Are We Witnessing The Most Talented F2 Rookie Group In Recent Years?

Fr 01 Arvid Lindblad Prema Racing (c) Formula Motorsport Limited
Fr 01 Arvid Lindblad Prema Racing (c) Formula Motorsport Limited

The 2024 Formula 2 season has captivated fans with a crop of exceptionally talented rookies. Led by the dominant Paul Aron, currently sitting atop the championship with a perfect 100 points after six rounds, this group presents a compelling question. Is this the most impressive rookie class in recent F2 history?

Paul Aron – Hitech (P1 100pts)

Aron, a 20-year-old Estonian driver, has taken the F2 paddock by storm. His impressive record in the opening rounds showcases not only raw speed but also remarkable racecraft and an ability to manage pressure. Aron made his way through the ranks in karting and enjoyed plenty of success, before making the switch to single seater racing in 2019, when he took part in the Italian F4 and ADAC F4 Championships, finishing third and seventh respectively. He then finished third in both of his seasons in Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine, before repeating the trick in his lone year of FIA Formula 3 in 2023, where his scored a victory in the Austria Sprint race, along with three other podium finishes to place third in the standings. Currently standing on the top step of the podium Aron with 100 points has been Mr Consistent, although he jas failed to get a win this season his consistent podium finishes has secured early success.

Franco Colapinto – MP Motorsport (P6 56pts)

A Williams driver Academy racer, Franco Colapinto is displaying impressive consistency, often securing podium finishes. His ability to adapt bodes well for the Argentinian. Colapinto enjoyed plenty of success in karting that included a victory at the Youth Summer Olympics in 2018. But he soon made the move to single seater racing taking part in the Spanish F4 Championship, which he won in 2019. He continued to rise through the ranks in 2020, finishing third in both the Toyota Racing Series and the Formula Renault Eurocup. 2021 proved to be a busy year for Colapinto as he ventured into sportscars, taking part in both the Asian and European Le Mans Series as well as the FIA Endurance Trophy. Colapinto then made the move to FIA Formula 3 Championship in 2022 with Van Amersfoort Racing and placed ninth before moving up to fourth in his sophomore campaign with MP Motorsport. He has a sprint race victory at Imola to his name thus season, and is currently the best of the rest for the rookies with 56 points.

Gabriel Bortoleto – Invicta Racing (P7 55pts)

Part of the prestigious McLaren driver development programme, Bortoleto showcases exceptional technical understanding and strategic brilliance. While his raw pace might not be as dominant as Aaron’s, his calculated approach consistently places him in contention. In his debut season in the FIA Formula 3 Championship, Bortoleto was at his consistent best as he sealed 2023 Drivers’ title in dominant fashion, scoring six podiums which included two victories, with his nearest rival, Zak O’Sullivan, 45 points behind. He now makes step up to FIA Formula 2 with Invicta Racing, with the Brazilian hoping to show the talent that he has produced since making his single seater debut in the Italian F4 and the Formula Regional European Championship where he finished fifth and sixth respectively. With a pole in Sakhir and Imola, alongside P2 finishes in the Imola feature race and Monte Carlo sprint race the Brazilian has continued to show his high end ability.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli – PREMA (P9 48pts)

This 18-year-old prodigy is generating buzz as a potential future Mercedes star. His jump from Formula 4 to F2, is showcasing his exceptional talent. While experience might be a hurdle initially, his phenomenal pace and fierce determination are undeniable. Antonelli is making his maiden campaign in FIA Formula 2 with PREMA Racing after making the move from karting, where he won multiple titles, to single seaters and the Italian F4 Championship in 2021. He won the championship in his first full season in 2022 and followed that up by also taking top honours the ADAC F4, as well as the FIA Motorsport Games Formula 4 Cup that same year. After winning both titles at the Formula Regional Middle East and European Championships in 2023, the Italian replaced last season’s runner-up Frederik Vesti in the PREMA no easy task. Qualifying P2 for Australia has been the stand out to date although Antonelli is currently outperforming his Haas bound teammate Oliver Bearman who had an impressive P7 finish for Ferrari in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, as a last minute replacement for Carlo Sainz. Showing his ability to outperform his F1 set teammate has been an eye opening achievement.

Zak O’Sullivan – ART Grand Prix (P10 40pts)

Another Williams driver academy member, O’Sullivan is proving his mettle in F2. His aggressive driving style and ability to overtake in daring maneuvers have earned him several podium finishes. Refining his racecraft and managing aggression could propel him towards a future F1 seat. Zak O’Sullivan started off car racing in the Ginetta Junior Championship back in 2019 where he placed second before achieving the same result in British F4 in 2020. The following year he scored the top prize in the GB3 Championship before making his debut in FIA Formula 3 with Carlin back in 2022, with his podium scoring outing in Zandvoort proving to be the highlight. He returned in 2023 with PREMA Racing and wound up second in the Drivers’ Championship, finishing the year with four victories. He has shown his ability to win this season with a P1 in the Monte Carlo feature race being the pinnacle to date. Currently sitting P10 in the standings with 40 points.

Why Are These Rookies Excelling?

Several factors contribute to this impressive rookie performance. All five drivers boast exceptional records in junior categories, suggesting a solid foundation in racecraft and technical understanding. Benefiting from participation in esteemed young driver academies, providing access to top-tier resources and experienced mentors. F1’s recent focus on raw talent over experience gives them a chance to shine, even with limited F2 experience.

A Comparison to Previous Champions

While claiming this as the “most talented” is subjective, let’s compare these rookies to recent F2 champions:

  • 2023: Théo Pourchaire displayed exceptional. Recently cut from the Indy Car Series by the Arrows McLaren team. The Frenchman is the current reserve driver at Stake F1 and a former F4 and F2 champion.
  • 2022: Felipe Drugovich is current the Aston Marton test and reserve driver for the F1 team, was known for his relentless aggression. Compered in the 24hds of Le Mans as part of the Whelen Cadillac Racing team.
  • 2021: Oscar Piastri currently a big part of the resurgent McLaren F1 team alongside Lando Norris. The most succesful of the recent Champions Piastri finished the 2022 F1 season 9th in the driver standings with 97 points with a P3 in Suzuka and a sprint race victory in and feature race P2 in the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix. He has continued his successful run this season in the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix where Piastri finished in 2nd place.
  • 2020: Mick Schumacher the German has 12 points from 43 drives in F1 under the troubled Haas team that saw him compete with Mazepin in his debut season where the Haas was way off the pace of the rest of the grid. Schumacher was replaced at Haas by Nico Hülkenberg, this led Schumacher to join the Alpine WEC team for the 2024 season. Many people believe his time in F1 isn’t yet complete time will tell.
  • 2019: Nyck de Vries has 2 points from 11 daces to his name in F1 since winning the 2019 F2 Championship. Featuring for both Williams and AlphaTauri.
  • 2018: George Russell is cementing himself as the number one driver at Mercedes now that 7 time Champion Lewis Hamilton has announced his move to Ferrari. The Brit has 1 win and 12 podiums to his name since his rise to Formula 1.
  • 2017: Charles Leclerc is widely considered one of the most complete F1 drivers on the grid at Ferrari. With 6 wins and 35 podiums to his name. The Monégasque drivers biggest achievement to date is no doubt finally winjing his home Grand Prix the 2024 Monavo Grand Prix.

The Road to F1: Not Guaranteed

While their performances are impressive, the transition to F1 remains a challenge. Adapting to the complexities of F1 cars, the fierce competition, and the immense pressure can be daunting. Furthermore, several factors could hinder their potential F1 promotions. While some rookies are excelling, others might need more time in F2 to fully develop their skills. The limited number of F1 seats might restrict some talented rookies from securing a drive, even with impressive F2 performances. F1 teams often have established driver development programs or sponsor-linked drivers, impacting seat availability for rookies.

A Promising Future for F1

It’s too early to definitively decide if this is the “most talented” rookie group. However, their exceptional performances are undeniable. These rookies are not only pushing each other in F2 but also showcasing their potential for exciting careers in Formula One. Regardless of who ultimately succeeds, their talent and dedication promise to enrich the future of F1, captivating fans with thrilling competition and a new generation of racing stars. The path to F1 isn’t solely paved with raw pace and podium finishes. The mental fortitude to handle the immense pressure and the ability to adapt to the intricate nature of F1 cars are critical factors. Drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have proven that mental strength and adaptability can be the difference between a good driver and a champion. While it’s too early to assess the rookies’ mental capacity definitively, their performances under pressure in F2 paint a promising picture. Aron’s consistent dominance and Bortoleto’s calculated approach under pressure suggest strong mental fortitude. Time will tell how they cope with the heightened pressure cooker of Formula One.

A Breath of Fresh Air for F1

While declaring this the “most talented” rookie group might be subjective, there’s no denying their exceptional impact on F2. Their performances inject a dose of excitement into the feeder series and showcase the strength of current junior development programs. These rookies aren’t just rivals in F2, they’re potential future teammates or championship contenders in F1. The fierce competition between them in F2 foreshadows captivating battles on the grand prix stage.

Whether all five will secure coveted F1 seats remains to be seen. However, their talent and dedication are undeniable. This rookie class brings a renewed sense of energy and excitement to the motorsport landscape. It’s a safe bet that F1 fans will be glued to their screens, eagerly watching their progress in F2 and anticipating their potential future battles on the pinnacle of motorsport. As the 2024 season unfolds, the world holds its breath, waiting to see which of these rookies will rise to the top and etch their names into the annals of Formula One history.

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