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The F1 seats up for grabs - why Ricciardo and Alonso could be in trouble

The F1 seats up for grabs - why Ricciardo and Alonso could be in trouble

The F1 seats up for grabs - why Ricciardo and Alonso could be in trouble

The F1 seats up for grabs - why Ricciardo and Alonso could be in trouble

With the 2024 season starting with exactly the same grid which finished 2023, the non-existent silly season has seen the driver market stagnate even further, with Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc both signing new deals last week.

The the only drivers with a secure future beyond 2024 are Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, George Russell, Oscar Piastri, and now Leclerc and Norris.

In other words, six teams have two seats up for grabs, Ferrari and Red Bull are still in the market for a driver apiece, and just Mercedes and McLaren are set for next season.

With the exceptions of Carlos Sainz, Fernando Alonso, and the resurgent Alex Albon, the remaining drivers available for 2025 appear to be either past their prime or, at best, destined to be benchwarmers.

As Liam Lawson and Piastri proved last year, the junior series is ablaze with talent that might electrify given the opportunity.

Perhaps the upcoming year of driver moves might give many youngsters pushing against the glass ceiling that chance to smash through and shine.

Accounting for the teams' academy programmes and previous affiliations, these are the top 10 names from the junior ranks who might usurp 2024's F1 failures.

The Formula 2 champion Theo Pourchaire could finally land a Formula 1 move

Theo Pourchaire

2023's Formula 2 champion, Theo Pourchaire, was once the golden child of the junior ranks with the world at his fingertips.

The French driver perhaps didn't fulfil the incredibly high expectations of his nation to follow Leclerc, Russell, or Piastri as rookie F2 champions, but finished in F2's top five for three consecutive seasons.

Maturing more each year, Pourchaire eventually won the championship with a single win and consistent points after slightly more hit-or-miss seasons preceding his title — quite like compatriot and four-time F1 champion Alain Prost became famous for.

A long-time Sauber junior team member, Pourchaire could be Audi's secret weapon if he steps up to the Stake F1 outfit in 2025.

F1 drivers in trouble: Valtteri Bottas, Guanyu Zhou

Felipe Drugovich is a rising star in the Aston Martin ranks

Felipe Drugovich

Aston Martin's first recruit to their junior roster was the surprise driver of the 2022 F2 season after Felipe Drugovich swapped decent midfield finishes to controlling the field, somewhat akin to Esteban Ocon suddenly taking the 2024 F1 title by Singapore.

Sadly for the Brazilian, F1 teams only took notice when it was too late for him to make the step up to the top and without any Mazepin money to buy a drive, he became stuck in the doldrums.

Contract chaos in 2024 might be the storm he needs to land a seat somewhere, especially if Alonso upsets the market again as he did in 2022 or business-savvy Lawrence Stroll wants to loan his starlet out for a later payoff.

As other teams have junior programmes of varying quality or without a fully incubated racer, Drugovich could plug a gap — not to mention be the answer to the perpetual questions around Lance Stroll's long-term future.

F1 drivers in trouble: Lance Stroll, Logan Sargeant, Kevin Magnussen, Nico Hulkenberg

Liam Lawson briefly replaced Daniel Ricciardo during the 2023 season

Liam Lawson

As someone convinced I'd see a Daniel Ricciardo championship-winning season after the Aussie outshone Sebastian Vettel 10 years ago, it's strange to adjust to others from the antipodes usurping the honey badger.

Australia's Piastri and New Zealand's Liam Lawson are now Oceania's best hopes of taking world championship glory to the other side of the world after their breakout 2023 seasons.

Lawson was like a duck to water — or perhaps a kiwi to coniferous forest — when parachuting into the sport last year, and he should consider himself unfortunate not to be an F1 driver in 2024.

Whether or not Visa Cash App RB are a sister or junior team to Red Bull, Lawson proved he's ready to join the big leagues.

F1 drivers in trouble: Daniel Ricciardo, Yuki Tsunoda

Ferrari have their hands on the talented Brit Oliver Bearman

Oliver Bearman

Long gone are the days when Hamilton was the only Brit on the grid with the Union Flag facing an uncertain future.

Russell and Norris look like everpresent figures, and the trio might welcome a fourth name by 2025 or 2026, thanks to the incredibly impressive Ollie Bearman.

The Essex teenager started drawing attention by taking the Italian and German ADAC Formula 4 titles in the same year back in 2021 and has since joined the F1 support series with some dominating drives.

Set for his second season in F2 this year, Bearman is one of the favourites for the title and has just had further Ferrari backing by becoming their reserve driver for 2024 after two years in their Driver Academy.

F1 drivers in trouble: Kevin Magnussen, Nico Hulkenberg

Italian wonder Andrea Kimi Antonelli will be one to watch

Andrea Kimi Antonelli

Bearman's new teammate for 2024 is Mercedes' Italian wonder Andrea Kimi Antonelli, the 17-year-old ace who seemingly wins every racing series he reaches.

There hasn't been as much hype about a driver making their way through the ranks since Verstappen's lightning-fast ascent, and Mercedes didn't dampen any excitement when they opted to jump Antonelli past F3 for 2024.

Formula 4 to Formula Regional to Formula 3 to Formula 2 is the usual path for F1 hopefuls.

However, with two F4 and two Regional championships in the bag, Toto Wolff's team thinks Antonelli is ready for F2.

Should this Italian ace take another rookie title, he can't usurp the contracted Hamilton or Russell at the Silver Arrows in 2025.

Yet it'd be madness not to place him elsewhere to hone his craft, and he could follow the Russell route at Williams on his way to Brackley.

F1 driver in trouble: Logan Sargeant

2022 F3 champ Victor Martins will be looking to make his mark

Victor Martins

PREMA's Bearman and Antonelli partnership is a potent F2 force for 2024, but 2022 F3 champ Victor Martins will be their primary antagonist over the season.

Another French star like Pourchaire, Martins narrowly lost out to Piastri in the 2019 Formula Renault Eurocup championship and has taken a slower season-by-season climb through the ranks.

While Alpine missed the Piastri opportunity by not having any seats available for the Aussie, Martins has a vastly different landscape in front of him as Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon are without a contract for 2025.

F1 drivers in trouble: Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly

Jack Doohan tests for Alpine during the 2022 season

Jack Doohan

Alpine's Jack Doohan is another Oceania hopeful who seems to have a brighter future than Ricciardo — should he reach F1, that is.

F3's 2021 vice-champion and third in F2 last year, Doohan doesn't have a single-seater championship to his name, which might be a sticking point, but neither did Verstappen when he stepped up.

The three Feature Race victories in 2023 are more than either Pourchaire or P2-finishing Frederik Vesti managed, and Doohan was, for all intents and purposes, a one-man team all year, somewhat sandbagging his campaign.

We all know how turbulent Alpine has been recently [Former F1 driver SAVAGES Permane and Szafnauer after Alpine sackings ], so even with Martins as most likely to step up, don't rule out Doohan.

F1 drivers in trouble: Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly

Gabriel Bortoleto could be the next superstar Brazil are looking for

Gabriel Bortoleto

Brazil is in desperate need of a new F1 star. Between Drugovich and reigning F3 champion Gabriel Bortoleto, they have two ready to go.

Nobody expected to see Bortoleto be a rookie champion in 2023 after never really challenging for the Formula Regional crown, but he was a revelation with no one else coming close to the title.

McLaren promptly snapped him up, and with Lando Norris, Nyck de Vries, and Stoffel Vandoorne as recent history's other junior members, an F1 drive isn't unlikely.

Bortoleto's problem is where might he go, and 2026 might be a more likely season to step up, but maybe the surprise 2023 F3 champ could be the surprise 2024 champ, too.

That being said, he is under Fernando Alonso's control, and we saw Alonso leaving McLaren in 2018, opening a seat for close friend Carlos Sainz, so you never know...

F1 driver in trouble: Fernando Alonso?!

Franco Colapinto could have a future Williams drive lined up

Zak O'Sullivan & Franco Colapinto

As with their Formula 1 outfit, Williams' junior academy is rapidly turning around after some time, with questionable drivers previously representing the classic team.

With Logan Sargeant's promotion for 2023, the team appear ready to shake off its Mercedes link as a nursery for future talent, and there are many more names in the pipeline.

Britain's Zak O'Sullivan and Argentina's Franco Colapinto are the candidates to fight for a spot among motorsport's finest, and each will enjoy a rookie F2 campaign in 2024.

Like Bortoleto, 2025 might be a season too soon for a promotion, but they might exceed all expectations and be among the top spots by the end of the year.

Logan Sargeant's mid-season rookie F2 surge came when Nicholas Latifi couldn't find extra speed; that became a full-time F1 drive...

The American must hope history doesn't repeat itself with his 2025 future on the line instead.

F1 driver in trouble: Logan Sargeant

READ MORE: F1 Schedule 2024: Full calendar with all you need to know about every grand prix

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