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Formula Scout Review of the 2010s Part 3: Drivers of the decade

by Elliot Wood
Formula Scout is celebrating the past decade of junior single-seaters by recapping the highlights of each year. It’s now come to seeing which drivers we voted as the best over 10 years of rankings

Taking the averages of every end-of-year Top 50 ranking of drivers that Formula Scout has compiled, a list of the 50 best talents in junior single-seaters of the decade has been created. Using these results, rather than retrospectively measuring performances from year to year and driver-to-driver against each other, and from drivers in different stages of their career (many who started in the 2000s or have had a brilliant start in the lower formulae very recently) does create some odd trends.

Any driver who left junior single-seaters in 2010 for professional motorsport only has one data point to go from and are unsurprisingly very high in the Top 50 of the decade list, while drivers from New Zealand who took up the opportunity in their home country to start racing at a younger age have more data points which brings their averages down.

Then there are drivers such as Roberto Merhi, who topped the Formula Scout Top 50 in 2011 before graduating to DTM. A few years later he returned to single-seaters in Formula Renault 3.5, which successfully sent him on to Formula 1. He then returned to the junior ranks again in Formula 2. Each time he was considered eligible for the Top 50, placing eighth from his 2014 FR3.5 season, but his fruitless F2 return left him outside of the Top 50 twice and brought his average placing down to 32.

Key? Name, nation, highest ranking in Formula Scout Top 50: best junior single-seater results – best professional results
FA1 = Formula Acceleration 1, IGTC = Intercontinental GT Challenge, BGTS = Blancpain GT Series, TRS = Toyota Racing Series, WEC = World Endurance Championship, WTCR = World Touring Car Cup, ELMS = European Le Mans Series

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

50. Dean Stoneman ???10th in 2014: 2nd in ’14 GP3, 5th in 2016 Indy Lights, 6th in 2015 FR3.5, 2010 MSV F2 champion
49. Antonio Fuoco ?? 12th in 2013: 7th in 2018 F2, 3rd in ’16 GP3, 5th in ’14 European F3, ’13 FR2.0 Alps champion
48. Jack Aitken???/?? 6th in 2017 & ’19: 5th in ’19 F2, 2nd in ’17 GP3, ’15 FR2.0 Eurocup & Alps champion | Interview
47. Esteban Gutierrez??? 9th in 2010: 3rd in 2012 GP2, 8th in ’11 GP2 Final, ’10 GP3 champion – 16th in ’13 F1
46. Sergey Sirotkin ?? 9th in 2015: 3rd in ’15 & ’16 GP2, 5th in ’14 FR3.5, 3rd in 2012 Auto GP – 20th in ’18 F1 | Interview
45. Jake Dennis ?? 12th in 2016: 4th in ’16 GP3, 3rd in ’15 European F3, ’12 FR2.0 NEC champion – 12th in ’17 IGTC
44. Charles Pic ???10th in 2011: 4th in ’11 GP2, 5th in 2009-10 GP2 Asia – 18th in 2014-15 FE, 20th in 2013 F1
43. Mirko Bortolotti??? 5th in 2011: 2nd in ’14 FA1, ’11 MSV F2 champion – ’17 BGTS champion | Interview
42. Carlos Sainz Jr??? 4th in 2014: ’14 FR3.5 champion, 4th in ’12 Masters of F3, 5th in ’12 European F3 -?6th in 2019 F1
41. Mitch Evans ?? 4th in 2012: 4th in ’14 GP2, ’12 GP3 champion, ’10 & ’11 TRS champion – currently 16th in ’19-20 FE
40. Daniel Juncadella ?? 18th in 2011: ’12 European F3 champion, ’11 Macau GP winner – 8th in ’17 FIA GT World Cup
39. Alexander Sims ?? 18th in 2010: 2nd in ’10 Masters of F3, 4th in ’10 F3 Euro Series –currently 1st in 2019-20 FE
38. Joel Eriksson ?? 4th in 2017: ’16 Masters of F3 winner, 2nd in ’18 Macau GP, 2nd in ’17 European F3 – 11th in ’19 DTM
37. Max Fewtrell ?? 12th in 2018: 10th in ’19 FIA F3, ’18 FR2.0 Eurocup champion, ’16 British F4 champion | Interview
36. Anthoine Hubert ???7th in 2019: 10th in ’19 F2, ’18 GP3 champion, 7th in ’16 Masters of F3 | Interview
35. Oliver Rowland??? 2nd in 2015: 3rd in ’17 F2, ’15 FR3.5 champion, 2nd in ’13 FR2.0 Eurocup -?currently 4th in ’19-20 FE
34. Antonio Giovinazzi ?? 1st in 2016: 2nd in ’16 GP2, ’15 Masters of F3 winner, 2nd in ’15 European F3 -?17th in ’19 F1
33. Pierre Gasly??? 5th in 2016: ’16 GP2 champion, 2nd in ’14 FR3.5, ’13 FR2.0 Eurocup champion – 7th in ’19 F1 | Interview
32. Albert Costa ?? 23rd in 2010: 4th in ’11 FR3.5, ’09 FR2.0 Eurocup & WEC champion – ’19 Int. GT Open champion | Interview
31. Marco Wittmann ?? 15th in 2010: 2nd in ’10 & ’11 F3 Euro Series, 2nd in ’11 FIA F3 Int. Trophy – ’14 & ’16 DTM champion
30. Kevin Magnussen ?? 1st in 2013: ’13 FR3.5 champion, 2nd in ’11 British F3, 3rd in ’10 German F3 -?9th in ’18 F1
29. Alex Lynn??? 6th in 2014: 6th in ’15 & ’16 GP2, ’14 GP3 champion – 8th in ’18-19 WEC GTEPro, 16th in ’17-18 FE | Interview
28. Felipe Nasr??? 4th in 2011: 3rd in ’14 GP2, ’11 British F3 champion – 13th in ’15 F1, ’18 IMSA champion, 24th in ’18-19 FE
27. Daniil Kvyat??? 3rd in 2013: ’13 GP3 champion, ’12 FR2.0 Alps champion, 2nd in ’12 FR2.0 Eurocup -?7th in ’15 F1
26. Nyck de Vries ?? 2nd in 2019: ’19 F2 champion, 3rd in ’15 FR3.5 – 9th in ’18-19 WEC LMP2, currently 9th in ’19-20 FE
25. Callum Ilott??? 9th in 2017: 11th in ’19 F2, 3rd in ’18 GP3, 4th in ’17 European F3, 4th in ’16 Masters of F3
24. Antonio Felix da Costa???1st in 2012: ’12 & ’16 Macau GP winner, 3rd in ’13 FR3.5, 3rd in ’12 GP3 – 6th in ’18-19 FE
23. Juri Vips??? 3rd in 2019: 2nd in ’19 Macau GP, 4th in ’19 FIA F3, 4th in ’18 European F3, ’17 ADAC F4 champion
22. Marvin Kirchhofer ?? 5th in 2013: 17th in ’16 GP2, 3rd in ’14 & ’15 GP3 – 3rd in ’18 ADAC GT Masters | Interview
21. Robin Frijns ?? 2nd in 2012: ’12 FR3.5 champion, 15th in ’13 GP2 – ’15 BGTS champion, 4th in ’18-19 FE, 5th in ’19 DTM
20. Marcus Armstrong ?? 4th in 2019: 2nd in ’19 FIA F3, 2nd in ’19 TRS, 5th in ’18 European F3 | Interview
19. Stoffel Vandoorne??? 1st in 2015: ’15 GP2 champion, 2nd in ’13 FR3.5 – currently 2nd in ’19-20 FE, 4th in ’16 SF?| Interview
18. Christian Lundgaard ?? 8th in 2018 & ’19: 4th in ’19 Macau GP, 6th in ’19 FIA F3, 2nd in ’18 FR2.0 Eurocup | Interview
17. Esteban Ocon??? 1st in 2014: ’15 GP3 champion, ’14 European F3 champion – 8th in ’17 F1, 26th in ’16 DTM | Interview
16. Esteban Guerrieri??? 2nd in 2010: 2nd in ’11 & ’12 Indy Lights, 3rd in ’10 FR3.5 – 2nd in ’19 WTCR, 7th in ’16 Super TC2000
15. Sam Bird ?? 6th in 2010: 2nd in ’13 GP2, 3rd in ’12 FR3.5, 7th in ’09-10 GP2 Asia – 3rd in ’17-18 FE, 10th in ’15 WEC
14. Lance Stroll ?? 4th in 2016: ’16 European F3 champion, ’15 TRS champion – 12th in ’17 F1, 5th in ’16 Daytona 24H
13. Jules Bianchi ?? 11th in 2010: 2nd in ’12 FR3.5, 2nd in ’11 GP2 Asia, 3rd in ’10 & ’11 GP2 -?17th in ’14 F1
12. James Calado ?? 3rd in 2012: 3rd in ’13 GP2, 2nd in ’11 GP3, 5th in ’11 GP2 Final – 2017 WEC GTEPro champion
11. Valtteri Bottas ???6th in 2011: ’11 GP3 champion, ’10 Masters of F3 winner, 3rd in ’10 F3 Euro Series – 2nd in ’19 F1

Russell

Photo: Zak Mauger / FIA Formula 2

10. George Russell ?? 1st in 2018
2018 F2 champion, ’17 GP3 champion, 3rd in ’16 European F3, 2nd in ’15 Masters of F3 – 20th in ’19 F1 | Interview

Russell started his career in BRDC British Formula 4, predecessor to the current British Formula 3, and edged team-mate Arjun Maini to the title. A leap to FIA European F3 for his second year was an inspired choice for the smooth driver, and he caught Mercedes-Benz’s attention. They signed him, and he won back-to-back GP3 and F2 titles before joining Williams in Formula 1.

9. Sergio Perez ?? 10th in 2010
2nd in 2010 GP2, 15th in ’09-10 GP2 Asia -?7th in 2016 & ’17 F1

Ferrari supported Perez’s second GP2 season, and the 20-year-old Mexican showed a significant upturn in form to win five races and finish second in the standings. In a crazy 20-race season, he also coupled it up with nine pointless races. Sauber signed him for 2011, and his skill on Pirelli tyres took him to McLaren. He was dropped, but remains in F1 with Racing Point.

8. Lando Norris ?? 2nd in 2017
2nd in 2018 F2, ’17 European F3 champion, ’16 FR2.0 Eurocup & NEC champion, ’16 TRS champion – 11th in ’19 F1 | Interview

With the best title-scoring run from the start of their career in single-seaters this century, there is little to do but marvel at Norris’s stats. He won the British F4 title as a rookie, followed immediately two FR2.0 crowns and the Toyota Racing Series. After a part-time BRDC British F3 campaign he won the European F3 title, and won in F2 before taking up his McLaren F1 seat.

Leclerc

Photo: Mauger/FIA Formula 2

7. Charles Leclerc ?? 1st in 2017
2017 F2 champion, ’16 GP3 champion, 2nd in ’15 Macau GP, 4th in ’15 European F3, 2nd in ’14 FR2.0 Alps – 4th in ’19 F1

Leclerc has become even more impressive each year of his career, despite starting at a very high level. He starred in FR2.0 as a single-seater rookie, then adapted to F3 so quickly that for a while it looked like he’d deny Felix Rosenqvist a long-awaited European title in 2015. Moving to the F1 support bill led to GP3 and F2 titles, Ferrari backing and a F1 seat with the Scuderia.

6. Pastor Maldonado ?? 5th in 2010
2010 GP2 champion – 14th in ’15 F1, 12th in ’18-19 WEC, 8th in ’19 IMSA LMP2, 9th in ’18 Le Mans 24H?

For the same reasons that his 2012 Spanish Grand Prix victory with Williams was a surprise, Maldonado’s record-breaking GP2 title showcased the brilliant side of a driver who too often wasted chances. In 2010 he won six feature races in a row, and wrapped up the title very early. All the more impressive, the fourth-year driver did so with a debuting team.

5. Robert Wickens ?? 2nd in 2011
2011 FR3.5 champion, 2nd in ’10 GP3 – 4th in ’16 DTM, 11th in ’18 IndyCar, 23rd in ’17 IMSA PC | Interview

Were it not for a crash that led to life-changing injuries during his debut IndyCar season in 2018, Wickens could well have been 2019 champion. The last time he raced single-seaters was back in 2011, when he and Carlin team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne pushed each other hard in FR3.5. The title was decided in Wicken’s favour, but with no F1 openings he joined the DTM.

Photo: Macau Grand Prix

4. Edoardo Mortara ??/?? 4th in 2010
2010 F3 Euro Series champion, ’10 Macau GP winner – ’11, ’12 & ’13 Macau GT Cup winner, currently 7th in ’19-20 FE

Mortara ended the previous decade by returning to F3 to win the 2009 Macau Grand Prix, following a disappointing year in GP2, and he stayed in the third tier for 2010 with the Volkswagen-backed Signature team. The Italo-Swiss dominated from the off, making the most of what was considered a technical advantage that year with VW power, and after winning the title he became the first driver since 1980 to win Macau twice. VW sister brand Audi signed Mortara for the DTM, and he won eight races before switching allegiances to Mercedes in 2017. That move was made with Formula E in mind, and Mortara won this year’s Hong Kong E-Prix for Venturi, now a Mercedes customer in the championship.

3. Daniel Ricciardo ?? 3rd in 2010
2nd in 2010 FR3.5 -?3rd in ’14 & ’16 F1, 9th in ’15 Race of Champions

The Red Bull junior won FR2.0 and F3 titles with apparent ease in 2008 and ’09, but a new decade marked a tougher challenge for Ricciardo in FR3.5. The cheery Australian drove for top team Tech 1 Racing, and the combination gelled immediately with two poles at the season opener. Ricciardo took a composed win from another pole in Monaco, but otherwise found it difficult to visit the podium’s top step against experienced rivals Mikhail Aleshin and Esteban Guerrieri. He benefitted from Guerrieri’s absence to win at the Hungaroring, and took the title fight to the last race. Finishing second meant he returned in 2011, and mid-season he made his F1 debut with HRT. As a result, Formula Scout considered him ineligible for the Top 50.

Photo: Circuit Park Zandvoort

=1. Max Verstappen ???2nd in 2014
2014 Masters of F3 winner, 3rd in ’14 European F3, 7th in ’14 Macau GP – 3rd in ’19 F1?| Interview

There’s only one year of racing to go off when measuring Verstappen’s junior career, but he won a lot and deservedly earned himself an F1 drive off the back of it. The teenager started his year in Ferrari’s Florida Winter Series, winning twice and taking three poles against F3 and FR2.0 champions. Next up was European F3, picked after also testing in FR2.0, and was a winner by his sixth race. He won six in a row at Spa-Francorchamps and the Norisring, but the momentum slowed and he came third in the points. He did win the Masters of F3 at his home Zandvoort circuit, which he celebrated by signing with Red Bull. He was promoted from Toro Rosso after 23 races, won immediately with Red Bull Racing and was briefly a 2019 title threat.

=1. Jean-Eric Vergne ?? 1st in 2010
2nd in 2011 FR3.5, ’10 British F3 champion – ’17-18 & ’18-19 FE champion, 2nd in ’18 ELMS, 13th in ’14 F1?| Interview

The full circle of Vergne’s career this decade has obviously had its highs and lows, and the seriously impressive 2010 British F3 champion went to become the incredibly successful 2017-18 and ’18-19 FE champion – the first to double up in FE. After his eye-catching year in F3 with Carlin, where he also finished fourth in the Masters and seventh in Macau, Vergne cameoed in FR3.5 and won – earning Formula Scout’s vote as the best junior single-seater driver of the year. He remained with Carlin, and FR3.5, for 2011 and very narrowly lost out on the title to team-mate Wickens. In doing so he had improved massively as a driver, and he spent the next three years in F1 with Toro Rosso. After being dropped he wound up in FE, and the rest is history.

Photo: Renault Sport / Ronald Fleurbaaij