Young Driver Series (1/3): Gasly, Leclerc and Ferrucci

By Chris Turner (CatmanF1)

Written in association with Missed Apex Podcast. Listen in the player below the article and please don't forget to comment.

The in-season test following the British Grand Prix allowed us to glimpse into the future, sampling some of the driving talent waiting in the wings desperate to break into the ultra-competitive world of Formula One. 

In this series we take a look at each of the young hotshots in turn and rate their chances.

Pierre Gasly

The easy-going Frenchman was born into a motorsports family with his grandfather, father and three of his four brothers all racing in various disciplines from karting to endurance racing. His talent was recognised early and he attended the Auto Sport Academy in Le Mans to balance an academic and racing education. 

He finished in an incredible third place in his debut single seater season in the French F4 championship, with four wins and two pole positions in the fourteen race season. 

Following a learning year in 2012, he became the youngest ever champion of the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup at the age of 17.

2014 saw Gasly stay true to his French roots and with new Red Bull backing he moved up into the Formula Renault 3.5 category, where he immediately impressed again with a podium in his first race. Depsite not visiting the top step all season he was remarkably consistent and scored 8 podium finishes (six times in second place) on the way to the runner up spot in the championship just behind current Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz Jr.

Such was his potential that during the winter break in 2014 his name was cast into the ring to partner Max Verstappen at Toro Rosso, but quite rightly that honour went to Sainz in the end. 

Gasly moved to the GP2 series in 2015 but has not shone as brightly as expected so far. He started this year as one of the title favourites, but has struggled to find his form and only took his first series victory last weekend at Silverstone in his second season in the category.

Likely to graduate to F1? 

His Red Bull backing is both a blessing and a curse for him. He needs to convince his Austrian overlords that he is worthy of his place in the program and a coveted F1 seat. 

Some have questioned his killer-instinct after a couple of critical win-less seasons cast doubts over his long term potential.

The only place currently available in the Red Bull stable is the second Toro Rosso seat, currently occupied by the demoted Daniil Kvyat. Gasly's less than dominant form this year may be the saving grace for the Russian  and he may keep that seat for now.

Charles Leclerc

A very successful karting career gave Charles Leclerc a good grounding for his graduation to single seater racing.

He took two victories on the way to second place in the Formula Renault 2.0 Alps championship, finishing behind McLaren protege Nyck de Vries.

Racing in the highly competitive Formula 3 series Leclerc started to shine, with some excellent performances to become the best rookie in the championship, finishing fourth in the standings.

He is the current GP3 points leader racing for the dominant ART team, with two victories from only six races so far. 

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He was signed for the Ferrari driver academy in March 2016 and drove for Haas at the British Grand Prix in practice, then for Ferrari in the mid season test. His programmes were mainly aero development and were hampered by technical failures, so his outright pace was not evident.

Likely to graduate to F1?

The Ferrari driver academy has been the least successful of the top teams so far, with no drivers yet making the step to the Italian team, although Jules Bianchi was destined for great things.

Leclerc is doing exactly what he needs to do in GP3 to show he deserves a chance at the big time. The best way for him to progress is to become champion this year and crucially fight for a good seat in GP2 next year. Management by Nicholas Todt will certainly improve his chances to achieve his eventual goal of driving in F1.

Santino Ferrucci

Ferrucci has shown his skill by being able to adapt to new formulae quickly through his junior career. He placed on the podium in all three of his British F3 starts in 2014 including two victories. He has also finished in the points twice at the Macau Grand Prix, coming in 8th and 6th, a race known to be a stern test of driving talent.

He is racing for DAMS in GP3 this season, but as the level of competition increased he has not enjoyed the same instant success so far. The highlight was in the slippery conditions at Silverstone, where he fought through from 18th on the grid to an impressive fourth at the flag.

Likely to graduate to F1?

An American driving for Haas is the dream that Gene Haas set out to achieve, but when the time came there were no American drivers that fit the bill, initially preferring experience over patriotism. His standards are quite high, overlooking American Alexander Rossi who went on to win the Indy 500.

Ferrucci, an 18 year old from Connecticut, became the first American to drive an in American car in Formula One since 1977, when Danny Ongais drove a Penske at Mosport.

Ferrucci is not expecting a magical promotion, recently suggesting that working his way through the lower formulae can only be of benefit to him. Another season in GP3 or stepping up to GP2 if the right opportunity opened up would be the next logical step for him.

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Join us again on Thursday when we dissect the talents of another three young guns.