Updated: Feb 28, 2022
Every driver on the current Formula One grid has come from small beginnings and at one point was just an unknown young driver in the lower formula. Today, myself and three of Divebomb’s finest writers will be picking out our future Lewis Hamiltons and Michael Schumacher’s – the rising stars of the lower Formula.
Written by Olly Radley, Tanishka Vashee, Giuseppe Gaetano Dino, Hafiz Akbar. Edited by Tanishka Vashee
Ollie Bearman – Italian & ADAC F4
Formula 4 is a key part of a young driver’s journey to Formula 1 and is part of the FIA’s ladder to F1. The Italian F4 championship is one of the most competitive along with the ADAC F4 championship and is a proving ground for future stars. So much so that 3 drivers from the current F1 grid have passed through Italian F4, as well as half of the current F2 grid. At the moment, there is a big hotshot on the Italian F4 scene, by the name of Ollie Bearman.
The Brit was born in Chelmsford on the 8th May 2005 and began karting competitively in 2013 aged 8 in the Trent Valley Kart Club. His first taste of success came in the 2016 Super 1 National Honda Cadet Championship, placing 2nd in both 2016 and ‘17. In 2019 he made the step up to International karting in the IAME International Final in the X30 Junior category which he won. He also won the Euro Series and Winter Cup in the same category. Finally in 2020, Ollie made the jump to cars in the Italian and ADAC F4 championships. He focussed primarily on the ADAC championship competing in only 8 races of the Italian Championship, coming 10th ahead of many people who completed the whole season. In ADAC he completed the full season coming 7th overall with a win to his name.
Now in 2021, Ollie is dominating. In ADAC F4 he’s completed 6 races, so far, winning 4 of them and having a 40 point lead in the championship. In Italian F4, his success so far is almost unheard of. We’re in the 4th round of the championship and at the time of writing, and he is on a 8-race win streak. That’s right, 8 back to back wins in Italian F4 and a championship lead of 141 points. The youngster has put it on pole in 2 thirds of the season so far as well. The only other driver to pull off a similar feat was Dennis Hauger who went 5-races unbeaten back in 2019; Hauger is now the current F3 championship leader. Not even Lance Stroll could replicate this in his Italian F4 championship season, where he strolled to the title back in 2014.
No other young driver has ever shown this level of dominance at this level, especially in a series as competitive as the Italian F4 championship. In my eyes, Ollie Bearman has a long successful career ahead of him and definitely has it in him to go all the way to F1 someday.
Gabriele Miní – Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine (FRECA)
Speaking of Formula 4, the young man I’ve decided to talk about is certainly well known among junior formulas’ followers from last year: he is, in fact, the reigning Italian F4 Champion, having taken part with Prema Powerteam in a very prolific 2020 season.
Miní was born in Palermo, Italy, on March 20th 2005. He started racing in karting in 2012, with his first successes coming in 2016, winning the Italian Championship 60 Mini and coming third in the WSK Super Master Series 60 Mini. He replicated his success the following year, winning again the Italian Championship 60 Mini and the WSK Super Master Series 60 Mini, and finishing runner up in the WSK Champions Cup 60 Mini. In 2018 Miní took part in five international championships, classifying second in four of them and winning the WSK Super Master Series OKJ. 2019 would be his last year in karting, with no championship titles, but two great second places in the WSK Champions Cup and the FIA Karting European Championship, also winning the CIK-FIA Rookie of the Year.
Miní debuted in the Italian F4 in 2020 taking pole position in all three of the qualifying sessions at the inaugural round in Misano, and winning the first out of the three races. He went on to dominate the championship, winning the title by 74 points, not by taking a huge amount of wins (4 out of 20 races), but because of his consistency, scoring points in every race but one, in which he had to retire. He ended the season with 4 wins, 9 pole positions and 16 podiums. Miní also took part in six races in the ADAC Formula 4 Championship, winning on his debut at the Nurburgring, and then taking 2 pole positions and 4 podiums on his way to 10th in the final standings, only 9 points behind the last of the full time drivers in that series Kirill Smal.
After his successes in Formula 4, Gabriele signed with ART Grand Prix to take part in FRECA for the 2021 season. Now, 12 races in, he sits 4th in the standings, 1st of the rookies, still yet to take his first race win or pole position in the series, but with four podiums to his name. He has once again shown some great consistency at the top and, undoubtedly, if he goes on performing like this, a first race win is on the cards in the last 8 races of the season.
Despite not having signed for any Young Driver Academy, I’m sure he will soon draw the attention of the big F1 teams, and hopefully become Italy’s next star in motorsport racing.
Juju Noda- Danish F4
Juju drove her first ever Go-kart at the age of 3 and made her racing debut at the age of 4. She won in the 30cc as well 40cc karting categories. At the age of six she was able to acquire permission to compete in the 100cc Cadet Class. Mind you, most people start karting at the age of 7! She won three out of the four races she took part in. The following year, she progressed to competing in the SS category, which means most of her competition was aged eleven years old at the time.
Under the Guidance of her father, Hedeki Noda’s guidance, Juju has been doing pretty well. She made headlines in 2016, it’s not everyday that a nine year old girl starts driving F4 spec cars and competing in 125cc shifter KZ karts. She competed in one race and took the win. Juju became the world’s youngest person in the world to drive an F4car at race pace.
At the young age of 11, she broke the F4 lap record at Okayama International circuit with a time of 1:32.8, to add to its grandeur she won her debut race. She graduated to competing in Formula 4 U17 category in Japan, in true Juju fashion, she dominated the season and reaped in all the wins.
Last year, Juju and her father decided to move to Europe for her racing career. She started competing in the Danish F4 and took a win from the pole at her first ever race abroad. She finished sixth in the driver’s standings and had quite a good season.
This year, she was supposed to compete at F4 in the United States but pulled out for reasons that have not been stated. Juju has rejoined Danish F4, she has had a shaky start so far but there’s no doubt about her talent. The pace she shows and the progress she has made at such a young age proves the talent she possesses. She just needs to find her rhythm and build on the momentum.
Young talent has always attracted attention from the F1 paddock and has, on multiple occasions, redeemed itself. Max Verstappen, Lando Norris, Sebastian Vettel, the list goes on, are great examples of young sparks that have honed their skill to make a mark. Juju has that bright spark in her and has what it takes to rise through the categories, watching her fulfil her dreams of becoming the first asian woman to make it to F1 or Formula E would be gratifying.
Sebastian Montoya – Italian and ADAC F4 Championship
Having made his jump from the speed demons that were shifter karts in 2020, Sebastian Montoya is currently racing in the first ladder of the lower formula, the Italian F4 Championship, which is where current Formula 1 driver Lance Stroll started his baby steps into the formula cars series.
So far this 2021 season of the Italian F4 series, Montoya has earned himself 4 podiums in 9 races, with 1 pole position and 1 fastest lap. He is currently sitting 5th in the Drivers’ Championship and is Prema’s second highest to Kirill Smal in 4th. He’s surely doing a good job keeping his teammates at bay as his other teammates, Hamda Al-Qubaisi and Conrad Laursen in 10th and 14th, respectively. This is very much an improvement from last season when he finished 17th in the Italian F4 Championship with 10 points, which indicates his sheer improvement in racecraft.
In the ADAC F4 Championship, he is totally ripping the field in half with a sensational season, having two podiums in four races. So far, he’s racked up 72 points, placing him second in the standings, second only to Oliver Bearman who got a 40-point lead over the Columbian-American driver.
His father, former F1 driver and current McLaren Arrow driver Juan Pablo Montoya, have been a big part of his quest to conquer the ladders of the lower formulae with a set goal of reaching the top flight, Formula 1.
His own style of racing, combined with the mentor that is his own father and the support of the Prema Powerteam could make him a better driver than he is today. He’s shown an improvement over the points he scored this season both in the Italian and the ADAC F4 Championship and is bound to display more of the same in the coming seasons and hopefully we’ll see him in Formula 3 in the near future. Who knows? He might be the second coming of his father in Formula 1.
Well there are our picks for the top rising stars in the lower formula, let us know what you think; if you agree or disagree but from me, it’s bye for now.