Reflecting on the young drivers progressing through the ranks, with a brief look at GP2, GP3, Formula Renault 3.5, Formula 3 and Formula Renault 2.0.
GP2 Series: Swiss roll
This season’s GP2 championship was far from a classic as neither title contender emerged as a serious candidate for a Formula 1 seat. Racing Engineering driver Fabio Leimer clinched the title during the penultimate race in Abu Dhabi; the Swiss driver won three feature races and bounced back to become the consistent benchmark after a middling few rounds which followed his initial victory spurt.
His nearest challenger was Sam Bird, who secured a last-minute deal with debutants Russian Time. Bird claimed five wins – including mega triumphs in Monaco and Belgium – but lost his chance when he stalled at the series finale. He nonetheless was a huge factor in Russian Time achieving their goal of winning the teams title, with the new squad edging out Carlin on count back of wins (five to two).
Force India reserve driver James Calado raced for ART, but the team found themselves in all sorts of problems and the Brit valiantly battled his way to third in the championship, picking up two reverse grid wins. Felipe Nasr was consistent early on but a few late season problems stunted his progress (some self-inflicted, others not) and the Brazilian has still yet to claim a GP2 win.
Stefano Coletti’s loss of form was one of the baffling aspects of the championship as the Monegasque racer appeared to have defeated his habit of destroying tyres, winning thrice and opening up a massive points advantage. He didn’t so much as stumble but sunk like a stone and claimed no points in the final half of the year.
The likes of Marcus Ericsson, Jolyon Palmer, the inexperienced Alexander Rossi, Mitch Evans and financially handicapped Robin Frijns all had their moments but it was a season the highlighted problems with the championship. The experienced drivers lingered around, thus making it harder for rookies with potential to make their mark, while the stewarding decisions ranged from baffling to downright laughable as several opportunities were missed to stamp out pathetic driving. Retaining the GP2/11 chassis into 2014 should help cut costs, but more changes are needed to increase the reputation of the championship.
Championship: Leimer 201, Bird 181, Calado 157, Nasr 154, Coletti 135, Ericsson 121, Palmer 119, Stephane Richelmi 103, Rossi 92, Tom Dillmann 92
GP3 Series: Kvyat storms to title glory
Three years after GP3 was born, the GP3/13 chassis made its debut with an engine that was actually pleasing on the ears. The cars were faster, but this came at the expense of the quality of racing as drivers struggled to overtake, with too much of the focus being placed on the tyres early on in the year. Matters did improve as the season progressed and series debutants Koiranen GP asked Kimi Räikkönen to sample the car late in the year for his advice. A telling statistic is that the leader of the race after the first lap held it until the end in all 16 encounters. Driving standards were generally cleaner than their GP2 counterparts – although a few drivers overstepped the mark, especially at Monza – with several young guns showing their potential.
Red Bull youngster Daniil Kvyat made a competent start but from mid-season onwards he was phenomenal; three straight poles and feature race wins meant he won the title by 30 points and impressed his employers sufficiently to be promoted straight to Toro Rosso, where he will race alongside Jean-Eric Vergne.
Facu Regalia was the surprise of the season as the lead ART driver mounted a driver challenge, won a race and finished runner-up to Kvyat. The Russian’s promotion to Formula 1 means that Regalia inherits 200,000 Euros from Pirelli, which must be used for a seat in GP2. Conor Daly won in Valencia but was unable to mount a title campaign, while Marussia young gun Tio Ellinas opened and closed his year with victories but was frequently too passive in combat and also woefully unlucky. Jack Harvey won a couple of times while Red Bull’s other driver in the series, Carlos Sainz Jr, showed flashes of speed but made too many silly errors and managed only 10th in the championship.
Championship: Kvyat 168, Regalia 138, Daly 126, Ellinas 116, Harvey 114, Nick Yelloly 107, Kevin Korjus 107, Alexander Sims 77, Aaro Vainio 75, Sainz Jr 66
Formula Renault 3.5 Series: We need to talk about Kevin
Sergio Pérez’s misfortune, said McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh, was that Kevin Magnussen existed. The Dane moved from Carlin to DAMS for the 2013 FR3.5 season and while he was consistently quick, it was only late in the year where he really stamped his authority. Magnussen was untouchable across the final four races of the year, taking pole position for all of them and winning three [he was disqualified from a fourth due to a minor technical irregularity with DRS] and eventually stormed to the title by 60 points. Formula 1 beckons in 2014 for Magnussen.
He initially battled for the title with fellow McLaren youngster Stoffel Vandoorne, who replaced 2012 champion Frijns at Fortec. Belgian Vandoorne won four races in his rookie year in the series – including both encounters in Moscow – but a double retirement in Austria was a massive blow to his campaign and he was subsequently in Magnussen’s shadow for the remainder of the year. The man, of course, who was meant to win the title was Antonio Felix da Costa. The Portuguese driver encountered all sorts of woes – a puncture at Monza, engine issues at Red Bull’s home round in Austria – but still claimed three wins and finished behind the young McLaren duo in the championship. Nonetheless, despite Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko visiting the Austrian round – and witnessing da Costa’s misfortune first hand – he opted to put Kvyat in the Toro Rosso next year.
Caterham youngster Will Stevens impressed, as did Monaco master Nico Muller and Dutchman Nigel Melker. Marco Sorensen dominated in Austria but had little luck elsewhere; Arthur Pic claimed a podium and young Sergey Sirotkin visited the rostrum twice. Renault’s single seater formula attracted the top guns from leading young driver programmes – and also has DRS – but will inevitably suffer from not being part of the Formula 1 package. But in Magnussen, Vandoorne and da Costa, the series had some very good young racers in 2013.
Championship: Magnussen 274, Vandoorne 214, Da Costa 172, Stevens 148, Muller 143, Melker 136, Sorensen 113, Pic 74, Sirotkin 61, Andre Negrao 51
F3 & FR2.0: Lello fever, Gasly makes his mark
After a few troublesome years with Formula Three Euroseries, the evolved championship appears to be firmly on the right tracks and it was Ferrari youngster Raffaele Marciello who won the title. Marciello won 13 races and was also rapid in the end of season FR3.5 and GP2 tests; he remains prone to becoming flustered in tense situations but if he continues this upwards trajectory, he’ll be a prime contender for an F1 seat in 2015. Marciello was chased by Swede Felix Rosenqvist, who won 10 races, including a hat-trick in Austria. Third placed Alex Lynn rounded out his season by storming to victory in the prestigious Macau Grand Prix. Pierre Gasly won the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 title (won in 2011 by Frijns and 2012 by Vandoorne) after a last round collision with title rival Oliver Rowland; Gasly was victorious three times and will step up to FR3.5 with Arden-Caterham next year after joining the Red Bull junior system. Rowland will join Gasly in FR3.5 after signing for leading team Fortec. Third placed Esteban Ocon is backed by Lotus and impressed late in the year, with two wins in three races and a top 10 finish on his first trip to Macau.
F3 Championship: Marciello 489.5, Rosenqvist 457, Lynn 339.5, Lucas Auer 277, Harry Tincknell 227 | FR2.0 Championship: Gasly 195, Rowland 179, Ocon 159, Jake Dennis 130, Nyck de Vries 113