Home Featured Formula Scout Review of the 2010s Part 2: 2015 – 2019

Formula Scout Review of the 2010s Part 2: 2015 – 2019

by Elliot Wood
Formula Scout is celebrating the past decade of junior single-seaters by recapping the highlights of each year, from the best drivers to the races, stories and title battles of the 2010s that gripped us the most

2015

Stoffel Vandoorne

Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service

One of junior single-seaters’ best all-time talents had to wait two years too long for his deserved promotion to Formula 1 with McLaren, and while remaining patient Stoffel Vandoorne kept himself busy by dominating GP2.

The Belgian, who won four times (including his debut race) in his rookie season, remained with ART Grand Prix for a second year and won the first four feature races. Three second places in the sprint races meant he already had a massive 76-point lead. Each of his wins had not come easy, with an ill-timed safety car in Bahrain and DRS failure at Barcelona preceding a pitstop battle with Alexander Rossi in Monaco and a bad stop leading to a charge through slower traffic at the Red Bull Ring.

More bad luck in the pits harmed him at the Hungaroring, but he returned to the top step at Spa-Francorchamps in dominant style, and won again in Sochi and Abu Dhabi. His reward: Formula Scout’s top driver and a Super Formula seat.

Racing with GP2 most weekends was GP3, where Esteban Ocon and Luca Ghiotto had an unusual but enticing?title battle. ART driver Ocon jumped Trident’s Ghiotto at the start of the Barcelona season opener and took an impressive win over his rival, then never stood on the top step again. Nine successive second places while Ghiotto took four wins and little else meant the points lead changed hands multiple times and the title went down to a final race duel, won by Ocon.

Another future star, Lando Norris, won the best race of the year, climbing from 10th on the grid to win at Thruxton in British Formula 4 with a last-lap overtake. The story of 2015 was the rise of FIA F4, with seven new series emerging.

2016

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Had Belardi Auto Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist contested the full season, there would have been a seven-way title fight in Indy Lights in 2016. Instead we only got six drivers battling it out until the final round, which was slimmed to three for the last race.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ rookie Santiago Urrutia was set for the title in said race until the last lap, as Ed Jones controversially passed Carlin team-mate Felix Serralles to become champion. Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser and Zach Veach (Belardi) were just behind in the points, with Andretti’s Dean Stoneman pipping Serralles to fifth. The six were covered by 1.5 races’ worth of points.

Stoneman’s last-lap Freedom 100 win was memorable, but it couldn’t beat Euroformula Open’s at Monza for best race. Leonardo Pulcini and Ferdinand Habsburg frantic duel concluded when Pulcini went around the outside at Parabolica.

The big story of 2016 was Prema’s arrival in GP2 with Pierre Gasly and Antonio Giovinazzi. The Italian team was the top squad in European F3, but had not ventured into any higher categories since racing in Formula Renault 3.5 seven years previous.

Gasly gave Prema a debut pole, and Giovinazzi did the same in Baku two rounds later, but it was a tricky start. In the season’s first third, Gasly scored thrice and Giovinazzi twice. The upside: Gasly got two podiums and Giovinazzi won both Baku races.

Thereon, Prema was on top of the car and its own luck, and the title became a straight race between its drivers. Gasly ended a 1015-day wait for a win in the Silverstone feature race, which he repeated at the Hungaroring and Monza. Giovinazzi won three of the next four races, and led going in to the season finale. Gasly won the first race in the desert though, winning him the title.

It was his team-mate who bagged Formula Scout’s?driver of the year accolade, given he was a rookie who had come straight from F3, with no experience of higher downforce machinery or Pirelli tyres, and come just seven points short of the title.

2017

Ticktum

You could include only the last two laps of the Macau Grand Prix and it would still be race of the year. Dan Ticktum, in his third weekend in ‘proper’ F3, stole victory at the last corner on the last lap as Sergio Sette Camara and Ferdinand Habsburg crashed ahead after Habsburg’s brave overtake. It was a lucky but well-earned win for Ticktum, while Habsburg still finished fourth.

That excitement was spread out over a season in ADAC F4’s title battle, which put Prema’s Juri Vips and Marcus Armstrong against Van Amersfoort Racing’s Felipe Drugovich. Vips won race one of the season, but was a fairly anonymous presence on paper. On track he was fighting his rivals though, and took two wins to team-mate Armstrong’s three.

Their closeness – just 4.5 points separated them come season’s end – contrasted with Drugovich. The Brazilian had seven wins and more poles than the Prema pair combined, but two retirements. This hurt in the season finale as a technical issue in the penultimate race lost him the points lead, which was irreclaimable against an on-form Vips and Armstrong in the title decider.

Charles Leclerc overcame personal tragedy to win the Formula 2 title and was best driver of the year. He didn’t turn pole into victory on his Bahrain debut, but pitted in the sprint to win and also won at Barcelona, Baku, the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone.

He was fastest in Hungaroring qualifying but a technical infringement meant he started at the back. He made it to fourth in a hard race, followed by another fourth and a dominant Spa win. That was taken by another infringement, and it wasn’t until a tyre management masterclass at Jerez almost ruined by a erroneous radio message that he was on top again and won the title. He was handed a Sauber F1 seat for 2018, then one at Ferrari this year. He already has two wins and seven poles.

Billy Monger’s recovery from the loss of his lower legs in a British F4 crash in April was utterly inspiring, and it was a huge story when he returned to a race car in July. Once amble on prosthetics, he did a Brands Hatch track walk with British F4.

2018

Photo: Andy Hone / FIA Formula 2

F1’s star rookie crop – Red Bull Racing’s Alex Albon, McLaren’s Lando Norris and Williams’ George Russell – attracted a lot of attention in 2018 with their F2 title battle. It was a story with a happy ending for all three, despite two of them losing out.

Norris, driving for Carlin, started the season with victory from pole, a win that was to be the only of his season. DAMS’ Albon and ART’s Russell picked up their first wins in Baku, and Russell won the feature races at Barcelona and Paul Ricard. Albon took three poles, but started slow in Spain and lost a Monaco win to a pit-entry crash. After 10 races, Norris still led the points.

A win and a second place at the Red Bull Ring finally put Russell in the lead, which was when his victory run ended and Albon’s begun. He won the Silverstone and Sochi features and the Hungaroring sprint, but Russell, voted?driver of the year, responded with the Monza and Sochi sprints. Norris was out of title contention, but already had his McLaren F1 seat in the bag.

Russell dominated in Abu Dhabi to win the title, having earned himself a Williams F1 seat before the season finale, while Nissan e.dams Formula E signing Albon lost second in the points to Norris. One day later, Toro Rosso signed Albon for F1.

Norris’s wet-weather charge in the Hungaroring feature contributed to it being the best?race of the year, with Nyck de Vries putting in a similarly impressive performance for a dominant win in a race of changing conditions and lots of overtaking.

The Toyota Racing Series started the year with a close title battle between M2 Competition team-mates Robert Shwartzman, Richard Verschoor and Marcus Armstrong. Shwartzman won the title with consistency, taking one win and always finishing fifth or above. Verschoor was fastest, winning six races, but as in 2017 he was denied the title by bad luck. Armstrong used local knowledge and maturity, but a last lap car issue in the final race cost him a podium and the title in the super close series.

2019

Photo: Fotospeedy

Little over two years after his life-changing crash, Monger made sport history by becoming the first disabled grand prix winner.

The 20-year-old pulled a strategic blinder in Pau, choosing to pit for wet compound tyres at the end of the warm-up lap after rain started to fall. An early safety car meant he lost no time with his decision, while most of the field remained on slick tyres, and he scythed his way through the grid as the rain continued with an advantage of up to two seconds per lap.

When the leading Motopark duo crashed, Carlin’s Monger was promoted to the lead but he had to deal with a safety car restart and a crash of his own that bent his steering. Despite that, he stretched out a lead to take his first single-seater race win.

Liam Lawson may have won that race had he not hit his Motopark team-mate Julian Hanses, but the rookie still had a good year which began by triumphing in a title battle with Ferrari junior and M2 team-mate Armstrong in TRS.

Each won five races, and massively impressed their team, but tension built between the two after some robust on-track fights and this culminated in the title-deciding New Zealand GP. A side-by-side battle for the lead, where both pushed the envelope of risk a little too far, resulted in Lawson going off. He rejoined in fourth, but was back behind Armstrong after a restart. The leader was then penalised for the scuffle, leaving Lawson to take the grand prix and the title behind the displeased Armstrong.

W Series made an impactful debut in 2019, with the story of its all-female line-up run by Hitech GP proving popular in the grandstands and giving some deserved attention to drivers who otherwise may not have received it.

Formula Scout’s top driver of 2019 will be revealed on December 31. You can view the rest of the 2019 Top 50 here.