Youth and experience: the leading candidates for USF1’s seats in 2010

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Ryan Hunter-Reay is one of the American drivers being considered for a USF1 seat
Ryan Hunter-Reay is one of the American drivers being considered for a USF1 seat

USF1 is considering some very different drivers for its inaugural F1 season next year.

The team has indicated it is looking at a mix of young American drivers (Jonathan Summerton, Graham Rahal or Ryan Hunter-Reay) alongside a more experienced F1 driver from Europe (Pedro de la Rosa or Alexander Wurz).

Who will they pick? Here’s a look at the contenders and their credentials.


Pedro de la Rosa

McLaren’s test driver Pedro de la Rosa has said in the past he would like to return to racing, having last competed in F1 in 2006 as a substitute for Juan Pablo Montoya. He scored his only F1 podium in the Hungarian Grand Prix that year.

De la Rosa made his F1 debut with Arrows in 1999, and later drove for Jaguar before joining McLaren’s test team. He tested a Force India last winter (pictures here) as the team entered a technical collaboration with McLaren.

De la Rosa has also been tipped as a candidate for one of the seats at new Spanish team Campos Meta 1.

Alexander Wurz

Like de la Rosa, Wurz has excellent credentials as a test driver and spent several years at McLaren. On his sole appearance for the team as a race driver, at Imola in 2005, he scored a podium (inherited after Jenson Button’s disqualification).

That confirmed in the minds of many thr belief Wurz’s promise had been squandered by Benetton during his tenure with the team from 1997-2000. But his return to racing for Williams in 2007 didn’t deliver the widely-expected results, apart from a third place at Montreal. He quit one race before the end of the season.

At the time of his retirement in 2007 he said he felt the time was right and talked about not wanting to quit before he passed his peak (see the video here). Perhaps a few years away have rekindled the flames.

Wurz had previously been considering an entry of his own, but has revealed the Superfund-backed effort will not be on the grid next year. He is currently Brawn’s test driver.


Jonathan Summerton

Summerton, 21, raced in Europe from 2005-2007 before money problems forced him to return to America. He began 2009 in Indy Lights and was fifth in the standings after six races but had to step down once again due to shortage of funds.

However he has also been competing in the Atlantics championship where he lies third overall with two wins.

Read more: Jonathan Summerton: F1?s next US star?

Graham Rahal

Rahal, 20, is the son of ex-F1 and Champ Car driver Bobby Rahal. He raced in the final Champ Car series in 2007, and is now in IndyCars.

He won once at St Petersburg last year and a consistent finishing record this year has helped him to eighth in the standings in America’s top single seater championship. But it’s proving increasingly difficult for drivers to make the transition to F1 from Indy Cars.

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Not quite a match on the ‘youth’ front as Summerton and Rahal, the 28 year-old Hunter-Reay has done a lot of racing at Champ Car/Indy Car level since 2003.

He scored a surprise win at Watkins Glen last year, emphasising his road course credentials which make him one of the more promising American prospects not to have a European racing background. He was fourth at Mid-Ohio road course last weekend.

Who do you think USF1 should put in their cars? Have your say in the comments.

More on the 2010 F1 drivers and teams

86 comments on “Youth and experience: the leading candidates for USF1’s seats in 2010”

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  1. I’d really like to see Hunter-Reay given a shot. He’s shown some flair, and seems to know how to keep his nose out of trouble. He drove in A1, and has a top ten at the Indy 500. The other two young drivers are far too unseasoned in my opinion to race in F1 in six months time.

  2. Not American, but – Scott Dixon

    1. Paige Michael-Shetley
      14th August 2009, 18:15

      Right on. Dixon is about as good as any driver not currently in F1.

  3. I thought the whole deal of USF1 was that they were going to use American drivers?

    Maybe they have realised they need someone with experience in F1 so someone like Wurz may be a good choice.

    1. They want to go to an all-American lineup in the second or third year, so I believe you are correct that they should bring in someone like Wurz to start with.

  4. If Sébastien Bourdais would have been a better car developer, I’d go for him. He’s not an American, but at least a well-known name in the US racing scene, being a 4-time CART champion. Ryan Hunter-Reay would be a good US national in the 2nd car. He’s 28 years old, and has quite some single-seater experience. For later seasons, Team US F1 could groom one of the younger American drivers.

    1. My fantasy line-up would have been the
      former STR drivers – Bourdais and Speed.

      My other once again is JR Hildebrand.

      1. On the plus side, it’s definitely a fantasy!

      2. Bourdais and Speed! OMG NO!…you must not be American or you would want to see drivers that might actually win some races for the team.

        1. Very good Wesley ;)

  5. Sush Meerkat
    12th August 2009, 8:11

    I’d like to see Rahal, he’s a canny racer for such a young kid.

  6. Hunter-Reay. The guy is fearless, and has had much success. The problem is he has always been on teams with money problems. He drove for Bobby Rahal’s team last year and did great, but then the money dried up and the team folded. He didnt land an IndyCar ride until just before the start of the season, and that was helped by the fact that he had a contract with IZOD and IRL head man at the time kind of had to put him on his team. He is now driving for AJ Foyt. . .on second thought, if he drives for USF1, the team is done in two years. . .maybe he is bad luck?

    Rahal needs to win at Indy before he is allowed to leave IndyCar.

  7. I’d like to see Kyle Busch given a shot.

    1. Why? The punk cries when he gets 2nd, imagine what would happen if he gets on an up and coming team? Not to mention he completely destroys race cars.

      1. “The punk cries when he gets 2nd, imagine what would happen if he gets on an up and coming team?”

        Maybe it’s just me, but that’s an attitude you see a lot in F1, and not just from drivers. Busch, has he ever drive an open wheel car?

        1. He wanted to test a Toyota F1 car in Japan at the end of last year’s NASCAR season, and had the whole thing arranged according to reports. Then, NASCAR prevented him from doing the test because he was “required” to attend the awards banquet for the NASCAR Nationwide Series. It resulted in a very frustrated Kyle making one of the best quotes of the motorspoirt year by saying in a childlike fashion “They (NASCAR) took the F1 car away from me….”

          Other than that, I don’t know if eh has any open-wheel experience. I know most of his work in lower series was on dirt-track ovals, if that helps ;)

  8. i’d love to see montoya back – after all the time he’s spent racing in the us, he’s almost an american isn’t he? not sure about his technical, car-developing skills… and the fact he hasn’t driven f1 since 2006. but i’ve always remembered him as an aggressive-overtaking-fun-to-watch driver.

    1. Yea I’m with you on that. In a day and age where F1 is a young europeans gentlemens club Montoya was somewhat of a breath of fresh air to the sport. He wasn’t a 55kg shy kid continually thanking his sponsors due to his future relying on their financial backing, he was a driver who spoke his mind and let his natural driving ability create the opportunities that were presented to him. Its due to the lack of drivers like Montoya that F1 can be percieved as boring. The current drivers simply have no personalities, therefore nothing of any appeal to joe average sitting in front of the TV. Montoyas departure from the sport clearly showed that gone are the days where he with the biggest balls, most confidence and natural driving talent excels. These are currently the days where technology and corporate involvement take priority.

      1. Could not agree more on this!
        I would love to see Montoya back.

        1. I think Montoya is among the best natural drivers and the equal of Schumacher in the car. He flamed out at NASCAR just 2 races ago when they denied him the win with a pit speeding drive through and he was adamant that he wasn’t speeding and that NASCAR management sabotaged his win due to his being a foreigner. But he ain’t 55kg anymore and he torched the relationship with Bernie as well as Ron.

          1. he is not fit enough to an F1 driver anymore.

          2. Yeah he likes the american buffett, his belly is quite a bit bigger. Atleast he would still have the jaw muscles for f1.

    2. JPM is getting a little to fat to fit into an F1 car and almost seemed to beg to get out of his contract when he left. He and SebBo, and Nelsino all seemed to burn bridges upon their departure.
      My dream team would be Jacques Villenuve and Rossi. An American and a Canadian, Someone with experience winning and someone young who has raced in Europe and had won the BMW america series.

  9. On the Experienced Driver front, I would think that Rubens Barrichello has to be under consideration for USF1, he has the plus of being from (South) America too. I can’t see BrawnGP retaining him for next year as I expect them to sign up a youngster to partner Jenson.

    1. Rubens played golf in the US with them across last summer and I thought he was a certainty but my girlfriend is Brazilian & follows him on twitter and she sees no sign of him going to USF1.
      PDLR would be the best “experienced” buy they could make otherwise for mine.

    2. Yeah, but he’s not exactly the most humble guy- see: Germany 2009 ;) That’s the good thing about Wurz and PDR- from what I know, they are quiet and well-liked guys with little to no ego.

  10. What about Scott Speed, he wasnt a bad driver in his time with red Bull…kinda always in the midlle somewhere.

  11. i say pick Pedro de la Rosa for the experienced f1 driver and Ryan Hunter-Reay as a experience racer in other series

  12. No one is even talking about Ryan Briscoe or Marco Andretti thase guys got some talent and are young with much potential to improve.

    1. Ryan Briscoe is Australian so doesn’t really fit the young Amercian driver requirement…

  13. Kyle Busch is an awesome choice. Anyone who wants to watch the best pass by anyone I’ve seen this year, watch the Nationwide series race just gone at Watkin’s Glen. His pass on Carl Edwards for second with about 6 laps to go is breathtaking…

    So who would I partner him with? Someone experienced from Indycar. Speed (I know, he’s in NASCAR) is an obvious choice as he has recent F1 experience, but he’s slow. The candidates would be Franchitti (old and scottish, but married to an American actress and been in the US scene for ages), Castroneves (not American either but quick on ‘proper’ race tracks), Briscoe (another non US driver but been in the US scene for a while, a good racer and has recent F1 experience being Toyota’s test driver), Dixon (Indy 500 winner but a kiwi, still the man to beat in Indycar), or Danica.

    Rahal would be the test driver, along with Montoya. As there is no testing during the year, JPM might be lured out of retirement from F1 to test the new car and give feedback.

    So in short, race drivers Kyle Busch and Danica Patrick (or Briscoe should Danica come good on her promise not to race F1), Rahal as test and reserve driver, JPM as development driver in the winter.

    1. Kyle wants the money honey. He runs both series in NASCAR and USF1 would have no chance of getting near the dollar needed.

    2. Kyle Busch and Danica Patrick? Are you serious? Do you ever watch them race or do you just read their press? NO NASCAR driver has the talent to make the jump to F1 NONE. And Danica? she is at best a mid pack IRL driver, and that is not saying much if you have watched an IRL race. She is THE MOST OVER RATED DRIVER IN THE WORLD!

      1. Au Contrere. Jeff Gordon did very well in a Williams at Indy a number of years ago. He was very close to JPM’s times with little or no experience with either the track or the car.

        1. Gordon began his career in single-seaters though, didn’t he? I agree he was quite impressive.

          1. Yes, Gordon started in single seaters. He was very successful in regional series and tried to go to Cart, some claim he actually only attempted Penske and Newman-Haas, others says smaller this told him to bring sponsors.

            Gordon’s Williams test was pretty good. Very similar to Loeb’s test this year. Later last year he went to Massa’s kart race. Gordon had never raced a kart before and run among the backmarkers. Some snobs joked about the nascar guy being very slow, but he was actually 4 seconds off pace everyone else in Friday practice and was running as well as anyone else He might have not been very competitive but anyone that can find 4 seconds in a weekend in a type of car he never raced has some talent.

          2. Gordon dose indeed have some talent that would have been good in F1- he’s one of the best road course racers on the NASCAR circuit today. From repoerts I have sene he had some semi-serious discussions with BAR back in the mid/late 90’s about pairing up with JV, but obviously diden’t take it. Probably for the better, as the BAR outfit back then wasen’t a very reliable operation…

      2. William Wilgus
        13th August 2009, 0:07

        Who as of the last info I have, happens to be 5th in the championship standings—ahead of her 2 team-mates.

      3. OK Danica may not be as quick as some, but for a new team she would bring in massive sponsorship dollars and immediately give team massive exposure. Regardless of who USF1 end up with their car will not be competitive for about 5 years anyway, so why not run her?

        And have YOU actually watched Busch race? At least the guy would have a bit of personality…

        1. If you call whining like a little girl personality. Maybe you didn’t see his comment about F1. When asked about F1 he said “well the racing isn’t very good over there” and went on to say when he tests for Toyota and they offer him an F1 ride (think he was a little ahead of himself) he would not take it because he would wait for Ferrari or McLaren to offer him a drive. WHAT AN ASS

  14. Villeneuve was making some noises about next year as well, I know he’s not very good or American but he might be a more attractive option for sponsors than de la Rosa or Wurz.

    1. As much as I like JV, he is passed his prime, and he knows it. He can barely drive a NASCAR car anymore.

  15. I’d love to see JPM come back. I know he had too many off days late in his F1 career, but on the days he was switched on he was monstrous. I still think he has wins left in him and a driver from South America seems a better fit with the team’s ethos than a European.

    For the other seat, the name that seems to pop up most often is Summerton. I remember watching A1GP’s Zandvoort round and the USA car running at the front after staying out on dry tyres on a damp track. Was that Summerton? It was pretty heroic stuff…

    1. Ehhh if it was this most season, it was Marco Andretti. If it was the previous season, it was former Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice. Summerton diden’t join the team until later in the 2007-08 season

      He still had plenty of good drives, however, esp. towards the end of the season.

  16. From those on the list, I’d like to see Alex Wurz in one car, as he’s always been a favourite of mine. I like his style, he was never afraid of a wheel-to-wheel battle. I seem to remember him dicing with Schumacher at a Monaco race in the late 90’s. He also throws up the devil horns whenever he’s on the podium. Rock on! Plus i share my first name with him, so, Go Alex!

    Plus Pedro has a shot at the Campos seat, so we could see both of them in F1 next year that way.

    Of the other 3, I think it would be most sensible for USF1 to give the 2nd seat to Ryan Hunter-Reay. Never heard of him, but he seems to have the most experience, which would be far more beneficial.

    With regards to Jonathan Summerton, surely if he was that good, he wouldn’t keep running out of sponsorship money.

    1. With SUmmerton, it happens to the best of drivers in all racing series. SOmetimes it’s related to financial decisions with the sponsors themselves and not anything to do with the skills of the drivers.

  17. just a random thought – if marco andretti were to get the drive, he’d be the first grandson of an ex-champion to race in f1 wouldn’t he?

    1. Yeah I think so.

  18. I think Wurz or Bourdais for Experience,

    Graham RAhal is a good name for no experience, or if they want to stretch the American idea Brunno Senna or any other south american with racing credentials could do the job

    1. Well by that same token…


      Though I’m neither American or experienced so that might hurt my chances…

  19. For the “American Youth” seat, keep Alexander Rossi in mind – 2008 Formula BMW World Champion

    1. Rossi’s definitely one for the future, give him a couple of years – F3 and GP2 ideally. Looking pretty good in Formula Master this year.

    2. Alexander Rossi and Scott Speed would be the best lineup. Scott has the experience and Rossi has the potential. The other river that might make sense – although he’s sunken into the NASCAR Morass is AJ Almendinger.

      As much as I’d like to see Rahal, Hunter-Reay, or even Townsend Bell, I just don’t think they can step up to the level needed fast enough.

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