Home Featured Formula Scout Top 50 Drivers of 2022: 40-31

Formula Scout Top 50 Drivers of 2022: 40-31

by Formula Scout
Part two of our countdown of 2022’s most impressive junior single-seater racers

40. Joel Granfors

New entry • Swede fought hard for GB3 title in debut season

For his second year racing in Britain, Joel Granfors stepped up from British Formula 4 to GB3 and made a clear step forward in confidence and performance too to run the older and more experienced Luke Browning close for the championship.

In F4, Granfors had struggled to stand out from a competitive and closely-matched field, winning one of 30 races on his way to a solid fourth overall. Staying with Fortec Motorsports for the move up to GB3 though, the faster and more powerful car seemed to suit him and bring out his best. He looked particularly at home on the ultra-fast Silverstone Grand Prix circuit, where he scored both his race wins across two visits to the track.

Aside from those victories, consistency was key to his title bid. Making the podium in all three races at the second Silverstone meeting allowed him to take the championship advantage into the final two rounds, but he didn’t quite have enough to keep Hitech’s determined Browning at bay. There was great racecraft too, rewarded with plenty of bonus points from GB3’s fully reversed-grid race threes. But Granfors was quick as well, with the best qualifying average even though his tally of three poles was bettered by the five of both Browning and impressive single-seater newcomer Callum Voisin.

39. Alexander Smolyar

Down 12 • F3 veteran a winner again in disrupted season

After two seasons with ART Grand Prix, Alexander Smolyar moved to MP Motorsport, effectively swapping places with champion-to-be Victor Martins, for what turned out to be a mixed third season in FIA Formula 3. As a Russian driver, he had to face significant travel complications in the aftermath of the country’s invasion of Ukraine, culminating in him missing Silverstone after being unable to get a British entry visa.

He was on the pace from the start of the season taking a podium in the Bahrain sprint race, but his season came together in the second half. He took the first of two pole positions, the only driver apart from Zane Maloney to achieve the feat, in Hungary and simply drove away from the field in tricky wet-to-dry conditions, immediately extending a comfortable lead over Maloney and Ollie Bearman in the early stages and never coming under threat thereafter. With Smolyar racing as a neutral competitor his victory provided the rare sight of a white flag flying above the top step of the podium.

His second pole came at Monza in the finale but he dropped back before retiring with damage from contact. Ignoring Silverstone, Smolyar matched the points haul of his team-mate Caio Collet, to help MP to fourth again in the team’s standings.

38. Jamie Chadwick

Up 12 • Third W Series championship was her most dominant

Jamie Chadwick acheived a highly unusual feat in 2022 by winning the same junior championship for a third time, and this one was by far and away the most commanding of the lot. While her third W Series crown was confirmed in unusual circumstances after the championship cancelled the final three races due to budget issues, the retaining of her crown seemed in little doubt when the racing got underway at Miami.

It was a season where younger drivers were expected to make the step up and challenge Chadwick’s authority, but it was she who looked to have made further strides from her 2019 and 2021 successes, even if there is a smaller sample size to go off than last year. She was undoubtedly the complete package this year – certainly expected by somebody in their fourth year in FRegional machinery – but the sheer quality she had over the rest of the opposition was on full display. Five wins on the bounce is crushing form, whichever way you look at it.

Be it in qualifying, tyre management or race pace, Chadwick appeared to have it all in abundance over her rivals. Damp conditions were the exception – although at the points where rain came into play she was merely needing to play the points game.

The Williams junior is one of the most recognisable junior drivers on the planet right now, and she will be taking that following over to the United States in 2023 – where next up is Indy Nxt.

37. Rafael Camara

New entry • Ferrari’s F4 rookie was quick to win in UAE, Italy and Germany

Three wins across a double European F4 campaign do not do justice to Rafael Camara’s performances with top team, Prema in Italy and Germany. More indicative of his season are the Ferrari junior’s 13 second places, all but one behind team-mate Andrea Kimi Antonelli.

Though Camara did not lack pace, he was seldom able to match his rival in race conditions. He did, however, manage to mug Antonelli after a safety car restart to take victory at Misano in early June, remarkably his last win of the year. He put in some tremendous charges through the field at Imola, after an engine problem in qualifying, and twice at Spa, once when a first lap incident dropped him down the field and again when the Italian series visited the circuit later in the year and he recovered to third after stalling on pole.

Ultimately, he failed to live up to the elevated expectations forged with six victories in the UAE series at the start of the year, having been forced to postpone his single-seater debut after illness caused him to miss the opening round. He lacked Antonelli’s knack of consistently pulling out a super-quick lap in qualifying, and when he did start from pole was unable to convert to a win. With a year’s racing experience, and all eyes on Antonelli, he will benefit from the move to FREC, where the ultra-competitive field should help develop his wheel-to-wheel racing skills.

36. Hugh Barter

New entry • Scored 16 wins in unique dual French and Spanish F4 challenge

Hugh Barter undertook an ambitious dual F4 programme in France, where he had finished runner-up in his rookie season in 2021, and Spain, involving two completely different chassis, engines and tyres, ultimately falling short of either title. Yet, he did more than enough to justify the gamble. Sixteen victories, including 10 from 14 non-reversed grid races in France, amply demonstrated his talent.

Ironically, the one area where the two series overlapped was in their venues and his four French wins at Spa-Francorchamps and Valencia Ricardo Tormo earned him no championship points. Alessandro Giusti, though crowned champion, won just twice.

In Spain he had to contend with a much tougher rival, Campos team-mate, Nikola Tsolov. The pair took all but two race wins but split 13 to six in the Bulgarian rookie’s favour. As Barter explained mid-season, the need to adjust between two different Gen-2 concepts, as well as the differences of either compared to the Gen-1 car, undoubtedly complicated his season.

Maybe Tsolov is simply a generational talent – time will tell. In any case, if, as expected, both find themselves in FIA F3 in 2023, then the continuation of their rivalry will be a fascinating sub-plot. Barter shows a maturity beyond his 17 years and few work harder to build a profile and provide a return for sponsors and partners.

35. Caio Collet

Down 14 • Claimed first F3 wins and pole in sophomore season

In 2022 Collet had to watch his Alpine Academy colleague and long-time rival Victor Martins land a well-deserved move to ART Grand Prix and claim the championship title while he stayed with MP Motorsport for a second year and struggled to make any great strides forward.

The first half of the season was particularly difficult, with only a couple of podiums from reversed-grid sprint races and a lack of many points from feature races. The second half brought more highlights: A maiden win in the Hungaroring sprint race was the first seven consecutive points finishes, although only three of those were in the top five and they were all in sprints, including another win at Zandvoort.

Neither of his victories were complete gifts from the reversed grids, both coming from fourth place on circuits not known for their overtaking. His speed in those races was considerable, both in the wet in Hungary and on the dry Dutch track, and his average race pace over the year was bettered only by Prema’s Bearman and Arthur Leclerc. But in feature races his fourth place at Silverstone was never matched.

With MP’s fine progress in F2 not yet having filtered down to its F3 squad in the same way, Collet had a general lack of qualifying speed in the dry. He did take pole from a mixed-up session on a drying track at Spa, but a penalty for an unsafe opening-lap rejoin cost him third in the race. Where the Nicolas Todt protege lands in 2023 remains to be seen, after he was absent from both Formula 2 and F3 post-season testing.

34. Jak Crawford

Down 9 • Red Bull junior’s F3 title bid showed early promise

Crawford joined Prema for his second season in FIA F3 and, in line with expectations of just about any driver who’s part of that squad, he was in the championship fight all the way to the final round. By that point though he was a remote outsider, starting and finishing that last weekend seventh in the standings. That after a season which, after some strong early promise, never quite ignited.

When he was still a week away from his 17th birthday, Crawford had a very strong second round at Imola, finishing third in the sprint race and second in the feature. He followed that at Barcelona with a third consecutive podium, a second place in the sprint. More sprint race success came at the Red Bull Ring with a Helmut Marko-pleasing win, and at that point he was still within 10 points of the championship lead.

It would be followed however by just one points finish in the next five races, and spinning out of the wet qualifying session at Spa effectively did for his title chances. He did end the year back on the podium in the Monza feature race with coming men Zane Maloney and Bearman, but it was too little, too late to alter his final position.

This was a perfectly solid season for a driver who doesn’t turn 18 until next May, but can be considered a disappointment against the expectations set by his backers and his thorough preparations. Surely another year in F3 would not have hurt for 2023, rather than the very on-brand jump up to F2 that is anticipated.

33. Sting Ray Robb

Re-entry • Grabbed second place in Indy Lights to build IndyCar hopes

A switch to Andretti Autosport seemed like an ideal fit for Sting Ray Robb and his sophomore Indy Lights campaign resulted in a strong, consistent season that has put him firmly onto the IndyCar radar for 2023.

While Andretti is not the Lights force it once was, it is still an outstanding organisation and an ideal place for a young driver to learn at, and as the year progressed Robb began to look more and more like a frontrunner.

His season started off decently enough – a few podium finishes here and there – but rookie team-mates Christian Rasmussen and Hunter McElrea were also impressing while returnee Matthew Brabham took the team’s first win of the year. At Road America, Robb took his first pole on a weekend where Andretti were the team to beat. He eventually lost out to Rasmussen in the race, but it proved to be a statement of intent from him.

Robb didn’t quite get the results that his team-mates could manage on the ovals, nor did he have an answer for Linus Lundqvist and HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing, but he showed that it was all coming together at Laguna Seca.

A commanding victory from pole there, followed with a second place behind Rasmussen, vaulted the Idahoan to a slightly surprising second in the championship standings, and he remains an outside shot of being on IndyCar’s grid next year ahead of this year’s champion.

32. Jonny Edgar

Re-entry • Fought back after illness to score consistently well in F3

A move to Trident promised a lot for Edgar’s second season in FIA F3, but he was forced to put it on hold soon after it begun due to Crohn’s disease striking him down pre-season. Once he returned to the grid he was one of the most consistent drivers and one of very few to score in six consecutive races.

His comeback at Silverstone, after missing only two rounds, came earlier than he had expected yet he managed to finish the feature race eighth after starting in 14th. More impressive results would come in the three rounds after the summer break, when he was never outside the points and delivered solid drives in every qualifying session, sprint race and feature race.

His lack of a podium finish does stand against him, but he was still able to rack up a good haul of points and also got himself up to pace well once he was able to come back to racing. It’s unclear whether he will continue to be a Red Bull junior in 2023, but he has already secured a third season in the championship with MP Motorsport.

31. Arthur Leclerc

Up 12 • Was strong F3 title contender until fading late on 

Leclerc began the year by taking his first single-seater title in the Formula Regional Asian Championship: a campaign that was focused on refining some of his weaknesses ahead of a second season with Prema in FIA F3.

There, he would be expected to make a step up and and challenge for the championship, and in the first half of the year he was doing a very good job of that, as part of what looked like a close three-way francophone fight with Martins and Isack Hadjar.

As it had been in 2021, qualifying remained a real issue for Leclerc at the beginning, although the same seemed true for the whole Prema team at that point. Leclerc made most devastating use of the team’s unmatched race pace, going from 13th to second behind Martins in the Bahrain feature race, and from 21st to fourth next time out at Imola. When he qualified on the front row at Silverstone, he turned that into a win.

But surprisingly, his Silverstone success turned out to be a one-off, and further qualifying woes would ultimately prove terminal for his title bid. He wasn’t the only contender to be caught out at Spa or at Zandvoort, but he was the only one to end up so far down the grid on both occasions, and he couldn’t repeat his early-season salvage jobs. By the final round at Monza he appeared resigned, in the shadow of team-mate Bearman’s rising star.