Home Featured Formula Scout Top 50 Drivers of 2020: 40-31

Formula Scout Top 50 Drivers of 2020: 40-31

by Formula Scout
Six of this year’s junior single-seater champions feature in part two of our countdown of the season’s best drivers

40. Kaylen Frederick

New entry • British F3’s fastest driver and eventually its champion

Frederick sure made hard work of winning the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship, but his highs were oh-so high.

In his second season in the category with Carlin, the American had some absolute shockers – jump starts, spins, crashes and more. But the speed he showed, at times, utterly crushed all within a strengthened field.

It was not uncommon that Frederick had to put in the work in challenging conditions. The British weather came into play in several of his victories, as he displayed his natural ability and prowess in those conditions.

That he was able to knuckle down and rectify his mistakes with commanding wins in a championship that usually rewards consistency instead was fine indeed. After all, he had a miserable weekend in round three at Brands Hatch – the one weekend he failed to win at all.

The high point came at Snetterton. The weather was largely appalling, bizarre race control mistakes slipped in and Frederick came home with some significant points including a brilliant win in race one.

From there, he had total command as Kush Maini, who was a late call-up for new team Hitech GP, put in a challenge that faltered. Frederick went unbeaten in the final ‘feature’ races with grids set by qualifying, while also picking up a solid chunk of points in the full reversed-grid races, and he only needed to finish the last race to become champion.

Further reading
BRDC British F3 season review: Wins beat consistency in battle of titans

39. Luke Browning

New entry • Prevailed in thrilling British F4 battle to halt Carlin streak

As in 2019, Browning was a thorn in the side of Carlin’s British Formula 4 star. This year, however, he had smoothed out some of the rough edges that meant he couldn’t fight for the title in his maiden season and, with backing from Fortec Motorsport, he would go on to take the crown.

Browning earned a reputation in his first year in single-seaters as being an exciting driver, but one that would often find himself at the stewards’ office for one reason or another. That excitement was still there in 2020, but Browning had learned where the limits were in his maiden season and didn’t often pass them.

One of the biggest improvements Browning made in 2020, though, was qualifying. It became a running joke in 2019 that Browning could only win a race if he started at the back of the pack. Though he did manage to prove that wrong a few times in 2019, he really improved on qualifying in 2020, starting towards the front of the grid more often than not and keeping out of the drama that often occurs in the midfield.

He still proved he could overtake and climb his way up through the order – British F4’s partially reversed-grid races mean a driver fighting for the championship has to show good racecraft – but stronger qualifying performances meant he could challenge for wins more often. At Oulton Park he became the first non-Carlin driver – and third driver ever – to win every race of a weekend, and he could almost do the same the following weekend.

It would be unfair to say Browning only won the title because the final race at Brands Hatch was rained off. If it hadn’t been for an oil slick on track, he would have been battling for the win. But after being the driver to beat in the rain for two years, it was fitting that the rain saved him again.

Further reading
British F4 season review: Fortec’s Browning wins in closest action yet

38. Jake Hughes

Down 9 • Took more F3 wins with HWA and looked good on F2 debut 

Hughes has become the target of jokes about his age and experience at F3 level – something that he appears to take in good spirits. But he did prove his worth as a driver again this year, helping to further establish the HWA team in FIA F3 and being rewarded with a solitary F2 outing in which he was instantly up to speed.

Expectation was that Hughes and HWA would build upon the lessons of 2019 to be a more consistent threat this season, but the start of the season was trying. Come Silverstone they had returned to the front, and made a qualifying breakthrough for the second of Hughes’ home weekends. A second place in race one there was followed by victory a week later at Barcelona when he overhauled pole-sitter Logan Sargeant with stronger race pace.

Not for the first time, technical issues led to a point-less weekend at Spa and thwarted any hopes of a late title push, but he added a Sunday win at Monza and a second place at Mugello after leading the entertaining opening race there.

The relatively early end to the F3 season gave Hughes the long-overdue chance to try F2 at Sochi after Giuliano Alesi walked out of HWA’s line-up. Having never tested the F2 car or its predecessor, he was up against it, but he qualified a fine 15th, five places in front of his veteran team-mate Artem Markelov, and he raced well too, coming home 12th.

While Theo Pourchaire took the seat for the Bahrain double-header, Hughes had already shown that HWA may have been best off in F2 with him in one of its cars all along. Having said that he won’t stay in F3 any longer, he would deserve a proper crack at the next level.

37. Sting Ray Robb

New entry • Indy Pro 2000 champion in his fourth season, but impressively so

Named after the Corvette Stingray, Robb has been a mainstay within the Indy Pro 2000 championship for longer than it has been called that.

He was an unlikely title contender coming into 2020, having not won in three previous years, in a field that became much more stacked after the pandemic forced prospective Indy Lights runners to take a step down, and Devlin DeFrancesco returned Stateside instead of racing in FIA F3.

Robb’s relationship with Juncos Racing was excellent, and the results on-track showed. After a “demoralising” run earlier in the year as team-mate Artem Petrov notched up two wins, Robb rebounded emphatically by taking his first at Mid-Ohio.

DeFrancesco’s consistent point-scoring thrust him into the title lead for a decent chunk of the season (despite not having a win until Gateway) but Robb’s triple win at Indianapolis totally swung the pendulum in his favour.

He put himself in prime position to take the title after another win at the second Mid-Ohio round, before clinching it in a thriller at New Jersey in mixed conditions.

As the IP2000 champ, he is set to make the step up to Indy Lights, against what is likely to be a field with added depth to the strength we have seen in recent years…

Further reading
How the Road to Indy’s newest champions were crowned

36. Kas Haverkort

New entry • Took Spanish F4 by storm in first year in cars

The latest Dutch sensation arrived in single-seaters with a huge amount of confidence, and turned that into immediate results while also still starring in karting.

Haverkort won his first three races in a car in a lockout of the Spanish F4 season opener at Navarra, and he did the triple again at Valencia and Jarama. In those latter two he also went unbeaten in qualifying, contributing to his season tally of 12 poles, and wins at three of the other four rounds meant he claimed 13 victories in his rookie year.

There were errors in racecraft at times, but more often he was pulling off the critical overtakes when needed and pulling out gaps when required. At Paul Ricard, where the closest action of the year was, he was unlucky to only get one podium from the weekend but that was character-building in a way that helped him later on.

Mid-season he also stepped up to the Formula Renault Eurocup with MP Motorsport, the same Dutch team running him in F4, and he made the transition look seamless. Had he not been classified as a guest driver, his average scoring rate would have comfortably been seventh best in the field with three fifth places from four starts.

That he was then able to jump back into an F4 car after that and look even more dominant, after driving two cars with very different driving demands, was superb stuff for a single-seater rookie.

Further reading
Scout Report: Kas Haverkort

35. Alex Peroni

New entry • Scored three FIA F3 podiums in super comeback from horror shunt

Few people would have blamed Peroni if he’d thrown in the towel after his horrifying shunt in the first FIA F3 race at Monza last year, which left him with a fractured vertebra. Instead, he returned to the championship earlier this year, and in some style, as he picked up his and Campos Racing’s maiden feature race podium in the season-opening race at the Red Bull Ring – only finishing behind the two eventual Prema title protagonists of Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant.

He added two further podiums in the reversed-grid races at Silverstone and Barcelona and drove from 16th to fifth place in the dramatic second Monza race. He contributed all of Campos’ 64 points, lifting the Spanish outfit out of the bottom spot they inhabited in 2019 and into seventh place.

Peroni showed brilliant racecraft even on weekends where his machinery left him fighting for a space in the lower reaches of the top 10, and his one-lap speed was consistent with sixth place on the grid for the second Silverstone weekend the high point.

Carlin has secured the Australian’s services for its return to Indy Lights in 2021, a switch which will benefit the team, driver and the series next year. It will also give Peroni a chance to race on street tracks again, for the first time since he starred at Monaco in Formula Renault Eurocup in 2018.

34. Patrik Pasma

New entry • Prema’s strongest opponent in Formula Regional Europe 

Often driving a car that, to put it kindly, he wasn’t going to win the title in, Pasma made another sizeable leap in performance as he moved across to the Formula Regional European Championship this year.

The Finn got one podium in the Formula Renault Eurocup in 2019, and staying in Regional F3 for a second season allowed him to build his confidence in a KIC Motorsport team where he had established himself as lead driver by the end of the season.

After second place in the season-opening race, there wasn’t actually another podium for Pasma until the second half of the season. But that second half was stellar, with four wins, three poles and more points than anyone else.

He was the recipient of good fortune on some occasions as other drivers hit reliability issues, but he didn’t have a trouble-free run of his own and was not only putting himself in a position to win races when Prema’s drivers faltered but was also beating them in qualifying on merit. It was a feat far harder than it looked.

Had KIC been more efficient on race weekends in the early rounds – when Juri Vips also had to make do with a few podiums – it may not have made so much of a difference in terms of results, as the Prema drivers were at their best at the time, but may have set up Pasma to be even stronger later on.

33. Ritomo Miyata

New entry • Won Super Formula Lights title – and starred at top level too

In a series where there would only be a maximum of four drivers able to fight you for wins anyway, and then having international talents be practically barred from entry due to travel restrictions, it takes a lot to show just how good you are rather than how depleted your opposition is.

Miyata managed to do that in Super Formula Lights in 2020, but it wasn’t entirely clear how much of his title advantage was down to the driver – having come second in the points the previous two years – until he got the chance to debut in Super Formula. He qualified second on his debut, and scored points in both of the races he was given the chance to race in by TOM’S. Miyata was clearly something special.

The introduction of the Dallara 320 in SF Lights this year also made his past experience in the series (formerly known as Japanese F3) mean less, but he was one of only three full-time 2019 racers who continued into the new era and one of those only did two rounds of the 2020 season.

Miyata only had to worry about B-MAX Racing’s Sena Sakaguchi, and he beat the inaugural Formula Regional Japan champion in 12 of the season’s 17 races. In the qualifying battle it was 6-6 between them, but Sakaguchi only converted two of his poles into wins.

There was one embarrassing mistake for Miyata when an unforced error led to him spinning away a win at Suzuka, but he was usually some way ahead of his rival. Across the season, he finished on average four-and-a-half seconds up the road.

Both deserve full-time graduations to SF in 2021, but only Miyata looks immediately capable of fighting up front in the professional ranks.

32. Linus Lundqvist

Re-entry (31st in ’18) • Went to America and dominated in Formula Regional

It was almost a step down from Euroformula to Formula Regional Americas for Lundqvist, but the new challenges of racing in America and the very different tyres used on the other side of the Atlantic meant he was still put to the test. At least that is until he started racing.

The Swede won 15 of the season’s 17 races, and he would have had a 100% podium run were it not for his engine cover removing itself at Sebring. In the other race he didn’t win, he came short by just under a second.

Lundqvist’s tyre management was particularly impressive, and certainly a skill his rivals couldn’t seem to match. In some races his lead would grow substantially late on, as he eked out further performance from the tyres. And as champion, he’s now on his way to Indy Lights.

The quality of Lundqvist’s rivals was stronger than it sometimes looked, but in reality very few drivers in the series seemed to hook things up as regularly or even just as well as Lundqvist did. He was unbeaten in qualifying, and only in three races was he beaten to fastest lap. The four other drivers at Global Racing Group accumulatively still scored over 100 points less than Lundqvist did.

His Mid-Ohio debut was impressive in its dominance given it was his first time racing in America, but so too was the Circuit of the Americas season finale as Lundqvist had increased his margin of dominance across the year.

31. Louis Deletraz

Re-entry (10th in ’16) • One of F2’s best racers in strongest campaign yet

Even isolating his single-seater campaign away from his successful stints in sportscars and Esports in 2020, one of the busiest men in racing this year was a consistent threat in Formula 2 with an outfit that most expected little from.

A lack of a victory (albeit not without trying) continues to mark Deletraz down but, despite being a mainstay in F2 now, he had an impressive year nonetheless. He was a danger for victory on so many occasions and one of the best out-and-out racers in the championship this year, which was mighty competitive. That was enough to make his fourth season at this level the first to warrant a place on this list.

Five rostrums to his name and more sprint race points than feature races made him one of the most effective on a Sunday. That stat should go for him, rather than against, given that Charouz Racing System outfit was by no stretch a Prema or a Virtuosi – with all due respect.

His weekend management was invariably strong and there weren’t too many flaws in his game. However, what does go against him is his vast experience, his winless campaign and that his overall game is more solid rather than spectacular. With F2, spectacular is sometimes what pays off. The racecraft can rarely be faulted, though.

Despite admitting that he was assessing options outside of the championship for 2021, there is now a chance that the popular Swiss driver could be on for a fifth full season at this level after testing with MP Motorsport.

The Formula Scout Top 50 Drivers of 2020 has been compiled by Bethonie Waring, Craig Woollard, Elliot Wood, Josh Suttill and Peter Allen. Click here to view the rest of the list.