Home Featured Formula Scout Top 50 Drivers of 2022: 10-1

Formula Scout Top 50 Drivers of 2022: 10-1

by Formula Scout
Discover which young drivers impressed the Formula Scout writers the most in 2022 in the final part of our annual Top 50 countdown 

10. Theo Pourchaire

Down 8 • Fought for F2 title until challenging season collapsed

Pourchaire’s second season in Formula 2 was objectively better than his first. Three feature race wins and another three second-places in such races were enough to make a decent fight of the championship, with his third win in Hungary bringing him to within 21 points of the lead with four weekends to go.

But a mechanical issue at Spa and qualifying crash at Zandvoort all but ended his hopes, and together they summed up his season. There were a few too many mistakes and certainly too much unreliability, and he scored just five points from those final four rounds, leaving him a rather unrepresentative 101 behind the champion.

Besides that, there was also a lack of spectacular speed to remind onlookers of Pourchaire’s undoubted ability. His qualifying record was poor, and he only made the front row at round one in Bahrain and in Monaco. How much of this was down to driver or car is difficult to know, but Pourchaire didn’t dominate Frederik Vesti in this department as much as he would have wanted. It’s to his credit that his strong performance in race trim allowed him to still achieve those good results on Sundays.

In hindsight, the lofty expectations set by Pourchaire’s seamless rise to his point were perhaps too high for a series that can be as random and equipment-dependent as F2. Every young driver can benefit from a character-building season on their way up, but Pourchaire’s was unfortunately timed and very public.

Nobody should be writing off his Formula 1 credentials at 19, but many would question what good can come of another year in the same series with the same team in 2023.

9. Isack Hadjar

Up 14 • F3 rookie was championship challenger from the off

Three rookies came within an error of winning this year’s FIA Formula 3 title, and of those it was Hadjar who adapted quickest of all to the championship in his first year racing in full Red Bull colours.

He had Ollie Bearman’s track-limits penalty to thank for his win in the season-opening sprint race in Bahrain, but was then on the feature race podiums at both Imola and Barcelona, and took another sprint win at Silverstone before delivering a feature race win from pole at his backer’s home circuit in Austria. All of this while being the clear team leader at Hitech.

By this point he was deservedly only a point off the championship lead, but in the pressure of the title fight, Hadjar was not quite as effective at adding to his score as Victor Martins – a driver three years his senior – to the tune of just 15 points. There’s no disgrace in that.

His Monza qualifying crash and emotional reaction over the radio was a very public demonstration of that maturity deficit, but to use that to criticise a 17-year-old F3 rookie would be unfair. The move up to F2 will provide another challenge altogether in that regard, but this year showed Hadjar is a driver worth nurturing and developing.

8. Logan Sargeant

Up 7 • Strong rookie F2 effort enough to earn F1 graduation

After arguably one too many years in F3, Sargeant finally made the step up to F2 and quickly impressed. While he might not have had as many stand out performances or victories as team-mate Liam Lawson, he had a consistency which many more experienced drivers struggled to achieve, especially in the first half of the season.

A breakthrough victory at Silverstone – effectively his home circuit, and certainly his favourite – was definitely a highlight. A more fortuitous second win from the next feature race in Austria and a second pole position in France made a late championship challenge seem possible. But that would never materialise.

Instead, a series of retirements came. While not all Sergeant’s fault, they were a blow to his season and stopped him finishing higher. But when Sargeant did finish, those finishes were good enough to keep him in the fight for second, even though he never made the podium in the final six events.

Even though it was brief, his mid-season run of top form was enough to put him in consideration for an F1 drive with Williams, and he emerged as the leading candidate before taking in four free practice sessions at the end of the year. At the time, it seemed inevitable he would secure the necessary superlicence points, but his wobbles late in the year cast a little doubt. In the end though, he got the job done and got his F1 seat, completing a remarkably quick career turnaround.

7. Jack Doohan

Down 2 • Was rapid if a little unlucky in first full F2 season

Doohan gained some crucial F2 experience at the end of 2021 by contesting two rounds with MP Motorsport, and that set him up well for a rookie 2022 season spent at Virtuosi Racing.

As usual the team had one of the fastest packages on the grid for one-lap pace, and Doohan made the most of it from the off. He claimed pole for the Bahrain season opener, Barcelona and Monza.

It did take until round four to finish any higher than ninth in a race, and the 19-year-old did tend to combine his highs and lows on the same weekends. He won the Silverstone sprint race but finished ninth in the feature race, took fastest lap but finished 19th at the Red Bull Ring, won the Hungaroring sprint but retired on Sunday, then finally at Spa he was able to make the podium twice and just as Alpine was searching for a new driver for 2023.

He only scored five race points in the three rounds that followed, and the F1 opportunities did come knocking but only in the form of free practice outings. Those performances impressed Alpine, but he has already been given a focus to win the F2 title next year.

6. Zane Maloney

Up 31 • Nearly stole F3 title with late winning streak

Joining F3’s top team, Trident, Maloney was initially expected to lag his more experienced team-mates, perhaps learning the ropes for a title bid in his sophomore year.

A solid start to the season, marred by some costly early season errors, in particular his spin behind the safety car while leading at Imola and failure to stop at the weighbridge in Barcelona, provided little indication of what was to come. Refreshingly, he was prepared to own up to and learn from his mistakes.

After four rounds he was 14th in the standings, with 19 points and not a single podium. But from his first podium in Hungary, he was simply outstanding.

He rounded out the season with three successive feature race wins, more than anybody else, at three of the highest-profile tracks on the calendar. Bouncing back from his horrifying shunt at Spa to take victory less than 24 hours later showed his mental resilience. In the red flag chaos at Monza, he even came close to snatching an improbable title win.

His late season run, which made the most of what was evidently a fast car underneath him, edged him past Roman Stanek as the season’s fastest qualifier and he was one of only two drivers to top the timesheet twice.

He displays a strong focus on moving his career onwards and upwards, underpinned by a quiet confidence. With the support of Red Bull for the step up to F2, expectations will be high from the start.

5. Ayumu Iwasa

Up 25 • Came on strong with resurgent DAMS in first F2 season

Honda and Red Bull junior Iwasa has emulated Yuki Tsunoda by claiming a Formula 4 title and winning in their sole Formula 3 season before moving up to F2, but Iwasa will differ by spending a second season there in 2023 rather than be handed an F1 seat.

From the very start, Iwasa was one of F2’s most spectacular drivers this year and he made two charges up the order during his debut weekend at Bahrain, earned his first front row at his third attempt and netted his first sprint race podium in round four.

He claimed another – and fastest lap – at Silverstone, then he was one of the stars of the second half of the season with two feature race wins and two third places, two poles and a points haul that put him sixth in the standings and he had the potential to be even higher.

Iwasa did all that with a DAMS team that has struggled in recent years with tyre warm-up, making his pole positions even more impressive, and he was always incredibly honest about his shortfalls and where he was still learning as a driver. Staying with DAMS for 2023 is unlikely to deliver the title, but he will definitely be one to watch.

4. Andrea Kimi Antonelli

New entry • Mercedes prodigy relentless en route to double F4 crown

Somehow it’s actually possible to forget just how brilliant Antonelli was on track this season, because of how mesmerisingly on it he is once he is out of the cockpit. This writer has never met a young driver at any level below F2 so assured, easy to speak to and observant since Antonelli, and there’s no doubt he’s on course for a winning future in F1.

Antonelli started his year with two wins, two fastest laps and a pole in F4 United Arab Emirates, but he wasn’t entered into the full season with Prema so he could retain rookie status in other series. He did one more UAE event and bagged another podium, with a scoring rate better than the champion.

He was even more dominant in Europe, winning nine races (and claiming seven poles) out of 15 in ADAC F4 to become champion despite missing a round, and won 13 races out of 20 (along with 14 poles) in Italian F4. Some of those wins were crushing displays from pole, while other times he required exceptional wheel-to-wheel skills and race management such as at Spa-Francorchamps.

Antonelli’s year ended with injury, but further success, as he dominated the Motorsport Games F4 Cup but broke his wrist in a qualifying crash.

3. Oliver Bearman

Up 5 • Rookie got close to F3 title with maturity and consistency

At first glance, a top three placing for a driver with no non-reversed grid wins might appear a triumph of hype over reality. But, in truth, Bearman was a revelation in his rookie FIA F3 season, having made the huge step straight from F4. For a driver who only made his single-seater debut in August 2020, his seemingly unstoppable rise has been phenomenal.

Teamed with the more experienced Arthur Leclerc and Jak Crawford at Prema, by mid-season he was the clear team leader. His only win came in the Spa sprint race, but an extra two racing laps at Monza – one in each race – would arguably have allowed him to grab two more wins and the title. He took double podiums twice, at Spa and Monza, the only F3 driver to do so.

Yes, he made mistakes in the early part of the season, not surprisingly given his lack of experience, which would ultimately hurt his championship challenge. A track limits penalty in Bahrain cost him victory in the season-opening sprint race, while his error at Imola, which resulted in him unintentionally punting off Gregoire Saucy, earned him a further penalty.

Thereafter he was a model of consistency, a key to success in both F3 and F2, apart from a nightmare weekend at Zandvoort where an ill-timed red flag ruined his qualifying lap. Having been scouted by Ferrari at the end of his double F4 title-winning season in 2021, he goes into 2023 as the Scuderia’s most promising junior hopeful and a potential F2 title contender.

2. Victor Martins

Up 8 • Resisted multiple challenges for hard-earned F3 crown

In a season where it seemed anybody could be champion in F3, it was Martins who came out on top. It was not the most stunning campaign and he only finished five points ahead of his closest rival. But that speaks more of the quality of the field than against Martins himself.

What makes his season so impressive won’t be found by looking at the results table alone. There you will see Martins narrowly beating four rookies. But these were highly-rated drivers racing with machinery that, to varying degrees, often seemed more potent than Martins’ ART Grand Prix package and with plenty of off-season mileage under their belts. Beating them would not be as simple as having one more year in the car.

Martins took what worked in his 2021 campaign and finessed it. A crash with his team-mate in the opening sprint race didn’t get him off to the best start but what followed was a masterclass in the feature race and another victory two race weekends later in Spain.

While there was drama elsewhere in the Alpine stable, Martins kept his focus and delivered a strong end to the season. There would be no more wins but he had a consistency that those who had challenged him early on could not replicate.

A potentially bigger challenge for Martins has been getting the budget to step up to F2, but he arguably remains Alpine’s most valuable asset in the junior formulae.

1. Felipe Drugovich

Up 41 • Crowned F2 champion with commanding superiority

Drugovich emulates 2015 GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne in having spent his third year at this level but still topping our end-of-year ranking due to the scale of domination he achieved.

Four feature race wins, and a sprint race win at Barcelona that meant he achieved a rare victory double, propelled Drugovich to the F2 title by 101 points and he did so with a team that had never even looked like fighting for championships before.

That’s not to understate the work put in by MP Motorsport to improve its technical staffing and become one of the best-run operations. The tandem formed by the Brazilian and Paolo Angilella, who had already engineered Drugovich in their first year in the team in 2020 and convinced him to return for a last F2 dance, worked like a dream. Whereas Clement Novalak struggled to score points, they sailed almost unchallenged to the F2 crown.

His determination to extract the maximum out of the car and score valuable points on the days when he wasn’t the fastest like in Hungary allowed him to wrap up the drivers’ title from outside the car at Monza and with one round to spare. And yet he showed up in Abu Dhabi two months later as if that had not happened and clinched another double podium to reward MP with the teams’ crown.

Although Barcelona was spectacular, Drugovich’s Monaco feature race victory is the highlight of his season. It perfectly sums up his year: speed and zero mistakes even when he was under pressure.

The Formula Scout Top 50 Drivers of 2022 has included contributions from Alejandro Alonso Lopez, Bethonie Waring, Ida Wood, Peter Allen and Roger Gascoigne. Click here to view the rest of the list.