Rookies waiting in the wings


With Esteban Ocon signed as Manor’s newest race driver, PlanetF1 looks at three other rookies waiting in the wings – but they’ll likely have to wait until next season.

Stoffel Vandoorne 790x420

Stoffel Vandoorne
Although there has been no confirmation from McLaren, the general consensus is that it is only a matter of time before 2015 GP2 Champion Stoffel Vandoorne is announced as a 2017 McLaren driver.

Vandoorne caught the attention of the motor racing world as a whole in 2015 when he won the GP2 title by 160 points over Alexander Rossi, who briefly raced for Manor in F1.

On his way to the title he claimed seven wins and nine additional top-three results. In face he did not complete a single race weekend, of which there were 11, without featuring on the podium.

Vandoorne has already had a taste of Formula 1 racing as he filled in for the injured Fernando Alonso at the Bahrain Grand Prix. He finished P10, scoring McLaren’s first point of this season.

The Belgian racer has been praised by many in the paddock with the likes of Fernando Alonso and Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff convinced he is a future F1 star.

Replacing Jenson Button at McLaren.

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Pierre Gasly
As the Red Bull junior programme continues to churn out drivers, Pierre Gasly is the next in the line for a Formula 1 promotion.

Winner of the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, second in Formula Renault 3.5 Series, where he joined Arden under the Red Bull Junior Team development program, Gasly is the only driver in the Red Bull stable that Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost reckons is ready for Formula 1.

The 20-year-old Frenchman has been tipped as the next to come through the ranks on the back of a great season, at least just past the midway point, in GP2.

Two victories, five podiums in total, have put the Red Bull test driver firmly in contention to win the title.

Should he overhaul Sergey Sirotkin, who he is tied with on 113 points but falls into second place based on number of P3s, Red Bull would have no excuse not to promote him.

The Frenchman has already tested for the senior team this season as he took part in the post-British GP test where he was third fastest on the second day.

Replacing Daniil Kvyat at Toro Rosso.

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Charles Leclerc
Although GP3 driver Charles Leclerc is the least likely of those waiting in the wings to step up next season, PlanetF1 would like to see Haas take a chance on the 18-year-old – after all he can’t be worse than Esteban Gutierrez.

Ferrari protégé Leclerc is leading this year’s GP3 series with ART Grand Prix and has already claimed two wins, and four additional podiums.

Added to his race commitments, he is a member of the Scuderia’s Driver Academy and has taken the role of development driver for both Ferrari and Haas, the latter of which has seen him driving in FP1 sessions.

Leclerc was 1.3s slower than Romain Grosjean in his first outing, 1.1s in his second and just 0.293s slower in his third, Germany.

Not bad given that Grosjean was hotly tipped to step up to Ferrari before the Italian stable opted to re-sign Kimi Raikkonen – or that Esteban Gutierrez in the previous three FP1s was 0.311, 0.556 and 1.032s slower as he went in the other direction.

Replacing Esteban Gutierrez at Haas.