We begin our annual countdown of the drivers who’ve impressed us most in the junior single-seater ranks below F1
50. Logan Sargeant
Made up for tough rookie F3 campaign with debut Macau podium
With so much talent packed into the 30-car field for the inaugural FIA Formula 3 Championship season, it was only natural that a few drivers would go on to end the year disappointed, especially as there would prove to be such discrepancies between teams.?As a result, it?s important to shine a light on those that stood out in difficult circumstances.
Coming from F4, Lirim Zendeli had one of the biggest steps up of any driver and impressively led the Sauber-branded Charouz squad early on, before ultimately quitting after qualifying in Sochi over a contractual dispute. Alex Peroni consistently qualified in the top half of the field for Campos Racing and was on for his best result yet at Monza when a kerb launched him skyward and he landed with a broken vertabrae and a hefty damage bill.
For different reasons, neither made it to the non-championship Macau Grand Prix, where Logan Sargeant was able to net a top result and earn the nod for this list.
Despite the proven talents of both Sargeant and Felipe Drugovich, Carlin had a torrid season. Sargeant qualified a promising fifth for the first race in Barcelona, but ended the season 19th in the standings, with eighth his best finish. But he usually had the upper hand on Drugovich, even though the Brazilian did extract more out of the team?s standout performance in Hungary.
Macau provided something of a levelling of the playing field for teams and drivers alike, and Sargeant grasped the chance with both hands on his circuit debut. He was lucky to escape a first-lap qualification race clash that put Arjun Maini in the wall, but his aggressive approach ultimately paid off with a podium finish.
Fortunate enough to be able to secure a seat at the all-conquering Prema for 2020, the American looks set for plenty more silverware and could feasibly start as the title favourite.
49. Roman Stanek
F4 rookie won in Germany and Italy in Sauber colours
On paper, 15-year-old Czech karting graduate Stanek looked like he was going to be the weakest of Sauber?s four junior drivers in Formula 4, given he was the only single-seater rookie, but the reality when it came to on-track performance was far from that.
Stanek had good team-mates to learn from, especially in testing to learn the circuits, and there was generally an upward trend in performance within each weekend. Nowhere was this more evident than his first weekend racing single-seaters, as he followed a debut podium at Hockenheim with victory and the points lead in the third race.
In the Italian championships he had no team-mates (although Arthur Leclerc was originally supposed to join him) and the US Racing team hadn?t raced at most of the circuits, but Stanek was just as quick.
He began that season with a win from pole position in just his second race ? later taken away by a penalty for overtaking under the safety car ? and he took a further five poles across the Red Bull Ring and Imola rounds. It was the Imola weekend that Stanek chose as his best with three poles out of three and a redemptive win with fastest lap.
Missing the second round at Misano, and being a one-car operation, undoubtedly put Stanek at a disadvantage in Italy, and his list of missed opportunities suggests he could have finished the season as title runner-up.
In Germany, the more competitive of the two series this year, Stanek put in the most impressive rookie campaign since the championship?s predecessor ADAC Formel Masters ? picking up a second win at the Nurburgring and the rookie title ahead of Prema?s Mercedes protege Paul Aron.
Scout Report: Sauber?s ADAC Formula 4 juniors
48. Toshiki Oyu
Honda Japanese F3 regular stunned in Silverstone cameo
Red Bull Junior Team boss Dr Helmut Marko?s interest in Toshiki Oyu may soon be ramping up due to the fact that the 21-year-old is in contention to take the vacant Nakajima Racing seat in Super Formula previously occupied by Alex Palou.
Oyu has raced in Japanese F3 for two seasons, following on from dominating JAF Japan F4 in 2016 and winning in the FIA?s Japanese F4 as a Honda junior. In F3 though he?s been racing for Toda Racing?s solo effort with a self-built Toda engine.
He started 2019 with two top five finishes, before acting as B-MAX Racing by Motopark driver Sacha Fenestraz?s closest rival at Autopolis. Oyu battled wet weather for second place finishes in races one and two, and fought for the race three win.
After passing Fenestraz, Oyu built up a healthy lead in a couple of laps and was free from attack for some time. Eventually Fenestraz closed back in, but Oyu?s defensive efforts kept him at bay for even longer. Fenestraz did ultimately get through, but such was the level the pair were driving at that they finished over half a minute clear of third place.
He didn?t see the podium again until he won at Sugo, which he followed with a third place at Fuji Speedway. After his sixth and final podium at Twin Ring Motegi, Oyu was called up to drive one of Motopark?s Spiess-powered cars at Silverstone in Euroformula Open.
One test day in Germany acted as a warm-up, but Oyu was new to the circuit, the series, the team and the continent. In near unbelievable style, he combined a super smooth driving style with Motopark?s tail-happy set-up to totally dominate. He left with two wins, two poles and the track record, and if he?s not in SF in 2020 then Motopark want him back in EF Open.
47. Ayrton Simmons
Battled British F3’s big boys for the title
As with its more celebrated forerunner, the BRDC British F3 Championship has thus far been dominated by Britain’s established big-name teams. With Clement Novalak’s title, Carlin joined Double R Racing on two titles in four years. Fortec meanwhile became a frequent winning force in British F3 again this year thanks to Johnathan Hoggard.
But by rivalling Novalak and Hoggard as well as he did, Simmons was proof that smaller teams running with smaller budgets can still put up a fight. Overshadowed in his duel with Kiern Jewiss in F4 in 2018, Simmons built on some promising early F3 outings last year to be a true factor in the 2019 title fight with Chris Dittmann Racing.
While Jewiss was only ever an outsider in the title race – improving at the end of the year after a lacklustre start with Douglas Motorsport – Simmons was consistently quick from start to finish, with few exceptions. There were three wins – one at Spa-Francorchamps (where he took two poles) and two in as many visits to Silverstone – one more than Novalak could manage.
Inconsistency stopped him from causing an even greater upset in the standings, but what Simmons and CDR achieved in what was a competitive field undoubtedly made people sit up and take note.
46. Lorenzo Colombo
Three wins and fourth overall in Eurocup
Colombo had impressed in 2018, frequently troubling the frontrunners with his pace while driving for JD Motorsport. Moving to MP Motorsport for 2019, he came into the year still looking for his maiden win, and had a good shot at it in race one at Monza ? very much his local circuit. He qualified on pole, but lost the lead off the start and then spun out at the first chicane after contact from behind.
When he did finally break his duck in round four at Paul Ricard, he did it in some style, winning both races from pole position, also taking the fastest lap both times. And this was on the home circuit of his Renault-backed team-mate Victor Martins.
Colombo overtook Martins en route to another win next time out at Spa, and he was just 13 points off the eventual title protagonists at the halfway mark.
The rest of the season was much more difficult, though. He often struggled in qualifying, and took only one podium from the next four rounds, before ending the year on a high with two podiums in Abu Dhabi. Martins meanwhile took seven poles and five wins from the last eight races, opening up a gap of almost 100 points between the two team-mates.
Nonetheless, this was still a season that confirmed Colombo?s promise. In the Valencia FIA F3 test in October, he was second quickest overall for MP behind Christian Lundgaard, and if he can step up to F3 for 2020, he would certainly be one to watch.
45. Franco Colapinto
Argentine won Spanish F4 crown in first full year in cars
Colapinto?s 2019 began with the patronage of Spanish F1 legends Fernando Alonso and Pedro de la Rosa, and swiftly moved into Formula Scout asking questions on when he?d be making his F3 debut ? before he?d even started his Spanish F4 season.
This is because the Argentine karting graduate, who won the first ever karting event at last year?s Youth Olympics, had won on his single-seater debut at the end of 2018 and was one of the best in EF Open pre-season testing for Drivex School.
His F4 campaign had a rocky start at Navarra despite taking a triple pole, his tally of one win in three races then becoming one in six when Jenzer Motorsport rocked up at Paul Ricard with veteran Giorgio Carrara and locked out the top step.
Colapinto did make the occasional rookie error, but he got most of them out of the way in those opening two rounds and was pretty dominant thereon. He won 10 of the remaining 15 races for Drivex, including unbeaten weekends at Valencia Ricardo Tormo and Barcelona, took another seven poles and a season total of 11 fastest laps on the way to the title.
The anticipated F3 debut came early in June at Spa, with Drivex bringing out its Piedrafita-powered EF Open car for Colapinto.?He was half a second behind his team-mate in qualifying, but beat him in his first race to finish 15th, and again in the second for 14th.
In July, Colapinto returned to Spa with the team?s new Eurocup branch for a first attempt at a different kind of F3. He was ninth in the pre-event test, ahead of his team-mates, and converted that into 18th and 11th in qualifying, the latter after briefly topping the times. His best race finish was 12th, but the 16-year-old got a second chance in the car at Barcelona and finished his fourth and final race in 10th ? a result Drivex only bettered all year with the experienced Callan O?Keeffe.
Scout Report: Franco Colapinto
44. Enaam Ahmed
Took more F3 wins after Japan move
Many of Ahmed?s drives this year were either a surprise, last-minute or not entirely planned, but the Briton once again enhanced his reputation and brought his career tally of wins in F3 to 21.
After failing to find a FIA F3 drive, Ahmed won a shooutout test to drive for the Tomei-powered ThreeBond team in Japanese F3, but ended up moving to B-MAX by Motopark after a sponsor issue meant he had to forfeit his original seat.
He started his season with four podiums in a row. It could have been more if he wasn?t black flagged for missing a drive-through penalty at Autopolis, and penalised while leading at Okayama ? where three non-scores ended realistic title hopes.
Ahmed bounced back at Sugo with a podium, but initially struggled at the circuit, while the series? visit to Fuji resulted in his first win. The return trip to Sugo was more fruitful, as Ahmed added his first pole and on-the-road win in Japan to his CV.
There was little to celebrate in Japan after that, bar third in the standings, and Ahmed?s next highlight was a late call-up to join Oyu at Silverstone. In free practice he broke the track record first, on a lap he ?didn?t even push? on. He was pipped to race one pole by Oyu and couldn?t match him in the race, but saved his tyres to set a new lap record.
The next team to phone was Prema, wanting to test Ahmed in its FIA F3 car. He organised to test for Campos Racing too, causing a late arrival to the Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Award assessments, and Campos then called on him for Macau. That was a tricky weekend that included a qualifying crash and a faultless lap one retirement in the qualification race, and after finishing 22nd in the main race he flew to Africa for his sportscar debut with R-Motorsport in the Kylami 9 Hours.
43. Toby Sowery
Impressive underdog showing in first full year Stateside
After a year in GT racing ? without a huge amount of success ? Sowery made a full-time switch Stateside to take on the Road to Indy at the level directly below IndyCar. One win in a field with Indy Lights? single figure entries on a regular basis doesn?t seem particularly impressive, but there?s more to Sowery?s season than meets the eye.
Sowery raced for Lights newcomers BN Racing (in conjunction with Team Pelfrey ? who sat much of 2018 out) and immediately found himself as a podium contender against team title-winning opposition. His team changed identity mid-season to HMD Motorsports, and from then Sowery became more than just a threat.
He became a contender for race wins, and duly delivered a well-deserved victory at Portland. He had solid team-mate opposition in Pro Mazda race-winner David Malukas and came out comfortably on top.
Against more experienced and better-equipped opposition, Sowery?s consistently solid results and stellar end to the season with a pair of podiums elevated him to third behind the two dominant forces of the series right at the end.
42. Caio Collet
Renault’s star rookie was a consistent performer
With Collet being the reigning French F4 champion, guided by Nicolas Todt and now part of Renault’s academy, there were big expectations as he stepped up to Formula Renault. So there was a mixture of disappointment and surprise that he qualified a lowly 20th and finished 12th in his first race at Monza, while fellow debutants Ugo de Wilde, Leonardo Lorandi and Kush Maini filled the podium.
But while the aforementioned trio failed to make the top three again all season, Collet finished inside the top eight in all 19 remaining races, and managed six podiums.
Of course, he had the benefit of driving for a top team in R-ace GP alongside two of the championship’s top three drivers. With a car and tyres that were new for everybody, he never delivered the relative speed that might have been expected, but to race as consistently and cleanly as he did displayed impressive maturity for a driver so young under a significant amount of pressure to perform.
Perhaps the strongest sign of potential was in Monaco, when he was second in his qualifying group and finished third in race one, before frustratingly spending race two stuck in fourth place behind fellow Brazilian Joao Vieira. His best result, a second place at Spa from sixth on the grid, showed his composure in race form, but he’ll need to find a way to win next year.
41. David Schumacher
Four-time Formula Regional winner with father Ralf’s squad
Even if you look past the surname, David Schumacher’s four Regional F3 wins in his second year of car racing really stand out.
The Formula Regional European Championship driver stuck with US Racing for 2019, which ran him in ADAC F4 last year and is co-owned by his father Ralf, but the combination wasn’t particularly happy early in the season despite a win.
Schumacher frequently looked like he may have the pace to fight for podiums, especially if he was in a high position in the opening laps, but ended up sinking in races down to sixth or seventh place while Prema dominated.
He didn’t return to the podium until round four at the Red Bull Ring, and there were no more podiums until his Barcelona breakthrough, which came after former Formula 1 driver Roberto Merhi tested and helped make US Racing’s car a Prema-beater.
Two pole positions translated into two wins, and the difficulty of overtaking in the Regional F3 cars meant Schumacher was stuck in third in the other race. At Mugello he took another two poles, but was denied the opportunity to turn both into wins when a turbo problem on the grid led to his mechanics working on the car too long and earning him a penalty.
He showed his true pace with a dominant win in the final race to claim third in the points, but then returned to old struggles in the Monza season finale. Schumacher finished 51 points off runner-up, but had the potential to be in that position himself.
At the end of the year, Schumacher joined the FIA F3 grid with Campos at Sochi and impressed given his inexperience. He switched to Charouz for Macau, and had an anonymous but clean weekend as pretty much the least experienced driver there.