Who will be the new F1 drivers in 2011?

Pastor Maldonado, GP2, 2010

With no movement on the 2011 F1 driver market so far, it looks as though there might not be very many spaces for new drivers next year.

But with a 13th team potentially being announced soon and a fresh crop of graduates from GP2 and beyond looking for a way in, we could still see some new faces on the grid next year. Here’s a few to look out for.

Pastor Maldonado

Pastor Maldonado, GP2, 2010

Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado fared poorly alongside Nico H?‚??lkenberg at ART last year, but having returned to the team he drove for in 2008 he is faring much better.

The Rapax driver won his fifth consecutive feature race at Hungary in emphatic fashion and has a comfortable championship lead with six races remaining.

There have been occasional snags, notably in the sprint race at the Hungaroring where he failed to heed a black-and-orange flag and ended up being disqualified. He was fortunate not to be handed a tougher penalty.

So far only Giorgio Pantano has failed to convert a GP2 championship victory into an F1 drive the following year – having spent a total of seven years competing in F3000 and GP2. Maldonado’s four-year tenure in GP2 doesn’t necessarily put him at risk of the same but this is looking like his last and best chance.

Maldonado has some backing from his country’s government and that combined with his performance this year could lead him to be the first Venezuelan to race in F1 since Johnny Cecotto 26 years ago.

He is managed by Nicolas Todt, the well-connected son of FIA President Jean Todt who also manages Felipe Massa and Jules Bianchi.

Sergio Perez

Sergio Perez, GP2, 2010

Sergio Perez is also from a country in the Americas which hasn’t had an F1 driver for a while. The last Mexican to start a Grand Prix was Hector Rebaque in 1981.

At 20, Perez is five years younger than Maldonado and there’s been a touch of youthful impetuosity in his driving at times – particularly when he threw away a points finish in the sprint race last week with a half-hearted overtaking move.

But he has shown excellent speed on occasions and is comfortably handling a much more experienced team mate. He’s won three times already this year and lost a likely double points finish at Istanbul when his car was found to be underweight after the sprint race.

With backing from telecommunications company Telmex, who have supported several Mexican racing drivers in the past, Perez could find a place on the F1 grid next year.

Currently second in GP2, if he finishes there it leaves only one place he can afford to finish should he hang around for a third season in 2011.

Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo, Formula Renault 3.5, 2010

The Formula Renault 3.5 championship is led by Mikhail Aleshin, who’s in his fourth season in the category. Rookie Daniel Ricciardo is just seven points behind.

The Red Bull development driver followed in the footsteps of Jaime Alguersuari by winning the British Formula Three championship last year.

Ricciardo also impressed in the junior drivers’ test at the end of last year, driving a Red Bull RB5.

There are no vacancies for him at either of the Red Bull teams next year, so a switch to a to GP2 team in 2011 might be the next step for the 21-year-old Australian.

Paul di Resta

Paul di Resta, Force India, 2010

Di Resta’s DTM performance this year is probably of less significance for his future in F1 than the seven appearances he has made in practice sessions with Force India – a sign he’s being considered for a promotion.

With Vitantonio Liuzzi enduring a difficult comeback to the sport Di Resta looks like a good tip for a race seat next year.

Who else?

Jules Bianchi, GP2, 2010

Hotly-tipped Ferrari development driver Jules Bianchi started his season for GP2 powerhouse ART as expected, claiming pole position for the first race of the season.

But it all went downhill from there as the French driver crashed out at the first corner. Fourth in the championship is a creditable performance for a rookie, but he’s winless so far and hasn’t quite met those high expectations.

Matters took a turn for the worse at the Hungaroring, where he ended the weekend in the same AEK Hospital Felipe Massa was taken to last year. Thankfully Bianchi’s injuries, sustained in a crash at the start of the GP2 feature race, were not life-threatening, but the damage to his back will exclude him from several races.

Ex-Renault driver Romain Grosjean has impressed in a few single-seater drives this year, winning in Auto GP and showing good speed in a brief appearance at DAMS in GP2. F1 is clearly unfinished business for him.

Have you spotted any other drivers in the junior formulae who deserve a place in F1 next year? Have your say in the comments.

Read more: 2011 F1 drivers and teams

Image (C) GP2 Media Serivce, GP2 Media Serivce, GP2 Media Serivce, Renault, Force India F1 Team, GP2 Media Serivce

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123 comments on Who will be the new F1 drivers in 2011?

  1. Maybe not next year, but a year later I hope my compatriot Kazim Vasiliauskas will enter F1 becoming first Lithuanian to do so. Currently, he competes in F2 and showing promising speed, but luck is not on his side, so he is 7th in the championship and he could have won a race if not a gearbox problem.

  2. Bernard (@bernard) said on 9th August 2010, 12:01

    Surely we haven’t seen the last of Quick Nick?

    • Steph90 (@steph90) said on 9th August 2010, 12:26

      He’s hardly ‘new’ though :P I want him back on the grid though.

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 9th August 2010, 13:00

      I think we have. He’s been out for a season, and there isn’t really anywhere he can go. He may have been a safer horse than Vitaly Petrov for Renault, but it’s very telling that Renault didn’t take him. After all, Petrov was only announced as Renault’s second driver the day the R30 was unveiled in Valencia, and the contract had been signed the day before – so Petrov’s money was hardly the defining factor in Renault’s decision to take him. Even if Renault drop Petrov, you’ve got Sutil and Glock eyeing off his seat (at the very least), and they’ve got one major drawcard over Heidfeld: they’ve been racing in 2010. In fact, the entire field has that over Heidfeld. Remember, refuelling is gone for this season, so the cars behave very differently. Otherwise, there’s nowhere for Heidfeld to go – McLaren are full, Red Bull is full, Ferrari is full, Mercedes will probably be full, etc. Besides, there’s talk that Heidfeld will be the official test driver for Pirelli’s tyres. It’s likely that Mercedes will fight to retain him as their test driver in 2011 because of the personal experience he’ll glean from testing the Pirellis: something no other team can offer.

      Face it, Heidfeld’s time as a racer is over.

      • Mike said on 9th August 2010, 16:06

        … Well Renault didn’t take him, and I think part of this is that Heidfeld was already committed to Mercedes when Schumacher signed on. So I don’t think it was an option, a year out hardly discounts a driver, And although I agree his options are slim, I think to say he is “done”, is a bit of a stretch.

        Look at De La Rosa for instance… He was in the same position as Heidfeld for much longer.

        • BasCB said on 10th August 2010, 6:58

          I think the only real chance for Heidfeld to get into F1 would be with the 13th entry.
          As Klien showed, an experienced driver (not as talented and not as experienced as Heidfeld) can get the car working to its potential a lot better than a pack of rookies. But Nick would have to work for free, if not bring sponsorship to the team.

  3. Steph90 (@steph90) said on 9th August 2010, 12:24

    Maldonado and Perez are probably the only ones worth a shot right now. I can see them both getting in too, at least one of them with Epsilon if that becomes an option.

    There’s no point rushing people through esp with the seriously limited amount of testing. It may have worked for Kamui but he was going nowhere in GP2. He was seriously unimpressive, it was sheer luck that he was given a chance in F1 and thank God he did get it but most drivers don’t jump into an F1 car and go like hell straight away.

    Senna came into F1 at 24 and I think he was considered youngish at the time and he had testing. F1 can be its own worst enemy at times; chucking young kids in the car with barely any experience and then getting impatient. We’ve already lost Grosjean, Petrov, Chandhok, di Grassi and Jaime have speculation surrounding their seats. It just seems daft to me.

    Ricciardo and Bianchi could both be something special but they need time. Ricciardo needs to do the full route upwards. Bianchi needs another year in GP2; he has a back injury now and although his results were messy he has put in some good performances at times. He just needs time I think.

    Paul di Resta really should be in GP2 or just a single seater, open wheel series for a kick off. At least he is getting some Friday running though but I do0 expect him in F1 next year if I’m honest so that’s 3 new faces I predict.

  4. One driver whose stock certainly took a beating this year is Sam Bird. When he has his day he can be quick but he can also be really mediocre or reckless.
    In my opinion competition in GP2 isn’t as harsh as it was last year but even in such conditions he hasn’t really shined.

    • KateM (@katem) said on 9th August 2010, 18:30

      I never really rated Sam Bird personally, I’d be surprised if he ever made F1.

      I wonder who will be the next Brit in F1, aside from di Resta (yes, I know he is Scottish!)? I personally don’t think Sims, Turvey, Max Chilton (even with all his backing) or any of the Brits in F2 have got what it takes. It could be a few years yet. Jack Harvey in FBMW Europe looks quite promising, but its a little soon to assess his chances.

      • Er if your Scottish you are British, that reas a little wierd.

        Jack Harvey is a good shout, should hopefully see him in GP3 next year.

        • KateM (@katem) said on 9th August 2010, 21:30

          I have a lot of Scottish friends, most of which get annoyed if you refer to Andy Murray as British despite him being, um, British, so just covering the bases. Thank you for calling me weird though, nothing like a bit of judgmentalness about someone you’ve never met :/

  5. DanielPT said on 9th August 2010, 13:01

    I will be bold and say that my fellow compatriot Alvaro Parente deserved another chance at GP2 and then at F1. He showed speed in both his 2 GP2 seasons appearances. And in the second (2009), he completely trounced Karun Chandhok in the same car (Ocean Racing technology). Also, he won WSR in 2007 and tested a F1 Renault that year. He was going to be the Virgin test driver this year but some sponsorship retracted near the beginning of the season. He lost the place to Andy Soucek, who in 2008 raced for Super Nova along Parante finishing behind the Portuguese.

  6. fordsrule said on 9th August 2010, 13:38

    As long as Ricciardo isn’t in I will be happy, and yes I am Australian:)

  7. Owen said on 9th August 2010, 13:42

    Daniel Ricciardo! Have we ever had two Australians racing F1 at the same time? I hope we can!

    • Stevo said on 10th August 2010, 3:40

      Just had to check on wiki for this, there’s about 30 races up to 1977 with more than one Australian. The last time Austria in 1977, Alan Jones’ first win, with Vern Schuppan the other driver. According to wiki:
      “Jones’s win was so unexpected the organisers did not have a copy of the Australian national anthem. “Happy Birthday” was played through the PA system instead.”

      One a few occasions there have been 3 Aussie drivers who have qualified for the same race, three times in 1965 with Brabham, Gardener and Paul Hawkins, and once in 1976 in the US with Jones, Perkins and Warwick Brown.

  8. Charles Carroll said on 9th August 2010, 14:17

    I think its safe to say that Bernie Ecclestone will be driving next year, complete with eye patch, handle-bar mustache, and a striped scarf.

  9. luigismen (@luigismen) said on 9th August 2010, 15:18

    Maldonado to F1 finally! Venezuelan Power!
    I’m so glad I will be having a compatriot to root for in Formula 1

  10. Rick Hendrikse said on 9th August 2010, 15:30

    I’ve got hope for Giedo vd Garde (but only because he’s a dutchy as I am, so for real, I don’t think so)

    But in the karting scene Max verstappen is kicking *ss and so i think he will be on the grid in 2018 or so.

    Then I stil think that virgin should try and sign Danica Patrick, it would be quite te show and let’s face it, she most likely drives better then Senna and/or Di Grassi.

    Also worth mentioning is Renger van der Zande, he might be up there one day.

    Internationaly i just hope for a new hamilton story. Brought slowly by a top team and just make every expectation come true.

  11. Lord Wallaby said on 9th August 2010, 16:19


    Conor Daly is a young American coming up through the American ranks. Hopefully Alexander Rossi keeps moving up the chain too.

  12. Dipak T said on 9th August 2010, 16:24

    And what about JR Hilderbrand? He only just lost out to Di Resta to become Force Indias champion, and probably already qualifies for a FIA Super Licence. He has the speed, god knows how he currently isnt in a full time IndyCar ride this season. But just because he isnt in GP2, doenst mean he would not be a contender or be sucessful in F1.

    • Dipak T said on 9th August 2010, 16:25

      ‘Force Indias champion’, should be ‘Force Indias third driver, and I belive the current Indy Lights champion’

      • Lord Wallaby said on 9th August 2010, 16:37

        Got his first Indycar drive Sunday at Mid Ohio. Hopefully he can get a full time ride or move onto something other than those crapwagons.

        • We will not know if any Indy Car deal is finalized. He only has a 2 race contract.

          JR’s test deal with Force India was made by contacts 2 years ago. If Di Resta seals the 2nd seat, JR may get a test ride.

  13. Brian said on 9th August 2010, 16:48

    F1 needs a Canadian on the grid. I say Robert Wickens should get a shot at any open drives for next year.

  14. Daniil said on 9th August 2010, 18:04

    I think Jerome d’Ambrosio, driver in GP2 for DAMS deserves his place in F1. So far, he’s won only 1 race in the series, but the general performance of his team isn’t good. But the belgian driver has shown his talent on many occasions. Last year, he used to qualify poorly in qualifying, but could make a lot of overtakings during the race. He’s also a very good pilot in Monaco : he finished second there last year, and won his first race this year (though it was the second race). Last but not least, he dominated his teammate last year, the well-known Kamui Kobayashi. So, this pilot deserves much more than his current situation…

  15. jose arellano said on 9th August 2010, 18:05

    i hope perez beats maldonado on pure pace in the next few races (hasnt happened).. if he does. slim will offer some cash to a team (but this would affect other racers sponsored by him i reckon…

    and i would like to see what gutierrez offers once he goes to gp2…

    viva meexicoo

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