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Who are the F1’s rising star drivers? Here’s a guide to 5 of the sport’s young guns

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Formula 1 Next Generation drivers

Arguably one of the most competitive sports on the planet, Formula 1’s fight for places extends beyond track limits.

The Formula 1 paddock is littered with young superstars thrusting their bodies around circuits at 300km/h in the pursuit of the ultimate glory, with many of the sport’s top stars in their early-to-mid-20s.

It’s not just the youthful nature of the sport’s current competitors that increases the difficulty for new entrants vying for their place in the paddock. F1 costs a lot of money for both drivers and teams, meaning that on the rare chance one of the sport’s 20 seats becomes available, the driver filling it may do so for their commercial potential as much as their talent.

But, that’s not to say all hope is lost for young drivers fighting to realise their dream of racing in Formula 1. Throughout the racing world there is a crop of extremely talented youngsters harnessing their skills in a bid to become the next driver up in the Formula 1 paddock.

max verstappen, 2023 f1 calendar, formula 1
Max Verstappen is one of Formula 1’s youngest World Champions

Formula 1’s next generation drivers next in line for F1 seats

Liam Lawson

Age: 21

Nationality: New Zealand

Avid Formula 1 fans would be familiar with the young Kiwi’s capabilities. Having been promoted as the Red Bull and Alpha Tauri reserve driver in 2022, a role he maintained throughout 2023, Lawson filled in for five races for Alpha Tauri, replacing the injured Daniel Ricciardo for five races during the middle of the 2023 season.

Three races into his career and the promising driver finished in ninth, securing the first points of his young career. For a kid who professed he’s spent his ‘whole life working towards it [F1]’, the results signal that his hard work paying off.

While not signed as one of Alpha Tauro’s two drivers for season 2024 – those places belong to current pair Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo – Lawson will continue as a reserve driver for both Alpha Tauri and Red Bull.

With the future of Red Bull driver Sergio Perez up in the air, and whispers about Ricciardo returning to his old seat, it mightn’t be too long before Lawson returns to the track, for good.

Jack Doohan

Age: 20

Nationality: Australian

Australia’s F1 history is both storied and successful. Jack Brabham and Alan Jones are former World Champions, both Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo possessed the talent to do so, and Oscar Piastri is heralded as capable of challenging Max Verstappen in the future, should his machinery be up to the task.

Add to this one of the sport’s most promising drivers, Jack Doohan, and Australia’s stock in motorsports pinnacle looks likely to continue rising. Son of five-time Mo MotoGP world champion Mick Doohan, the Alpine reserve driver made the switch from Red Bull to his current side’s academy at the end of 2021. He hasn’t looked back since.

While championship success eluded the Aussie at F2 and F3 level, his skillset is clearly valued by the French side, who gave him the reins during practice sessions at 2023’s Mexican and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, Alpine’s two French drivers, may seem insurmountable in the short-term. That’s not to suggest the Aussie’s future lies outside F1, with the rookie admitting the 2023 F2 season will be his final as both he and his team set their sights on racing’s pinnacle.

Mick Doohan image
Jack Doohan’s legendary father Mick Doohan

Théo Pourchaire

Age: 20

Nationality: French

Remarkably, the 20-year-old Frenchman, Theo Pourchaire, has been racing in some capacity since he was two-years-old. It seems racing is well and truly coursing through Pourchaire’s blood. 

Currently on the books of Alfa Romeo as their reserve driver, the Frenchman is also extremely competitive in Formula 2. He finished second in the 2022 season, and has fought for the title consistently throughout 2023. 

Interestingly, speaking at the back end of the 2023 season, Alfa Romeo team boss Alessandro Alunni Bravi alluded to Pourchaire’s F1 future being closer than many suspect. 

“He is part of our lineup. We will have three drivers next year [2024], not two official drivers and one reserve,” the Italian confirmed.

Ahead of the Frenchman in Alfa Romeo’s driver standings is Zhou Guayu (24) and Valtteri Bottas (34), both of whom are contracted for 2024. But, as we all know, F1 is an unpredictable sport and no one is safe when the stakes are so high.

Théo Pourchaire (middle) is chasing the Formula 2 title.

Felipe Drugovich

Age: 23

Nationality: Brazilian

Ever since the days of mercurial three-time World Championship driver Aytron Senna, Brazil and Formula One have had an unbreakable bond. Should all go to plan, the list of Brazilian F1 drivers could soon be extended with the arrival of the highly touted Felipe Drugovich.

At 23 he is the oldest driver on our list. He is also the most celebrated having won the 2022 F2 Championship by a resounding margin. And while success in F2 success doesn’t necessarily translate into F1 success, it certainly indicates talent is there.

Acting as Aston Martin’s test and reserve driver for the foreseeable future means the young Brazilian has two formidable speed bumps blocking his ascension into F1. Lance Stroll is young and boasts arguably the safest seat in the sport, while Fernando Alonso, a former World Champion, is signed to a multi-year deal and consistently competing at the front of the grid.

However, that’s not to say his F1 dream is completely futile. Alonso is in his early 40s, easily the oldest driver on the grid, and has already retired once, while his F2 success would surely see him be a front runner for open seats on other teams.

“I need to be ready all the time and have the mentality that, at any point, I could be racing,” Drugovich explained. “One day the opportunity might come, so I need to be ready to do the best job that I can.”

Bianca Bustamante

Age: 18

Nationality: Filipino

The youngest entrant on our list, Bianca Bustamante was recently signed to McLaren’s Driver Development Program. She joins the team boasting one of the youngest driver pairings on the grid in Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris, and one that has historically invested in driver development; see Lewis Hamilton.

As part of the Programme, Bustamante will represent McLaren in the 2024 F1 Academy grid. The young driver has been described by Emanuele Pirro, director of the McLaren Racing Driver Development Programme as a “promising young talent who has a brilliant work ethic.”

Only a handful of women called F1 their professional home, with only two drivers ever starting a race – Maria Teresa de Filippis and Lella Lombardi. That’s not to say Bustamante’s future lies outside the sport, with both herself and McLaren declaring their intention to facilitate her progression towards motorsports pinnacle. 

Kyle Robbins
Kyle Robbins
Kyle is a senior sports writer and producer at Only Sports who lives and breathes sport, with a particular burning passion for everything soccer, rugby league, and cricket. You’ll most commonly find him getting overly hopeful about the Bulldogs and Chelsea’s prospects. Find Kyle on LinkedIn.

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