Updated: Feb 28
Written by Danny Jones, Edited by Morgan Holiday
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.