F1 rookies test: Guide to the drivers

New Williams driver Nico H???lkenberg will be at tomorrow's test

The in-season testing ban may have caused some problems but it has given us one thing to look forward to: tomorrow a three-day F1 test session exclusively for rookie drivers begins at Jerez.

Already most of the teams have announced their drivers which include a host of champions plus several drivers from nations not currently represented in F1 including America, Mexico, Sweden, Belgium, New Zealand and China.

Here’s a guide to the drivers announced so far and who they’ll be appearing for. Which of them will we be seeing in F1 soon?

Bertrand Baguette

Bertrand Baguette, 2009 World Series by Renault champion

Bertrand Baguette, 2009 World Series by Renault champion

Nationality: Belgian
Career highlights: 2009 World Series by Renault champion
Team: Renault
Test dates: Tuesday 1st December

Won the World Series by Renault comfortably at his third attempt this year with 155 points to closest rival Fairuz Fauzy’s 98. It may have taken him until round ten to register his first win but consistency served him well.

He wrapped up the title before the end of the season but hung around to win the final two races at Motorland Aragon in emphatic style. Deserves a shot at F1 for his surname alone – can he follow previous category champions Fernando Alonso and Robert Kubica into the top level?

Jules Bianchi

Jules Bianchi dominated F3 Euroseries and should be a force in GP2 next year

Jules Bianchi dominated F3 Euroseries and should be a force in GP2 next year

Nationality: French
Career highlights: 2009 F3 Euroseries champion
Team: Ferrari
Test dates: Tuesday 1st-Wednesday 2nd December

With Nicolas Todt (son of FIA president Jean Todt) managing his career, Bianchi’s chances of reaching F1 would look good even if he weren’t such a promising talent. But his dominant F3 Euroseries title win this year, setting him up for a GP2 debut with ART next year, shows his considerable promise.

The only blot on his form this year was an indifferent showing at the blue riband Macau Grand Prix, starting 21st and finishing tenth.

It’s fascinating that Ferrari are showing such interest in him at this stage in his career, giving him two of their three allocated test days. It’s been a long time since a rookie made their F1 race debut with Ferrari. Perhaps they’ve looked at the success McLaren have had with another ex-ART driver – Lewis Hamilton – and want to emulate it.

Jules Bianchi

Mirko Bortolotti

Mirko Bortolotti tested for Ferrari last year

Mirko Bortolotti tested for Ferrari last year

Nationality: Italian
Career highlights: 2008 Italian Formula Three champion
Team: Toro Rosso
Test dates: TBC

Mirko Bortolotti is one of a trio of Italian drivers who tested for Ferrari at the end of last season. He was considered the most promising of the three, and raced in Formula Two this year.

He scored just one win against the Andy Soucek steamroller and ended the year fourth overall. But he’s still only 19 and already enjoys the backing of Red Bull, earning him the Toro Rosso test.

Mirko Bortolotti

Mike Conway

Mike Conway is congratulated by Owen Snyder after taking third at Infineon

Mike Conway is congratulated by Owen Snyder after taking third at Infineon

Nationality: British
Career highlights: 2006 British Formula Three champion
Team: Mercedes
Test dates: Tuesday 1st-Thursday 3rd December
On Twitter: Mike Conway

Conway is already well-known to The Team Now Known As Mercedes, as he was a test driver for them during their Honda incarnation.

I met him in 2006 when he was in British Formula Three. He talked of how he wanted to get into Formula 1 but appreciated how difficult it is to do and how racing in America could be an alternative.

Funnily enough, that’s just how things worked out. Despite beating team mate Bruno Senna (set to become an F1 driver for Campos) to the British F3 title, Conway’s subsequent two seasons in GP2 didn’t bring much success. He won once, at Monaco in 2008, while team mate to Ho-Pin Tung at Trident (see below). After that, he went State-side.

Let’s not mince words: there were a lot of crashes during his season with Dreyer and Reinbold Racing in the Indy Racing League. In fact there were seven in 17 starts. However he did show some speed, particularly on road courses, and was a surprising and wholly deserved third at Infineon Raceway.

His appearance at the test – where he will share three days’ running with Marcus Ericsson – could play a role in deciding whether his racing future is in Europe or America.

Mike Conway tested for Honda at the end of 2007

Mike Conway tested for Honda at the end of 2007

Paul di Resta

Paul di Resta's sole DTM win this year was at Brands Hatch

Paul di Resta's sole DTM win this year was at Brands Hatch

Nationality: British
Career highlights: 2006 F3 Euroseries champion
Team: Force India
Test dates: TBC

Paul di Resta is testing for Force India but with both their seats taken for 2010 the interesting link here could be engine supplier Mercedes.

Di Resta has driven for them in the DTM since 2007. The year before that he won the F3 Euroseries beating team mate Sebastian Vettel, so quite a few people are interested to see how di Resta gets on in an F1 car.

He has even been rumoured as an outside chance for the second Mercedes seat alongside Nico Rosberg. That seems unlikely (would a driver without an F1 win and another driver without an F1 start be a good enough line-up for the reigning champions?), but with his ambitions focussed on F1 it’s certainly time he moved up from the DTM.

Lucas di Grassi

Lucas di Grassi, GP2, 2009

Lucas di Grassi, GP2, 2009

Nationality: Brazilian
Career highlights: GP2 runner-up, 2007
Team: Renault
Test dates: TBC
On Twitter: Lucas di Grassi

Really should have won a GP2 championship by now after four seasons in the category. Was probably the series’ most impressive driver last year when he finished third in the championship despite missing the first six races.

But he’s had two seasons where he’s joined the winners of the previous championship and failed to deliver the title – with ART in 2007 and Racing Engineering this year.

Di Grassi has been a test driver for Renault and is a strong candidate for a drive next year even if they don’t stay in F1, having also been linked to the new Manor and Campos teams. This test could seal a deal for him.

Lucas di Grassi

Marcus Ericsson

Ericsson won the Japanese F3 championship and moved up to GP2 Asia

Ericsson won the Japanese F3 championship and moved up to GP2 Asia

Nationality: Swedish
Career highlights: 2007 Formula BMW UK champion, 2009 Japanese Formula Three champion
Team: Mercedes
Test dates: TBC

Marcus Ericsson won the Japanese F3 championship in an exciting season finale after nearest rival Takuto Iguchi spun in the last race at Sugo. That completed the task Ericsson had set out on after leaving the UK racing scene behind where he’d won the Formula BMW championship in 2007 and finished fifth in British F3 last year.

He took pole position for the Macau Grand Prix last weekend but struggled to hold back his Volkswagen-engined rivals and finished fourth.

Now Ericsson looks set to move up to GP2 having begun the GP2 Asia championship with ART, though he failed to score in the first two races.

Esteban Gutierrez

Esteban Gutierrez raced in F3 this year and has tested GP2 cars

Esteban Gutierrez raced in F3 this year and has tested GP2 cars

Nationality: Mexican
Career highlights: 2008 Formula BMW Europe champion
Team: BMW
Test dates: TBC

Gutierrez, like Alexander Rossi (below), earned his F1 test with BMW thanks to his performance in Formula BMW last year. The Mexican driver won the Formula BMW European championship last year in races supporting several Grands Prix.

He made his move up to Formula Three this year as team-mate to Bianchi at ART. He ended the year ninth overall, a respectable result for a rookie in a difficult category. The 18-year-old has had a pair of GP2 tests – with ART in October and with Arden earlier this month.

Brendon Hartley

Red Bull-backed Brendon Hartley has run F3 and WSR campaigns this year

Red Bull-backed Brendon Hartley has run F3 and WSR campaigns this year

Nationality: New Zealander
Career highlights: 2007 Formula Renault 2.0 Europe champion
Team: Toro Rosso
Test dates: TBC

Hartley was Jaime Alguersuari’s team mate in the Carlin British F3 team last year – he finished third while Alguerusuari won the title and, as we all know, moved up into F1 this year.

This year the New Zealand driver – who just turned 20 – raced in the F3 Euroseries and World Series by Renault. The split campaigns don’t seem to have done his form any favours: he scored just 15 points in the F3 Euroseries (including one win) but missed six races. He scored 26 in World Series by Renault, missing five races.

Despite not seeming to know what to do with him, the Red Bull Driver Development programme has at least seen fit to give him an F1 test for Toro Rosso. Next year he would probably benefit from finding one category and sticking to it.

Nico H???lkenberg

Nico H???lkenberg won the 2009 GP2 championship

Nationality: German
Career highlights: 2006-07 A1 Grand Prix champion (Team Germany), 2008 F3 Euroseries champion, 2009 GP2 champion, 2010 F1 driver (Williams)
Team: Williams
Test dates: TBC

We already know plenty about Nico H???lkenberg. He romped to the GP2 title for ART, becoming the first rookie to win the category since Lewis Hamilton in 2006.

With championship titles in other major junior series and the backing of Michael Schumcher’s manager Willi Weber, much is expected from H???lkenberg’s F1 debut for Williams in 2010.

Nico H???lkenberg

Daniel Ricciardo

British F3 champion Daniel Ricciardo

British F3 champion Daniel Ricciardo

Nationality: Australian
Career highlights: 2008 Formula Renault 2.0 WEC champion, 2009 British F3 champion
Team: Red Bull
Test dates: TBC

Australian Daniel Ricciardo (who lists Mark Webber among his favourite drivers) began this year’s British F3 championship with a pair of wins at Oulton Park.

This followed a move up from Formula Renault 2.0 WEC where he was champion in 2008. Ricciardo, who is backed by Red Bull, went on to win the British F3 title comfortably with six wins.

Although he had no answer for Bianchi’s pace when the ART team appeared at a couple of British rounds, that could be more a reflection of the higher level of competition in the European championship and Bianchi’s greater experience.

Ricciardo also took the opportunity to sample more powerful machinery this year, driving two races in Formula Renault 3.5, suggesting that could be his next step on the path towards F1.

Andy Soucek

Nationality: Spanish
Career highlights: 2009 Formula Two champion
Team: Williams
Test dates: TBC

Williams are giving a test to Andy Soucek as his prize for winning the Formula Two championship, which the F1 team supplies cars for. With both Williams seats taken for next year, the best Soucek can hope for with the team is inheriting H???lkenberg’s former role as test driver.

Before F2 Soucek spent two years driving more powerful cars against stronger opposition in GP2, with a best result of two second places. He may well have to prove himself against that kind of opposition before he’s considered worthy of an F1 seat.

Andy Soucek

JR Hildebrand

JR Hildebrand is the reigning Indy Lights champion

JR Hildebrand is the reigning Indy Lights champion

Nationality: American
Career highlights: 2009 Indy Lights champion
Team: Force India
Test dates: TBC
On Twitter: JR Hildebrand

Not the notorious Dallas bad guy (that’s JR Ewing) or the fictional author of a book on fly fishing (JR Hartley) – JR Hildebrand is this year’s Indy Lights champion. And if you’ve not heard of him before, don’t worry, it’s not as if there’s a great pedigree of Indy Lights drivers graduating straight to F1.

Hildebrand, 21, won four races en route to the Indy Lights championship title in his second full year in the category. The series runs on a mix of road, street and oval courses and all of Hildebrand’s wins came on tracks with right and left-hand turns. A1GP fans may also remember he made a one-off appearance for Team USA at Brands Hatch, finishing fourth in his first race.

It’s too early to be thinking of a graduation to F1 but the test could present an opportunity for Hildebrand to move his career to a European championship such as GP2 where he would be more likely to attract the attention of F1 team bosses.

Alexander Rossi

Alexander Rossi impressed in his first GP2 Asia race

Alexander Rossi impressed in his first GP2 Asia race

Nationality: American
Career highlights: 2008 Formula BMW Americas champion, 2008 Formula BMW World Series champion
Team: BMW
Test dates: TBC

Plenty of people would like to see a competitive American driver in F1 to raise the sport’s profile in the USA. Californian Alexander Rossi might be the driver to do it one day.

Along with Gutierrez, Rossi is testing for BMW, thanks to his victory in last year’s BMW World Series and the Formula BMW American series. He started racing in Europe this year and joined the Formula Master championship. Three wins put him fourth in the championship and top rookie.

Rossi made his first appearance in GP2 Asia at the race supporting the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and looked instantly at home in the more powerful cars, finishing fourth and fifth in his first two races. It’s still early days, but Rossi seems the most convincing young American talent trying to ply his trade in F1 for some time.

Alexander Rossi

Pablo Sanchez Lopez

Pablo Sanchez Lopez raced in World Series by Renault last year

Pablo Sanchez Lopez raced in World Series by Renault last year

Nationality: Mexican
Career highlights: Third in 2009 Italian Formula Three championship
Team: Ferrari
Test dates: Thursday 3rd December

While Bianchi gets two days in the F60 the three other drivers Ferrari is bringing to the test will share a day between them. They are the top three drivers from this year’s Italian Formula Three championship.

Mexican Pablo Sanchez Lopez was third in the series, ending the year with a double win at Monza. The 19-year-old moved to the category after a season in World Series by Renault last year – where he was the second-lowest ranked of all drivers who completed a full season.

Oliver Turvey

Oliver Turvey is supported by the Racing Steps Foundation

Oliver Turvey is supported by the Racing Steps Foundation

Nationality: British
Career highlights: 2006 McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver Award winner
Team: McLaren
Test dates: Tuesday 1st-Thursday 3rd December

Not content with having an all-British driver line-up for 2010 McLaren has picked another British driver – Oliver Turvey – to test its car.

Turvey finished as runner-up to Jaime Alguersuari in the British F3 championship last year. The pair graduated to World Series by Renault together and Turvey edged Alguersuari on points, finishing fourth overall and winning the F1-supporting Monaco race.

Turvey has already landed a seat with GP2 team iSport for 2010, and drove for them in the GP2 Asia race at Yas Island.

He is backed by the Racing Steps Foundation which helps talented British drivers who lack sponsorship to find drives.

Ho-Pin Tung

Ho-Pin Tung raced for Galatasaray in Superleague Formula this year

Ho-Pin Tung raced for Galatasaray in Superleague Formula this year

Nationality: Chinese
Career highlights: 2003 Formula BMW Asia champion, 2006 German Formula Three champion
Team: Renault
Test dates: TBC

Are Renault only interested in Ho-Pin Tung for the potential publicity value of having the first Chinese driver in the sport? With the future of their team in doubt it doesn’t take a cynic to see the value to the car manufacturer of having a Chinese driver in one of their cars, or even just a test role, for 2010.

Tung has two seasons of experience in GP2. He scored just 11 points from 2007-2008, but was not in any of the front-running teams. He’s also competed in A1 Grand Prix and was in Superleague Formula this year. Tung started the season with Atletico Madrid but switched to Galatasaray and scored a decent win at Jarama.

He had his first F1 test back in 2004 with Williams and also appeared in BMW’s Pit Lane Park at Shanghai in 2007 (below).

Ho-Pin Tung in the BMW Pit Lane Park, 2007

Ho-Pin Tung in the BMW Pit ane Park, 2007

Daniel Zampieri

Daniel Zampieri in the F1-supporting GP2 Asia race at Yas Island

Daniel Zampieri in the F1-supporting GP2 Asia race at Yas Island

Nationality: Italian
Career highlights: 2009 Italian Formula Three champion
Team: Ferrari
Test dates: Thursday 3rd December

Zampieri won the Italian F3 championship this year and has already made a move up to GP2 Asia. The 19-year-old raced at Yas Island for Piquet GP, registering a 15th and a DNF. He also joined the stars of F3 for the Macau race at the end of the year – but was eliminated in the lap one mayhem, along with Ricciardo and Hartley.

Marco Zipoli

Nationality: Italian
Career highlights: Second in 2009 Italian Formula Three Championship.
Team: Ferrari
Test dates: Thursday 3rd December

The 19-year-old Genoan driver scored points in every round of the Italian F3 championship this year despite driving for three different teams during the year. He ended the year second behind Zampieri but the pair scored almost the same amount of points when they became team mates for the last eight races of the year.

Who else?

At the time of writing McLaren are yet to confirm who they might bring to the test. And it’s not clear if Toyota, who are pulling out of F1, will bother to attend.

Which of these drivers do you think will do well and deserve an F1 seat?

Are there any other up-and-coming drivers you think deserve an F1 test? What about the likes Sergio Perez, Edoardo Mortara and Giedo van der Garde? Have your say in the comments.

Images (C) Renault, Alastair Staley/GP2, Drew Gibson/GP2, DTM, British F3, Indy Racing League, Honda Racing, Superleague Formula, BMW ag

Advert | Go Ad-free

72 comments on F1 rookies test: Guide to the drivers

  1. Prisoner Monkeys said on 30th November 2009, 7:20

    If Jules Bianchi does well in GP2 next season, I’m banking on a Ferrari-Mercedes bidding war for his services. And I don’t think Ferrari would be too willing to cut either Massa or Alonso loose in his favour, so I’m predicting he’ll debut with Mercedes.

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 30th November 2009, 7:20

      Also, it sucks that drivers younger than me are testing and racing Formula One cars.

      • Accidental Mick said on 30th November 2009, 11:35

        In 1985, John Watson was the only current driver in F1 who was older than me. How do you think I felt when he retired. :-)

      • I know what you mean! The day when an F1 driver is younger than me is when I know the dream has finally died…

        • Hehe glad its not just me. I remember well the day Nico Rosberg first tested a Williams at 17 years old. The first time somebody younger than me had ever driven an F1 car.

          Still fun to daydream, though… ;)

          • Adrian said on 30th November 2009, 13:57

            I’m 28 and in most ways of thinking still young-ish…but in F1-driver-age terms I’m past it…how depressing is that.

      • Ned Flanders said on 30th November 2009, 13:58

        I have about two or three months to take Jaime Alguersuari’s record as the youngest driver to race in F1. The day there is an F1 driver younger than me will be the day I finally feel grown up…

        • But with the new F1 race being more than 3 months away, presumably you’ve now lost your chance?

          • Ned Flanders said on 30th November 2009, 15:46

            Yeah, good point

            But it’s all academic ‘cos I’ve just checked on Wikipedia and I’m already a couple of months older than he was in his first race. My maths let me down there…

          • Aaah but none of us can beat Jaime’s record then but Rubens is still going so we can be f1 drivers! :P

        • I’ve not got long to beat Jaime’s record either. Ferrari, Toro Rosso I’m here and I’ll be quick I promise!!!

        • You think that’s bad? I was born on the exact same day as Jaime :[ it will forever serve as a reminder of what could have been…

      • Zaphod said on 30th November 2009, 17:36

        Hilarious!

  2. Darren said on 30th November 2009, 7:22

    I think Adam Carroll deserves a drive both in the test and fulltime.

    I wonder if mclaren will run Gary parffet and maybe someone like alex sims

    • jason said on 30th November 2009, 8:05

      ^^^i second exactly what this guy said Adam carol did a fine job in A1GP but another missing name from this list is Marco andretti test for USGP they said they wanted an American F1 driver

      • Prisoner Monkeys said on 30th November 2009, 9:15

        Dude, did you even read the article? This is aboutthe rookies who will be TESTING at Jerez tomrrow.

        And A1GP results hardly form a dramatic resume of a driver’s ability. Carroll’s getting a bit too long in the tooth to be making an F1 debut.

  3. GeeMac said on 30th November 2009, 9:16

    Nice line up, a lot of promissing drivers there! Does anyone know if this test will be covered by TV or if there will be live timing available?

    As an aside, will “Mercedes” run in its Brawn GP guise or will we get a sneak peak at the teams possible 2010 livery?

  4. sato113 said on 30th November 2009, 10:58

    surely Kobyashi should be at this test? as he has only started 2 f1 gps, therefore he is eligible for this test.

    another great article.

  5. sato113 said on 30th November 2009, 11:03

    also does anyone know whether the teams will be testing parts for 2010? will we see some new cars? or is it just to give the rookies a taste of F1?

  6. As a Belgian I hope Baguette can do well and maybe get an f1 drive soon!
    That would be awesome :)

  7. about Jules Bianchi:
    it’s not the fact that Ferrari want to emulate McLaren and their Lewis-Hamilton-grow-up-project: Bianchi will have 2 days test simply because his manager is Nicolas Todt. No other reason

    • santori said on 30th November 2009, 22:30

      Well, there’s also his remarkable speed and consistency.

      I’m hoping that someone who’s been impressed by Kobayashi will give Jérôme d’Ambrosio a shot.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 1st December 2009, 0:11

      Well, there’s also his remarkable speed and consistency.

      Yeah I don’t think it’s just the Todt thing. Otherwise surely Bourdais would have had the same chance to test for Ferrari?

  8. If you will look back through the past articles of the year you will find that I have been saying that Daniel Riccardo was a young up and comer that we should be watching. Great to see he has got himself a test drive with Red Bull.

    An all Aussie driver lineup at Red Bull in 2011, now that would be great.

  9. ajokay said on 30th November 2009, 12:32

    Bertie Bread… what a name.

  10. TommyB said on 30th November 2009, 12:32

    Looking forward to see how Harltey does.

    Bertnard Baguette has the best name ever – we saw him at World Series this year.

    • Hmmm.. I reckon Aussie Will Power has the best name ever. :)

      • Dennis said on 1st December 2009, 18:49

        Scott Speed is a nice name too :p

        • Ian D said on 5th December 2009, 3:09

          Bertrand Baguette, Julien Jousse, I saw them both in the World Series by Renault (thanks Keith, the programmes always called it Formula Renault 3.5, now I know) race at Monaco in 2008.

          Best name ever (in my opinion) Renger Van Der Zande, pronounced by TV commentators Van Der Zander. Runner up in British F3 championship 2009.

  11. http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/80371

    McLaren have confirmed Oliver Turvey will be taking part in the test.

  12. Salut Gilles said on 30th November 2009, 14:38

    Why no love for Robert Wickens? I may be (re: definetly am) biased because I’m Canadian, but Wickens just won a Superlicence by finishing second in F2, where, by the way, he outperformed Bortolotti.

    I think I also heard that he’s being dropped from Red Bull’s young driver program. What gives? No sponsorship?

    • Exactly, no sponsorship. Wickens has an impressive resume and was more deserving than Jaime for the STR seat. Imagine any other major pro sports league where the athletes had to pay for their position on the team. Not flattering for F1 which is supposed to be the best drivers in the best cars.

  13. Racin Rob said on 30th November 2009, 15:01

    I agree….another biased Robbie Wickens plug! He deserves a test at least…..

  14. WidowFactory said on 30th November 2009, 16:02

    I think Ho-Pin will still be hopin’ for an F1 drive next year…

  15. Damon Hill was younger than me……………!!

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.