Formula One is now on its summer break but various lower feeder-series categories plus IndyCar are still running, so here are five potential future F1 stars to watch out for in coming years.
From teenagers on the traditional F1 ladder to youngsters competing in IndyCar after struggling for results on the traditional pathway, there are plenty of drivers with the potential to reach F1 in future if can build on strong 2021 campaigns so far.
We have therefore rounded out five potential future F1 stars who you must watch out for during rest of 2021 and across coming seasons.
Oliver Bearman (Great Britain)
At just 16 years-old, Oliver Bearman has already established himself as one of Great Britain’s next potential superstars, having finished seventh and tenth in ADAC F4 and Italian F4 respectively in his rookie single-seater campaign in 2020.
The young Brit has since gone on to secure dominant championship leads in both series this season as well as enter British F3 (now known as GB3), where he has clinched three podiums in four races including victory in Snetterton Race One after spending two months racing across Europe.
Bearman has also won 12 races across three different regional F4 series in 2021 alone which is outstanding for a 16 year-old teenager, who will certainly be eying up a move to F3 next season if he continues to make massive strides this season.
In fact, I am surprised that Red Bull, Ferrari, Alpine, McLaren or Mercedes haven’t moved yet to sign Bearman to their junior programmes given his raw potential and strong results to back up his talent, meaning that he could go far if given the right support and nurturing in his development.
It is also worth comparing Bearman’s record at 16 years-old to those of fellow Brits – Lando Norris and George Russell, which is actually quite impressive because he has already won more races than the latter two combined at 16 years of age did plus Norris also did ADAC F4 and Italian F4 at same age as Bearman.
Bearman therefore has a huge future ahead of him if handed the right support and pathway into F1, which could well mean a competitive British battle between him, Norris and Russell for victories and titles in future alongside European stars like Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.
Dennis Hauger (Norway)
Having enjoyed a successful karting career and currently part of Red Bull’s programme, Dennis Hauger has demonstrated that he is a future F1 driver in waiting with a strong 2021 F3 season which sees him lead by 63 points with three rounds left.
I am particularly impressed by how he recovered from a disastrous rookie F3 campaign in 2020 in which he finished 17th overall with just two points finish which both came in Hungary, yet he has been dominant this season with seven podiums including three wins after moving from Hitech GP to PREMA.
One particular element of Hauger’s racing skillset that particularly has improved is his overtaking quality because he has often been able to move forward throughout the reverse-races, especially with excellent tyre management and intelligent overtaking as he matured throughout this season.
Hauger’s improved form has also come at an ideal time because with fierce competition amongst Red Bull’s junior ranks, he really needed a strong season to retain his placing particularly after a shocking 2020 season.
Theo Pourchaire (France)
Currently part of Sauber Academy, Theo Pourchaire has certainly enjoyed a stellar rise through the youth ranks after first contesting French F4 in the junior category at just 14 years-old in 2018 (he turned 15 mid-season).
Pourchaire proceeded to win the junior category in dominant fashion before edging out Hauger for 2019 ADAC F4 title by just seven points, before making the leap to F3 last season where he finished just three points off the title as vice-champion for ART GP after a dramatic season finale at Mugello.
The Frenchman consequently was handed a well-earned reward with a guest F2 drive in the final F2 rounds in Bahrain with HWA Racelab, where he impressed in a poor car despite failing to score points and has managed to apply his lessons across at ART GP this season in the series.
We must also commend Pourchaire especially for his dominant performance in his maiden visit to Monaco this year in F2, as he took a dominant Feature Race victory at just 17 years-old around one of motorsport’s most iconic circuits whilst showing maturity throughout both sprint races in performance.
Pourchaire’s performance at Silverstone also deserves high praise after racing in Silverstone, UK, despite still recovering from a broken wrist, as the Frenchman went on to score ten points across two of three races in which he finished in the points.
Add in the fact that Alfa Romeo handed Pourchaire a F1 test at the Hungaroring after the Hungarian Grand Prix, then it is difficult to imagine Pourchaire not reaching F1 because he has the raw talent needed to break through and isn’t entirely out of title contention in F2 yet despite a 43 point deficit.
Oscar Piastri (Australia)
Current F2 championship leader, Oscar Piastri has shown great adaptability coupled with raw talent in his young racing career, which are two qualities that top F1 stars need if they’re to go far once they reached the top.
Piastri has also finished in the top ten overall across his single-seater career so far which shows how consistent he is, which was a particularly major component in the last two seasons as he took Formula Renault Eurocup and F3 titles.
Piastri’s fighting spirit however has been his biggest issue in terms of his last three race retirements, which have all come about because of largely avoidable collisions yet will serve as valuable experiences for the youngster when he inevitably reaches F1.
Alpine however don’t have the finest record with promoting members of their Academy under their old Renault and Lotus names, yet Piastri feels like a driver ready to snap that record and could well do so next season if a seat vacancy opens at Williams.
Either way, it would be a huge shock if Piastri isn’t racing in F1 within the next two seasons given his potential and raw talent, which has been evident in how he quickly adapted to F3 then F2 in his rookie seasons.
Pato O’Ward (Mexico)
Although IndyCar isn’t considered a conventional route to F1 in the modern era – in fact the opposite way actually, Mexico’s Pato O’Ward certainly looks like a serious contender to graduate to F1 through this pathway given his title contending form and links to McLaren through their IndyCar team.
O’Ward is also just one of two drivers to have grinded out more than just one race victory this season as well as take pole position in the season-opener in Alabama, which represented further signs of his ability to adapt and bounce back after having endured a difficult 2019 on Red Bull’s junior programme.
Add in the fact that McLaren CEO, Zak Brown and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez both highly rate O’Ward with the Mexican set for a F1 test at end of season, you have to wonder if he could well be set for a bigger role within McLaren’s single-seater categories and a future breakthrough in F1.
O’Ward’s future though looks to lie in IndyCar for the foreseeable future due to McLaren having Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo both signed up to their F1 seats, which is no bad thing as his presence and growing talent will help strengthen McLaren’s brand name in USA and Mexico.
I however do feel that the 22 year-old will get his F1 chance in future if he continues to grow into a stand-out talent, with FP1 at October’s Mexican GP perhaps representing a strong opportunity with McLaren yet to hand a young driver a chance in F1 during FP1 sessions this season.
O’Ward though will likely need to demonstrate his talent across multiple seasons if he is to truly put himself in the frame for a future F1 seat, which is simply down to how F1 perceives IndyCar at present unless he makes the switch to a competitive team in F2 like PREMA and showcases his talent there.