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 don’t think Rahal would make the jump just yet so my choices would be:
    Experienced Driver
    1) Montoya
    2) Bourdais
    Young Driver
    1) Ryan Hunter-Reay
    2) AJ Allmendinger

  2. I would say Pedro de la Rosa unless he ends up at Campos?
    Then Ryan Hunter-Reay.

    If you can’t get de la Rosa then probably Wurz.

  3. Like A Cow's Opinion: It's Moo
    12th August 2009, 13:46

    What’s Justin Wilson up to these days?

    Would he consider returning to F1 or is he doing too well for it to be worth his while?

  4. Prisoner Monkeys
    12th August 2009, 14:07

    I’m thinking maybe Wurz and Summerton. Adrian Campos seems to be gunning for Pedro de la Rosa, and I think de la Rosa would like the idea of being a Spanish driver in a Spanish team. For Summerton, the Formula Atlantic series is run entirely on road courses, unlike IndyCar, which I think gives him more credibility than Rahal (who isn’t much of a team leader, and it’s clear USF1 would be grooming their rookie driver to one day lead the team) and Hunter-Reay (who seems too old to be making his debut).

    1. I seem to remember Peter Windsor writing praiseworthy things about Wurz in his F1 Racing columns.

      1. Prisoner Monkeys
        13th August 2009, 0:38

        It’s better than some of the ridiculous suggestions I’ve heard elsewhere on the internet. People think a Scott Speed-Sebastien Bourdais lineup is a real possibility; I say that’ll happen only if Windsor and Anderson are masochistic. Who in their right mind would put two of the most underperforming – and difficult to deal with – drivers in perfectly good race seats?

  5. Bring back Scott Speed! :)

  6. What about Will Power? He did a few good runs in road courses this year in IRL.

  7. Many of these youngster could have some problem in term of FIA super-licence..
    I really don’t think Montoya would come back in f1, except in a top team and this won’t be the case.
    Usf1 is still a mystery, maybe they’ve found you tube’s money but the staff in every order is inadequate.. they absolutely need an experieced driver, and with de la rosa probably with campos the only one interested seems wurz. but i think they’ll be competing only with manor and campos next year..

    1. Given how often he talks about going to McDonalds in his Twitter feed, I doubt it…

  8. Remember something. BMW is gone next year which means that one of their “experienced” drivers has to go somewhere.
    If USF1 can, then the will get someone that is already in F1 to be their “experienced” driver.
    Kovi is probably done at McLaren.
    RAI is leaving Ferrari(of course USF1 would have to convince him to stay in F1)
    Kubica will probably go to McLaren
    Heidfeld or Kovi will end being USF1’s “experienced” driver.

    1. That’s a very good point – either driver would be a great pick.

    2. To see Heidfeld go to USF1 would be my wish.

      I think Rosberg and Kovi will end up switching seats.

    3. As a McLaren fan who is also behind USF1, I would love to see Heikki keep his seat but I doubt it. In that case, seeing he or Heidfeld at USF1 would be great.And Kubica at McLaren would be fantastic, absolutley fantastic!!

      But the best one you’ve got there is Raikkonen at USF1….hilarious to think about, but Anderson/Windsor would never do it.

  9. JPM likes be home when his kids arrive from school. He ain’t coming back. But I too would like another F1 driver who isn’t some boring corporate spokesmodel. That guy may be Speed. I think he did OK vis a vis Luizzi. He was OK in GP2. He is the only American who knows the circuits, the people, and who we know can hack the lifestyle.

    Forget about Marco A., Patrick, Hunter-Reay, etc. Beating a bunch of guys a couple times on road course who came up racing “midgets” on ovals is not a good credential. Marco would sell tickets to a U.S. GP like crazy, but he would not be stellar.

    I favor pairing Speed with De La Rosa or Wurz. i.e., someone who can develop the car and who doesn’t have an epic ego. And we know De La Rosa, for example, knows something about tire-gasses and floors.

    1. “And we know De La Rosa, for example,knows something about tire-gasses and floors.”


    2. The only driver in IRL that came trough racing midgets is Ed Carpenter. Of the 5 full-time american drivers in the series I’d say both Marco and Hunter-Reay drives better in road courses than ovals and Graham is even (and that’s more because he does some very stupid GP2-like mistakes). Actually the worst drop in performance from ovals to road courses there is probably british Dan Wheldon who should be poster boy on how too much oval racing makes one unlearn how to turn right.

    3. I think you’re a bit off on Speed being the only guy suited to the F1 circus- SUmmerton raced in Europe for several years, including F3 Euroseries in 2006 alongside many of the young stars either in F1 or primed for a seat. After that he was in A1GP and did races at Sepang and Shanghai- the latter is his favorite track outside the USA, don’t ask why……

      Finally, his years in Formula BMW Americas put him at Montreal, Indianapolis, and Mexico City, among others. SO he’s probably coming in with more international experience than the average F1 rookie.

  10. Montoya would be great. He’s American , South American :). Quite a few younger talents in the Stars of Karting. That would be a surprise.

  11. Would everyone just forget about Montoya!!! He is nobody. He isn’t even that good in NASCAR. Not too mention that he has pretty much alread said that he hates F1 and will never return.
    F1 magazine interviewed him last year and he gave absolutely no indication that he would ever drive in F1 again. He doesn’t want to, and he won’t.
    He is an arrogant, self righteous sob.
    I’m sorry for sounding off but I’m tired of reading people praising this guy like he was some sort of god. He isn’t, so just forget about him, he forgot about F1 and he forgot all of you.

    1. I enjoyed Montoya’s time in F1, but he probably hit his peak in CART where he had some seriously impressive races. I don’t think F1 was right for him or vice-versa – I’d love to see him back in IndyCars.

  12. My vote is for Jonathan Summerton.

  13. William Wilgus
    13th August 2009, 0:40

    I can’t remember his name, but I read about a boy (& his brother) who’s dad was in the racing business here in the U.S. & the boy was into racing Karts—and they had their own track in their back yard in Arizona / Utah. When the boy turned 17, he went into pro sports cars (perhaps the ALMS series?) & won the championship that year (his first). Can’t help thinking he’d be a good candidate. Can someone supply his name / series / current status?

  14. Great to see so many comments and discussion on some good, talented Americans who may finally get a shot at the big time :)

    Any of the three young Americans would be good, but my first wish is Summerton- he’s a great guy to talk with and work with (read my interview for proof) and he’s raced at many current and recent F1 venues around the globe. Rahal and Hunter-Reay are also good- I believe RHR has a personal sponsorship deal with Izod, so that may be a factor as well.

    Either of the experienced guys mentioned would be good, I would also love to see Heikki if he dosen’t get retained at Mclaren, but too many people may misspell his last name ;) In any event, I am looking forward to the whole thing, and to the other team’s driver announcements as well.

  15. The sri lankan
    14th August 2009, 1:34

    Danica wont survive in F1. Go on gimme a bash .im not sayingf this becasuse shes a woman but loking at her racing records. this is a fact.

    1. I won’t “bash” you for your remarks. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

      But if you want to talk race records, let’s do just that. Let’s compare with other younger IRL drivers.

      Ryan Hunter-Reay has been mentioned quit a bit. In 3 IRL seasons he has 35 races, no poles, 1 win, 2 podiums, 13 top tens. He was IRL and Indy 500 Rookie of the Year for 2007.

      Marco Andretti in 4 IRL seasons has 60 races, 1 pole, 1 win, 7 podiums, 22 top tens. He was IRL and Indy 500 Rookie of the Year for 2006.

      I believe Ryan Briscoe was also mentioned. In 5 years with IRL, he has 49 starts, with 7 poles, 4 wins, 9 podiums, 27 top tens.

      Danica Patrick has 5 years with IRL, and in 77 races has claimed 3 poles, 1 win, 4 podiums and 40 top tens.

      Numbers aren’t everything, of course, but in this case they tell us that from this list Briscoe and Patrick are the best so far. Briscoe has a history of many “Not Classified” though, seeming to follow the “checkers or wreckers” school of driving. With 40 top tens/5 podium finishes in 77 starts Patrick is the more consistent of the two.

      Patrick currently lies 5th in IRL championship points. Ryan Briscoe has had an awesome season so far(logging 2 of his 4 wins and 5 of his 9 podiums) and is second in points.

      From this, I’d say that if an USF1 driver were to come from IRL, it should be either Patrick or Briscoe. But the odds of Patrick leaving IRL, I think, are small. She does, after all, own equity in her #7 team, and seems happy where she is.

      I didn’t do stats for drivers from other series who were mentioned, as it isn’t an even comparison. But I don’t feel that Montoya, Speed, or several of the others mentioned are good choices for USF1.

      And Wurz? I’d love him to be on my team, but in charge of engineering and setup, not in a seat. Wurz has probably more miles in an F1 car in testing than any other driver ever. That sort of experience would be valuable on car setup, for certain. But are we 100% certain that he’s given up on Superfund ?

      Anyway, my thoughts, for what it’s worth.

  16. Both team principals seem like straight shooters, which seems unusual in F1 these days. If they don’t stick to their published intent to run only American drivers I’ll be very disappointed in them.

  17. The only American qualified right now is Speed. Anyone else would need development time. At least a full season. If it aint an American driver why bother. No other team would field a Yank these days considering recent results. USF1 has to be “all in” in this. Just get someone decent and marketable. Let them develop. Otherwise this will never happen. Just like Healthcare Reform. And, have some other American drivers waiting in the wings like Torro Rosso. Third drivers, testers, G
    P2, whatever. There needs to be a pipeline for the flow to begin.

  18. I would love to see a driver from NASCAR and the IRL take up the positions at USF1. This would certainly generate interest in America and would also determine how drivers from two very different series would fare. I really don’t think that Scott Speed is an option that would create major interest. Juan Montoya certainly will never drive an F1 car again, and alot of the IRL stable have been overlooked by Formula One.
    Dan Wheldon, Dario Franchitti, both European drivers with tons of experience and championships to prove it, but never given an F1 opportunity. Justin Wilson and Robert Doornbos, both ex F1 backmarkers long since forgotten in European race circles. So if its going to be anybody, my money will be on a young racer few people have considered.
    Marco Andretti? Quite possibly a consideration. The Andretti name, along with Foyt, without doubt the most legendary name in American open wheel racing. Would cause a stir.
    As for NASCAR? A.J Almendinger, young guy, heavily connected with Red Bull, the very same people who are bankrolling Scott Speed’s career. Alot more likely than Kyle Busch, who still wants to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship I would wager, locked in a contract so lucrative only a fool would walk away from. I think its a given that no ‘major’ NASCAR stars are going to jump ship, purely because they are on so much money that leaving would prove too much of a risk.
    The failure in F1 of Bourdais for example has not gone unnoticed in America, and he won four Champcar titles!
    No, its going to be two young pups, thats for sure.

  19. I said it in another thread but maybe a driver that races in a US based series might be good enough qualification…

    If they wanted a bolt out of the blue Marcos Ambrose
    has raced against Button, Kimi and the like…
    Is the best road racer in nascar at the moment, beating Montoya, Speed, Almeninger etc

    no he is not American but is well know in US thru nascar.

    A move to the UK followed in 1998 with competition in the British Formula Ford Championship with the Van Diemen Team, and a fifth placed finish for the year.

    Won the coveted European Formula Ford Championship in 1999, and placed third in the British Formula Ford Championship as well that year.

    Raced in the French Formula 3 competition before withdrawing mid-season and hooking up with Alan Docking Racing for the concluding rounds of the British Formula 3 series.

    Montoya back would be great but it wont happen.

    Kyle Bush, this guy has talent, and while I am not usually this kind with nascar drivers, I think this kid would excel in any thing with a motor.

    Danica Patrick would bring in $$ but she would embarrass herself and that would put a dent in her career so I cant see her taking that risk.

    Scott Dixon, Will Power, or Ryan Briscoe would also be great options again there all Aust / NZ they are know in US thru the domestic series.

  20. Alexander Rossi, certainly a good driver and has the desire for F1. I would seriously consider him before another team takes the chance. 10 Wins in 2008, testing with BMW Sauber (defunct), and California born American.

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