Home Featured Formula Scout Top 50 Drivers of 2022: 30-21

Formula Scout Top 50 Drivers of 2022: 30-21

by Formula Scout
Continuing our countdown of the junior single-seater drivers who impressed the Formula Scout writers the most in 2022

30. Jehan Daruvala

Up 5 • Monza feature race win the highlight after Prema F2 move

Jehan Daruvala has been a consistent pedaller throughout his Formula 2 career, and 2022 was no different despite a switch to the Prema team that has been so strong over the last six years.

The team seemed to go off the boil slightly this year compared to its all-conquering form with Oscar Piastri in 2021, but Daruvala remained a persistent podium threat throughout much of the season. That continuous high-level performance in this incredibly strong championship is why he has been a mainstay of the top 50 in recent years.

However, his peaks have not been particularly outstanding, and have been too far and too irregular for him to warrant moving up the order.

He did, at least, take a superb first feature race win at Monza – the only real strong weekend of a very challenging second half of the year where he was clearly outshone by rookie team-mate Dennis Hauger and some other names who made good strides in the second half of the season.

29. Juri Vips

Down 17 • Early speed overshadowed by mistakes on and off track

For a driver who had already come very close to a Formula 1 seat in the past, 2022 was only really a disappointment on and off the track for Vips despite him having the opportunity to make his F1 free practice debut as Red Bull’s reserve driver.

Three weeks after his F1 run at Barcelona he took his second Formula 2 pole of the year in Baku, but two days later crashed out of the lead of the feature race after being put under pressure by Hauger. A week on from that, he was suspended by Red Bull due to a racial slur on an online stream.

Red Bull terminated his reserve driver contract and dropped him from its junior team, and the F2 organisers chose to publicly question Hitech GP’s decision to keep Vips on for the rest of the season. Having effectively blown his chances of becoming an F1 driver off-track, he then needed to do more on it in F2 to earn the backing to stay in the series for 2023.

Vips finished second and first respectively in the Hungaroring and Monza sprint races, but only got one top-five result in a feature race after his sacking and sank to 11th in the standings. It’s hard to see where he goes from here.

28. Hunter McElrea

New entry • Scored back-to-back wins as Indy Lights rookie of the year

Perhaps often overlooked when talking about rising Road to Indy stars in recent years is Hunter McElrea, but he firmly put himself on the radar in 2022 with an impressive run in Indy Lights.

McElrea was always running towards the front in both USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 with Pabst Racing over the previous three years, and for his move up to Lights the Australian Formula Ford champ switched to Andretti Autosport as part of its strong line-up for this season.

However the form of HMD Motorsports, and in particular Linus Lundqvist, meant that it was always likely an uphill fight this year. To boot, McElrea’s season couldn’t really have got off to a worse start.

Crashes at St. Petersburg (from a debut pole) and Barber (with team-mate Matthew Brabham) left McElrea over an entire race win behind Lundqvist after just two races. Former Indy Pro rivals Sting Ray Robb and Christian Rasmussen – also Andretti team-mates – were picking up some solid scores in the early part of the season.

The main high points came at Mid-Ohio and on the oval at Iowa – winning both from pole – but he slipped down the order slightly as Robb and Brabham overhauled him in the standings in the final few races. Despite that, he held on to clinch Rookie of the Year honours and the Los Angeles-born, Australian-raised New Zealander sticks with Andretti for 2023 as he goes for a full-on title assault.

27. Luke Browning

Re-entry • Added GB3 title to growing resume

There was a weekend in 2021 which offered a glimpse of what Luke Browning could produce in GB3 – where he finished second on the road on debut at Oulton Park only to be disqualified, and he won his second race in the championship in a strange set of circumstances.

After a rather challenging year in ADAC F4, Browning returned to the UK to race in GB3 full-time in 2022 with Hitech GP. Again at his local circuit Oulton Park, Browning brilliantly won the two ‘main’ races of the weekend to assert himself as a major championship threat early on.

Aside from a scrappy second Silverstone weekend – where he had to recover from being excluded from qualifying on a technicality, Browning took at least a second position in each of the eight rounds this year, and added a fine double win at Spa to his season-starting double victory at Oulton Park.

It was the ‘main’ races where Browning set up much of his title push, but he also proved to be effective in the reversed grid races too – 15 places gained at Silverstone, nine at Donington’s finale and seven each at Brands Hatch and Donington’s first round showcase Browning’s racecraft that he displayed so effectively in British Formula 4 a few years ago.

Browning was pressed hard by Joel Granfors but kept his cool and was able to come through to take a second title on British soil in three years. He went on to win the Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Award as further confirmation of his ability, but his next step is unclear.

26. Oliver Goethe

New entry • Surprise package dominated Euroformula and starred in F3 cameo

Nobody would have expected Goethe to be Euroformula champion. He had a best finish of ninth from 33 FRegional races, and won one Spanish F4 race before that, but he came alive in the Dallara 320 and won 11 races with the dominant Motopark.

If not for a bad start he likely would have won the Pau Grand Prix, and still came third thanks to an incredible overtake on the twisty street circuit, and he won all three races at Spa-Francorchamps.

He also claimed seven pole positions and 12 fastest laps, despite a frequent habit of exceeding track limits, and seven times when he wasn’t starting at the front he made up more places in a race than anyone else. Four of those instances resulted in wins.

While his racecraft could be excellent, it could sometimes also be a little too agressive, and he arguably should have wrapped up the title before the final round but only two of his wins came in the last 11 races.

Another demonstration of Goethe’s remarkbly improved form was in FIA Formula 3. He was Campos Racing’s fastest driver in his first qualifying session, turned reversed-grid pole into points on debut, then qualified fourth for his second round. After a big sprint race crash with Zane Maloney, he ended his F3 stint with fourth place in the feature race. Next year he will race in F3 with Trident.

25. Frederik Vesti

Down 7 • Rookie F2 campaign had its highs and lows

For the first couple of race weekends in 2022, Vesti looked all at sea in F2. The pace was not there and mistakes were too frequent.

Towards the end of the season, however, he was able to fight with the best of them and in ART Grand Prix equipment that was not as strong as several teams on the grid.

Vesti’s a calm head, and he was able to keep himself grounded, not lose focus of things and work with the team to improve the performances on his side of the garage. It’s also pretty apt that he would take his one victory of the year at Baku’s sprint race – which has traditionally become a bit of a crashfest and requires a calm head to get the best result possible.

Similar could be said of Vesti’s best overall weekend of the season, which was at Monza where he nabbed a pair of seconds from what often also tends to be a wild weekend. In addition, he picked up a fine pole at the Red Bull Ring, even if that weekend didn’t particularly go his way overall.

Mercedes continues to show its faith in Vesti, handing him his first F1 test at the end of the year, and in 2023 he will have the chance to reunite with Prema – a team with which he has good memories – for his second F2 season.

24. Dennis Hauger

Down 21 • Shone on his day during challenging first year in F2

The 2021 FIA Formula 3 champion did a brilliant job last year to earn his place back into the Red Bull Junior Team, after being ‘demoted’ to just being a RBJT-supported driver, but he may be back in that position in 2023.

It was a tricky rookie F2 campaign for the Norwegian, who would have expected he would be stepping into a title-winning package with Prema. He was continuing with his Formula 4 and F3 engineer Pedro Matos too. But the usually excellent combination could often lack results, and confidence.

Hauger was on course for a win in round two before getting an unusual penalty for entering a closed pitlane in Jeddah, and a breakthrough at the in-season Barcelona test led to victories in the Monaco sprint race and Baku feature race. The latter was noticable for his pressuring of Vips leading to him crashing out.

Yet a month later he was talking of “hopeless” races and feeling “a bit lost”, and scored only once in 10 races. Hauger did make an end-of-season bounceback, finishing five of the last six races in the top four, and moves to MP Motorsport for 2023.

23. Paul Aron

Down 1 • Won more races than anyone in FREC

On his day, Aron was simply unstoppable this year. The Mercedes junior took seven poles in FREC, three more than anybody else. At Zandvoort he was simply in a separate class, cruising to two dominant wins. Losing an outside shot at the title and then an almost certain runner-up spot within 24 hours at Mugello was beyond cruel.

Having completely dominated the three previous races at the Tuscan circuit, the magic touch deserted him on the final Sunday. He suffered more niggling mechanical problems than his rivals, but occasional mistakes cost him too, notably an off in qualifying in Monaco which completely wrote off his weekend as his rivals prospered.

A gamble on pitting for clicks in Austria failed to pay off, wasting one of his poles, although his battle with Beganovic for the win at Paul Ricard showed he was able to get his elbows out when needed.

Aron’s hard work through 2021 undoubtedly played a major role in Prema’s revival as the series frontrunners, even if ultimately it was his team-mate that secured the main prize.

True to its philosophy, Mercedes steered him back for a third season at this level rather than pushing him to FIA F3 before it felt he was ready. For 2023 there were no doubts and Aron can be expected to shine as a rookie at the next level.

22. Richard Verschoor

Down 5 • Led Trident back to winning ways in F2

Having impressed in 2021 on a race-by-race deal with MP, Verschoor moved to Trident for a full F2 campaign in 2022.

His season got off to a flying start with sprint race victory in Bahrain, putting him briefly into the points lead, followed by a feature race second place in Jeddah. However, once F2 went to Europe, he struggled to maintain the form, scoring just 17 more points before the summer break.

He was unfortunate to lose a superb victory on the road at the Red Bull Ring for failing to provide the required fuel sample, having carved through from eighth on the grid to the lead in just eight laps as other more illustrious names floundered on the wrong tyres.

Once the series returned at Spa, he scored points in the run-in each of the remaining eight races including another feature race P2 on home soil at Zandvoort to underline his undoubted potential. He trounced his team-mate, scoring all but five of Trident’s 108 points. A third season in F2, this time with Van Amersfoort Racing, is likely to be his final chance to put it all together over a full season.

21. Zak O’Sullivan

Up 3 • Home pole the highlight of battling FIA F3 campaign

It might seem slightly odd to have a driver who only finished 11th in his championship so high up on this list, at least when that driver wasn’t racing in F2, but Zak O’Sullivan dazzled on plenty of occasions in FIA F3 with a team that has traditionally struggled to achieve such highs.

While Carlin remains one of the powerhouses of junior single-seater racing, its performances in FIA F3 have left a lot to be desired. Therefore, when you have a driver taking a pole position, a couple of podiums and some other decent point-scores on merit, it becomes really noteworthy.

Remember, this is the team that had finished in the bottom three of the championship in each year since each year since 2019.

To get ‘in the mix’ in a FIA F3 weekend, you have to be in the top 12. With four or five really, really competitive teams in FIA F3 and three drivers – mostly handy ones – in each, it becomes more and more difficult to be in that crucial top 12. O’Sullivan was so regularly able to achieve this and when he didn’t, he was usually pretty close.

He rarely squandered his chances in the races, scored nearly all of Carlin’s points and was one of the classiest in the field in his first year of racing outside of the UK. A switch to Prema awaits for the Williams junior, where he will almost certainly be among the championship favourites.