Formula 1 is back! Hallelujah! My Twitter feed this morning was filled with people rejoicing at the sight of a FP1, that’s when you know the lack of racing has affected racing fans. The F2 and F3 feeder series run alongside the F1 programme for the first legs of the European season. I was watching the F2 opening qualifying session and was shocked to see how quickly the rookies were going. The F2 feeder series has been quite notorious for it being a steep learning curve for drivers, but there were drivers I hadn’t even heard of right at the top of the timing sheets. I knew I needed to do some research, and here is what I found!
The rise and fall and rise of Dan Ticktum. Of all the rookies this year, his name is one I have already heard of, and not for a good thing. Ticktum was rising through the junior categories well, until in 2015 he decided to overtake 10 cars behind a safety car to purposely crash into a rival, earning himself a 2 year ban, later reduced to one year. He got picked up by the Red Bull Junior Programme who evidently saw the potential in the lad. He responded with winning the prestigious Macau Gran Prix, twice! In 2018, he competed in the F3 championship, and led from the beginning until Mick Schumacher went on a dominant run to secure the championship. Not bad, until he accused Schumacher and his Prema team of cheating. He later went to the Japanese Super Formula to achieve the necessary points to get into Formula 1. This turned into a nightmare, with numerous poor results causing him to be dropped by the Red Bull Junior Programme. Williams have taken a chance on him and strengthened their junior programme. He has become their test driver, adding on top of his previous test in 2018 in a McLaren. Joining the DAMS team, he looks to continue to ascendency, with Williams hoping he can keep himself focused solely on his racing.
The 20 year old Russian is another veteran of the Toyota Championship. However, in 2018, Shawartzman came out champion, finishing every race in the top 5. Preceding this, Shwartzman had an impressive season in the Formula Renault championship, and was snapped up by the Ferrari Driving Academy. He repaid there faith in him in 2019, coming straight from his success in Toyota Racing Series by comfortably winning the F3 Championship with the Prema team. It is no wonder he has been promoted again by the Prema team into the F2 fold. Being a part of the Ferrari Driving Academy could see Shwartzman have a few runs in practice in the Alfa Romeo or Haas cars. This would be valuable for the young Russian, and could see Ferrari’s desire to see him in the F1 field in years to come.
The 20 year old Brazilian lines up 2nd in the Austrian Feature Race in his F2 debut. A fantastic showing for the new rookie, even more when you look at his past results. In the 2019 season he finished the season in 16th, finishing only once in the points. Looking at the F2 results for 2019 it looks as if his Carlin team didn’t produce a good car, with little points to show all year. Although in 2018 he proved his championship material by dominating the Euroformula Open Championship and Spanish F3. The rookie had a post season test in the MP motorsport car and must have shown his pace to be offered a seat, and then to stick it on the front row.
Lundgaard has been apart of the Renault Driving Academy since 2017, having won the Spanish F4 and SMP F4 Championships. At 18 years old, Lundgaard is one of the youngest pilots in the F2 field this year. Lundgaard will race this year for the French ART team, and will carry the Renault name on his car. A promising year in F2 could see him in with a shout with the Renault F1 seat next year when Daniel Ricciardo moves on.
The Indian native competes in his debut season in the new look Carlin team, complete in a full Red Bull livery as both drivers are apart of the Red Bull Young Drivers Academy. Daruvala signed onto the programme earlier this year, having shown his pace in the F3 season in which he came third. In the e season he scored podiums on 4 occasions, winning 2 out of the first 3 races. In 2016, Daruvala competed in the Toyota Racing Series. In this series he raced alongside Artem Markelov and Guanyu Zhou, current rivals in the F2 championship, and came second in the championship, behind current McLaren F1 driver Lando Norris. He has shown he can race alongside proper F1 material; he is definitely one to watch this year.
The 19 year old Kiwi joins the French ART group for the F2 championship this year having a good run in previous years in previous junior categories. In the tight Toyota Championship that Shwartzman won, Armstrong came in third only 15 points behind. Armstrong on paper had a similar season, finishing in the top 5 every race, except the last. He scored more wins and podiums than the champion that year, his seventh place in the final race cost him the title. The same couldn’t be said in last year’s F3 season. Although he won 3 races, he was thoroughly beaten by Shwartzman again. He returned again to the Toyota Series, but this time came second behind another Kiwi. Armstrong quite clearly has the pace, will be interesting to see if he can convert this in the stacked F2 Championship.
The final major rookie contender this year is the 20 year old Red Bull Junior Driver. Tsunoda was signed to Red Bull due to their connection with Honda, but also the pace of Japanese pilot. In 2018, he won the Japanese F4 Championship, before being promoted to the F3 Championship. He started slow, but ultimately showed his pace towards the end, scoring a second place in the Belgian sprint race, a third in the Monza feature race, before winning the Monza sprint race. He got promoted again to the F2 field, and has already showed his pace by leading the opening practice session.
There you have it, 7 rookies, adding to the other experienced drivers who could be in contention of the F2 title, and hoping to make the jump into F1.