Are F2 Drivers Really Fighting the Fair Fight Towards F1
Written by Luke Edmonds:
Twitter (For More Work): @LukeEdm66579762
Out of the 22 drivers that currently make up the Formula 2 grid, there are only 7 drivers that are not in an F1 Team’s Driver Academy. Out of these 7 drivers, they make up an average 15th position on the grid. The remaining 15 drivers either fall into the Red Bull Young Drivers Academy, the Sauber YDA, Mercedes YDA, Ferrari YDA, or Williams Young Driver Partnership (Nissany).
At the end of this current Formula One season, we will see 7 of the 20 drivers experience a contract negotiation, whether it is one-sided, or two. Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are both set to have their contract expire at the end of this season, however both of these drivers have done more than enough in their time at the team to remain there. While George is almost a guaranteed lock for the seat next year, there have been speculations around Lewis Hamilton. If he chooses to retire, does Mercedes look at Vesti? He currently sits at P3 in the drivers championship. Won the Feature Race in Jeddah, and was just under 2 seconds away from securing P3 in the Melbourne Feature race.
The answer is more than likely no. Mercedes as a whole doesn’t take young drivers directly from F2 to their team, as we saw with George. Vesti is having a great season, and Mercedes may be able to secure him a seat with another team, but his academy ties will not get him into a championship winning car.
How about Red Bull? Both of their drivers are under contract until at least the end of 2024, but they have the seat at Alpha Tauri opening up with Tsunoda’s contract expiring. This is a move that is of course dependent of Yuki’s performance throughout the remainder of the season, but even if they decide to part ways with the Japanese driver, what direction do they even go with? Red Bull currently has 7 of the 15 Academy drivers locked down to theirs. Do they bring us Iwasa? The current championship leader is spending his second year in Formula 2, after he was brought up from Formula 3. It is probably more likely that if Red Bull were going to look to replace that seat, that they might go back in the direction of Alexander Albon, who has been impressive in his return to Formula One for with Williams team.
Maybe Sauber? Currently, Valterri Bottas’ contract is expected to expire at the end of 2025, but do to his recent performance, and his performance in comparison to Zhou’s, could Alfa Romeo look to make a move to remove Bottas the way that Mclaren did to Ricciardo, and even if that is the case, do they look at Theo Pourchaire? The answer to this one is probably yes. If Sauber made a move to get rid of either of their two drivers, Zhou due to his expiring contract, or Bottas due to performance, Sauber would more than likely make the move to bring up Theo to replace them. However, if they did want to make a full swap, would they consider Stankek?
Roman Stanek and Sauber had a partnership in 2019 while Roman was In Formula 4, but the partnership did not carry into F3 or the Formula Renault Eurocup, when Stanek was promoted in 2020. The answer to that one is no. Sauber would more than likely look to house a driver from another program who doesn’t have a seat, or take in an un-academied driver such as Ralph Boschung.
Finally, Ferrari. Ferrari secured a long term deal with Leclerc in 2019, but that deal expires at the end of next season, as well as Sainz’s. In the meantime though, Charles Leclerc’s brother, Arthur Leclerc is driving for DAMS, and under the Ferrari Driver Academy badge. Prema driver Oliver Bearman is also driving as a junior for the Prancing Horse, but doesn’t look set to take the F1 stage as of now. If A. Leclerc’s performance keeps up at the level it currently sits at, Ferrari may look to move him up as a Alfa Romeo driver. It is expected that even though Sauber is taking back over as the main title sponsor for the team after the 2023 season, that the ties to Ferrari will remain, so if the Zhou or Bottas move results in Pourchaire taking the step up, would Ferrari push Haas to take on the Monegasque at the end of the season to replace Magnussen?
What’s being said is simple. Formula One is a game of chess, and the drivers in F2 are pawns on another board. It is the motorsport equivalent of right place, right time. We saw it with Piastri last year. There wasn’t an opening with Alpine, so he sat in the corner until it was time for him to go rogue and sign with Mclaren. The path to F1 was never guaranteed to be simple, but if it was truly based on performance, any team would be shooting to land any F2 champion that graduates out of the sport, but as we’ve seen in the past, that is not always the case. As of right now, 2 of the 6 drivers who have won an F2 championship are without a seat, including the reigning champion. Last year however, both De Vries and Piastri were names that we weren’t seeing either.
If F2 was a way to make it into Formula One because you deserved to be there, then we probably would have a different grid, but if Formula One is a game of politics, and you trate your academy drivers like a toddler treats their toys, then you leave F2 world champion Nyck De Vries, Oscar Piastri, Felipe Druogivch, and Mick Schumcher off the grid, and give Lance Stroll a championship car because his dad owns the team.
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