F1’s future stars? Meet the junior drivers from this week’s Hungary test


Formula 1’s summer break may now be in full swing, but the paddock did not make its usual sharp getaway from Budapest last Sunday following the conclusion of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The second in-season test of the season meant the teams had to stay on until Wednesday evening, fielding a mixture of regular racers and young up-and-comers across the two days of running at the Hungaroring.

While the Robert Kubica hype train was impossible to miss, there were a number of other names that you would be well-advised to take note of during their rise towards F1.

Here’s a look at all of the youngsters that featured in the Hungary test.


Remember. This. Name.

Norris (pictured above) has long been talked about in British racing circles as the next Lewis Hamilton. While it may be something of a cliche, it’s a fair assessment. He is the brightest British talent to have emerged in a very long time.

Norris stepped up to FIA Formula 3 for 2017 after winning two European Formula Renault titles last year (a staggering feat) and secured himself a place on McLaren’s prestigious junior program, with his first F1 test coming about after winning the McLaren Autosport British Racing Drivers’ Club award last December.

Thrown in at the deep end with a 2017-spec F1 car and a field to compare himself with, Norris stunned the paddock by finishing second-fastest overall with a trouble-free day.

A move up to Formula 2 looks likely for 2018, but it surely won’t be long until Norris is in F1 as one of its brightest young talents. He’s the real deal.


You would be forgiven for thinking his full name was actually “1. Charles Leclerc” if you’ve been following the Monegasque’s efforts the past two years, such has been his dominance.

The 2016 GP3 champion moved up to Formula 2 for 2017, and has been on another level to the rest of the field. Six straight poles (it would be seven but for an exclusion for track limits) and five wins have put him 50 points clear at the top of the standings, making the title his for the taking.

Leclerc impressed during his first official Ferrari test on Tuesday, again finishing P1, and will be in contention for a seat with Sauber next year thanks to its technical deal with the Italian manufacturer.

Leclerc looks to be Ferrari’s next great star. Don’t be surprised if he is the eventual successor to Kimi Raikkonen.

2017 In-Season Testing Hungary, Day 1 – Steve Etherington/Mercedes AMG Motorsport


Norris may be touted as Britain’s next big racing star, but George Russell is hot on his heels. The 19-year-old was the first winner of the British Formula 4 series in 2014 before spending two years in European F3, impressing the field.

Russell moved into GP3 for 2017 after linking up with Mercedes, and has been the stand-out driver in the field, taking two poles and two wins to lead the championship with half the season complete.

Russell is highly-rated by Mercedes, and will be angling to follow in the footsteps of Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon to make his way up to F1 soon.

Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary. Tuesday 01 August 2017. Santino Ferrucci , Haas F1, talking to the press. World Copyright: Zak Mauger/LAT Images


Santino Ferrucci is currently flying the flag for the United States on the ladder towards F1, taking over the mantle from Alexander Rossi following his move over to IndyCar in 2016.

The native of Woodbury, Connecticut spent half a season in US F2000 before moving over to Europe for 2015, racing in various Formula 3 championships. Ferrucci linked up with Haas in a development role ahead of its debut season in F1, enjoying his first test last summer at Silverstone alongside a GP3 campaign.

Ferrucci enjoyed a second solid test with Haas earlier this week, having announced earlier in the month his move up to F2 for the rest of the season with Trident, finishing a solid ninth on debut.

Time will tell what the future holds for Ferrucci, but he is very well-placed: an F2 drive and links to an F1 seat is what juniors crave.

Lucas Auer (AUT) Sahara Force India F1 VJM10 Test Driver. Formula One Testing. Wednesday 2nd August 2017. Budapest, Hungary. James Moy Photography/Force India


Lucas Auer is a relatively new driver on the F1 radar, but his displays in DTM with Mercedes have not gone unnoticed. Linked with Force India thanks to a common sponsor in BWT and Mercedes support, Auer was given the chance to taste an F1 car for the first time earlier this week in Hungary.

The nephew of F1 legend Gerhard Berger, Auer has said he is open to securing an F1 drive in the future, although much would depend on his performances in DTM and other stars aligning.

Cometh the Auer, cometh the man? Let’s see what the future brings.

Nikita Mazepin (RUS) Sahara Force India F1 VJM10 Development Driver. Formula One Testing. Wednesday 2nd August 2017. Budapest, Hungary. James Moy Photography/Force India


Mazepin, 18, linked up with Force India at the start of last year in a development role, balancing his commitments with a Formula 3 campaign.

The Russian is still racing in F3, albeit with limited success, having recorded just two top-five finishes in almost two years in the series. His most notable moment has instead been a ban for a physical altercation with another driver last year.

Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images


Perhaps the best-known junior driver on this list, Pierre Gasly arguably should already be in F1 given his charge to the GP2 title last year.

With Toro Rosso opting to retain the struggling Daniil Kvyat, Gasly was posted to Japan to race in the Super Formula series this year, as well as working with Red Bull in its simulator and even making a one-off Formula E appearance last month with Renault e.dams.

Gasly has done everything in his power to train and gain an F1 seat. Now he is playing the waiting game. When Red Bull either cashes in on Carlos Sainz Jr. or finally lets Kvyat go, it will be Gasly who steps up.

Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary. Wednesday 02 August 2017. Luca Ghiotto, Williams Martini Racing. World Copyright: Zak Mauger/LAT Images


Luca Ghiotto got his first chance to impress behind the wheel of an F1 car earlier this week with Williams, having emerged as an unlikely contender for the GP3 title back in 2015.

The Italian narrowly lost out to Mercedes junior and current Force India driver Ocon before moving up to GP2, and is now racing in F2, where he sits fifth in the drivers’ championship.

Ghiotto has won races at every single level he has competed at, and certainly in the gaggle of junior drivers pushing to make it up to F1 in the near future. His mammoth log of 161 laps on Wednesday for Williams was massively impressive – it all depends on the right break coming next.

Nobuharu Matsushita (JAP) Sauber F1 Team. Hungaroring Circuit.


Honda-backed youngster Nobuharu Matsushita’s first F1 test was perhaps surprising given it came less than a week after Sauber announced it had canceled its planned engine deal with the Japanese manufacturer.

Nevertheless, the test went ahead as planned, with the F2 racer propping up the timesheets for the backmarker squad, but a run of 121 laps gave Matsushita a chance to get to grips with F1 machinery.

The ties with McLaren through Honda may put Matsushita in contention for an F1 seat someday, but it would depend on a second customer deal being found – i.e. what was scrapped with Sauber.

A rumored deal with Toro Rosso could yet open up a chance for Matsushita to make the step up, although he would need to temper his on-track antics, seen at their worst in Baku’s GP2 race last year when he earned himself a race ban.

2017 FIA Formula 2 Round 7. Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary. Saturday 29 July 2017.Nicholas Latifi (CAN, DAMS). Photo: Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2.


Nicholas Latifi has been working with Renault for a little over a year now, with his first F1 test in a current car coming back in May during a Pirelli tire test.

Latifi was able to complete himself against the rest of the field during this week’s running in Hungary, and while Kubica may have stolen the show, the Canadian was still able to complete some decent running in the R.S.17 car.

The problem for Latifi is the competition he faces for a possible F1 seat in the future. Even if Renault looks in-house for 2017, Kubica, Oliver Rowland and Sergey Sirotkin all seem to be better options. Alas, Latifi can continue to try and impress in F2, as he has done for much of this year to sit fourth in the championship.

Red Bull Content Pool/Getty Images


Sean Gelael has been following Rio Haryanto’s lead as Indonesia’s next possible F1 racer, coming with significant backing from the nation’s brand of KFC, Jagonya Ayam.

Gelael has raced all over the place in recent years with limited success bar two surprise podium finishes (one in GP2, one in the FIA World Endurance Championship), but was nevertheless able to broker F1 tests with Toro Rosso this year.

Haryanto may have been a pay driver, but his CV could at least justify his presence in some way. It’s difficult to do that with Gelael.

Gustav Malja (SWE) Sauber F1 Team. Hungaroring Circuit.


Gustav Malja’s first F1 test came earlier this week after a few years bumbling about the junior circuit, not doing all that much spectacular.

Malja has been racing in GP2/F2 full-time since 2016, claiming three podium finishes in that period, but again, it’s hardly form that makes a strong case for an F1 seat in the future.

Still, over 100 laps behind the wheel of a 2017-spec F1 car is good experience for the young Swede.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds