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Formula Scout’s 22 drivers to watch in 2022

by Formula Scout
Formula Scout previews the racing seasons ahead with 22 junior single-seater drivers that we think will be winning races and being talked about during the remainder of 2022

Jack Doohan AUSTRALIA 19y/o
2022: Formula 2 with Virtuosi Racing   2021: 2nd in FIA Formula 3 (4 wins)

Photo: Alpine F1 Team

Jack Doohan arrived in F2 late last year off the back of almost taking the FIA F3 title after a fine season built on raw speed and outstanding wet-weather performances and stunned almost immediately by sending MP Motorsport to the front row at just the second attempt. He ended up pushing a little bit too hard that weekend, but it gave a real hint of what he could be capable of as a rookie given decent enough equipment.

With Virtuosi Racing, a top-three F2 team for a few seasons now, Doohan is likely to have that even if the team lacked the sharpness last year it had in 2020. It will be a different environment to that of Trident (and MP), the Italian team in particular Doohan was highly fond of, but the son of motorcycling legend Mick is in a good position to be able to build on his brilliant 2021. Despite being the less-experienced driver in the line-up, he can be expected to spearhead Virtuosi’s charge against rivals he’ll be all-too-familiar with from his time in FIA F3.

How he adapts to life in Alpine’s F1 academy will be fascinating, having been associated with Red Bull for a number of years. In the circumstance that a seat does open up at the Anglo-French outfit for 2023, Doohan needs to somehow give the bosses a serious headache given the vastly prepared triple junior series champion Oscar Piastri, his countryman, is hammering at the door desperate to find himself in a seat. Can Doohan do enough to usurp his former rival?

Felipe Drugovich BRAZIL 21y/o
2022: F2 with MP Motorsport   2021: 8th in F2

Photos: Formula Motorsport Limited

Drugovich returns to the team he ran so well with back in 2020 in F2. MP Motorsport was picked out in our ‘what we learned from the 2021 F2 season’ podcast as a team that perhaps underachieved with the speed of the car at its disposal. That combined with how well Drugovich did in the team in 2020, the point he has to prove this year after a difficult ’21 campaign with frontrunners Virtuosi Racing, and the raw speed he’s shown in lower categories, means that combination could well be in position to spring a major surprise this year when considering last year’s results.

But the rapid Brazilian, one of the quickest in F2 not to be aligned to a Formula 1 team, has gained plaudits from rivals in the past and that this is perhaps his last realistic shot to make a claim for a step up to the highest echelon of motorsport makes his story one to keep an eye on through the year. Strong results will put him in the shop window, if not for F1, but in other huge championships across the globe.

We saw flashes of the devastating drives Drugovich can be capable of in ’21, and he’ll look to recapture that ‘20 form that guided him to pole positions and wins against what felt like far superior opposition. With the strides MP has made since then, don’t even rule out a championship bid against the F1 junior drivers.

Logan Sargeant USA 19y/o
2022: F2 with Carlin   2020: 7th in FIA F3 (1 win)

Photo: Williams Racing

New Williams recruit Logan Sargeant finally gets a proper crack at Formula 2 with Carlin – a team that almost certainly underdelivered in 2021. We know from his FIA F3 stint that the young American can be properly rapid, can hoist teams up the order and deliver some crushing pole positions and race victories. With experience at both frontrunning and backmarker teams, Sargeant will have a strong depth in knowledge he takes from his three seasons at that level going forward into F2.

With Carlin, he has what should be a title-challenging package. Like his former FIA F3 team-mate Frederik Vesti, he has a feisty, aggressive F1 junior as a team-mate. Liam Lawson will not be an easy driver to go up against, and some of his strengths counter Sargeant’s. It’s another pairing that will be fascinating to watch, and the dynamic will quite something. Both are outspoken and both have qualities such that they should be at the very least capable of winning races this year. Should Sargeant be able to replicate his impressive qualifying speed from 2020 and deploy the ability to drag results as he did in 2021, who knows. He may just go and replicate what his other former FIA F3 Prema team-mate Oscar Piastri did and take the title as a rookie. It shouldn’t be out of the question, despite some seriously tough opposition.

Christian Rasmussen DENMARK 21y/o
2022: Indy Lights with Andretti Autosport   2021: Indy Pro 2000 champion (7 wins)

Photo: Gavin Baker Photography

While Indy Lights is entering a new era, the possibility of a driver entering a year with the chance of taking three championships on the IndyCar ladder in three years of racing in it is nothing new. While Kyle Kirkwood’s Lights, Indy Pro 2000 and USF2000 triumphs were completed in four years due to COVID-19 putting Lights on hiatus for a year, Rasmussen is looking to complete the treble in three.

He won’t be in a position to take all three as a rookie, having spent two years in USF2000, but to take all three titles is a feat that would be really impressive regardless. He’s in with the ideal team to do that as well – Andretti Autosport – the team that has won the last three Lights championships. While Rasmussen doesn’t always hang it out over one lap, he’s persistently towards the sharp end of the grid, and then often moves forward in races. He has also shown the ability to go on a crushing win streak, as he did in the start of his USF2000 title-winning run.

Where things get interesting is that he’s moving away from the Jay Howard Driver Development outfit he’s run with since he moved over to the states back in 2018. Andretti is a completely different organisation, and the difference between a team that continues to grow like JHDD and a global motorsport juggernaut such as Andretti can be overwhelming. If Rasmussen can adapt to the environment, topple a fellow IP2000 champion in Sting Ray Robb and a Stadium Super Truck champion (yes, really) in Matthew Brabham as well as IP2000 and USF2000 rival Hunter McElrea, as well as what should be a rapid HMD Motorsports/Global Racing Group package, he’ll likely come out of the year as champion.

Ernie Francis Jr USA 24y/o
2021: Indy Lights with Force Indy   2021: 3rd in Formula Regional Americas (3 wins)   2021 (other): 2nd in Superstar Racing Experience (1 win), 3rd in Trans-Am (1 win)

Photo: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

Has Francis had one of the most impressive rookie campaigns in single-seater racing this decade? Yes. Admittedly that only includes two years, but the point is he did such a good job in Formula Regional Americas last season that he has truly earned his place on the Indy Lights grid this year for his second year in open-wheelers.

That means the start of 2022 is mostly going to be learning about increased downforce, and he’s already well aware of that, while on oval experience and racecraft he’s ahead of some of his rivals thanks to his extensive experience in sportscars and now in short track oval racing against none other than IndyCar stars.

He claimed three wins with a new team, and with no team-mate to share data with, in FRegional and he could potentially do the same in Indy Lights as Force Indy is a fairly new operation (with just one year in USF2000 as experience under is belt as a team) and has taken late delivery of its chassis so is already at a disadvantage compared to its opposition. It will be running Francis as its sole driver, against two teams that will also be racing in IndyCar and one that swept FRegional last year.

Because of these factors, and how little past form we can look back on in single-seaters for Francis, it will probably be difficult throughout 2022 to tell whether it’s team or driver that is lacking in pace at times. On the flip side, if Francis is winning races (which is well possible) by the end of the season then you know it’s because improvements have been made in leaps and bounds by him and his team.

Jonny Edgar BRITAIN 18y/o
2022: FIA F3 with Trident   2021: 18th in FIA F3

Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

The Red Bull junior does more of his talking on the track than off it. While he only scored 23 points in FIA F3 in 2021, he did so with Carlin – one of the teams that struggled the most – and took all but two of the team’s tally. He likely would have added a decent chunk to that, maybe even a win, had his car not failed at the Hungaroring when leading a sprint race.

Edgar finds himself with an outfit much more likely to challenge for the title this year. Trident should be expected to retain its spot as one of FIA F3’s top dogs and is the middle-experienced of its trio alongside Roman Stanek, who still feels like a bit of an unknown quantity himself after two tumultuous seasons in the championship, and Zane Maloney, who steps up from Formula Regional European.

Adapting to the differences in the outfit and getting a campaign to a strong start would be ideal for Edgar, who will be looking to topple some stiff opposition to take the title, or challenge for it at the very least.

There is an interesting twist in that his fellow Red Bull junior Jak Crawford (also on this list) will be one of his expected rivals, driving for fellow top team Prema. That dynamic in particular could be interesting to see develop.

Caio Collet BRAZIL 19y/o
2022: FIA F3 with MP Motorsport   2021: 9th in FIA F3

Continuity is the buzz word for Collet’s 2022 so far, as he remains with the Alpine Academy and at MP in F3. Last year he performed well as a rookie in the series with the team, with a podium on debut and another on Alpine’s home turf.

More will be expected now of the driver who was the second top rookie behind fellow Alpine junior Victor Martins, and he can’t afford to do a Christian Lundgaard and totally fluff his second season through a variety of issues. Collet may have the support of super manager Nicolas Todt, but Alpine has become a notoriously closed shop for F1 opportunities of late beyond the tests and demo runs Collet’s already been involved in.

He scored points in seven consecutive races last year, a feat bettered only by champion Dennis Hauger, Frederik Vesti, Martins and Sargeant, and now has the experienced Alexander Smolyar and Kush Maini as his team-mates to push him.

Iori Kimura JAPAN 22y/o
2022: Super Formula Lights with B-MAX Racing, Super GT with Team Aguri   2021: 3rd in Japanese Formula 4 (4 wins)

Photo: Super Formula Lights

Japanese F4 consistently had some of the best battles for victories in single-seater racing last year, although stewards often got involved when it came to the big battles between the Honda and Toyota juniors.

Leading Honda’s charge was Japanese-Russian driver Kimura, who actually sat out 2020 and had finished an impressive ninth in the standings in 2019. His 2021 campaign began with a maiden pole and victory, on Honda’s return to the championship, but the next day he was 25th after spinning one of his team-mates and there were parts of the season which followed a similar pattern as Kimura arguably did more wheel-to-wheel racing with rivals than any other driver.

He was denied a double win at Honda’s home circuit Suzuka by a penalty for an over-aggressive defence of his race two lead, and the same occurred in the Sportsland SUGO triple-header, then at Twin Ring Motegi a collision with Toyota rival Seita Nonaka was the undoing of a double win. That he finished 26 points away from the title says a lot about what could have been.

At the end of the year he got to drive for Toda Racing and B-MAX Racing in Super Formula Lights post-season testing, and Honda has placed him at the latter as he steps up for 2022. He will likely beat fellow junior Kakunoshin Ohta in the series, but whether he can emulate Honda’s Super Formula-bound star Ren Sato in notching up wins at multiple rounds as a rookie will be very interesting to see.

Jak Crawford USA 16y/o
2022: FIA F3 with Prema, 6th in FRegional Asian Championship with Abu Dhabi Racing by Prema   2021: 13th in FIA F3, 3rd in Euroformula (8 wins)

Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

While the results in FIA F3 weren’t always outstanding, Jak Crawford looked absolutely outstanding in Euroformula in 2021. His adaptability to and from the Dallara F3 2019 and the Dallara 320 was highly impressive and, while not particularly polished (which is understandable for a guy who was so young last year), showed good speed on a regular basis across the championships he was in.

For 2022, he’s with the Prema team that has won every drivers’ crown since it entered this championship. That alone will add a lot of pressure, but the young American seems to be able to manage himself well. 13th in the championship last year certainly didn’t reflect the potential he has, and if he’s able to round off those rough edges, particularly getting on top of the nuances of the Pirelli tyres, then he will be in a really strong position to fight for the title in 2022. Unlike in 2021, he’ll be focusing solely on F3, after competing in the United Arab Emirates-based Formula Regional Asian Championship over winter.

He more than doubled his FRAC points tally in the final five races compared to the previous 10. That’s the sort of momentum he’ll want to carry forward into life at Prema. Against Ferrari juniors Arthur Leclerc, the FRAC champion and already an F3 race-winner, and dual Formula 4 champion Ollie Bearman, Crawford should not have things too easy this year.

Sebastian Montoya COLOMBIA 16y/o
2022: FRegional Europe with Prema, 7th in FRAC with Mumbai Falcons (2 wins)   2021: 4th in Italian F4, 9th in ADAC F4

Photo: ACI Sport

With two victories and eighth in the standings, despite missing two rounds, Montoya was arguably the revelation of FRAC this month. Lining up for Mumbai Falcons with more experienced team-mates from the Prema stable in Leclerc and Dino Beganovic, he shone from the start, taking a pole and a win in the first round. He followed that up with another victory and two further pole positions against drivers with far more FRegional experience.

As a result of his limited appearances in Asia, Montoya should retain rookie status for FREC. He stays with Prema for his graduation after two winless seasons in Italian F4 in which his undoubted speed and promise failed to deliver the expected results. Often quick in qualifying, his results suffered from all-too-frequent minor errors during races. Nevertheless, he remained upbeat and philosophical, taking each lesson as part of a young driver’s learning curve. On the evidence of his FRAC showings, however, he may just have found the consistency and racecraft under pressure to convert his qualifying pace into race wins. In FREC he will once again go up against his 2020 Prema F4 team-mates and likely title contenders Gabriele Mini, Beganovic and Gabriel Bortoleto.

All three had the edge on him back then, but if he can import his Emirates form back into Europe he could well spring another surprise. Alongside his single-seater outings, he will also team up with his father, seven-time F1 grand prix and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo in DragonSpeed’s LMP2 car at the 12 Hours of Sebring in March.

Gabriele Mini ITALY 16y/o
2022: FREC with ART Grand Prix, 4th in FRAC with Hitech GP (2 wins)   2021: 7th in FREC

He’s just come fourth in FRAC despite missing a round, with a scoring rate strong enough for the title runner-up spot, and now Mini returns to the ART Grand Prix team he formed such a strong alliance with in FREC last year.

Although he was beaten to the status of top rookie in 2021, he was a far more consistent frontrunner than many of his rivals and it’s that attribute that should help him go for the overall title this year. Particularly after watching his team-mate Gregoire Saucy last year wipe the floor clean with eight wins in 14 races.

Like Collet, Mini is a Todt protege but goes without the additional F1 backing and may be all the better for it right now in a championship where he will be up against many of the drivers he went against and beat in F4. He will be expected to lead his team now, and after performing that role at Hitech GP in the Middle East it looks like that shouldn’t be an issue for the diminutive 16-year-old.

Abbi Pulling BRITAIN 18y/o
2022: TBA   2021: 7th in W Series, 14th in British F4

Photos: W Series

Despite only participating in half of last year’s rounds, Abbi Pulling was able to secure an automatic qualification into W Series for 2022 and was unquestionably one of the top four drivers of ’21 behind only three of the most experienced drivers in the field.

The ex-British F4 racer and protege of W Series runner-up Alice Powell will need to build on the potential shown, highlighted by a pole position and a second-place finish in the Circuit of the Americas double-header that rounded out a season that went from strength to strength, and really take it to the established drivers to fight for the 2022 title. If she continues the trajectory that she showed in the races she’s done so far, Pulling certainly has the capabilities of dominating W Series if things go right and some of the more experienced drivers move on from the all-women championship.

It’s important that progression happens for W Series too, as it looks for a next champion after Jamie Chadwick’s double, and she is coming back to go for a third. How she develops going up the ranks is necessary to vindicate W Series’ existence.

W Series’ 2022 grid remains highly uncertain at this time beyond Chadwick’s presence, but of the likely returnees with less experience it is Pulling who stands out as the one who has impressed the most. She’s heavily linked to having some kind of association with the Alpine F1 team this year, which means W Series may not be the FRegional series she actually races in.

Louis Foster BRITAIN 18y/o
2022: IP2000 with Exclusive Autosport   2021: 2nd in Euroformula (3 wins)

Photo: Gavin Baker Photography/Road to Indy

It’s a step down the single-seater ladder for Foster as he goes from the FIA F3-rivalling Euroformula to an IP2000 series that does have upgraded cars with the halo cockpit protection device for 2022 but is using a chassis that has its basis in a strengtehened version of a 2014 F4 car.

Luckily though that was the same starting point for the design of the GB3 car he raced in two years ago and claimed three wins in. And the year before that he claimed six wins and was second in British F4.

The reason the Euroformula runner-up’s career trajectory has taken his direction rather than going on to F3 or F2 is that Foster, still only 18, goes to university in the United States and it’s far more practical to race in the same country he now lives and studies in.

He has picked Exclusive Autosport for his first year on the Road to Indy, and the plan is to win the title and therefore the scholarship to step up to Indy Lights for 2023. Testing so far has looked impressive, probably unsurprisingly given Foster’s single-seater experience and results to date, and if he can adapt to the unique demands of the St. Petersburg and Toronto street circuits as well as the Indianapolis Raceway Park and Gateway ovals, then he should be a title contender.

There are several other title-worthy drivers in IP2000 though, so he had better adapt quick and stop anyone getting a points gap early on…

Braden Eves USA 22y/o
2022: IP2000 with Jay Howard Driver Development   2021: 2nd in IP2000 (3 wins)

Photo: Gavin Baker Photography

When you consider that Braden Eves returns to the championship he finished runner-up in for a third attempt, he is going to be the logical championship favourite. That’s exactly the case with him running in Indy Pro 2000 once more, slotting in at champion (and rival) Rasmussen’s seat at JHDD – the outfit Eves previously ran with in US Formula 4. But as is often the case with these things, it’s not necessarily always so simple.

The big change in IP200 this year is the introduction of the halo, which has been integrated nearly everywhere else. This will force all teams to rethink car set-up, tyre management and more, so the ’21 formbook may go out of the window.

But Eves himself has a real point to prove in this championship, having suffered a massive accident back in 2020 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Instead of stepping up to Indy Lights, the logical step, he instead will look to really take command of IP2000 this year against sophomores as well as drivers coming in from USF2000, GB3 and Euroformula.

It’s one of those seasons that could be make-or-break for a career, which could define the likelihood of the ’19 USF2000 champion making it all the way to IndyCar or not in the near future. That’s what makes him the standout driver to watch.

Max Esterson USA 19y/o
2022: GB3 with Douglas Motorsport   2021: Walter Hayes Trophy winner, 2nd in Formula Ford Festival, 3rd in BRSCC National FF1600 (2 wins)

Photo: Ida Wood

Esterson was the most successful Team USA Scholarship winner in terms of UK end-of-season Formula Ford racing last year when he repeated Conor Daly’s 2008 success at the Walter Hayes Trophy. That followed an excellent run to second in the FFord Festival days before. While he did have plenty of FF1600 running already, such results were certainly eye-catching for a driver who made his name on iRacing before his switch to cars.

He steps up to GB3 for 2022, doing so with Douglas Motorsport. It’s a route several drivers have taken in recent years, including preceding Team USA scholar Bryce Aron. But it’s been a while since a FF1600 star has been able to use the much-loved category as a springboard to success up the European junior single-seater ranks. Esterson will be looking to change that, not least with an all-new car for the championship this year in its first full year as GB3.

That should shake up the order a bit and provides an opportunity to a team like Douglas and a driver like Esterson to maybe spring a bit of a surprise and to upset the establishment at the front of the pack. He’s quick and aggressive, but capable of some outstanding overtakes. But slicks-and-wings, as ever, is a very different proposition to FF1600, even if the American has shown adaptability between the virtual and real world.

Billy Frazer NEW ZEALAND 19y/o
2022: USF2000 with Exclusive Autosport   2021: 3rd in Toyota Racing Series (1 win), 12th in USF2000

Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing NZ

The 2021 Toyota Racing Series feels like a long time ago, and unfortunately it only attracted six full-time entries, but one of the best of those was Frazer and he’s been on a big learning curve over the last 12 months.

His car racing career started in Formula First (known as Formula Vee in other parts of the world), and he won races before moving into FFord in 2019. Frazer won the Manfeild Winter Series at his first attempt and impressively claimed the 2019-20 New Zealand FFord crown.

Through the rest of 2020 he then tested the FRegional-spec TRS car and its smaller predecessor, which he also raced in Formula Libre events. That was crucial experience for helping him shine in TRS when he did make his debut there in ’21.

His sole win came after runaway champion Matthew Payne was twice penalised, but it helped Frazer take his career to America and in USF2000 he took a brace of fourth places and six further top-10 finishes to come 12th in the standings and as the fourth best rookie. Now that he knows the tracks of the Road to Indy, what it’s like to race on the other side of the world and is staying with the same team as last year, maybe he could throw up a surprise or two in the series for 2022.

Daniel Guinchard BRITAIN 15y/o
2022: British F4 with Argenti Motorsport   2021 (karting – all Rotax Junior): British champion, Ultimate Karting champion, British Kartmasters GP winner

Photo: Jakob Ebrey Photography

Becoming an F1 junior with Mercedes caps off a brilliant 15 months for Guinchard which began with winning the 2020 Rotax Max Challenge International Trophy.

That form continued into 2021 and he won the British karting championship, Ultimate Karting Championship and the British Kartmasters Grand Prix.

Two years ago he also starred on OK-Junior karts by coming fifth in the German karting championship and winning the parallel ADAC Kart Masters title, and in 2021 it was X30 Junior karts where he had his ‘on the side’ success as he claimed the British title.

All of his driving last year was done with Argenti Motorsport, and he is staying with the team for his move into single-seater racing this year in British F4. It’s not often drivers get the opportunity to do that, and having this kind of continuity when there’s so much else that is new or changing in British F4, including the car, could work to his advantage.

While his Mercedes stablemate Andrea Kimi Antonelli and team-mate Aiden Neate were busy racing the car in the Middle East, Guinchard was shaking down and testing Argenti’s chassis in the United Kingdom. Might his lack of wheel-to-wheel experience bite, or could he emulate reigning champion Matthew Rees who was a total car racing rookie?

Rafael Camara BRAZIL 15y/o
2022: Italian F4, 2nd in F4 UAE with Prema (6 wins)   2021 (karting – all OK): Champions of the Future champion, WSK Super Master Series champion, WSK Champions Cup winner, 2nd in CIK-FIA European Championship

Photo: F4 UAE

Ferrari junior Camara comes into his debut season in Italian F4 after an outstanding run of results in F4 UAE. Having missed the opening Yas Marina Circuit round through illness, he finally made his car racing debut in round two at Dubai Autodrome. Next time out, also at Dubai, his season simply exploded into life as he won two races. He went on to take a further four victories in the remaining eight races, as well as losing a seventh win to a bizarre red flag procedure infringement impacting the entire field bar one driver.

Though his late surge towards a remarkable title was thwarted by misfortune in the final two races, he had clearly put down a marker for the rest of 2022. Camara will join a formidable Prema squad in Italy, alongside Andrea Kimi Antonelli, James Wharton and Conrad Laursen, with F4 UAE champion Charlie Wurz a possible late addition.

The duel between Camara and Mercedes-AMG F1 junior Antonelli in particular is shaping up to be a thriller. The two are old rivals from their karting days with Camara having to give best to Antonelli in last year’s CIK-FIA European Championship title in the OK class. However, Camara did take victory in WSK’s Champions Cup and Super Master Series and the Champions of the Future series.

Antonelli has the edge in single-seater experience, having stepped up to Italian F4 for the final three rounds in 2021 but in their one race weekend together in Dubai it was the 16-year-old Brazilian who came out on top. Antonelli may remain favourite for the title but Camara undoubtedly has the speed to challenge him for overall honours.

Noah Stromsted DENMARK 18y/o
2022: TBC   2021: 2nd in Danish F4 (9 wins)

Photo: Boxengasse Media – Motorsport Photo & PR

As he’s still 14, Stromsted won’t be allowed to race in any F4 series in Europe this year other than his home championship in Denmark but there are already plans for him to take his career further afield once he turns 15 this summer.

After celebrating his 14th birthday last year he was able to debut in Danish F4 with Team FSP, and immediately started to wipe the floor clean in a variety of conditions. There were nine wins in 11 races, he was the top F4 driver in qualifying every time (although was outpaced by Formula 5 driver and the 2021 Danish F4 champion Mads Hoe twice) and also was only beaten to fastest lap in a race on two occasions.

There was a lot of hype around his more famous ‘child-of’ rivals Emmo Fittipaldi and Juju Noda, but he simply outclassed both and now eyes have turned to what Stromsted does next instead. Over winter he has been testing sportscars and might find more powerful machinery to race in before July, as further appearances in Danish F4 while still 14 will provisionally put him out of FIA superlicence points contention for whatever single-seater series he then does straight after.

Hugh Barter AUSTRALIA 16y/o
2022: Spanish F4 with Campos Racing, French F4   2021: 2nd in French F4 (2 wins)

A second season in French F4, having finished runner-up last year as a single-seater rookie, means nothing less than the title will be good enough this season for Barter. The 16-year-old will combine his French campaign with a parallel attack on the Spanish series with Campos Racing. Unlike the more usual dual F4 campaign in Italy and Germany, switching between France and Spain will require Barter to master two completely packages – chassis, engine and tyres.

Having earned his drive in French F4 in 2021 through his performance in the Richard Mille Young Talent Academy shootout, Barter took a win in the first round at Nogaro. Though he developed strongly throughout the season he had to wait for the season finale to take his second victory. Overtaking can be difficult at some of the tight French tracks and his grid positions often left him with too much to do in the races.

Both French and Spanish F4 are likely to be highly competitive this year, and in France he will face strong competition in reigning French F4 Junior champion Alessandro Giusti, triple race-winner Elliott Vayron and Honda juniors Souta Arao and Yuto Nomura in a strong field.

In Spain he will be against a quality field of sophomores as well as rookies including his successor as Richard Mille shootout winner, Tymoteusz Kucharczyk. He and his family have adapted to life in France and are looking to move from Le Mans to a base near the Spanish border to ease some of the logistics ahead of his 42-race year. Barter has gone well in pre-season testing but knows that he needs to work on qualifying pace if he is to deliver on his initial promise in his second year in cars.

James Wharton AUSTRALIA 15y/o
2022: Italian F4 with Prema, 5th in F4 UAE with Abu Dhabi Racing by Prema (4 wins)   2021 (karting): 5th in FIA Karting Int. Super Cup – KZ2, 25th in WSK Euro Series – OK

Photo: F4 UAE

Wharton was one of the big names being touted in karting towards the end of 2020, and that only increased when he was signed by the Ferrari Driver Academy, but what occurred on and off the track last year killed the hype around his career.

There was little in results on OK karts, although he did do well when he switched to the more physical KZ2 shifter karts, and an anticipated potential F4 debut didn’t come to fruition either but he did secure his F4 UAE seat with Prema early.

And as brilliant as the results in F4 UAE have been on their own, it’s the bounceback from 2021 that actually is making them stand out even more so far. He claimed four wins, three poles and four fastest laps from 15 races, and was second top rookie (excluding Antonelli and Wurz who raced part-time in F4 last year) in the series despite missing round three. He had initially been set to do only two weekends, but saw greater value in paying for more experience and therefore potentially forgoing rookie status (although the starts rule tends to apply to the previous calendar year) when he turns up to Italian F4 with Prema later this year.

The exact same drivers will be his opposition within Prema then, so there’s already a preview of what’s to come and so far it’s looking like the Italy-based Australian has what it takes to be a title contender in his first year in single-seaters.

Tom Mills BRITAIN 16y/o
2022: TBA with Kevin Mills Racing   2021: 4th in BRSCC National FF1600 (1 win), 19th in WHT

Would it be odd to say that Mills is a refreshingly 16-year-old, well, 16-year-old? He can be aggressive when wheel-to-wheel, just like you see many young drivers are in F4, can feel as if the whole world is against him when he’s at the wrong end of a stewards decision, and isn’t afraid to voice his mind when that’s the case. But his humour is also absolutely on the money, he knows how to grab the attention on and off the track and accepts he has a lot of learning to do in a very frank way.

That makes Mills a lot like his father – the boss of the eponymous Kevin Mills Racing team he will race for in either GB4 or BRSCC National FF1600 this year – and also like former FF1600 star Matt Round-Garrido and Formula E racer Dan Ticktum.

It’s a level of youthful energy that sometimes doesn’t always land with the older guard in club racing, and FF1600 has teams and drivers that have been involved for decades, but having drivers like Mills emerge keeps the category fresh and that’s crucial to its survival when there’s big-money moves and promotion occurring in British F4.

So what to make of Mills’ racing plans in 2022? If he has the budget for GB4, a new series which will use first-generation F4 cars, then he will be racing there and will probably be a consistent top-five threat. His lack of experience with winged single-seaters goes against him, but he’s been doing the shakedowns of KMR’s chassis so he’s building up the miles now. But if he stays in FF1600 instead, then there could be a National FF1600 title attack and realistic shots at FFord Festival and WHT glory.

Written by Roger Gascoigne, Ida Wood and Craig Woollard