Interviewed by Danny Jones, edited by Harshi Vashee
F4 is regarded as the 1st step to F1 in almost every racing driver’s career – but not Mads Hoe. Mads didn’t even technically win the Danish F4 Championship, he was racing in an F5 car – more on that later. We discussed Mads’ career so far, his title winning season, and there’s even a bombshell at the end!
What got you into Motorsport?
Mads: My father wasn’t home so much when I was a child because of his job, so he bought a go kart for me,and one for himself, so we could spend the weekends on the racetracks together and then it just evolved from there.
Do you have any motorsport inspirations?
Mads: I really don’t know. I´ve always just been driving because it was fun but, if I have to mention someone, it would be Kimi.
Kimi Raikkonen once said he treats motorsport as a hobby, would you say you do too?
Mads: Well, you can’t say it better than he does. I drive and compete in motorsports because I think it’s fun, and because of all the good times I’ve experienced. I love the way Kimi is racing because he loves it, no matter if it´s rally or F1, he is just doing what he loves.
You managed to win the championship in an F5 car, what is the difference with an F5 and F4 car?
Mads: The Formula 5 was called Formula Ford a few years ago so, a lot of people already know what a F5 car is. It is just a Formula Ford with a wing-kit from an F4 and a limiter that limits the F5 from 160 hp to 125 hp.
For me, it is just so much fun driving the F5. I just love the Formula 5, I feel so much at home driving it. The H-pattern is so much more difficult than the supportive paddle shift, which won’t downshift before the car is ready and by itself cuts the gas in the upshifts.
Even though the Formula 5 has been limited to 125 hp from the former 160 hp, it’s still just so much more fun (We´re losing around 1 and a half second per lap because of the limiter)
The Formula 4 cars have 160 hp, wider tires, paddle shifts, better brakes and are also never made from carbon.
Whereas, the F5 now have 125 hp, H-pattern gearbox, no supportive, pipe frame chassis, and most of them are 10 years older than the F4.
What is it like driving for your own team?
Mads: This is a tough one to answer, I have never tried anything else, it has always just been me and my dad. But I think that it is my favorite part because as a child, my dad wasn’t home much because of his job so, racing on the weekends was a way for me to spend a lot of time with him.
How good are names like Juju Noda and Emerson Fittipaldi Jr for the series in increasing its reputation and popularity? Mads:It is good, but they´re only choosing to drive in Denmark, because they can begin a year earlier than in other countries. I think that the Danish F5 and F4 need to rely on the Danish talents, because the international talents won’t keep coming every year.
You’ve raced in Danish F4 for a while, is this the most competitive it has ever been? Mads: Actually I´ve only technically been racing in the Danish F4 for a single year, that was in 2019. The other years I have been competing in F5, but with participation in F4, because the F5s are running like a b-rank for the F4. If you are comparing my lap times in the two cars, I´ve been around half a second faster in the Formula 4 on every track, than I have ever been in the Formula 5. So I haven’t been faster this year than the other years, the others have just been slower.
The whole year they have all said it was because I had more experience. None of them realized that they had been sitting behind the steering wheel of a race car for more kilometers than I have, because I never do test days – I only drive on race weekends.
Are there any particular highlights from this year? Mads: I think I have a favorite on track highlight and a favorite off-track highlight this year
The on-track highlight is my pass on Wulff on the outside off turn 3 on Jyllandsringen in the rain, it shows how much I believe in what the car can do, and it was a lot of fun.
The off-track highlight is from the first race weekend of the year; I made a perfect race weekend with pole position and 3 heat wins. After the races Emmo (Emerson Jr.) came into our tent with a Pirelli cap signed by his father – I was absolutely starstruck. Just being recognized by them was absolutely stunning for me. What do you love about motorsport? Mads: This can’t be explained with words man. Well, there are so many things that I love about it, not only the racing, but also seeing the young guns evolving into better race drivers.
I´m in love with the adrenalin, the races, the weekends with the team, my mechanics and my dad, the winning feeling and so on, it just continues. Can we expect you to be continuing in the series next year? Mads: Well, I´ve said to myself that 2021 was going to be my last year racing, partly because we can´t find the budget to keep doing it, but also because I´m getting older, I need to focus on my education as a Web developer and begin to work a lot more.
But who knows if an offer slides into my DM I’ll consider it.
No matter what, the team will continue. My sister will still be racing and we’ll try to get some other drivers to join Mads Hoe Motorsport. I will still be present at the Danish races as a coach and mentor for our drivers, and who knows, maybe I´ll guest a race or two in a race car older than most of the boys in Formula 4 haha.
We thank Mads for his time answering our questions and wish him the best of luck on his post-racing career!
Interviewed by Danny Jones, Edited by Harshi Vashee
As 2021 draws to a close, many motorsports start rounding out their seasons and finding their champions. None other than French F4, regarded as one of the starting blocks for F1, and we were fortunate enough to interview the champion, Esteban Masson.
What got you into Motorsport?
Esteban: My dad was driving a bit, so I just wanted to do the same, so I tried it, and I loved it.
Who are your motorsport idols? Esteban: Honestly, I find Hamilton an incredible driver, but I don’t really have any idols, I’m more concerned on what I’m doing.
What is it that you find so incredible about motorsport? Esteban: All the speed and adrenaline you feel inside a racing car.
What expectations did you have for this season? Esteban: I was here to win, and I’m really happy to have done so.
Is there anyone from the series who you think may be a big name in the future? Esteban: Hugh Barter is actually a really good driver, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes up the ranks in the next few years.
Barter finished 2nd to Esteban in the standings
What is your racing number and why did you choose it?
Esteban: 9, just because it’s my favourite number from the beginning
In what area do you think you’re strongest as a racing driver? Esteban: Maybe at all the high speed tracks, because they’re my favourites. I’m also really strong in qualifying, I think.
That’s certainly true, Esteban picked up 9 out of 14 poles this season!
Do you have any particular highlight or moment from the season?
Esteban: Nothing in particular, but this entire season has been a good memory
Is there anything particularly you want to do in your racing career? Esteban: Yeah, I would just like to progress up through the single-seater pyramid
Do you have any plans for next year? Esteban: Yessir, FRECA!
We thank Esteban for his time in answering our questions, even finding out his series for next year, and wish him the best of luck in the upcoming seasons.
There are thousands of drivers who are all racing in junior formula with a hope of one day joining Formula One. Here at Divebomb 6 of us have chosen who we think is the best young driver from the countries we live in.
Written by Olly Radley, Tanishka Vashee, Morgan Holiday, Thomas Bergamo, Daniil Jones, Janvi Unni.
Edited by Harshi Vashee
Olly – The United Kingdom
I’ll start off then from the United Kingdom, a country steeped with rich motor racing history, I naturally have a good selection of young talents to choose from. Some would first look at drivers such as Dan Ticktum or Oli Caldwell, or even the recently crowned GB3 champion, Zak O’Sullivan. While all 3 are top talents with great chances of Formula One, the prospect of the kid I’ve gone for, far outweighs the others.
I’ve been shouting praise for Ollie Bearman for a while now but over the course of his F4 campaign he’s backed me up quite nicely. Ollie is at the latter-part of a very successful year in both ADAC and Italian F4. In Italy, he’s already the champion before they’ve even gone to the final round in Monza. ADAC F4 has also been a success so far, leading by 35 points going into the final 2 rounds at Hockenheim and the Nurburgring.
Not only has he won or led these series, but he’s straight up dominated them. From the 2nd race at Misano to the 1st race at the Red Bull Ring (a span of 9 races), Ollie won 8 of them, and was disqualified after victory in the 9th. Add another 4 podiums to the mix and you get a phenomenal F4 season.
Not only has he impressed motorsport fans at home but it seems he has already caught the eye of Formula One. Recently, Ollie has been taking part in a Ferrari Driver Academy scouting camp. There are a few other candidates but having impressed in their own backyard, I’d say Bearman has a very strong chance of becoming the FDA’s newest young prospect. What stands out most with Ollie is the consistency and maturity he shows. At just 16 he is able to always be at the front or thereabouts throughout a whole season of racing. With his team, Van Amersfoort joining F3 in 2022, who knows, maybe we’ll see Ollie racing in Formula 3 next year.
Thomas – Italy
Italy has a central role in motorsport. The two races this year, and the three last year, can prove it. Apart from the drama, every Italian person dreams to be the next Micheal Schumacher. Indeed, many Italian talents are ready to launch themselves in a big competition (like Formula 2 or Formula 3) or, maybe, they already are into it. One of these “rising stars” is Lorenzo Colombo.
Colombo’s first kart appearance goes back to 2009, when he took part in the Italian karting championship. In 2011 he took part in the EasyKart Italian championship, getting two fourth places and the third place in the general on his rookie season. The next year he won the EasyKart championship, re-taking what he lost in the previous one. In the same year he decided to take part in the 60cc Italian karting championship. This championship benefited him to third place in the standings. Colombo, in 2012, had the opportunity to take part in the WSK, but the level of the world championship grew. Between 2013 and 2015, he fought in the “Malaguti Trophy ” getting two second places on the general standings. He got the same result in the italian kart championship, finishing only behind Alessandro Giardelli (currently an Italian Porsche Carrera CUP driver).
2015 will be his last year on karts, before passing in the single-seaters. His journey starts with BVM Racing, which gets him the seat. In 2016, in his rookie season, he finished the championship in the 12th position. 2017 was a completely different season. He had to compete in three championships (Formula 4 Italian championship, ADAC Formula 4 and Euroformula Open) anc two different categories, for a total of 26 races to dispute. But Lorenzo, in that year, showed all of his potential. He got his first podium in Imola, a second place which had the taste of victory. Apart from this podium, he got two victories, eight podiums and three pole positions. In ADAC Formel 4 he runned only three races, with Bhaitech, and he raced only one race in Euroformula Open with Campos Racing, getting good results in both categories.
The third place in the Italian Formula 4 championship standings benefited him a seat in JD Motorsport in Formula Renault Cup for the 2018 year. He surprised lots of fans by finishing four times on the podium, Monza (both race 1 and race 2), Hockenheim, and Red Bull Ring, and a fifth place in Catalunya. In 2019, with MP motosport, he made the quality jump, finishing fourth in the Formula Renault, behind Oscar Piastri by a hundred of points. In 2020, he was decided to win the championship. But his season start was disappointing. Constantly in the top 10, but he never had the rivals’ pace. But his season finale was surprising, winning three races and setting two fastest laps.
After these results, Adrian Campos offered him a seat in Formula 3 with his own team: Campos Racing. Both Lorenzo and Mr. Campos released happy statements after the Italian signed the contract. A thing you must know about Lorenzo Colombo is that he’s a master in tricky conditions.
Thanks to his skills he won race 1 in Hungary (before getting penalized for exceeding track limits) that he dedicated to Adrian Campos, who has suddenly passed away. Adrian was a really important figure in the Italian’s career.
He was one of the firsts to believe in him and the Spaniard wanted Colombo in his team. But he showed in another race all of his skills: race 1 in Spa-Francorchamps. Indeed, he was able to run away from the other drivers and then he could manage an advantage of ten seconds, on his debut season. He finished this season in fifteenth place, with one victory and two fastest laps.
He is one of the best italian talents and, maybe, we could see him next year in a top team, like Prema.
Morgan – USA
America is full of young driving talent, but most don’t make it far up the Formula 1 ladder. In the history of FIA Formula 2, only four drivers have raced under the American flag. One of those drivers was Indycar racer, Patricio O’Ward, who is of Mexican nationality and only competed in two races. The other three drivers, Juan Manuel Correa, Ryan Tveter, and Santino Ferrucci, also never competed in a full season, meaning that no American driver has ever completed a season of Formula 2.
Formula 3, on the other hand, is a different matter. In the 2021 season, five drivers competed in at least two rounds of the series: Juan Manuel Correa, Jak Crawford, Kaylen Frederick, Hunter Yeany, and Logan Sargeant. Of those drivers, Logan Sargeant finished highest with seventh place in the championship standings, and has (arguably) the most talent.
Sargeant made headlines in 2015, when he became the first American to win an FIA Karting Championship since Lake Speed in 1978. From there he made his way up the Formula 1 feeder series ladder, eventually joining Formula 3 in 2019 with Carlin. While he finished 19th in the standings that year, he managed to impress with a podium at the Macau Grand Prix. The following season he signed with Prema Racing and narrowly missed out on winning the title, which went to Alpine junior driver Oscar Piastri.
For the 2021 season Sargeant remained in Formula 3, as he didn’t have the financial backing to progress up to Formula 2. He raced with Charouz, and finished seventh in the standings, giving the Czech team their first podium and race win in the series. Sargeant also scored 102 of the team’s 127 points and as a result, Charouz finished fifth in the team standings, a personal best. Sergeant’s ability to perform in both top teams and backmarkers and his ability to draw the maximum pace out of whatever he’s driving earns him my pick for the best young American racing talent.
Tanishka – India
2013 was the last time a Grand Prix was held in India, F1’s popularity peaked, fell and is once again gaining momentum. India boasts a growing audience for Formula One, and with young Indian talent just breaking into the world of motorsport, it is bound to increase.
My Pick for this piece is none other than Jehan Daruvala. The young driver from Mumbai is part of Red Bull’s Junior team and is seventh in the F2 standings, driving for Carlin Motorsport. Racing in India is not yet as massive and competitive as in the case of European countries. Jehan had the privilege of being able to turn his dreams into reality and started Karting in competitions globally at the age of 13.
In 2015, he raced in Formula Renault 2.0 NEC, finishing fifth, he also made appearances in Formula Renault 2.0 Alps and Eurocup Formula 2.0. The following year he took part in the Toyota Racing Series and finished second. In 2017, he made a move to the European Formula 3 championship with Carlin Racing. He won a race at Norisring, outperforming all his teammates except for Lando Norris who went on to win the title. Jehan competed in the inaugural season of the FIA Formula Three Championship in 2018, taking two wins, five other podiums and finishing third overall.
Jehan made it to Formula 2 with Carlin racing with Yuki Tsunoda as his teammate. Not only had he shown brilliance in the fight for the F3 title but he also found himself recruited by Red Bull’s young driver program. It took him a while to find his rhythm, after taking a win at the season finale, his confidence was back.
2021 is shaping to be a good year for him, he raced for Mumbai Falcons in the F3 Asian Championship, got three wins and finished third in the standings. In his second season of Formula 2, he won the sprint race at Monza and the feature race at Sochi. These wins have been monumental in establishing him as the face of motorsport in India.
Jehan has been candid about the level of competition and his expectations, he hopes to make it to F1 by 2023. Realistically speaking, seeing how he improves with every race, it’s within reach for him to make it to the pinnacle of motorsport.
He brings younger audiences in India exposure to the world of racing. Watching him make it to the top will definitely grow the sport’s appeal to Indian viewers.
Daniil – Russia
Motorsport in Russia was almost non-existent until the last decade. The arrival of Vitaly Petrov in 2010, followed by Daniil Kvyat, Sergey Sirotkin and Nikita Mazepin shows the growing interest in Russia. The Russian Grand Prix was held for the 1st time at the Sochi Autodrom, and in the last decade, the country has constructed 2 more Grade 1 circuits, in Moscow Raceway and Igora Drive, where F1 is set to relocate to in 2023.
The growing interest has promoted some talents, and my pick will be Robert Shwartzman. Despite Shwartzman being somewhat underwhelming in 2021, he still sits a respectable 3rd in the standings, and the championship is still not quite out of reach, as F2 heads to Jeddah and Yas Marina. Shwartzman is part of the Ferrari Driver Academy, and since he joined in 2017, has picked up titles in the Toyota Racing Series and FIA Formula 3.
He impressed us in his 1st F2 season too, 4 victories was the most of anyone on the grid in 2020 and consistency meant he finished 4th in the standings. He was unfortunate to miss out on an F1 seat too, after Alfa Romeo opted to stay with Giovinazzi and Haas chose Mazepin and Schumacher. Even though a title is still within grasp this year, the Alfa Romeo seat is near impossible for him, with Piastri, Zhou, Herta, de Vries and Giovinazzi all believed to be ahead in the pecking order.
Although his hopes are diminishing, an F1 seat will certainly not be impossible. It does remain to be seen whether he will do a 3rd F2 season. But, without doubt, he is an immense talent, and is highly rated by everyone in the paddock. Russian talent doesn’t stop there either, Alex Smolyar impressed in F3, whilst Nikita Bedrin and Kiril Smal are impressing in F4.
Is Shwartzman good enough for F1? Certainly. Will it happen? Time will tell.
Janvi – New Zealand
F1 hasn’t had too many drivers from New Zealand, the most well-known being Bruce McLaren and Brendon Hartley. But one 19 year old from Hastings, New Zealand is waiting patiently among the vast number of eager talents in junior motorsport series.
Liam Lawson, mentored by 3-time NZ Grand Prix winner Ken Smith, has won on his debut in every category he’s raced in, barring F2: Formula First, Formula Ford, Formula 3 Asia and Toyota Racing Series; which he won overall in 2019 with 3 wins and 6 podiums. In 2017, he won the NZ F1600 Championship Series in his home country, New Zealand. In 2020, Lawson had a strong F3 season, winning in Austria and Italy.
In 2021, Liam made the decision to race a dual campaign. He raced in DTM with AF Corse and finished the championship as runner-up in his rookie season. In Formula 2, he’s competing at Hitech GP with fellow RedBull academy driver Juri Vips. He’s won in Bahrain and Monaco, and currently sits 8th in the championship standings with 80 points.
RedBull recently announced that Liam will be doing the young driver’s test with Alpha Tauri in Abu Dhabi at the end of the 2021 season. Although there are no seats available in F1 for 2022, Lawson has said that he’s ready to wait for another year or two for a shot at a seat in Formula One. RedBull motorsports advisor Helmut Marko has confirmed that Liam will return to F2 in 2022.
If all goes well and luck is in Liam’s favour, I’m sure we’ll see him following the footsteps of RedBull academy graduate Yuki Tsunoda, and make his way to the top in Formula One in another 2 or 3 years.
Well that’s it from us then, let us know in the comments where you’re from and who your country’s best shot at F1 is! Until next time.
The Triple Crown of Motorsport is regarded as one of the biggest achievements in sport worldwide, in fact, it is so hard to achieve that only one man has ever done it. Motorsport is full of various categories and series, from stock cars to motorbikes, to some of the best engineering genius the world has ever seen. And some particular series and races stick out from the rest. The Bathurst 1000, the Dakar Rally, the Daytona 24, the Daytona 500, but none come close to the three events which make up the triple crown.
The triple crown is made up of the three most iconic motor races in the world, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500. The 24 Hours of Le Mans has been held since 1923, and is the most iconic sports car race in the world, so big it is bigger than the series it is in, the World Endurance Championship. Three drivers take turns to hustle one car around the iconic Circuit de la Sarthe for 24 consecutive hours, whilst team personnel are always on standby to make sure the car is in pristine condition. The circuit itself is gruelling enough, only the Nurburgring Nordschleife is a longer circuit currently in use, which contains the iconic Mulsanne straight with a long complex of esses towards the end of the lap. What makes it so tough is the night stints, where drivers only have their small headlights to guide themselves through the blackness, and one small mistake means game over. Tom Kristensen has nine separate Le Mans wins, three clear of the next best, Jacky Ickx, and is regarded as the greatest sports car racer of all time.
The Monaco Grand Prix is the crown jewel of the F1 calendar. Although it regularly comes under criticism for its lack of overtaking opportunities or excitement, it takes nothing away from the accolade of the achievement. Held on the narrow Monte Carlo streets since 1929, the Monaco Grand Prix has drivers on edge all the time, with barriers either side of the driver, with one small mistake meaning certain disaster. It is also the one ‘the drivers want to win’ due to the prestige of Monaco, where celebrities like to play, and is the gem of the F1 season. Monaco is considered the toughest to win of the three, it is hard enough to enter F1, it is even harder to get into a team capable of winning such an event. Ayrton Senna is the most successful driver round the tricky Monaco streets, winning it six times, including in five consecutive seasons.
The final event that makes up the triple crown is the Indianapolis 500. The Indianapolis 500 is so big, that winning the race is a bigger accolade than winning the IndyCar series. The oval race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been held since 1911, and strangely was once part of the F1 World Championship. The Indianapolis 500 features the fastest cars in the world, capable of reaching up to 240mph, with drivers barely dipping below 225mph on their qualifying runs. They can do 2.5 miles in less than 38 seconds. The 500 mile event regularly lasts up to three hours, and with walls waiting to be collided with for 200 laps, it is a tough mental challenge for the drivers, particularly those fighting it out for the win with just ten laps to go. Helio Castroneves joined Rick Mears, Al Unser and AJ Foyt as the elusive four-time 500 winners in 2021. The question is, will the ‘spiderman’ be able to make history in the coming years?
How close have people gotten, and can it be achieved again?
The Triple Crown is prestigious for the variety of races needed to complete it. The toughest sports car race in the world, the toughest F1 race, and the toughest oval race on the planet. Famously, Graham Hill is the only man to have won all three, winning the Monaco Grand Prix in 1963, 1964, 1965, 1968 and 1969, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1972 and the Indianapolis 500 in 1966.
The closest man to ever challenge Graham Hill is Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard won the Monaco Grand Prix in 2006 and 2007, before winning Le Mans in 2018 and 2019. Alonso has been so invested in the triple crown, he sat out the Monaco Grand Prix to compete in the Indianapolis 500 in 2017, something a driver hadn’t done for over 30 years. And after his ‘retirement’ in Abu Dhabi 2018, some of the first words said over the radio to Alonso were: ‘Let’s go win the Triple Crown.’ Alonso came agonisingly close in 2017, leading 27 laps, and running in a good position with just 21 laps to go, before his Honda engine blew out. In 2019, he embarrassingly failed to qualify, being knocked out by the unfancied Kyle Kaiser, before a lackluster result in 2020. The question remains if Alonso will want to return to the Indy 500 after his second F1 spell. With Helio Castroneves winning it at 46 years old this year, maybe it gives hope for Alonso in the future.
Juan Pablo Montoya is the only other active driver to complete two of the Triple Crown, winning the Monaco Grand Prix in 2003 and the Indy 500 in 2000 and 2015. Montoya competed in Le Mans for the first time in 2015, but in the LMP2 class. Debatably Montoya has got a better chance than Alonso if he can secure an LMH drive, but with more manufacturers competing and his interest in the Triple Crown much lower than Alonso’s, he may never be able to fulfill it.
However, the Triple Crown looks even harder to complete now, and there is no guaranteed method to achieve it. A driver would have to progress up the junior categories successfully, and then be able to get into a team capable of winning a Grand Prix, and after all that win at Monaco. Most successful drivers used to be able to get their way into a winning Le Mans team, as there was such little competition, but with 8 manufacturers in the premier class in 2022, the Le Mans challenge will be harder. And with the Indy 500 always conflicting with F1 schedule, a driver is unlikely to be able to do so until their later careers, where they may face some of the best oval racers in the world.
However, the growing links between IndyCar and F1 give a hint of an opportunity to some. Andretti’s growing rumours of F1 give Colton Herta a potential shot, as Andretti would easily allow him to take a seat in both the Indy 500 and F1. However, it seems it would take a while for Andretti to be an F1 frontrunner. Herta has also said he would like to do Le Mans later down the line, something not many teams would deny such a talent of. Pato O’Ward was in the running to win his maiden Indy 500 crown with McLaren this year, and with a F1 test coming up in Abu Dhabi, O’Ward would have the potential get a F1 seat for the future, particularly if he could win the Indy 500 and IndyCar championship, according to Zak Brown.
The Triple Crown will always remain the most difficult thing to achieve in motorsports, maybe even in sports altogether. For one driver to be so successful in three varieties of cars takes some talent, and with it getting harder to achieve, we may never see a triple crown winner again, unless Alonso can miraculously win the Indy 500 after his second F1 stint. Time will tell if it can be done again.
The USA has a long and rich history in motorsports. Formula One is set to have 2 races in the US in 2022 following the addition of the Miami Grand Prix. They’ve had the most circuits in F1 history, they host one of the 3 motorsport ‘triple crown events’ in the Indianapolis 500, and have some of the most prestigious race tracks in the world. But why don’t we see any American drivers in F1, despite the huge amount of racers they have?
America hasn’t seen an F1 driver since Alexander Rossi in 2015. The last full-time driver was Scott Speed in 2007, and the last one to score a point was Michael Andretti, way back in 1993. However, the structure of the US motorsport system means that very few single-seater drivers will ever make it to F1, or even be close to it, and here is why.
Just like many European countries, the US has an F4 series, held since 2016. The natural step above that is Formula Regional America, similar to its European counterpart, albeit with smaller grids and pedigree. After that the next step would be F3, but America’s “Road to Indy” system prevents that from happening.
The “Road to Indy” is similar to how most drivers get to F1. It has 4 stages: US F2000, Indy Pro 2000, Indy Lights, and IndyCar, similar to the F4, F3, F2, F1 format. However, the Road to Indy is much cheaper than the European Formula system, and additionally provides scholarships for the winning driver of each step, meaning they can progress on with their racing careers, ensuring that talented drivers aren’t affected by any possible lack of money.
And in 2022, a new unofficial step is set to be added to the ladder. USF Juniors will be a step below US F2000, and is set to bridge the gap between karting and USF2000, which will have the same scholarship award for winning the championship. Interestingly, it will use the same machinery as USF4, but with the purpose of low costs and high rewards.
Although the F4 and Formula Regional systems are designed to get drivers into F1, many young American talents will find the Road to Indy much more appealing due to the reduced costs, and therefore will only dab into European racing careers. The best example is Kyle Kirkwood, who won US F4 and US F3 (Formula Regional USA), before progressing onto the Road to Indy and performing unbelievably well, winning almost two thirds of his races during the Road to Indy. Someone with that much talent could easily cut it in the F3 system, but we see so many talented drivers drop out of F3 due to funding issues, contrary to the RTI, which has attracted European drivers.
This means any young American star will always be inclined to prefer the RTI. Although there are some exceptions, the pathway beyond F3 is too expensive and unreasonable, and if they can reach IndyCar, their seat will not be heavily influenced by finance, something everyone in motorsport wants to see. With the relations between F1 and IndyCar increasing, could we see the Road to Indy as a method for joining F1?
Who could be America’s next driver?
Logan Sargeant is the first name that may come to many minds. Sargeant finished a superb 3rd year in F3, and although an F2 promotion was fully deserved, funding eventually prevented him from making the step up to F2. In his third year, with Charouz, Sergeant has worked wonders with usually average machinery, claiming his team 3 podiums, something they have never done before. However, funding will always pull him back, so the only way that Sargeant could make F1 is through a driver academy. With many teams sniffing around he has a reasonable shot, although it would be a stroke of luck, but a fully deserved one.
On paper, Crawford probably has the best chance of anyone. He dipped his feet in the Road to Indy, taking part in US F2000, at only 14 years old. However, since being part of the Red Bull Junior program after his US F2000 campaign, his funded career in Europe has gone successfully, and he is doing respectably well in his first F3 season. As a 16-year-old member of the Red Bull academy, Crawford has a decent chance, if he can prove to be good enough. The only downside for him is that the Red Bull seats are becoming more and more competitive. Liam Lawson and Juri Vips have been sensational in F2, and will be looking at an AlphaTauri seat very soon. Dennis Hauger looks set to win F3, with Jack Doohan currently 2nd in the standings, whilst Jonny Edgar and Ayumu Iwasa are also competing with Crawford in F3. Whilst Crawford has the best chance, both the quality and the quantity of Red Bull talent may hold him back.
Andretti Autosport’s star, Colton Herta, can be debated as the best American driver at this moment, and although his chances of getting to F1 are on the lower side, he would certainly be a star in the sport. Despite being only 21, Herta has won 6 IndyCar races, in a struggling Andretti team, and is regarded as one of the stars of the series. Andretti have been rumoured to take over Sauber in the future, and if Andretti were ever be able to get into F1, Herta would have to be a primary contender. His raw speed is incredible, and has dominated races on numerous occasions. Herta has had a brief stint in Europe, where he challenged Lando Norris for the British F4 crown, and came close to the Euroformula Open Championship. If his IndyCar rise up the ranks continues, an F1 move may be on the cards, especially if Andretti finds a way in.
F1 is set to announce new regulations where all the teams must use drivers who have driven in 2 or less Grand Prix’s in a set amount of practice sessions per year, in order to encourage young drivers a clear pathway into the sport. But what options will each team have?
Most teams will make use of their young driver programmes for their Free Practice allocations, and although Mercedes have an academy of their own, their options are still limited. Frederik Vesti is currently lying 5th in the F3 standings, and would be a good option for the Silver Arrows if he were to be promoted to F2, and were to perform there. He is the best option of their academy, with most other drivers in karting or lower formula. However, with Nyck de Vries’ chances of an Alfa Romeo seat fading, he would still be eligible for Practice Sessions in 2022, having never raced in F1 before. As part of their FE team, de Vries has been seen with Mercedes on the odd occasion in 2021, and with the Dutchman being in talks of claiming an F1 seat, a few practice sessions would be of benefit to him.
Red Bull has the most extensive and well-known academy, and alongside AlphaTauri, have the most options on this list. Liam Lawson and Juri Vips are both impressing in their first full season of F2, and many claim they will be within a real shot of an AlphaTauri seat in 2023. Vips was named as Red Bull’s reserve driver for a couple of races toward the end of last year, whilst Lawson is showing his talent in both DTM and F2, despite his awful luck. Both will almost certainly get a few Friday run outs in 2022, whilst Red Bull still have Jehan Daruvala in their books, as well as F3 Champion in waiting, Dennis Hauger, both of whom could also have an opportunity at a Friday session.
Although they do have a driver academy, McLaren’s only driver, Ugo Ugochukwu, is still competing in karts, and would be unsuitable. Other than that, McLaren have no links in the junior formula, but still have options. Nyck de Vries could be pinched off Mercedes for a couple of practice sessions, due to Mercedes providing the Woking outfits engines, and would be able to fill that role. But, McLaren may want to look to Pato O’Ward instead, who is set to receive a test drive for the team in Abu Dhabi, after claiming his first IndyCar win this season. O’Ward has been tipped for a McLaren drive in the future, and if McLaren are interested in the Mexican for a full time drive, the IndyCar title contender could be seen next season.
Aston Martin are one of two teams to not benefit from a driver academy, and therefore have few options. Like McLaren, they would likely borrow Nyck de Vries from Mercedes due to Mercedes engine supply, and otherwise will have little choice.
Alpine are one of three teams to give a driver a free practice opportunity in 2021, when Guanyu Zhou drove in Austria. Alpine have been made known for not making effective use of their academy, but the new regulations mean that Alpine can provide an opportunity to their youngsters. With an Alfa Romeo move looking increasingly likely for Zhou, he is likely not an option, but Alpine still have Oscar Piastri, who is the most likely for the F2 championship, on their books, and with him not being able to get an F1 seat next year, practice sessions will be likely. Alpine also have Christian Lundgaard at their disposal in F2, as his future remains unclear, and Victor Martins potentially may make the step up to F2, and he could also have the opportunity next year.
Ferrari have the most extensive academy options, other than Red Bull to choose from. Callum Ilott was unfortunate to miss out on an F1 seat last season, but has done practice sessions with Alfa Romeo. With Ferrari still having him in their academy, there is a good opportunity for him in 2022, particularly after the sim and test work he has done with the Scuderia, despite an IndyCar move looking likely. Robert Shwartzman is a frontrunner in F2 who also has done testing work with Ferrari, and probably deserves an F1 practice session. Marcus Armstrong has struggled in F2, but may still get the chance being in the Ferrari academy, and although Antonio Fuoco has left the FDA, he still does test and sim work, and may have a small chance at a few practice sessions.
With Guanyu Zhou seeming likely to fill the vacant Alfa Romeo seat in 2022, he may technically be eligible to satisfy the regulations, being a F1 rookie, but we will need to wait for the official wording of the rule. If not, Alfa Romeo may be able to pinch FDA drivers, such as Shwartzman or Ilott, or even use their own protege, Theo Pourchaire, for a practice role in 2022.
Similarly to Alfa Romeo, Haas would likely use FDA drivers. Callum Ilott should have practiced for the American outfit at the Nurburgring last year, but missed out due to weather, whilst Robert Shwartzman had a practice arranged in Abu Dhabi, however this never materialised. Haas reserve driver, Pietro Fittipaldi, is still eligible, despite taking part in 2 Grand Prix, and would likely be their main candidate for the new regulations.
Williams are the team that tend to give Friday sessions to their non-F1 drivers the most. With Roy Nissany paying a large amount to the team, he will likely continue his occasional practice sessions, and we will probably see him out again on a Friday in 2022.