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

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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.

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

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-HqkWsUbEo

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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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…

  10. 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

  11. Also a little shout for Cristian Klien, if HRT had money I think thats the driver they’d have behind the wheel. Which is why this Yamamoto non-sense has to be down to cash.

  12. TommyB (@tommyb89) said on 9th August 2010, 19:52

    I hope Ricciardo gets into F1 but he’ll be hoping Webber’s seat will be taken by Buemi so he can jump into the Toro Rosso in 2012.

  13. f1yankee said on 9th August 2010, 21:51

    i would field a team of sideshow bob look-alikes romain grosjean and boris said. the pit crew would have the hairdo built into the helmets.

  14. prudhwi said on 9th August 2010, 21:52

    If Paul Di Resta could make it… What could be the scenario of Force india ?? I mean About Adrian Sutil’s position in the team ???

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 10th August 2010, 9:46

      Di Resta would likely place Liuzzi. Sutil wouldn’t be under threat because he’s the senior driver.

      • prudhwi said on 10th August 2010, 20:24

        veryyy true but, Heard that Sutil may look forward for factory teams like /McLaren..etc in an interview.. in future…What could your analysis tell about Force India’s performance in the future….. Can this midfield team could get the lime light focused on its side in future…:-)

  15. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 9th August 2010, 22:31

    Esteban Guerrieri! if he finds the money, of course…

    he has been doing pretty good at Superleague (last year) at World Series and AutoGP, even if his continuity is always in doubt because of the lack of money… but people (from Europe!… that’s the most annoying thing… Argentina supported that clown Lopez but gave nothing to Esteban) keep trusting him…

    Hope he at least gets a test drive!

  16. Søren Kaae said on 9th August 2010, 23:04

    I was looking around yesterday, trying to figure out the differences of F3, F2, GP3 and GP2. An interesting fact I stumbled over was to see that the way the to get into Formula 1 seems to be: National Formula –> Formula 3 Euro Series —> GP2 –> F1.

    Of the drivers in the current F1 field that has raced in both F3 and GP2 we can mention, Nico Hulkenberg, Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, (Paul Di Resta). So for me it seems natural for Paul Di Resta to take Tonio’s place at Force India if Sutil doesnt go to another team. Even then I still see a chance that Heidfeld will get back. Driving for who I dont know.
    Though it seems that every race weekend when Schumacher screws up Heidfeld is sitting there thinking: “I can do better!”. Such a shame that he was not able to catch a drive this year.

  17. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 10th August 2010, 2:46

    Pastor Maldonado & Paul DI Resta looks promising to me in 2011 with Resta replacing Luizzi looks more happening.

  18. manB said on 10th August 2010, 6:37

    For FI i doubt di Resta will be drive in 2011. If Shumi stays for 2011, Nick Heidfeld will drive for FI for a year, if not Chandok could replace Liuzzi as he would be good to bring loz of indian sponsors to FI.

    Renault, i think they will stay with Petrov as he is matching the pace of Kubica

  19. Randy said on 10th August 2010, 7:06

    Canadian Robert Wickens. Lots of open wheel experience in Champ Car Atlantic, A1GP, Formula BMW USA, WSR, F2, and GP3 and has taken pole and won races at every level. Lack of major sponsor makes F1 unlikely for next year but the kid has mad skills. Very mature driver for his age.

  20. Ronman said on 10th August 2010, 7:53

    Its unfair that Grosjean isn’t getting a break this year, i hope he has something for 2011…

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