The Formula One season may be well under way, but two of the sport’s main feeder series, GP2 and GP3, are about to kick off their seasons this weekend in Barcelona.
Of the current generation, Rosberg, Hamilton, Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Palmer and Vandoorne have all won the GP2 championship in the past, whilst Gutiérrez, Bottas and Kvyat can count the GP3 title amongst their past accomplishments.
Whilst GP2 and GP3 are the only junior categories to race on Grand Prix weekends, these aren’t the only methods of getting noticed by the F1 paddock. Alonso, Sainz and Magnussen were all crowned Formula Renault 3.5 champion earlier in their career, whilst some others, such as Button and more recently Verstappen, entered the sport directly after competing in F3.
With Raikkonen, Button, Massa and Alonso all well into their thirties, we could soon see some new faces on the grid fairly soon, so here’s our list of 20 promising young drivers to keep an eye on this season.
Oliver ROWLAND – GP2
Born: August 10, 1992 (age 23), Sheffield
After being crowned Formula Renault 3.5 champion last year, Rowland earned a place in Renault’s young driver academy and will compete in GP2 this year with MP Motorsport. Has already stated, “The number one priority would be to win GP2.”
Sergey SIROTKIN – GP2
Born: August 25, 1995 (age 20), Moscow, Russia
Tested for Sauber a couple of years back, but a race seat never materialised so a move to GP2 followed. After finishing third in last season’s championship, Sirotkin moves to defending champions ART this year and will be amongst the favourites for the drivers’ title.
Alex LYNN – GP2
Born: September 17, 1993 (age 22), United Kingdom
GP3 champion in 2014, Lynn will contest a second season of GP2, and will hope to better last season’s sixth place in the drivers’ championship. Impressed the Williams team with wins in Spain and Hungary, and will drive for Williams in the post-race test at Barcelona.
Esteban OCON – DTM
Born: September 17, 1996 (age 19), Normandy, France
At 19, Ocon can already boast Euro F3 and GP3 titles to his name. This year, he’ll will combine a Mercedes drive in DTM with a reserve driver role for the Renault F1 team and will drive in FP1 this weekend in Spain.
Matthieu VAXIVIÈRE – FV8 3.5
Born: December 3, 1994 (age 21), Limoges, France
Runner-up to Oliver Rowland in last season’s FR3.5 championship, racking up ten podiums in the process. With a switch to SMP Racing for 2016, Vaxivière should challenge for the title this year despite a disappointing start to the season.
Luca GHIOTTO – GP2
Born: February 24, 1995 (age 21), Arzignano, Italy
Pipped to last season’s GP3 title by Esteban Ocon, despite winning five races to Ocon’s one. The confident young Italian will graduate to GP2 this year, and although not expected to be a title challenger, Ghiotto will be keen to catch the eye of the F1 paddock.
Pierre GASLY – GP2
Born: February 7, 1996 (age 20), Rouen, France
The talented Frenchman returns for a second GP2 season with Prema Racing, and after a difficult first year, Gasly must start winning races to remain part of Red Bull’s plans. A strong showing in pre-season suggests Gasly could be a title challenger this year.
Marvin KIRCHHÖFER – GP2
Born: March 19, 1994 (age 22), Leipzig, Germany
Graduates to GP2 this year after two seasons fighting at the front in GP3. Eight podiums, including five wins, demonstrates Kirchhöfer’s potential, but the German must add consistency to his game if he is to make the step up to Formula 1.
Louis DELETRAZ – FV8 3.5
Born: April 22, 1997 (age 19), Geneva, Switzerland
Impressive in his career to date, Deletraz won the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC title last year and graduates to Formula V8 3.5 with champions Fortec. Now part of the newly-launched Renault Sport Academy, Deletraz has had an eye-catching start to the season, winning on his series debut in Aragon.
Antonio GIOVINAZZI – GP2
Born: December 14, 1993 (age 22), Martina Franca, Italy
Runner-up in last season’s Euro F3 championship and dominated the Masters of Formula 3 event at Zandvoort. Has the chance to prove his talents on a bigger stage this season as teammate to the highly-rated Pierre Gasly in GP2.
Nyck DE VRIES – GP3
Born: February 6, 1995 (age 21), Sneek, Netherlands
Managed by Anthony Hamilton, Dutchman de Vries has been part of McLaren’s Young Driver Programme since 2010. Third place in last year’s FR3.5 championship, de Vries claimed his first win at Jerez and will compete in GP3 this year with champions ART.
Aurélien PANIS – FV8 3.5
Born: October 29, 1994 (age 21), St-Martin-d’Hères, France
Son of former Formula One driver Oliver Panis, young Aurélien competes in the Formula V8 3.5 championship with Arden Motorsport. An impressive start to the season has seen Panis take a win in only his second race in the series.
Charles LECLERC – GP3
Born: October 16, 1997 (age 18), Monte Carlo, Monaco
Still only 18, but has already done enough to earn a place in Ferrari’s young driver academy and recently tested their 2014 car at Fiorano. Showed impressive consistency in Euro F3 last year, scoring points in 29 out of 33 races, including 13 podiums. Moves up to GP3 this year with defending champions ART.
Jake DENNIS – GP3
Born: June 16, 1995 (age 20), Nuneaton
Won the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC title in 2012, and finished third in Euro F3 last year. Backed by the Racing Steps Foundation, Dennis will switch to GP3 with the Arden team for 2016 and will also make his Le Mans debut with Jota Sport.
Lando NORRIS – British F3
Born: November 13, 1999 (age 16), Bristol
Became the youngest ever World Karting Champion at 14, and now, despite being only 16, has already won single-seater titles in MSA Formula – New Zealand’s Toyota Racing Series and Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, winning on his debut in the latter.
Pietro FITTIPALDI – FV8 3.5
Born: June 25, 1996 (age 19), Miami, Florida, United States
Grandson of two-time Formula 1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi, and nephew of both Christian Fittipaldi and Max Papis, Pietro has a rich racing heritage. Dominated the Protyre Formula Renault Championship in 2014 and now competes in Formula V8 3.5 for last season’s champions Fortec.
Lance STROLL – Euro F3
Born: October 29, 1998 (age 17), Montreal, Canada
Won the Italian F4 championship in 2014 before graduating to Euro F3 with the Prema team. Recently signed to a development role with Williams, Stroll has significant financial backing from his billionaire father, Canadian businessman Lawrence Stroll.
George RUSSELL – Euro F3
Born: February 15, 1998 (age 18), King’s Lynn
2014 BRDC Formula 4 Champion and the youngest-ever winner of the McLaren Autosport Award. Finished sixth in last season’s Euro F3 championship and was runner-up to team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi in the Masters of Formula 3 event.
Giuliano ALESI – GP3
Born: September 20, 1999 (age 16), Avignon, France
Son of former Ferrari and Benetton driver Jean Alesi, Giuliano competed in the World Karting Championship before finishing fourth in last season’s French F4 championship. A member of Ferrari’s young driver academy, and will compete in GP3 this year with Trident.
Mick SCHUMACHER – Italian F4 & German F4
Born: March 22, 1999 (age 17), Switzerland
Son of the legendary Michael Schumacher, Mick seems destined for a career in Formula One. Runner-up in the World Karting Championship in 2014, and a winner during his first season of Formula 4. Will compete in both Italian and German F4 this year.