With hundreds of drivers competing in feeder series all over the world, your chances of getting to Formula 1 are slim. If you manage to join the academy of a Formula 1 team though, they increase tenfold. That is, if you perform. In this series we take a look at how the members of F1 academies have performed in 2021. Today: the Ferrari Driver Academy.
By Adam Dickinson
The Ferrari Driver Academy didn’t quite hit the heights of previous seasons as they failed to produce a championship win from anywhere in their single-seaters stable, but are perhaps set up better for next year. Arthur Leclerc and Dino Beganovic have the opportunity to build on debut seasons in their respective series and the exciting Ollie Bearman is joining the setup.
Mick Schumacher (Formula 1)
Given the hype since Mick first stepped into a kart, this has been a satisfactorily low-key season as he finished 19th in the championship with a thoroughly uncompetitive Haas outfit. He led his teammate 15-5 in races and 19-3 in qualifying, but it’s hard to gauge how impressive of an achievement that is against Nikita Mazepin – similar to George Russell’s debut season against Robert Kubica.
But Schumacher’s performances, particularly in qualifying (he reached Q2 twice this year) show there’s plenty of potential there to build on over the off-season. As Haas pointed out on Twitter, the main aim next season is to have more cars behind them at the end of qualifying and races – Mick has been in the bottom two finishers for 14 of the 18 races he’s completed.
He’ll also be Ferrari’s reserve driver at half of next year’s races, sharing the role with Antonio Giovinazzi.
Callum Ilott (GT, WEC, IndyCar)
Whether you think he deserves an F1 drive or not, it looks like that path is closed to Ilott at least for now. He’s spent this year sampling several series, and is set on IndyCar for 2022. He raced three rounds this year finishing 25th, 22nd and 26th (the last race against former F2 rival Christian Lundgaard) and will be the only full-time driver for Juncos Hollinger Racing.
Outside of that, he made his Le Mans debut in GTE-Am and finished third in the class, and had two Grand Prix free practice appearances in Portugal and Austria.
Next year the aim will be deciding his career direction for a further five-or-so, and if he can emulate Romain Grosjean’s transition from the F1 paddock to stateside then he’ll be in a good place.
Marcus Armstrong (Formula 2)
The longest-serving member of the FDA (he was announced in 2017 alongside Enzo Fittipaldi), Armstrong had a disappointing season in F2 finishing 13th – the same position as last year. He took his maiden win in the first sprint race at Jeddah with a good launch from P2 against his compatriot Liam Lawson, but only had one top-five finish in the feature races this season.
He’s almost certainly leaving DAMS and Hitech is his most likely destination – he did the Yas Marina post-season test with them. He’ll need to be one of the top drivers next season in F2 next season to keep his F1 dream alive.
Since the end of 2019 Armstrong has somewhat lost his shine – from the moment he went full-time into single seaters he never finished outside the top five and podiumed more than half the series he raced in, but since graduating to F2 he’s not had that same streak. His future will depend on rediscovering it.
Robert Shwartzman (Formula 2)
The Russian’s already announced he’s leaving F2, after a season that promised much. He was very consistently in the top five but failed to take a pole position and only took two wins, both sprint races. Ultimately he just couldn’t get it done in the feature races – only making the podium twice – and qualified outside the top five too many times.
The inaugural FIA F3 winner Shwartzman has been named Ferrari’s test driver next year with a view to taking an F1 seat in 2023. He’s taken part in both days of F1’s post-season test, topping the timesheets on the final day with Haas after piloting the Ferrari SF 21 to tenth on day one.
Arthur Leclerc (Formula 3)
Another big-name driver who had a low-key 2021, Leclerc took two wins in his debut F3 season but didn’t hit the heights that some expected of him at Prema. He finished last out of their three runners, and lost his best chance at a feature race win to teammate Dennis Hauger after a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle in Hungary. But he showed he has the potential to push on next season, it’s just the question of whether he can turn those performances in more consistently next season.
He’ll likely do another season of FIA F3 where the aim has to be a title challenge – or there’s the unlikely (and probably ill-advised) possibility of an F2 promotion.
Dino Beganovic (FRECA, F3 Asia)
The Swede had an up-and-down debut season in FRECA, falling to 13th after six pointless finishes in the final five rounds, but third out of the rookies. His best weekend was at Mugello where he picked up a podium finishing second in race two and being the victim of a first-lap crash that denied him a podium chance in race two, while he was leading at Imola before an unfortunate crash with David Vidales.
The 17-year-old also had a good early-season run in F3 Asia. He was running fifth when he withdrew after round three and ended the season seventh.
He returns to FRECA with Prema next year, and ideally needs to be in the title conversation – if he can channel those last few races into 2022 then he should be in a good place.
Maya Weug (Italian F4, ADAC F4)
Weug joined the FDA after winning the first ever FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars competition at the end of 2020. She joined Iron Lynx in Italian F4 and did selected rounds of ADAC F4. he 17-year-old only DNFed in two races this season so excellent points for consistency. The only problem? She failed to reach the top 10 on any of those occasions.
But she did finish top of the women’s championship in Italian F4. There were only two competitors and Weug stayed neck-and-neck with Hamda Al Quabaisi throughout but ended up winning by seven points.
She’ll likely do the same programme again and needs a big second year, getting into the top ten regularly and fighting for the podiums.
James Wharton (Karting)
Wharton didn’t have quite the same success as Camara, finishing 23rd in the FIA European Karting Championships, but showed more than enough to confirm Prema’s backing for 2021.
He’s expected to do F4 UAE with them, and they’ve already committed to running him for the full Italian F4 season.
There’s also the possibility of an ADAC F4 run – Prema said they’re set to announce additional support events for the Australian.
Next year will be about getting established in single-seaters and seeing if he can transfer his talent – particularly in wheel-to-wheel racing at karting level – to the next stage.
“Traditionally Prema has a strong alliance with Ferrari so the decision for us was straight forward.”
2022: new entries
Ollie Bearman (Italian F4, ADAC F4, GB3)
Ferrari also have three drivers joining the academy next year, headlined by dual ADAC and Italian F4 champion Bearman. He won seven races on the bounce in the latter with Van Amersfoort Racing and took the top step of the podium in 37.5% of his races, including nine rounds where he acquitted himself well in GB3.
Now in the academy, he’s said in three years he wants to be winning races for Ferrari in F1 whilst his aim next season will be FIA F3 – reigning champion Dennis Hauger’s seat will be open at Prema. F1 Feeder Series had a chat with Bearman about his stellar season and his future.
Rafael Camara (Karting)
The Brazilian won the WSK Champions Cup and Super Masters Cup ahead of the highly touted Andrea Kimi Antonelli and second in the FIA European Karting Championship (all at OK level)- he’s one of the top drivers to step up to single-seaters next season.
He’ll make his debut with Prema in Italian F4 after having already tested with them, and there’s no reason why he can’t compete for the title as a rookie – following in the footsteps of fellow FDA member Dino Beganovic.
The 16-year-old will be in a competitive team at Prema, partnering with karting rival Andrea Kimi Antonelli and James Wharton.
Laura Camps Torras (Karting)
16-year old Laura Camps Torras was announced as the winner of the FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars competition in December. The Spaniard’s been competing in the Spanish Karting Championship and will likely follow Maya Weug’s programme from this year.
Maria Germano Neto (Karting)
The junior winner of the competition – 11-year old Maria Germano Neto – will join Tony Kart in the OK Junior category. She will not fully join the Ferrari Driver Academy, but will be supported by them.
Credit for all photo’s: Scuderia Ferrari Press Office