Home Featured Formula Scout Top 50 Drivers of 2021: 40-31

Formula Scout Top 50 Drivers of 2021: 40-31

by Formula Scout
Part two of this year’s countdown features champions, winners and podium finishers from across six junior single-seater series 

40. Ralph Boschung

New entry • F2 veteran finally enjoyed stability, and provided it too 

Not many would have predicted such a season for Ralph Boschung and his Campos Racing team at the beginning of the year. The passing of team founder Adrian Campos at the end of January and a difficult opening round didn’t leave much room for hope. However, they came together and the hard work done in the Barcelona test paid off in Monaco, where Boschung scored points in all three races after qualifying in sixth place.

Boschung and Campos kept the momentum going, and they were again in the mix in Baku. After that, four more top-seven results were achieved in qualifying, an area where Boschung improved significantly compared to his previous Formula 2 seasons. The Swiss extracted the maximum out of the car over one lap, staying unbeaten in the head-to-head with his various team-mates throughout the season. In the races, where the team has struggled most, two podiums in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi were a deserved reward for never giving up.

These efforts allowed Boschung to squeeze into the top 10 in the drivers’ standings. Both team and driver gave each other much needed stability: Boschung didn’t miss the chance to prove what he is capable of in a properly-funded season, while Campos had someone to focus on while four drivers shared car number 20.

39. Giuliano Alesi

Re-entry (43rd in ’17) • F2 refugee reinvented himself in Japan 

Alesi’s most impressive performances in 2021 – and probably his entire career to-date – came in Super Formula, Japan’s answer to Formula 1. As a stand-in driver at TOM’S he finished in the points three times out of four and also wowed the racing scene over there with pole and victory at a very wet Autopolis as a rookie.

Those results in what is a professional series can’t be taken into consideration for this list, but his junior single-seater campaign in Super Formula Lights (using the same Dallara 320 as Euroformula) took place on the same weekends. While some drivers adapt to different machinery weeks apart, he often had an hour if not less to prepare himself for swapping between cars.

He started 2021 by leaving F2 and the Ferrari Driver Academy, and arrived in Japan – his mother’s homeland – with a point to prove. While a third place in his first SF Lights race with TOM’S wasn’t spectacular, his consistent frontrunning form made him a title contender before his double win in the wet and dry of round four at Sportsland SUGO.

After crowdfunding his entry for the Twin Ring Motegi season finale, he added another two wins but lost the title on dropped scores. He had only been off the podium three times in 17 races, and now he’s landed a full-time SF promotion and a top-class Super GT drive with Toyota.

38. Cameron Das

New entry • Converted Euroformula experience into title success

Das’s Euroformula title triumph began in really the best possible way with a triple win at Algarve on the F1 support bill, and by doing something rarely seen in the Formula 3-level series which is fighting up through the order to win.

He also claimed two dominant wins there, and had a clear advantage at the track that rewarded him finely. Everywhere else, it was a far closer battle with the other drivers in the Motopark stable and he used his extensive series experience to maximise the amount of points he scored.

While some may discredit his title because of that experience, he was usually in the top two on pace and the only track where he wasn’t a de facto victory contender was Imola. But as he says: “this ended up being my best weekend of the year, despite the results probably being [among] the worst”.

Chassis damage restricted him all weekend, and the only other times he dropped points to a similar degree was where damage took him out of the lead at the Hungaroring and a clash undid a victory attack at Spa-Francorchamps.

Das had to become champion this year given he’s been in Euroformula on-and-off since 2017. He got the job done with seven wins, and deserves to attack a higher category now.

37. Zane Maloney

Re-entry (38th in ’19) • Monaco win the highlight after FREC switch

Moving from Euroformula to Formula Regional European Championship in 2021 worked out well for Maloney. After a tough 2020 season, the ‘Boy from Barbados’ adapted quickly to the Tatuus T-318 to prove that the speed he showed in his British Formula 4 title-winning campaign was still there.

One pole position, one race win and seven further podiums upped Maloney to fourth place in the final standings, four points ahead of his team-mate Isack Hadjar. The battle within the R-ace GP stable was perhaps the closest between team-mates of the grid. All three – Maloney, Hadjar and Hadrien David – pushed each other to achieve better results, and that allowed R-ace to claim the teams’ title.

Monaco was definitely Maloney’s highlight of the season. He seemed to be a veteran on his very first time on a street circuit. He was the only driver to go under the 1m29s barrier in qualifying, earning himself pole and another front-row start. He drove faultlessly in the races, claiming second place in race one and his sole victory of the year in race two.

The late part of the season was a bit more difficult for Maloney. Being unable to score at Mugello meant he missed out on third place in the standings at the end against Prema’s Paul Aron. However, he looks assured of another step forward in 2022 with an FIA F3 drive at Trident on the cards.

36. Matthew Rees

New entry • Surprise package won British F4 title as car racing rookie

Rees isn’t British F4’s first rookie champion. Nor was his title as dominant as some in recent years. But his overall performance made him stand out on a closely-matched grid.

JHR Developments has become one of the top teams in recent years, and convincingly took over from Carlin as the best-performing outfit this season, but Rees was able to beat his team-mates more often than not.

He made his mark straight away with a double pole in qualifying for the opening round and, while those first races themselves didn’t really go to plan, his overall performance didn’t dip in the same way we’ve seen other drivers.

Rees consistently outqualified team-mate Abbi Pulling – though there’s something to be said about how little testing Pulling was getting – and was able to keep ahead of McKenzy Cresswell as his fellow rookie improved over the course of the season.

Race day is where Rees has the most progress to make. His wasn’t a season of countless victories – just four to Cresswell’s six – and converting poles to victories didn’t come easy. But he showed good pace when battling in the field, as shown by the number of points he scored for overtaking during the reversed-grid races.

35. Jehan Daruvala

Up 10 • F2 sophomore showed his best in sprint races

A second year with Carlin didn’t provide the step forward that Daruvala needed to make in F2, but there was a marked improvement and he really came into the fore during the sprint races the most, taking his two wins of the year there. But he was also solid in a number of feature races, culminating in a very strong podium in Sochi.

Like his team-mate Dan Ticktum, there was a sense that there was far more potential from the package than the results say, given how strong Carlin has looked in testing in particular in the past. Where Daruvala showcased that speed the most emphatically was in Monza’s second sprint race, where he simply flew off into the distance, while his win in Abu Dhabi was overshadowed by the crowning of a new champion (which also occurred in 2020, ironically).

Being in the mix for solid results in six of the eight rounds is good in what was poised to be an ultra-competitive season (until Piastri tore up the script), but there ultimately were way more impressive drivers this year. 

34. Louis Foster

Up 15 • Spa hat-trick was key to Euroformula title bid

Like his title rival Das, there was one weekend where Foster was simply unstoppable. The rest of the time it was a very close battle between the pair and Jak Crawford, and only a horrifically unlucky weekend for Foster at Monza stopped the title from going to the wire.

Foster arguably had the pace for pole at every circuit, but only got the job done twice and both times when Crawford was absent. He tended to maximise the first race of the weekend off the back of that, with an average finishing position only bettered by two drivers who did more than one round and identical to Das’s.

Somehow Foster didn’t actually win at anywhere other than Spa-Francorchamps, where he was unbeaten, and through much of the season he went through his tyres just that little bit harder in races than his two main opponents and it made the difference between a victory and a second or third place at three circuits.

But all-in, after contesting two Euroformula rounds last year as preparation, it was a top season that showed Foster’s ability to make his way into a title fight in everything he sits in. Indy Pro 2000 is what awaits in 2022.

33. Franco Colapinto

Down 15 • Shone again after nightmare start to FREC campaign

2021 was a rollercoaster year for Colapinto. He had to miss the opening round of FREC due to a clash with his European Le Mans Series programme, and when he was back, he failed to see the chequered flag in both races in Barcelona. Then an exclusion from Monaco qualifying led to him withdrawing from the event – given he would only have been allowed to start one of the two races, and from last. An overall lack of pace at Paul Ricard meant he didn’t score a single point until the fifth round at Zandvoort.

However he kept his head down, helped to improve the MP Motorsport package, and from there onwards scored 140 points on his way to finish sixth in the championship. He would have been title runner-up if he’d been able to score at that rate through all 10 rounds.

There were also two wins, which could have been three in a row if he hadn’t had his victory in Red Bull Ring race two taken away several days later due to a penalty for exceeding track limits (which remains provisional). With three pole positions to his name as well, Colapinto was definitely one of the best performers in the second half of the season, and one of the very few who took the challenge to Gregoire Saucy during the year.

He shone as a sportscar rookie in LMP2 machinery and undoubtedly has an exciting future there, but his talent also deserves a chance in F3 too.

32. Linus Lundqvist

No change • Early wins made Indy Lights rookie a title contender

A stacked lead group in Indy Lights was always going to be a far trickier proposition for Lundqvist than the Formula Regional Americas field he utterly crushed in 2020, but he felt at home right away on the Road to Indy, winning on his debut at Barber Motorsports Park.

What immediately followed for the driver co-run by Global Racing Group and HMD Motorsports was a strong run of results that vaulted him into title contention with HMD’s David Malukas and serial Road to Indy winner Kyle Kirkwood.

However, a mid-season slump of zero podiums from six race (with a crash through no fault of his own at the Gateway oval particularly costly) allowed Kirkwood and Malukas to pull away. They won all six of those races, and after that it effectively became a straight fight between the pair. It also seemed to be the period in which Andretti Autosport was strongest, and Lundqvist was unable to make the same difference that Malukas was able to. But Lundqvist had one final thing to say, absolutely crushing the opposition in the one wet race of the year that ended the season.

Being short of the title by nearly 100 points does not look great on paper, but Lundqvist was so frequently in the mix and ultimately had a strong year for a Lights rookie in his first season in the Road to Indy.

31. Teppei Natori

New entry • Could be F2-bound after Super Formula Lights title

Losing Honda junior status, and therefore secure funding, ahead of this year didn’t do Natori any good. But then he crowdfunded his way onto the SF Lights grid with B-MAX Racing, won six races and claimed the title.

The asterisk is that SF Lights is often dominated, and Natori’s title campaign was the least complete in terms of wins and runaway performances in some time. However, B-MAX isn’t the best team, so to lead the growing outfit to a title is still impressive.

Natori’s main opposition came in the form of TOM’S driver Alesi, before Honda junior Ren Sato got into gear at Toda Racing, and he used his circuit experience well to get the better of them early on with four wins from the first six races and double the points of Alesi.

On a wet set-up it tended to be his rivals who had the advantage though, which played a part in the swing of performance in the middle of the season, and then the final round was a big challenge.

Natori pipped Alesi in qualifying for race one, but engine issues meant he changed his unit and took a grid penalty. Alesi won, then in race two when Natori tried passing him he accidentally tapped his tyre and caused a delamination. Both fell to the back after Natori was penalised for the incident, but it meant the title was secured ahead of the final race; another messy non-score for the champion.

It’s been reported that Natori is now F2-bound with Trident.

The Formula Scout Top 50 Drivers of 2021 has been compiled by Alejandro Alonso Lopez, Bethonie Waring, Cian Brittle, Craig Woollard, Ida Wood, Peter Allen and Roger Gascoigne. Click here to view the rest of the list.