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Ranking five rising stars who could break onto the F1 grid in coming seasons

The F1 grid has a number of drivers entering the final laps of their illustrious careers, with driving contracts expiring left and right this year.

The likes of Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Valtteri Bottas, Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo might only have one or two more seasons left at the elite level of the sport.

Liam Lawson had a taste of F1 action with Alpha Tauri in the 2023 season and impressed while he replaced Daniel Ricciardo during his recovery from a hand injury.

Planet Sport’s Ayla Vaughan looks at five drivers who are catching the eye in the Feeder Series and will be pushing hard for an F1 seat in the coming years.


5. Oliver Bearman

Oliver Bearman is my driver who I think has the most competition on this list to break onto the F1 grid in coming seasons. 

The 18-year-old Brit is currently team-mates with Andrea Kimi Antonelli (another contender on the list) at Prema Racing for the 2024 F2 season. 

The historic Italian team is known in the scene for producing champions and future F1 drivers.

In terms of result, Bearman won the 2021 Italian and ADAC Formula 4 championships. He placed third in the 2022 F3 season where he was one of the title contenders at the last race of the season in Monza. He finished sixth in the 2023 F2 season with four wins in his rookie season, two of those being in Baku.

Bearman is a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy. He is also currently the reserve driver for Scuderia Ferrari and Haas in F1. 

Considering Haas runs Ferrari engines, he would likely debut in Haas and then perhaps be promoted to Ferrari if the circumstances are right. This is similar to Charles Leclerc who debuted in Alfa Romeo Sauber in 2018 and was then promoted to Ferrari in 2019, swapping seats with Kimi Raikkonen (the last driver’s champion for Ferrari in 2007). 

The reason why Bearman is low on this list is because his F2 season last year was rather inconsistent and he was the third best performing rookie. 

If Haas pick him up, I would worry that if he doesn’t perform he could suffer the same fate as young drivers Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin. They were both dropped from the team in favour of the more experienced drivers Nico Hulkenburg and Kevin Magnussen. 

Nonetheless, Bearman is still a promising young talent who did his first practice in an F1 car for Haas in Mexico last year, as many junior drivers did. 

We will have to see how his F2 campaign goes this year, despite him having a bad start scoring no points last week in the opening races in Bahrain.

4. Theo Pourchaire

Theo Pourchaire is the most recent F2 champion, which is often a recipe for success as many drivers on the grid have won in this category. This includes drivers such as Charles Leclerc, George Russell and Oscar Piastri. 

Pourchaire is also Formula 2 and Formula 3’s youngest ever race winner, showing his talent from a young age.

Pourchaire is part of a young driver development programme which is key to getting on a F1’s team radar as they provide support, both in terms of driving as well as financial. This is key as drivers in feeder series do not earn a salary until they enter F1.

Pourchaire has been a member of the Sauber Academy since 2019. Additionally, he is the reserve driver for Stake F1 Team. Similar to Felipe Drugovich, he has driven in many F1 practice sessions for the team since 2021, learning how to adapt to driving an F1 car.

Super Formula is what Pourchaire will compete in this year with the team Impul. Liam Lawson also drove in this series, showing it’s another key aspect to gain experience and super licence points. 

Accumulating at least 40 super licence points over a previous three seasons in any championship reported by the regulations is a requirement to drive in F1. 

Pourchaire would likely replace Valterri Bottas if he chose to stick with the Stake F1 Team before its rebrand to Audi in 2026 in time for the new regulations. 

However, he could drive for other teams on the grid who will recognise his talent. 

France will be keen to have another French driver on the grid to complement the French pairing at Alpine of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly.

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3. Felipe Drugovich

Felipe Drugovich sits in the middle of this ranking in terms of breaking onto the F1 grid in coming seasons. 

The 23-year-old Brazilian is the current reserve driver for Aston Martin. Two days after winning the 2022 F2 Championship, Drugovich was announced as the first member of the AMF1 Driver Development Programme.

In terms of where he would go, Drugovich would likely replace Fernando Alonso if he chooses to retire or move to another team as more than half of the F1 grid’s contracts end this year. 

Considering that he was the first driver to join their development programme shows that they have faith in him and want him on the grid.

Drugovich’s claim to fame is as a champion of F2 in 2022 for MP Motorsport, their first driver’s and team championship at this level. He dominated the season, garnering five wins, and consistently performed well, scoring 101 points more than runner-up Pourchaire. 

Due to his impressive performance, he was crowned champion at Monza before the finale in Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina Circuit.

After Lance Stroll suffered an injury in a bike accident, Drugovich drove the Aston Martin AMR23 during pre-season testing at Bahrain in 2023. This shows his dedication to the team as his unexpected drive allowed the team to learn about the car for the upcoming season. 

Since then he has done many tests with previous cars and jumped in for practice sessions, showing his range of experience despite not having a drive this and last year. Therefore, he is bound to be driving in F1 soon.


2. Andrea Kimi Antonelli

If you’ve been following F1 news at all this year you’ve no doubt heard the name Kimi Antonelli pop up. When Lewis Hamilton announced his shock move to Ferrari for the 2025 F1 season, the rising Mercedes junior was thrust into the spotlight as a possible replacement for his seat.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli is the youngest on this ranking list as he’s only 17 years old. He has been part of the Mercedes Junior Team since 2019. This is an exclusive roster that current F1 driver for Mercedes George Russell and Esteban Ocon for Alpine were also a part of. 

Antonelli might debut with Williams, who are affiliated with Mercedes by carrying their engine, before he is promoted to Mercedes, as was the case for Russell.

The Italian racer has won multiple single-seater titles throughout his career, such as the Italian F4 Championship in 2022, ADAC Formula 4 Championship in 2022, the 2023 Formula Regional Middle East Championship and the 2023 Formula Regional European Championship. The fact that he won four championships in two years shows his high level of talent.

Antonelli is currently team-mates with Bearman at Prema Racing for the 2024 F2 season. He skipped F3 and is straight into F2, similar to Max Verstappen. 

Both Prema drivers got off to a bad start for the first races in Bahrain last week. Antonelli did manage to score his first point, though, by finishing 10th in the feature race on Saturday after qualifying a dismal 17th on Thursday.

Whether Antonelli races for Mercedes in F1 is up to team principal Toto Wolff. Speaking to Sky Sports F1, Wolff said: "He has just turned 17. He has won everything he needed to win in his rookie season, but I think he is going to be in Formula 1.” 

We will have to see how he performs in F2 and whether that’s enough to be promoted to drive in F1 sooner rather than later.

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1. Liam Lawson

Liam Lawson is my number one guaranteed driver that will make it onto the F1 grid in coming seasons. Helmut Marko, head of Red Bull's driver development programme, has previously stated that the Kiwi driver will get a seat on the grid for the 2025 F1 season. 

This means that Lawson only has to wait until then for a seat at either Red Bull or the newly-named Visa CashApp RB. He is likely to first drive for the junior team as most have before being promoted to the big team, such as Verstappen, Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly. 

If he can perform to the high standards in F1 and Red Bull, then he could be promoted - but if he fails to compete with Verstappen, as Albon and Gasly did, then it won’t look good for his future.

The Red Bull team is notoriously tough on its drivers as shown by the mid season switch in drivers, booting Nyck De Vries in favour of Ricciardo. Lawson then stepped in for Ricciardo when he broke a bone in his hand at the second practice session of the Dutch GP last year.

In his three races for Alpha Tauri, he impressed many by finishing 13th in the Netherlands, 11th in Italy, ninth in Singapore, 11th in Japan and 17th in Qatar. 

Lawson was also the only Red Bull driver to make it into Q3 for qualifying at the Singapore GP, and it is also where he scored his first points. 

Considering Singapore is one of the toughest races physically and to overtake, Lawson should be highly commended on his performance at his third ever F1 race.

In terms of his racing history outside of F1, he finished 11th in the 2019 F3 season, fifth in the 2020 F3 season, ninth in the 2022 F2 season, third in the 2022 F2 season and second in the 2023 Super Formula season.

These impressive results are complemented by his races in F1 so far and I hope he manages to make it onto the grid next year.


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