With rumours of mandatory FP1 sessions for youth drivers being introduced for 2022 F1 season, here is a look at where all ten teams stand if the rumours do become reality.
Under current news, teams are currently free to run a Test or Reserve Driver in FP1 on Fridays (Thursdays in Monaco) if they wish to do so, yet only a few teams like Alfa Romeo and Williams for example opt to provide youngsters with a F1 opportunity on race weekends.
It is therefore currently being mooted that running of junior drivers could become mandatory for at least two or three sessions next season across all teams if selected drivers meet FIA Free Practice Only Super License requirements, which requires only 25 points in order to be eligible to apply for the Super License.
The FIA Free Practice Only Super License requirements also iterate that applicants must be 18 years-old at minimum, amongst other smaller elements of the application entry requirements.
With George Russell set to move to Mercedes in 2022 and having done three years at Williams, Toto Wolff will have to start investing in new youth who are able to meet the FIA Super License requirements to secure a F1 drive for FP1 sessions.
Currently out of Mercedes’ junior drivers minus Russell, only Frederik Vesti realistically stands a chance at qualifying for a Free Practice Only license to participate in FP1 sessions because Paul Aron currently won’t require enough points to secure a FIA Superlicense for a FP1 seat.
Mercedes also have 2021 Formula E champion – Nyck De Vries on their books who has never graduated to F1 despite winning 2019 F2 title, so he too could be a plausible option to fulfil the rookie driver role if Vesti isn’t ready for F1.
Red Bull will certainly have a fair mix of drivers to choose from in terms of handing FP1 chances because Jehan Daruvala, Liam Lawson and Juri Vips are all currently on course to hold FIA Super Licenses come end of season.
Jak Crawford could also be an FP1 option given that he is on course at present to claim enough points for the FIA FP1 Only Superlicense, although he is likely to be ranked lower down the order than the aforementioned trio above in terms of selection.
Add in the fact that AlphaTauri is their sister team then it is easy for Red Bull to share those three drivers in order to provide the two mandatory FP1 sessions requirement for youth drivers occupying seats.
McLaren’s Young Driver Programme currently lies fairly dormant with just American youngster, Ugo Ugochukwu signed up, although he won’t possess enough points to claim a FIA Free Practice Only Super License due to only participating in karting at present.
Having an IndyCar team therefore is now looking advantageous for McLaren because Pato O’Ward would comfortably meet the required licensing points to be eligible for FP1 sessions, although they would have to fit those FP1 appearances around his IndyCar commitments.
With no F1 Young Driver programme in place, Aston Martin faces a tricky situation if it is decided to create a mandatory rule instructing all teams to run a rookie driver in a minimum of two FP1 sessions next season.
Aston Martin though are sponsoring this year’s Autosport BRDC Award meaning that they could easily look at the ten finalists, who all would certainly be worthy of a F1 chance but the majority are either underage, don’t meet minimum age requirement of 18 years old or are already linked to another F1 team.
It is therefore difficult to see how Aston Martin would be able to meet the potential mandatory FP1 rookie driver, unless they were to look down into F2 which too has a small eligible pool unless struck a deal with rival teams to loan their drivers for two FP1 sessions.
There however could be one realistic option in Dan Ticktum given that he would meet eligibility requirements, for not just a FIA Free Practice Super License but also a FIA Super License too if want him as Reserve Driver, plus it would provide some good publicity in a British driver forming part of a British team.
Ticktum though is unfortunately known for his hot-headed comments rather than on-track action, yet Sebastian Vettel used to be arrogant at times himself when younger, so Ticktum and Vettel in the same team could be interesting with Ticktum learning from the four-time champion in controlling emotions.
A more realistic option though could be maximise their power-unit link to Mercedes and perhaps loan Vesti or De Vries, depending on the Silver Arrows’ FP1 rookie driver plans should the young driver in FP1 plans come to fruition.
With Guanyu Zhou set for a race seat with Alfa Romeo next season, Oscar Piastri is the stand-out FP1 rookie driver candidate at Alpine in preparation for a potential 2023 seat and would comfortably be eligible for a FIA Super License at end of this season, let alone a Free Practice Only Super License.
Christian Lundgaard, Caio Collet and Victor Martins could all too be eligible for a Free Practice Only Super License, depending on their current standings at time of writing although Lundgaard’s future could well lie in IndyCar rather than a FP1 role after his American adventures this summer.
Ferrari currently has a strong junior programme with Callum Ilott having already tasted some FP1 sessions this season at Alfa Romeo, so he will certainly be an easy candidate to use for two mandatory rookie driver FP1 sessions.
Robert Shwartzman and Marcus Armstrong would also be eligible alternatives although Shwartzman would be ranked higher up Ferrari’s wish list for FP1 drivers, due to his better performances in junior categories compared to Armstrong who has struggled in F2 these last two seasons.
Arthur Leclerc, Dino Beganovic, James Wharton and Maya Weug meanwhile won’t meet the FIA Free Practice Super License requirements come end of season.
Despite running a junior team under the ‘Sauber’ name, Alfa Romeo currently have just one driver who is currently set to be eligible for a FIA Free Practice Super License – Theo Pourchaire, although he is linked with the second race seat.
With the possibility of the mandatory FP1 rookie driver rule set to come into effect next season if approved though, I however do suspect that we might see Alfa opt to keep Pourchaire out of the race seat and give him some FP1 sessions alongside a second F2 campaign.
That scenario would allow Pourchaire to gain further experience whilst also utilising him for the mandatory junior driver in FP1 role, which in turn would give the management more time to scout for potential 2023 FP1 junior drivers if the rule was to stay beyond next season.
Alfa Romeo could also utilise their close relationship with Ferrari by taking one of their eligible junior drivers on board in a Test and Reserve Driver role with promises of FP1 sessions, akin to what they’ve done with Ilott this season.
As a team currently without a junior driver programme, Haas face a difficult task in terms of FP1 rookie driver selections because only former Test Driver, Louis Deletraz could qualify for Free Practice Only Super License if they were to recall him to the team.
A mandatory FP1 rookie driver rule though offers Haas a chance to widen their horizons and possibly look to IndyCar stars like Alex Palou and Colton Herta of whom would both qualify for Free Practice Only superlicenses.
With Jack Aitken and Roy Nissany currently in possession of FIA Free Practice Only Super License and having already driven in FP1 sessions this season, Williams could have two suitable options available for rookie FP1 sessions if opt to retain both drivers for 2022.
Jamie Chadwick would also be eligible after impressing in W Series as well as other categories across the last three seasons, in which she has amassed 38 Super License Points at present which is more than enough to earn a Free Practice Only Super License.
Should Williams look to add to their FP1 rookie driver options depending on the specific rules then Felipe Drugovich could well be in with a shout, following two solid campaigns in F2 across 2020 & 21 seasons although I wouldn’t be surprised if they just stick with their current young drivers.