hope of one day racing in the series.

In IndyCar, he finished fourth in the standings this season.

Alfa Romeo

Theo Pourchaire in for Zhou Guanyu

After some talk that he may even replace Zhou Guanyu for 2024, Theo Pourchaire is continuing on in his reserve driver role for Sauber and will take part in his third FP1 session in Abu Dhabi.

His first came last year in Austin and he also participated in FP1 in Mexico this year.

Despite the FP1 outing, his mind will most likely be on F2 where he holds a 25-point lead at the top of the table with two races to go.

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Aston Martin

Felipe Drugovich in for Fernando Alonso

Often spotted in the Aston Martin garage during a race weekend, Felipe Drugovich has served as test and reserve driver since 2022 but has so far been unable to break through to a full-time seat.

The 2022 Formula E champion has had plenty of time behind the wheel though, filling in for the injured Lance Stroll in pre-season testing and taking part in FP1 in Abu Dhabi last year and Monza this season.


Zak O’Sullivan in for Alex Albon

Teenager O’Sullivan was picked up by the Williams academy a few months after being given the Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Award, which recognises young British drivers.

However, by winning that award, his first test of an F1 car was not a Williams but instead the Aston Martin AMR21 which he drove at Silverstone.

Abu Dhabi then will be the 18-year-old’s first time in a Williams car.

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