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Formula Scout’s 23 drivers to watch in 2023

by Formula Scout
Formula Scout previews the racing seasons ahead with 23 junior single-seater drivers that we think will be winning races and being talked about during the remainder of 2023

Ollie Bearman BRITAIN 17y/o
2023: F2 with Prema   2022: 3rd in FIA F3 (1 win), 15th in FRegional Asian Championship

Photo: Prema

One of those rare drivers who caught the eye even in his very first single-seater tests, Bearman’s career is on a trajectory that will surely take him to Formula 1.

He won 19 races across two years in Formula 4, claimed a win, three second places and a pole position from his nine-race stint in GB3, has one podium from six starts in Formula Regional and now he steps up to Formula 2 after a single year in FIA Formula 3 where he stood on the podium eight times and finished only seven points behind the champion.

Prema was the technical powerhouse behind Bearman in FRegional and F3, and by staying with the team for F2 he has the possibility to emulate Charles Leclerc and Oscar Piastri by becoming champion of single-seaters’ second tier as a rookie.

Bearman was half a second off the pace in pre-season testing, but one of five drivers to be in the top 10 on single-lap and long run pace so looks strong enough in both areas to be scoring in both races of a weekend. He also completed over 200 laps, and has done running in a GP2 car, so is well prepared for the season ahead.

Louis Foster BRITAIN 19y/o
2023: Indy Nxt with Andretti Autosport   2022: USF Pro 2000 champion (7 wins)

Photo: Joe Skibinski

Foster finally claimed a first car racing title last year in USF Pro 2000 after being a frontrunner in so many other series.

He was Ginetta Junior runner-up in 2018, came third in British F4 in his rookie single-seater campaign in 2019, was third again in BRDC British Formula 3 a year later and then was Euroformula runner-up in 2021.

But the budget wasn’t there to then step up to F2, so Foster took a bit of a gamble by moving across to the United States and taking on USFP2000 – the third rung of the American single-seater ladder.

Foster rather decisively became champion, working hard early in the season to build his understanding of the Cooper tyres so he could be a stronger qualifier and deliver on his abundant race pace. The result of that: five poles and seven wins.

Andretti Autosport might not be Indy Nxt’s powerhouse team anymore, but Foster is still very well placed by making the step up to the second tier with the team and it could also open doors to opportunities away from the series as is clearly the team’s plan with fellow Briton and team-mate Jamie Chadwick.

Dennis Hauger NORWAY 19y/o
2023: F2 with MP Motorsport   2022: 10th in F2 (2 wins)

Photo: Formula Motorsport Ltd

Hauger’s smiling because he’s with the most in-form team in F2 right now, but he will have to raise his game to make the most of it if MP Motorsport continues to be the team to beat.

A standout element of Hauger’s career is the jump in performance he makes during his second year in categories, and by winning two times in his first F2 campaign he’s already shown he has the pace to be at the front.

There’s elements of continuity in Hauger’s 2023 preparations that should also help his form, as he remains team-mates with Jehan Daruvala who follows him across from Prema, and he’s been retained by the Red Bull Junior Team.

Hauger was fourth fastest in pre-season testing, if much can be read into that given MP was coy on what strategies it was using during its week in Bahrain, but perhaps more encouraging is the way Hauger ended 2022 with top-four finishes in five of the last six races.

Victor Martins FRANCE 21y/o
2023: F2 with ART GP   2022: FIA F3 champion (2 wins)

Photo: Formula Motorsport Ltd

Despite a €300,000 cheque from Pirelli for winning the FIA F3 title and the backing of the Alpine F1 team, it took a long time for the funding to be rounded together to actually secure Martins his place on the 2023 F2 grid.

That doesn’t seem to have hurt his preparations though, as he looked particularly impressive in testing and he’s also had a productive winter with his Victory Lane karting team that is now also active in single-seaters.

We’ve seen the best of Martins when he’s been driving for ART Grand Prix, first in his title-winning Formula Renault Eurocup campaign and then in F3, so it’s reasonable to expect the same given he remains with the team for the step up to F2.

Being team-mate to Sauber protege Theo Pourchaire may be a blessing or curse, as there’s a clearly a lot to learn from the 2022 F2 runner-up, but Martins is older and arguably stronger mentally, and ART GP still needs to prove it can be super competitive with two cars rather than one during a F2 campaign.

Taylor Barnard BRITAIN 18y/o
2023: F3 with Jenzer Motorsport, 2nd in FRegional Middle East with PHM Racing (2 wins)   2022: 2nd in ADAC F4 (5 wins), 8th in Italian F4, 9th in F4 UAE (1 win)

Photo: FRME

Barnard was one of the best karters in the world before stepping up to single-seaters, where he didn’t really make an immediate impact.

The pace was obviously there though, and moving to PHM Racing for his first full season in F4 last year (after part-time efforts in 2020 and ’21) brought out the best in the Briton.

By removing Prema’s dominant once-in-a-generation talent Andrea Kimi Antonelli from the picture then Barnard was the best driver in ADAC F4, and he also scored strongly in Italian F4 where PHM was outperformed by more teams.

Even more impressive was his recent step up to Formula Regional Middle East with the team, where he was once again the only consistent threat to Antonelli. Both netted seven podiums, Antonelli scored three wins to Barnard’s two, and most of the on-track incidents the two FRegional rookies had tended to be involving each other.

PHM has sent Barnard to its partner team Jenzer Motorsport for the next step up to F3, where it will be far harder to shine but not impossible given current F1 driver Yuki Tsunoda won with the team in 2020.

Syun Koide JAPAN 23y/o
2023: Super Formula Lights with Toda Racing, Super GT300 with Team UpGarage   2022: Japanese F4 champion (9 wins)

Photo: Japanese F4

The Honda junior is the reigning Japanese F4 champion and has been rewarded with two racing programmes for 2023.

The first is with Toda Racing in the F3-level Super Formula Lights series, where he is currently without a team-mate but bound to shine given the team has made the most of using Spiess engines since switching from its own self-developed units, and the second is a sportscar campaign in Super GT’s secondary class in a Honda NSX GT3 Evo22.

Koide did not dominate Japanese F4, despite winning nine races out of 14, with several of his victories coming after intense on-track battles. There won’t be as much side-by-side action in SF Lights, with the series incredibly light on overtaking, but Koide may not need to rely on his racecraft anyway as he has been very quick in tests during the off-season.

Gabriele Mini ITALY 17y/o
2023: F3 with Hitech GP, 22nd in FRME with Hitech GP   2022: 2nd in FRegional Europe (3 wins), 4th in FRegional Asia (2 wins)

Photo: Formula Motorsport Ltd

All Road Management has been looking after Mini’s career for several years, and has more than once kindly looked the other way when an F1 team showed interest in its protege.

That’s changed for 2023, as the Italian teenager has become part of the Alpine Academy. That says a lot about how the future of his career is being mapped out, not that we can comment on it right now, and now puts him in the same boat as all the other highly-rated drivers signed to F1 teams.

How he handles that additional pressure, if there even is any, is not going to be as influential a factor in his performances this year as how competitive Hitech GP will be. There has been a downward trend since it came second in the teams’ standings in 2019, but it has won in every season of FIA F3 and almost took Isack Hadjar to the 2022 title.

Mini will likely be the standout driver in its line-up this year, and therefore the most likely to maximise the team’s package to take home race wins. But the title? That’s probably a second-year target.

Zak O’Sullivan BRITAIN 18y/o
2023: F3 with Prema   2022: 11th in FIA F3

O’Sullivan’s stock keeps rising, and he’s already tested an F1 car after winning the Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Award.

A move up to F2 for 2023 was in the planning after he finished 11th in his rookie FIA F3 campaign with Rodin Carlin, but the grid filled up quickly and O’Sullivan took the best deal he could by moving to top team Prema in F3 instead.

As the only series sophomore in the team’s line-up, it puts O’Sullivan in a very strong position to be one of the title contenders, and the fact he was already capable of taking a pole position with Carlin (a team that rarely features towards the front in the series) hints at how potent he could be.

Highly rated by his peers, O’Sullivan’s CV included nine F4 wins and a GB3 title before he reached F3, and this looks like a year where the world could be at his feet when it comes to adding more impressive stats to his career record.

Nikola Tsolov BULGARIA 16y/o
2023: F3 with ART GP, 23rd in FRME with R&B Racing   2022: Spanish F4 champion (13 wins)

Photo: Spanish F4

As a protege of Fernando Alonso, it was possible that Tsolov could have followed him to Aston Martin for 2023.

But after racing as an affiliate of the Alpine Academy during his rookie year of car racing, the French marque has shown its faith and commitment in the Bulgarian by tying him down to be a full member of its academy. And it has good reason to.

The 16-year-old absolutely dominated Spanish F4 last year, taking pole for his first two races in single-seaters and winning the second of those. He stood on the podium’s top step 12 more times and nabbed 13 more poles, then joined ART GP for FIA F3 post-season testing and starred there as well.

The team looked competitive in pre-season testing too, and Tsolov has the potential to be the series’ top rookie in 2023 despite the sizeable step up.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli ITALY 16y/o
2023: FREC with Prema, FRME champion with Mumbai Falcons (3 wins)   2022: ADAC F4 champion (9 wins), Italian F4 champion (13 wins), Motorsport Games F4 Cup gold medallist (2 wins), 8th in F4 UAE (2 wins)

Photo: FRME

What more can we say about Antonelli that we haven’t already? An unbelievable talent outside of the cockpit as well as in it and a driver with the most envious record in junior single-seaters right now.

He won 26 races in F4 in his first full year of car racing, having already stunned in a part-time campaign after turning 15 midway through 2021, and last month he stepped up to FRegional in the Middle East championship and claimed a pole position on his first weekend in the category and then had two races wins and a title to his name after five events.

But FRME also showed Antonelli at his worst, which is still very good. He had a few wheel-to-wheel scraps in F4 that went too far, but they were rare, whereas in FRegional he was more prone to lock-ups and misjudging moves on rivals. That learning experience of doing FRME may have been what was needed to eradicate those kinds of mistakes before he races in the the FRegional European Championship, so we could potentially see a crushing and near-complete driver again in FREC.

There’s two more reasons to watch Antonelli: his rivalries with Barnard and Prema team-mate Rafael Camara. As Barnard is stepping up to F3 we won’t see more of their battling, and there was plenty of it in FRME, while Camara will be sharing a garage with Antonelli through the rest of 2023.

Rafael Camara BRAZIL 17y/o
2023: FREC with Prema, 3rd in FRME with Mumbai Falcons   2022: 2nd in F4 UAE (6 wins), 3rd in Italian F4 (2 wins), 3rd in ADAC F4 (1 win)

Photo: FRME

Camara may not have won in his rookie FRegional campaign alongside Antonelli, but the Ferrari junior still starred and like Antonelli was a driver who was frequently got into action.

They were rivals in karting as well as F4, and this battle between them could continue all the way up the single-seater ladder.

Last year Camara was able to win nine races, broken down to six in the Middle East, two in Italy and one in Belgium. He was not as potent as his title-winning team-mate in qualifying in Europe, but would often fight him for the lead early in races until Antonelli would – somewhat inevitably – pull away.

It’s easy to look at their results side-by-side and say one was overshadowed by the other, but the reality is Camara adapted brilliantly to F4 (arguably better than almost any other single-seater newcomer last year) and was on the podium more often than he was off it which is rare for a rookie to achieve.

Tim Tramnitz GERMANY 18y/o
2023: FREC with TBC, 20th in FRME with R-ace GP   2022: 15th in FREC

Photo: FRME

Without the funds to move up to F3, Tramnitz is expected to swap from Trident to R-ace GP for his sophomore season in FREC, although the team has yet to announce any of its drivers. He showed plenty of flashes of speed in 2022, but mechanical niggles affected his season more than that of team-mate and rookie champion, Leonardo Fornaroli.

Having run Bearman close in F4 in 2020, he might be tempted to look on enviously as the Englishman embarks on a maiden F2 season with the support of Ferrari, but he treats it rather as confirmation that the ability is there given the right opportunity.

A deal to drive for R-ace last year foundered on his immobility after a pre-season testing accident, so a move to the French squad, teams’ champions in 2021, should give him a strong FREC title shot. However, the competition from fellow returnee Kas Haverkort and the phenomenal talent of Antonelli will be a severe test. Looking ahead, Audi’s entry into F1 with Sauber could open the door for a fast but underfinanced German driver, but only if he can deliver the results. Anything less than regular victories and a title challenge could see him forced off the junior ladder.

Alex Dunne IRELAND 17y/o
2023: GB3 with Hitech GP   2022: British F4 champion (11 wins), 2nd in Italian F4 (3 wins), 6th in F4 UAE (2 wins)

Photo: Jakob Ebrey Photography

The former KCMG junior, who is the son of former Formula Ford star Noel, has been absolutely stellar in F4.

He dominated the British championship in 2022 with Hitech, did an amazing job to come second in the Italian championship with US Racing against a usually dominant group of Prema drivers and also was a winner with Hitech in the United Arab Emirates.

Dunne remains with the team for the step up to GB3, where he is already one of the title favourites despite being a rookie.

Tymoteusz Kucharczyk POLAND 16y/o
2023: GB3 with Douglas Motorsport   2022: 3rd in Spanish F4 (1 win)

Photo: Jakob Ebrey Photography

Budget issues meant Kucharczyk thought he might be headed back to karting this year after just a single season in single-seaters. That he found the money to stay in cars is great news, and he’s not the first underfunded talent to join Douglas Motorsport in GB3.

The team’s form with such drivers is encouraging for Kucharczyk’s hopes, and he definitely has the talent to make the most of this opportunity.

Kucharczyk earned his seat with MP in Spanish F4 last year by winning the Richard Mille Young Talent Academy shootout, and he emerged as the team’s lead driver in a competitive grid.

He finished his first five races in cars all on the podium, then claimed seven more podiums over the season to end up third in the standings and only 10 points off second. Although he never won, he did finish second six times and often was only denied by the dominant Tsolov.

There was lots of wheel-to-wheel action in F4 too that should prepare him for the narrowness of some of the British tracks.

Myles Rowe USA 22y/o
2023: USFP2000 with Pabst Racing   2022: 2nd in USF2000 (5 wins)

Photo: Gavin Baker Photography

Rowe’s career has been supported by IndyCar’s owner Roger Penske and also its reigning champion Will Power, but it was a huge shame that budget problems dominated his 2022 USF2000 campaign and meant he was competing on a round-by-round basis for several months.

Knowing what was at stake to keep his career going meant every position counted, and sometimes that backfired when he more than once lost everything to a crash. But he was able to bounce back with victories and a title challenge that went all the way to the final race. He only missed out on becoming champion by six points, and ended the year as one of the most well-known drivers on the US junior single-seater scene.

Rowe drove for Pabst Racing in 2022 and he will stay with the team for the step up to USFP2000 where he will be up against his USF2000 title rivals once again.

Enzo Deligny FRANCE 14y/o
2023: Spanish F4 with Campos Racing   2022 (karting): 2nd in WSK Euro Series, 4th in CIK-FIA European championship, 6th in WSK Super Master Series, 13th in Champions of the Future, 17th in CIK-FIA World championship (all OK)

Photo: KSP Reportages

One of the many drivers added to the Red Bull Junior Team for 2023, Deligny was consistently one of the top rookies in OK karting last year and now will be a rookie in F4.

Campos was the dominant team in the Spanish championship last year, so Deligny could be well placed to win races and even the title in his first season just like Tsolov did. And Red Bull’s backing suggests he’s a driver capable of doing so.

Deligny started testing with Campos in one of its F4 cars at the end of last year, and he’s used to driving single-seater cars on simulators having featured on the junior single-seater Esports scene during the global lockdown period in 2020.

Evan Giltaire FRANCE 16y/o
2023: French F4 and karting   2022 (karting): USA SuperNationals winner, IAME Warriors Final winner, French champion, 4th in IAME Euro Series, 16th in British GP (all X30 Senior), 5th in CIK-FIA European, 6th in CotF, 6th in WSK Final Cup, 14th in CIK-FIA World (all OK)

Photo: KSP Reportages

Combining his first year in F4 with a parralel karting campaign – both in the French championships – is an interesting strategy to take for Giltaire, who had a stellar 2022 in terms of results but was also at the heart of a karting controversy.

The factory Kart Republic team used team orders against Giltaire’s team VDK Racing, a customer of Kart Republic’s karts, during the CIK-FIA European championship for OK karts to deliver the title to its preferred driver. It put Giltaire under undeserved scrutiny, but it ultimately did not impact his career and he was later signed by Kart Republic himself.

Giltaire won in more countries than most drivers do, including an end-of-year victory in the SuperKarts USA SuperNationals, and he also contested British events alongside his primary campaign in continental Europe.

As French F4 is a centrally-run series it is often hard to predict who will come to the fore, but Giltaire is certainly one to watch.

Matthew Higgins ISLE OF MAN/WALES 17y/o
2023: US F4 with Era Motorsport   2023 (karting): 9th in Rotax Max Euro Winter Cup (Rotax Senior)   2022 (karting): 3rd in Rotax Max Euro Golden Trophy, 4th in British championship, 6th in British GP (all Rotax Sr)

The son of rally legend David Higgins is a high achiever in karting and has signed with Era Motorsport to debut in United States F4 this year and also do a test programme in one of its LMP2 cars.

He’s already started racking up the F4 miles in America, and recently also did a test with Double R Racing at Pembrey in a Euroformula car to gain some high-downforce experience ahead of his LMP2 running.

US F4 always attracts big grids, which can often mean the racing is disrupted by caution periods and even red flag stoppages, and there is also a gulf between the series’ top drivers and those towards the bottom of the grid. Higgins will be aiming to be in the top group, and it will be intriguing to see if the teenager can emulate Carlos Sainz Jr in coming from rallying heritage but making it big in the world of car racing.

Arvid Lindblad BRITAIN 15y/o
2023: Italian F4 with Prema, 5th in F4 UAE with Hitech GP (1 win)   2022: NC in Italian F4   2022 (karting): 3rd in FIA World Cup – KZ2, 8th in CIK-FIA European – KZ2, 10th in WSK Euro – OK, 12th in German championship – KZ2, 16th in CIK-FIA European – OK, 32nd in CIK-FIA World – OK, 40th in WSK SMS – KZ2

A current protege of Red Bull and previously Formula E star Oliver Rowland when in his karting years, Lindblad is following the trend set by Antonelli in doing a part-season of F4 after turning 15 and then joining the best team in Europe for his first full season in cars.

So far that’s going to plan, with an impressive start to his car racing career in Italian F4 in the second half of 2022 and then a race-winning run to third in the F4 UAE standings recently with Hitech.

He will switch back from them to Prema, who he debuted with, as he attacks the Italian F4 championship in full. The weight of expectation is similar to that of Antonelli due to F1 backing from an early age and a stellar karting CV, so will he also be able to become an F4 champion too?

Liam McNeilly BRITAIN 16y/o
2023: GB4 with Fox Motorsport   2022: 3rd in Ginetta Junior (2 wins)

The Ginetta Junior championship has established itself as a stepping stone from karts to single seater cars for many a young driver. The latest of those making that step is Liam McNeilly, who moves up to GB4 with family-run team Fox Motorsport.

It took McNeilly a year to get to grips with the Ginetta but in his second season in the championship he was almost unstoppable. A major rule change last season hit him in qualifying, which showed just how well he had mastered the slip-streaming element of the competition in his first two seasons. Still, he made up for that with some impressive overtakes in the racing and adapted to the new format by midway through the season.

Translating that to single-seaters won’t be easy. Many young drivers have tried the transition without success. But that adaptablity McNeilly showed in his final year in Ginettas will definitely help him make the jump over to GB4.

His continuation with Fox Motorsport has its pros and cons. Fox knows how to win championships and has plenty of trophies, for GT racing. It will be something of a step into the unknown at GB4. But it’s also a team McNeilly knows well. It should work well for him and he’ll be an exciting driver to watch in 2023.

Abbi Pulling BRITAIN 19y/o
2023: F1 Academy with Carlin   2022: 4th in W Series

Photo: W Series

Pulling has been a big star in W Series over the last two years, but the apparent demise of that series left her without a gauranteed drive for 2023 and when she went looking for an F3 seat the budget wasn’t there.

Although the funding requirements to race in the new F1 Academy series is incredibly small in comparison, she and her manager Alice Powell are not particularly happy with having to step down from FRegional to F4 to continue her career.

But having proven herself at the FRegional level, and having reportedly done well in an F3 test too, she’s probably the title favourite in F1 Academy and it would be great to see the Alpine junior win it in such a way that she could then attract the backing to make the step up to F3 possible.

Noah Stromsted DENMARK 15y/o
2023: Spanish F4 with Campos Racing, 9th in F4 UAE with PHM Racing   2022: NC in Spanish F4

Stromsted tore up the Danish F4 championship in 2021, but was only able to compete due to that championship having a lower minimum age than other F4 series in Europe and had to wait until late in 2022 to race again.

He did the final two rounds of the Spanish championship with Campos and claimed a pole and two top-five finishes, then signed with the team for the full 2023 campaign.

To warm up for that, given he had been out of action for so long and needed more racing mileage in second-generation F4 machinery, Stromsted contested F4 UAE this winter with PHM and came ninth in the standings with a single podium. That has lowered expectations slightly, but the amount of testing he has done in Europe indicates he will be far stronger in Spain.

Tuukka Taponen FINLAND 16y/o
2023: Italian F4 with Prema, 2nd in F4 UAE with Mumbai Falcons (4 wins)   2022: 6th in FAcademy Finland (5 wins)   2022 (karting): 2nd in World championship , 3rd in WSK Euro, 4th in WSK SMS, 6th in European championship, 12th in Champions of the Future (all OK), 9th in World championship, 11th in European championship (both KZ)

Photo: F4 UAE

The other northern European wonderkid coming from an obscure F4 series, Taponen has been almost unbeatable in Formula Academy Finland every time he has appeared in it over the last two years.

But moving to a series with a second-generation F4 car for 2023 meant going up against far stronger opposition and Taponen faced that challenge for the first time in F4 UAE.

Four wins and two poles, and second place in the standings after Mumbai Falcons team-mate, Ferrari Driver Academy stablemate and title rival James Wharton crashed into him in the series finale, shows that Taponen is already well adapted to the new car and will be a force to be reckoned with in his primary programme which will be Italian F4.

Prema has once again formed an F4 superteam with UAE champion Wharton, the two hottest prospects from karting in Lindblad and Taponen, as well as McLaren’s British F4 race-winner Ugo Ugochukwu in its seven-car line-up.

Written by Roger Gascoigne, Bethonie Waring and Ida Wood