Stevens’ initial outing a rarity in modern F1: an in-year debut


Will Stevens’ confirmation at Caterham for Abu Dhabi this weekend should likely be viewed with pretty low expectations. It’s his Grand Prix debut, on limited testing, coming with a team that has missed the last two races.

But it will still be interesting to note how his debut goes compared to other recent in-season debuts, which have been fewer of late. Stevens is in with some interesting company, though.

Here’s the last five, which have occurred over the last five years:

Andre Lotterer, 2014 Belgian Grand Prix, Caterham

Stevens of course is the second driver to debut with Caterham this year, following on from Lotterer, a three-time 24 Hours of Le Mans champion who is one of the best sports car drivers worldwide at the moment. Lotterer was matched against Marcus Ericsson rather than Kamui Kobayashi as Stevens is. At Spa, the German outqualified Ericsson by nearly a second, which was mightily impressive with no test time and no F1 seat time since his Jaguar test days more than a year ago. A mechanical retirement bogged him down before completing a lap, but he’d been plenty impressive. He’s since turned down future opportunities to race F1, and it’s hard to blame him.

Daniel Ricciardo, 2011 British Grand Prix, HRT

Ricciardo was off-loaded to HRT for the second half of 2011 as a way to gauge his potential for a Toro Rosso seat the following year. The Australian made his debut at Silverstone and was matched against Vitantonio Liuzzi, a similar-type driver as is Kobayashi in terms of outright F1 results. The HRT didn’t do either driver any favors but Ricciardo was respectable, within 0.6 of Liuzzi in qualifying (albeit 24th and last) and making it home 19th to finish his debut, also one spot behind Liuzzi. Under the radar, sure, but it was the beginning of a run that has since seen the frequently happy, smiling Australian ascend to become a Grand Prix winner.

Kamui Kobayashi, 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix, Toyota

Fittingly, Kobayashi made his debut in a similar manner as Stevens will be this weekend – end of the season with minimal expectations. But once he took over for Timo Glock at Interlagos, Kobayashi announced his arrival in F1 with authority, and a ridiculous amount of excitement to boot. Kobayashi qualified 11th, which was seven spots behind Jarno Trulli, but that could be excused given Trulli’s qualifying prowess. Kamui was ahead of World Champion Jenson Button and both McLarens, and that spoke volumes. Come race day, he flirted with scoring points after some of his moves, and ended one spot outside the then top-eight points scorers in ninth. A sixth at Abu Dhabi the next race marked his first points and the beginning of a respectable career, while it was Toyota’s final start.

Romain Grosjean, 2009 European Grand Prix (Valencia), Renault

“RoGro” was essentially thrown into a no-win situation, replacing the point-less and out-of-favor Nelson Piquet at Valencia with the Singapore 2008 “crash gate” scandal and Fernando Alonso’s lost wheel at Hungary the previous GP fresh in the minds in the paddock. He did well to qualify 14th, ahead within three tenths of Alonso in Q2, and ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella and Jarno Trulli, as well as Ferrari fill-in Luca Badoer. He ended 15th after an uneventful race, still on the lead lap.

Jaime Alguersuari, 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, Toro Rosso

2009 was quite a year for in-season debuts, it seemed. Alguersuari’s came with all the added hoopla and consternation over his youth – at 19 years and 125 days, the Spaniard became the youngest driver ever to start a Grand Prix. Alguersuari ended 20th and last on the grid, eight tenths off STR teammate Sebastien Buemi and four tenths off Robert Kubica in 19th in the BMW Sauber. He made it home on race day in 15th, a lap down, ahead of Buemi. Both have gone onto new ventures since their Toro Rosso days ended at the end of 2011; Alguersuari has tested for Pirelli and he and Buemi both race in FIA Formula E. Buemi is fresh off winning the World Championship with Toyota in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

NEOM McLaren Formula E announces Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast for 2023 season

McLaren Formula E Hughes
McLaren Racing

Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.

The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.

“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.

“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.

“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”

The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.

Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.

Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.

McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.