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Formula Scout’s 20 drivers to watch in 2020

by Formula Scout
Formula Scout previews the year ahead with 20 junior single-seater drivers that we think will be winning races and being talked about during 2020

Guanyu Zhou CHINA 20y/o
2020: F2 with Virtuosi (to be confirmed)   2019: 7th in F2 (1 pole)

Photo: Renault Sport

China’s Zhou made the most of being at Virtuosi Racing to be top of the Formula 2 rookie crop in 2019, and sticking with the same team for a second year should give him a decent chance to be in title contention.

His performances last year marked him out as a serious prospect for a Formula 1 seat in the near future, and an even stronger campaign this time around could make that a reality.

The first objective he’ll have to tick off his list is taking a race win, achieved four times by his experienced team-mate Luca Ghiotto last year, and the limited pre-season testing could lean in Zhou’s favour at first against a strong group of debuting drivers.

Robert Shwartzman RUSSIA 20y/o
2020: F2 with Prema   2019: FIA F3 champion (3 wins)

Photo by Joe Portlock / LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

Being reigning FIA F3 champion will put pressure on Shwartzman as he graduates to F2; the last three GP3 champions all stunned in their sole F2 seasons.

Sticking with Prema Powerteam is a sound idea, having taken great strides forward in his two years thus far with the Italian outfit. The team won three races in the first season of the Dallara F2 2018 car before switching to an underwhelming 2019 driver line-up, and his team-mate and former European F3 rival Mick Schumacher took the team’s sole win last year.

Shwartzman has usually taken two years to crack a discipline, but his immediate understanding of the skills needed in the refreshed F3 last year means he could do it all in just one season of F2 like Charles Leclerc and George Russell.

Marcus Armstrong NEW ZEALAND 19y/o
2020: F2 with ART Grand Prix   2019: 2nd in FIA F3 (3 wins)

Photo: Joe Portlock / LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

Armstrong has been edged by Shwartzman in each of their two years together so far as team-mates and Ferrari junior colleagues, but stands every chance of beating him to the biggest prize. While question marks hang over Prema’s F2 form, Armstrong has landed the most coveted seat at ART Grand Prix, where Nyck de Vries and George Russell have won the last two championships.

The Kiwi is still lacking a little in experience – this will be just his fourth full year in car racing – and it may have hurt him a little in F3. But he has the maturity, speed and racecraft needed to succeed in F2 and come out on top among the five drivers Ferrari have placed in the series for what could be considered a shootout for an F1 drive.

Christian Lundgaard DENMARK 18y/o
2020: Formula 2 with ART Grand Prix   2019: 4th in Macau GP, 6th in FIA F3 (1 win), 23rd in F2

Photo: Joe Portlock / LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

Every car that Lundgaard has sat in he has majorly impressed in, including F1 machinery, and it’s hard to imagine that his next move up the single-seater ladder to F2 won’t be much of the same.

He won two races on the road in his sole FIA F3 season, having won four times the year before in the Formula Renault Eurocup, and was comfortably team leader at ART. Being part of an all-rookie line-up in F2 shouldn’t hamper the team’s progress too much: the last time ART ran two highly-rated rookies it won the title.

Invariably, one side of the garage tends to fare better than the other, and Lundgaard might start as a slight underdog with one year less in F3 compared to the otherwise similarly-experienced Armstrong.

But he has some crucial experience after making his series debut with Trident in last year’s Abu Dhabi season finale, and while the tyres will have different characteristics in 2020, his adaptability could come to the fore again.

Juri Vips ESTONIA 19y/o
2020: Super Formula with Team Mugen   2019: 2nd in Macau GP, 4th in FIA F3 (3 wins), 23rd in SF

Photo: Dutch Photo Agency/Red Bull Content Pool

Putting Vips in Super Formula over F2 is a decision that Red Bull may come to regret due to the ultra-competitive standard of the series, but the Estonian has talent enough to shine in Japan.

His debut showed incredible promise until it came to his pitstop, although admittedly his Team Mugen team-mate Tomoki Nojiri did win the race.

The team has already proved it can supply a race-winning package using the Dallara SF19, and Pierre Gasly (during his Red Bull junior days) and Naoki Yamamoto put in Honda’s most impressive SF campaigns of the last decade with the team prior to that.

Getting the FIA superlicence points is of upmost importance and perhaps the greatest challenge, but getting to know Honda before F1 will also help Vips.

Logan Sargeant USA 19y/o
2020: FIA F3 with Prema   2019: 3rd in Macau GP, 19th in FIA F3

Photo: Joe Portlock / LAT Images/FIA F3

Predicting who could potentially be this year’s FIA F3 champion inevitably starts with who is driving for Prema.

Sargeant was the first to sign for the Italian outfit for 2020, and is set to go up against two promising team-mates in lower-tier champions Oscar Piastri and Frederik Vesti.

But on previous evidence, the American is no less a talent than his colleagues, and crucially has a year of experience in the championship under his belt already. That first season didn’t provide much in results while at a struggling team, but his form took an upturn with a podium on his first appearance at the Macau Grand Prix.

He’ll be capable of far more at Prema and should resume his winning form from British Formula 4 and the Formula Renault Eurocup.

Alexander Smolyar RUSSIA 18y/o
2020: FIA F3 with ART Grand Prix   2019: 3rd in FR Eurocup (3 wins)

Photo: Joe Portlock/FIA F3

Smolyar gave Lundgaard a thing or two to worry about in their days as F4 rivals, and could now take over from the Dane as ART Grand Prix’s leading hope in FIA F3.

While the SMP Racing junior took a steadier two-year route through Formula Renault, his potential was still on show last year with his wet-weather wins at Monza and Hockenheim as well as victory on the streets of Monaco.

He then looked rapid in a single day of F3 testing at Valencia in October with the Charouz team before landing a seat at ART: his third French team in as many years.

Though it’s unlikely he’ll be matching fellow SMP driver Shwartzman’s feat in his rookie year, it will be interesting to see what Smolyar can do with the guidance of ART.

Dennis Hauger NORWAY 16y/o
2020: FIA F3 and/or EF Open   2019: Italian F4 champion (12 wins), 2nd in ADAC F4 (6 wins)

Photo by Joe Portlock/FIA F3

In two seasons in F4, Hauger has more than proven himself in every facet of a driver’s skillset, and his eye-catching F3 debut is a sign of what’s to come.

His two options are Euroformula Open and FIA F3, and like previous Red Bull juniors he could well end up doing both.

Van Amersfoort Racing is aching for his signature as it enters the former, having seen first-hand what he was capable of in 2019. Motopark ran Hauger on his debut at F3 level, and also knows it could provide a race-winning car for the Norwegian.

With personal sponsors from Norway too, Hauger could get a competitive FIA F3 seat after testing with Hitech GP. That would put him up against F4 rival Theo Pourchaire (who’s signed for ART) once more.

Kyle Kirkwood USA 21y/o
2020: Indy Lights   2019: IP2000 champion (9 wins), 2 races in EF Open

Photo: Road to Indy

Having enjoyed his European debut in Euroformula Open at Monza so much, there’s a small possibility that Indy Pro 2000 champion Kirkwood could set his sights on Formula 1 this year.

But he will most likely graduate to Indy Lights with the crack Andretti Autosport team, where he would target the team’s third title in a row.

Missing the post-season Chris Griffis Memorial Test has robbed Kirkwood of some valuable track time, but he was on the pace in the first pre-season sessions at Sebring and has won four titles in his first five years racing single-seaters. Few drivers can boast a CV as hefty as that.

The biggest difficulty for Kirkwood is budget, and winning over a potentially tiny Indy Lights grid might not do his talent justice.

Caio Collet BRAZIL 17y/o
2020: Formula Renault Eurocup with R-ace GP, Toyota Racing Series with Mtec   2019: 5th in FR Eurocup

Collet is set to return to the Eurocup for a second season and the Renault junior will undoubtedly start as a title favourite.

Like reigning champion Oscar Piastri he failed to win a race as a rookie, but was impressively consistent, finishing every race and taking points on every occasion after the opening race.

While Collet can count on the support of both the Renault Sport Academy and manager Nicolas Todt, both will expect him to take a big step forward with the continuity of having one of the championship’s strongest packages at R-ace GP underneath him again.

He’ll get a chance to further hone his skills in the Toyota Racing Series – racing for Mtec Motorsport in partnership with R-ace – and to prove himself against the likes of Liam Lawson and Yuki Tsunoda.

Paul Aron ESTONIA 15y/o
2020: Formula Renault Eurocup with ART Grand Prix   2019: 3rd in Italian F4 (2 wins), 7th in ADAC F4 (2 wins)

Photo: ACI Sport

The Aron family is so intrinsically linked to Prema Powerteam that it could be considered a risky move for Mercedes F1 junior Paul to depart the Italian team’s walls for new Eurocup team ART.

Fellow Estonian and career supporter Kevin Korjus drove for ART during his racing career, so the French team isn’t entirely an unknown in its benefits compared to Prema. Perhaps most importantly, Mercedes junior guru Gwen Lagrue knows the strength of both ART and the Eurocup having guided Esteban Ocon through both.

There’s another risk in stepping up to Regional F3 in just his second year of single-seaters, but Aron has age on his side and there’s nothing to say he won’t be a winner from the off after doing the same in both Italian and German F4 in 2019.

Roman Stanek CZECHIA 15y/o
2020: Formula Regional with Prema   2019: 4th in ADAC F4 (2 wins), 5th in Italian F4 (1 win)

Photo: ACI Sport

When it came to numbers, Stanek had one of the most impressive single-seater rookie seasons seen on the European continent in a long time in ADAC F4 last year, and if he succeeds in improving in all the areas he has room to then he will be a potent threat in Formula Regional European Championship.

Stanek has been testing with Prema, which completely dominated the inaugural season, making him well-placed to challenge for the championship as a rookie. Arthur Leclerc could well be one of his team-mates once again, but a level playing field in terms of experience might just give Stanek the upper hand.

Another factor in Stanek’s favour is his Italian F4 experience, meaning he knows most of the circuit’s he’ll be facing already.

Joey Alders NETHERLANDS 20y/o
2020: Asian F3 with BlackArts Racing   2019: Asian Formula Renault champion (8 wins)

The current Asian F3 points leader Alders is beating drivers with experience in the DTM, F2, Formula V8 3.5, IndyCar and Super Formula in an incredibly impressive start to the season.

Three wins in six races, and three other podiums, has resulted in a 37-point lead. While he did race in Asia last year, winning the continent’s FR2.0 title, he only has experience of one track that Asian F3 races on.

More than that, Hitech GP has dominated the last two seasons, and Alders is outshining it at a previously winless team in BlackArts Racing.

If he can get the F3 title wrapped up over the remaining three rounds between now and the end of February, he would deserve a chance to race in one of the other Regional F3 series in Europe.

Marta Garcia SPAIN 19y/o
2020: W Series plus possible selected Regional F3 races   2019: 4th in W Series (1 win)

Photo: LAT Images

Garcia might have already won and lost the backing of Renault, but just like Japanese F3 champion Sacha Fenestraz she did a lot to prove it wrong last year.

The Spanish karting star contested little under two seasons in Spanish F4 before her single-seater career was paused through lack of budget plus education commitments, but she came back at the start of 2019 and made an impact.

Pre-season tests in EF Open immediately raised eyebrows after she set an encouraging pace, and a return to racing enabled by W Series immediately resulted in a podium. A controlling first win came at the famous Norisring street circuit, and she will be a title favourite on her 2020 return.

Garcia is keen to gain further Regional F3 experience elsewhere too, and although a mooted TRS campaign didn’t come to fruition, she has been testing in Formula Renault Eurocup.

Josh Green USA 17y/o
2020: USF2000 with Cape Motorsports   2019: 2nd in F1600 Championship Series (8 wins)

Photo: Team USA Scholarship / Jakob Ebrey Photography

The most coveted team in USF2000 is Cape Motorsports, and Green should enjoy a prosperous rookie season with a team that has gone on a long run of titles and domination.

Jeremy Shaw’s Team USA Scholarship has already shown its belief in Green’s ability, and the youngster impressed during his time racing in Britain as part of the opportunity he won.

Green is arguably the most exciting USF2000 rookie since fellow Team USA scholars Oliver Askew and Kirkwood, who both went on to dominate at Cape before achieving similar success further along the Road to Indy.

Marijn Kremers NETHERLANDS 21y/o
2020: British F4 with Carlin   2019 (karting): CIK-FIA World champion – KZ, 2nd in USA SuperNationals – KZ

Shifter kart star Kremers can count Jacques Villeneuve as a backer for his first single-seater season, and he’s in a prime seat to be an instant winner after earning a prize drive at Carlin in British F4.

Kremers is perhaps the favourite of the handful of drivers who have already confirmed their presence on the grid, and Carlin has won the title in every season it has competed in.

Despite already being 21 years old, Kremers’ career achievements are impressive given his success has come mostly in a category dominated by the very experienced.

That experience should only be beneficial against more youthful opposition, and there will be few worries about converting his speed to F4 given he secured his seat in a hotly-contested shootout using the Mygale chassis.

Casper Stevenson BRITAIN 16y/o
2020: British F4 with Double R   2019: 6th in Ginetta Junior

Photo: Jakob Ebrey Photography

Inaugural British F4 Scholarship winner Stevenson followed the likes of Lando Norris and Kiern Jewiss in spending his first year of car racing in Ginetta Junior.

His tally on nine podiums was the fourth best in a grid of around 20, and was comfortably second best in the packed rookie pack behind Zak O’Sullivan.

When it came to being best in a F4 car, it was Stevenson who performed the better of the two in the Silverstone shootout and earned the £35,000 prize to be put towards a 2020 seat.

He’s yet to be officially signed to a team, but the Londoner impressed with Double R Racing during the scholarship test and would be well placed to remain with the team, a consistent series frontrunner.

Sami Meguetounif FRANCE 15y/o
2020: French F4   2019: 13th in F4 South East Asia, 3 races in French F4

French karting champion Meguetounif dipped his toe in the single-seater waters for two weekends in 2019 and picked up three podiums in the seven races he contested.

With each start he looked more comfortable, and faster, and all were with the Mygale chassis that he will race full-time in French F4 this year.

His scoring rate in his F4 South East Asia cameo would have put him a comfortable third in the standings, and a similar Asian experience helped Hadrien David to win the 2019 French title. Meguetounif will be looking to replicate that success, though it remains to be seen who else he’ll have to go up against.

Jonny Edgar BRITAIN 15y/o
2020: ADAC & Italian F4 with Van Amersfoort Racing   2019: 10th in Italian F4, 14th in Spanish F4

Photo: ACI Sport

Edgar looks set to take arguably F4’s most coveted at Van Amersfoort Racing, taking the place of fellow Red Bull junior Hauger who took 18 wins across the German and Italian series last year.

The Cumbrian quietly impressed in his first season of single-seaters in 2019, but was also blindingly quick from the off when he debuted in a Spanish F4 cameo at Paul Ricard.

Italy’s tougher opposition was Edgar’s proper learning ground, but he progressed to put his Jenzer Motorsport car on pole twice at the final round at Monza, and moving into a de facto top team should provide a greater reflection of his skill.

Gabriele Mini ITALY 14y/o
2020: Italian F4 with Prema   2019 (karting): 2nd in CIK-FIA European Championship – OK, 2nd in WSK Champions Cup – OK

There’s no guarantee that Mini – another protege of Nicolas Todt – will even race a single-seater this year, but the Sicilian will turn 15 in March and has already provided a tantalising glimpse of what he’s capable of in an F4 car by topping a test with Prema.

He’s also had a try-out with the Ferrari Driver Academy, which will surely be keen to get him signed up, and its ties with the Italian federation would likely increase the pressure to make Italian F4 his entry route.

Todt, on the other hand, may decide that there’s no hurry. After all, he kept Charles Leclerc in karts until he was 16, and that turned out pretty OK.