close global

Welcome to GPFans

CHOOSE YOUR COUNTRY

  • NL
  • GB
  • ES-MX
  • US
  • US
New driver shows up huge F1 problem for stars of tomorrow

New driver shows up huge F1 problem for stars of tomorrow

New driver shows up huge F1 problem for stars of tomorrow

New driver shows up huge F1 problem for stars of tomorrow

In a season where not a single driver transfer happened in the off-season, Ollie Bearman's unexpected Saudi Arabian Formula 1 debut was a timely reminder that the sport's 20 drivers have an endless supply of hopefuls looking to replace them.

Bearman only had a single free practice session to familiarise himself with the Ferrari SF-24 and yet nearly matched Lewis Hamilton's qualifying time before advancing four positions in the race.

READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE: American F1 star reveals the 'biggest change' he's made this season

Ferrari's 2024 challenger being a potent machine helps, but this teenager beat 13 far more experienced drivers in the longest race of his career at the fastest street circuit on the calendar.

Yet for all of the headlines Bearman deserves, the British ace was the P6 finisher in Formula 2 2023 and sits bottom of the pile in F2's 2024 standings. He is also the most recent graduate to the top.

READ MORE: Mercedes team boss claims F1 has a 'MASSIVE problem' after FIA investigation

What the F2 champion wins

Drugovich failed to reach F1

The feeder series news you might not have read about that sharply contrasts against the sport's newest debutant is the 2022 F2 champion's signing for the 2024 season or the 2023 champion's seat for this year.

By winning Formula 2 and defeating the other 21+ hopefuls, these two drivers have done what Bearman hasn't but face low F1 race prospects in their immediate future, barring an outbreak of appendicitis through the grid.

Felipe Drugovich, the runaway success story of F2 2022, turned that championship win, the subsequent Aston Martin academy signing, and a year learning how Formula 1 works from the Aston garage into a prestigious... ELMS drive.

ELMS, or European Le Mans Series, is essentially the regional version of WEC, and Drugovich will contest in LMP2 machinery.

While there's nothing wrong with a driver getting track time, LMP2 is not a Formula car, and, for many, ELMS is a step down from Formula 2.

Indeed, the 2024 grid has multiple names that dropped out of the feeder series world without needing to win the top championship on the F1 ladder to get there.

Drugovich will join fellow rookies Ollie Gray, P28 in F3 last year, Lorenzo Fluxa and Macéo Capietto, who contested in Formula Regional in 2023 and decided not to do F3, plus a handful of F1 C-listers like Will Stevens, Robert Kubica, and Paul di Resta, to race around Europe.

It's not the crowning glory of a full-time F1 drive that Charles Leclerc, George Russell, or Oscar Piastri have enjoyed since they stormed to F2 titles.

You have to feel for the Brazilian who put his career on hold for 2023, hoping he'd find an F1 drive somewhere this year.

READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE: Red Bull prodigy lifts the lid on 'surreal' Verstappen encounter

Not-so-super Formula?

Pourchaire is racing in Japan

Things don't look much better for Drugovich's successor, either, with Theo Pourchaire joining Japan's Super Formula this year.

Although the Sauber junior is faring better than Drugovich by having a race seat for the year following his F2 championship glory, it looks like it'll be a lonely time in the Far East for the Frenchman.

Pourchaire is the sole representative in the championship who isn't Japanese, which is unprecedented for the series, even in its Formula Nippon days.

That's not to say that the 2023 F2 champ can't return to Europe with a Sauber seat in 2025, but the man who beat Liam Lawson to the Super Formula title last year, Ritomo Miyata, stepped 'up' to F2, the series Pourchaire just won, for this season.

However, Pourchaire's opening round in Suzuka was a disastrous weekend, and translation-based miscommunication between the Frenchman and the all-Japanese paddock didn't help.

With Sauber having recruited the current F2 championship leader, Zane Maloney, to their ranks, Pourchaire might follow Drugovich and be another forgotten F2 champion who never reaches F1.

READ MORE: Mercedes considering RADICAL move in bid to save 2024 season

Fast guys finish last

Tsunoda didn't win F2

Meritocracy is seldom seen in the junior ranks, with sponsorship or family wealth often taking a driver further than talent alone.

Yet, we're approaching alarming levels of driver disproportionality when the best that the feeder series can provide can't reach F1 while title-less racers can.

That's not to discredit any graduates who reach the top without a championship; Max Verstappen has zero feeder series titles, after all.

It is more to highlight that we've seen Lawson and Bearman arrive in F1 and perform as if they were always there without having time to prepare, yet neither has won the second tier.

While champions Drugovich and Pourchaire wait (im?)patiently for their chance, F2's P3-finishing Zhou Guanyu and Yuki Tsunoda, plus P4-finishing Logan Sargeant, are enjoying F1 employment.

Yes, there are other factors, such as how long it takes a driver to win a F2 title and academy affiliation.

Nonetheless, if a seat in ELMS or being a stranger in a strange land is the grand prize for years of paying to be the support paddock and taking P1, you have to wonder if the next Verstappen-level driver might decide never to bother trying to reach F1.

READ MORE: DtS star Guenther Steiner lands SECOND new role after Haas exit

Related

Lewis Hamilton Ferrari Ollie Bearman
F1 Sprint still isn't perfect, but 2024 changes show Formula 1 is listening
GPFans Exclusive

F1 Sprint still isn't perfect, but 2024 changes show Formula 1 is listening

  • Today 01:00
What Alonso's Aston Martin extension tells us about Verstappen's Red Bull future
GPFans Feature

What Alonso's Aston Martin extension tells us about Verstappen's Red Bull future

  • April 13, 2024 18:00

F1 Race Calendar

Complete kalender 2025
Ontdek het op Google Play