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Feeder Series Champions from 2013 - Where are They Now?

Written by Sean McKean, Edited by Sharifah Zaqreeztrina

When you think of feeder series champions, you can probably imagine top-tier Formula 1 prospects. Recent champions include current McLaren drivers Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris, as well as Mercedes driver George Russell. But, though most champions do end up making it to the main stage in some capacity, not all of them share the same distinction. Going back as far as one decade ago in 2013, you’ll see some now unfamiliar names.

GP2 - Fabio Leimer

Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Perhaps the inspiration behind this piece, GP2 champion Fabio Leimer, has been largely forgotten about.

In 2013, Leimer was entering his fourth season of GP2, having already amassed a number of wins and plenty of podiums. With these strong results, Leimer knew it would be time to shine, especially since there were talents such as Sam Bird and Felipe Nasr.

Leimer took charge at the beginning, winning two of the first four races. However, a string of DNFs soon followed, which granted the lead to a consistent Nasr. As the season progressed, Leimer upped his consistency, finishing top six in all but two races for the last half of the season. Deservingly, this ultimately granted the Swiss driver his first single-seater title since 2009.

Following his title victory, no Formula 1 teams gave him a call-up at first. Thus, he went on to race in the World Endurance Championship with Rebellion Racing, scoring only 19 points.

In 2015, Leimer came slightly closer to Formula 1, being signed on as a test and reserve driver for Manor Marussia. This was as good as it got though, as he only partook in one FP1 session at the Hungaroring before being dropped from the role.

After 2015 which saw his Formula 1 dream die and a seat in Super Formula fall through, Leimer joined the Ferrari Super Trofeo grid for the next two years. He achieved his best points finish in 2016, finishing fifth overall. After the following year, however, Leimer retired from auto racing altogether.

Nowadays, not many know what he’s up to, with most social media having no posts in years.

GP3 - Daniil Kvyat

Image Credit - Wikipedia Commons

A name slightly more familiar to the average F1 fan is GP3 champion Daniil Kvyat.

With Red Bull Academy backing, Kvyat joined the grid as a rookie, coming off a second-place finish overall in Formula Renault Eurocup and a title in the Alps series. Many expected Kvyat to be a contender right away, and that wasn’t exactly the case.

Initially, Kvyat got off to a slow start, finishing outside of the points in the first two races while competitors Conor Daly and Tio Ellinas took victory. But, as the season progressed, Kvyat took his first points, and eventually his first podium at the halfway point of the season.

As the season came to a close, the Russian took his first win of the season in the eleventh race, still a ways off championship leader Facu Regalia. Heading into the final round, Kvyat was an outsider for the championship; however, by virtue of a pointless final weekend for Regalia, he clinched the championship with a victory and fifth place.

After his 2013 GP3 title, Kvyat earned a Formula 1 promotion to Scuderia Toro Rosso alongside Jean-Eric Vergne for the 2014 season. Though he was outclassed in the standings by Vergne, Red Bull thought he did well enough to justify promotion to the main team.

The 2015 season was a surprisingly good one for Kvyat, scoring his first podium at the Hungaroring, and beating teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the standings. However, despite a decent start to 2016 with a podium in China, Kvyat would be demoted back to Toro Rosso after the Russian Grand Prix. He stayed at the team until halfway through the 2017 season in which he was dropped in favour of Pierre Gasly.

Though he took a sabbatical as Ferrari’s third driver for 2018, the Russian returned to Toro Rosso in 2019. This season showed that he hadn’t lost his mojo, outclassing a rookie Alexander Albon and scoring a shock podium in the German Grand Prix. He continued with the team for 2020 under a rebranded AlphaTauri; however, Kvyat lost his drive for 2021 in favour of Red Bull junior Yuki Tsunoda.

After Formula 1, Kvyat now spends his time in endurance racing and NASCAR. In 2022, he made select starts for Team Hezeberg and Sam Hunt in the Cup and XFINITY series , achieving a best finish of P15 in the XFINITY Charlotte Roval round.

For the 2023 season, Kvyat has been driving with PREMA Racing in the LMP2 class in WEC alongside Doriane Pin and Mirko Bortolotti.

F3 European - Raffaele Marciello

Image Credit - Speedsport Magazine

As for the champion of the other F3-level series, Formula 3 European’s Raffaele Marciello had a much different adventure.

Heading into 2013, Marciello already had one year of experience in Formula 3 from 2012. Though he had a good season with seven wins, the Italian barely lost out on the championship to teammate Daniel Juncadella. So, he was going into the season as the title favourite, and he immediately made a statement.

On the opening weekend at Monza, Marciello dominated, winning two of the three races and finishing second in the other. The rest of the season followed the same story, as he took 12 more wins en route to his first championship in single-seaters.

Following his F3 successes, Marciello justifiably earned promotion to the GP2 Series with Racing Engineering. Though he only mustered eighth in the standings, he earned a role as the Sauber F1 Team’s reserve driver for the 2015 season, even partaking in an FP1 session in Malaysia. Aside from his reserve duties, Marciello returned for a second GP2 season, this time with Trident. But, it would only be a seventh-place finish.

Prior to the 2016 season, Marciello had the added pressure of going into his third GP2 season, plus being dropped by the Ferrari Driver Academy and his Sauber reserve duties. Knowing he was racing for his career, he finished fourth in the standings; a decent result, but not enough to keep his Formula 1 aspirations alive.

Following his time in single-seaters, Marciello has been incredibly successful in GT. He has won many races and a number of titles, including the 2018 Blancpain GT Series championship, the 2019 FIA GT World Cup, and the 2022 GT World Challenge. As of 2023, he looks likely to repeat his GT World Challenge successes, as he leads the standings by 18 points heading into the final round.

Formula Renault 3.5 - Kevin Magnussen

Image Credit: Eurosport

Going down a level to Formula Renault, Kevin Magnussen’s history is not as straightforward post-2013.

Before 2013, Magnussen had already spent a season in Formula Renault 3.5, winning one race and finishing second. As a result, he was expected to be a title favourite.

However, Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne gave Magnussen a run for his money right away, as Vandoorne won on debut. But through strings of consistent finishes plus three victories in a row late in the season, the Dane clinched the Formula Renault 3.5 title in the final round in Catalunya.

Following his title victory, Magnussen received the call-up to Formula 1 by the illustrious McLaren team. He impressed right away, taking a podium on debut and scoring more points the next race. Unfortunately, despite holding up well against world champion teammate Jenson Button, Magnussen was dropped from his ride in favour of Fernando Alonso.

After spending 2015 on the sidelines, his services were finally called upon again by the newly rebranded Renault team. Though he didn’t have a great car at his disposal, only scoring points twice, his seventh-place finish at Russia solidified that he deserved to stay in Formula One.

For 2017, Magnussen switched to the fledgling Haas team following a fallout with Renault. This move proved to be a great choice for him, as he would achieve his best finish since his rookie season at Austria in 2018.

However, his last two seasons with Haas in 2019 and 2020 were disastrous. With those seasons plagued by crashes and unsatisfactory results, he was dropped from his seat in favour of Formula 2’s Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.

Magnussen spent 2021 across the pond in IMSA with Chip Ganassi Racing. Though he only finished seventh in the standings alongside teammate Renger van der Zande, he still managed to take his first endurance win in the Detroit round.

As 2022 began, everyone expected Magnussen to remain in IMSA; however, since Nikita Mazepin was dropped from his ride following the Russian sanctions, the Dane received a call from Haas to return to Formula 1. Magnussen showed that he was ready to fight right away, scoring a spectacular fifth place for Haas at the first round following their scoreless 2021 season.

Magnussen remains at the Haas team for the rest of the 2023 season and will continue alongside Nico Hulkenberg for 2024.

Formula Renault 2.0 - Pierre Gasly

Image Credit: Florent Gooden

For the last of the feeder series champions, Frenchman Pierre Gasly should be a familiar name to all.

Going into 2013, Gasly was starting his first season in Formula Renault 2.0 after a rather unsuccessful season in the junior class that saw a tenth-place points finish. While Gasly was just getting started, Brit Oliver Rowland began his second season in the championship.

From the beginning, Gasly and Rowland were neck-and-neck. Trading wins and podiums throughout the season, it was clear the title would be won through consistency. Gasly won the battle, only finishing out of the points once en route to his Formula Renault 2.0 title win.

After the title victory, the Frenchman made the jump up to Formula Renault 3.5 for 2014, finishing runner-up to Carlos Sainz in the championship. On top of this, he made select starts in preparation for his promotion to GP2.

The 2015 GP2 season fell short of Gasly’s surely high expectations, finishing eighth in the standings with four podiums. He was expected to make an improvement for 2016, and he would, taking the 2016 GP2 title.

Despite winning the GP2 title, he was left without a Formula 1 ride, thus Red Bull decided to send him to the Super Formula Championship. Right out of the gates, he performed excellently, winning two races to take second in the championship.

Noticing these stellar performances, Red Bull finally decided to put Gasly in Toro Rosso for the 2018 season. His season was characterized by more great performances, including a fourth-place finish in Bahrain and sixth-place in Hungary. This led to his promotion to the main team for the 2019 season.

However, the 2019 season turned out to be disastrous. With great pressure on him, Marko and Horner wouldn’t even wait until Spa to demote Gasly back to Toro Rosso. Undoubtedly for Gasly, this was the lowest point of his career.

But eventually, he began to rebuild. After taking a shock podium at Brazil to close the season, the Frenchman took a famous maiden win with the newly rebranded AlphaTauri team at Monza in 2020. Gasly stayed with the team for two more seasons, even managing yet another shock podium at Baku in 2021.

Not wanting to remain in the Red Bull family, he made the switch to the Alpine team for 2023. Thus far, he has had decent success with the team, achieving a podium in a wet-dry Dutch Grand Prix.


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