Eight Drivers to Watch Across the 2020s

Austria will kick off the 2020 F1 season after an extended break due to Coronavirus pandemic (Image Credit: LAT Images)

With the new F1 season and decade of racing currently suspended due to Coronavirus outbreak, we are set to see a changing of the guard unfold with several new stars arriving on the scene. 

Many junior categories over the next few seasons will provide us with a taste of who could be set to reach F1 in the coming years, whilst the pinnacle of motorsport itself already contains some bright talent who will only become world-class in the coming years.

Without further ado, here are eight top young racing drivers which you should watch out for over the next decade.

 

Max Verstappen

Verstappen Austria
Max Verstappen is currently one of F1’s hotly touted future champions. (Image credit: Red Bull Content Pool)

Max Verstappen has already enjoyed plenty of F1 success since joining the grid in 2015 with eight wins and two pole positions, making him one of the biggest stars who could dominate the Twenties as Red Bull look to return to title winning ways.

Last season saw Verstappen comfortably rise to the challenge of being the team’s top driver, producing 74.2% of Red Bull’s 244 points in the first half of last season compared to just 56.1% of their 173 points earned in the second half of the campaign. 

He however has also demonstrated a confident attitude to mid-season changes of teammate, having adapted quickly to two such changes in F1 already, although Albon looks to be his toughest opposition yet. 

Verstappen has ultimately shown brilliant maturity in his driving over recent seasons because we used to see a hotheaded flat-out approach in dry races whereas he was more astute in wet conditions, which he has managed to marry together to create a well rounded approach which is serving him well with the right car setup.

I therefore am expecting Verstappen to only grow into an all-time great, especially with Red Bull on the up and a new contract to keep him at the team until 2023. 

 

Charles Leclerc

Leclerc Monza

After dominating GP3 and the inaugural season of Formula Two, Charles Leclerc had earmarked himself as one to watch by the time he rolled into F1 with Sauber in 2018. 

Leclerc had consistently outperformed his teammate in all categories so it was no surprise to see him doing the same to Marcus Ericsson, once he had quickly settled into F1 but last season underlined Leclerc’s outstanding maturity and ability.

Faced with a four-time World Champion in Sebastian Vettel as his teammate at Ferrari, Leclerc could of easily settled into the fall guy role but he showed excellent pace from the off as he eventually dominated his teammate in qualifying.

Leclerc however continue to show that he can race intelligently from anywhere in the field, although his occasional immaturity was present in Monaco when a series of mistakes resulted in his retirement, then in Germany when he spun out on a wet kerb which underlined wet races as his weakness unlike Verstappen. 

Those immature errors however did also flare up in qualifying occasionally, with his Q2 crash in Baku despite looking destined for pole being a notable example. 

His ultimate acid test probably came in Brazil when he and Vettel took one another out of the race late on, but he handled the fall-out sensibly without pinning the blame on Vettel which shows how important he values his role at Ferrari. 

I therefore can see Leclerc becoming a huge title threat within the next few seasons after signing a new five year contract with Ferrari, although he does need to work on his wet racing skills because those conditions could be where he loses future titles if he doesn’t improve. 

 

George Russell

Russell
George Russell has already proved himself as a top future Mercedes driver after a dominant rookie season at Williams.

Having won back-to-back titles in his rookie GP3 and F2 campaigns, George Russell was the only bright light in a dire 2019 season for Williams as he annihilated Robert Kubica in a qualifying washout.

Russell also showed great racing spirit in a uncompetitive car to often race the likes of Antonio Giovinazzi and Romain Grosjean, when the latter two struggled in various races which underlined his raw speed and racing ability.

Another positive aspect about Russell is that he often speaks highly of the team in a constructive yet critical way and even after poor performances, which is a marked improvement on his F2 days when he was critical of the car in a public tweet, which you can see below.

With Valtteri Bottas’ contract up at end of this coming season, Russell could well be partnering Hamilton at Mercedes next season, which would benefit him enormously in finding that killer instinct to go with his raw speed and potentially challenge for future F1 titles.

 

Lando Norris

Lando Norris
Lando Norris enjoyed a strong rookie season and could become a future dominant force for the next few decades. (McLaren.com)

Having starved off bids from Red Bull to poach him from McLaren, Lando Norris demonstrated why he is one of F1’s biggest future stars with a strong rookie season in 2019.

Norris dominated F3 Europe in 2017 before rising to the challenge of F2 in 2018, although a dip in form saw him miss out on the title to Russell but he quickly adapted to life in F1 last season.

One of Norris’ impressive areas was qualifying as he edged his experienced teammate – Carlos Sainz 11-10 in a tight qualifying head-to-head, which wasn’t settled until the final race. 

Norris however received a tough lesson in tyre management at times throughout the season, although most of his ten non point finishes were down to reliability issues or mistakes from others. 

Nevertheless, Norris is a driver who will bounce back stronger in comings seasons as he continues to mature and develop naturally, although he needs to restrain his humorous approach to life slightly if he is to become a future top driver fighting for titles but that quality is why he is one of the popular young figures in motorsport presently. 

 

Jack Aitken

Aitken
Jack Aitken has proved himself as a potential F1 driver of the future although his 2020 plans are currently unknown. (Image credit: FIA Formula Two)

Since arriving on the GP3 scene in 2016, Aitken has proved himself as more than a match for his rivals when on his A game combined with his cheeky Chappy personality.

Aitken however will be without Renault backing this season, having parted company with the Enstone outfit to instead join Williams as their Reserve Driver and will continue in F2 with Campos Racing for a second consecutive season (third season in F2 overall). 

This season therefore is a season which could well be crucial to Aitken’s chances of reaching F1, with up to 14 driver seats on the market at present including at Williams alongside fellow Brit and ex ART GP teammate – George Russell. 

 

Robert Shwartzman

Shwartzman
Reigning F3 champion, Robert Shwartzman is one to watch over the coming seasons. (Image Credit: FIA Formula 3)

Ferrari junior, Robert Shwartzman last season established himself as a future F1 talent waiting with calm yet consistent drives throughout every round to the F3 title. 

Shwartzman in fact was one of the more cleaner races in a feisty F3 field last season, apart from a mistake in Austria which cost him the Sprint win after clipping the rear of Prema teammate – Marcus Armstrong on run to Turn Three to earn a five second time penalty. 

Another mistake in the Hungarian Sprint then followed but it is obvious that this Russian has the raw pace needed to eventually progress into a top F1 team, especially after improving on his finishing Feature Race position in three of last season’s eight F3 rounds. 

2020 however is going to be a huge year for Shwartzman who has Mick Schumacher as his new Prema teammate in F2, as the Italian outfit look to regain their crown after a two season absence. 

 

Mick Schumacher

Mick Schumacher
Mick Schumacher will be a huge talent to watch out across the coming decade as he looks to follow in his father’s footsteps. (Image credit: Prema)

As the son of a seven-time F1 champion, Mick Schumacher has established himself as a driver of huge potential this decade if given time. 

Like his father, Mick has shown great tenacity in his driving from a stunning late charge for the 2018 F3 Europe title with just one non podium finish in last nine races, to a double points F2 debut in Bahrain in a tough rookie season in the second tier of motorsport. 

That however is reflective of his rise up the motorsport ladder because he has often blossomed in his second season at a particular level, having used his first season in most categories to learn the ropes to propel him forward in future seasons to push for titles in a similar manner to how his father did.

This season will pose a tough test for Schumacher though in the shape of fellow Ferrari junior and reigning F3 champion – Robert Shwartzman, who will provide stronger competition than Sean Gelael did last season in terms of pace. 

Schumacher therefore will be a driver to watch across this decade because he has the potential to reach F1, but faces tough competition within the coming few years for not just a seat in F1 but to then develop into the third father-son World Champion duo. 

 

Colton Herta

Herta
Colton Herta won two races in his rookie Indycar campaign in 2019, including becoming youngest ever Indycar winner at Circuit of the Americas.  (Image credit: Chris Jones)

When Colton Herta arrived in Indycar racing off the back of two impressive IndyLights campaigns in September 2018 at Sonoma after a spell in Europe on the F1 ladder, nobody thought this young teenager would go on to enjoy a successful rookie campaign last season.

For his tender age, Herta adapted brilliantly to Indycar with a stunning win from fourth on the grid in just his third Indycar race at the Indycar Classic at the Circuit of the Americas, becoming the series’ youngest ever race winner just days before his 19th birthday.

His oval performances however were disappointing in comparison but given his inexperience, Herta will only grow the longer he remains in Indycar with the hallmarks of a future champion already present.

F1 however seems keen to lure Herta away which seems a tough ask but if a top team can sign the young American, I would say that he could be one to watch given his road circuit prowess no matter where he ends up across this decade.

 

Notable Mentions

  • Sergio Sette Camara – Sette Camara has the potential to become a solid F1 star if he improves his consistency, which Red Bull should help him improve in his Reserve and Test Driver role. 
  • Guanyu Zhou – Zhou was top rookie of F2 in 2019 with potential to grow into a solid F1 driver, if not title challenger in a suitable car. 
  • Giuliano Alesi – Alesi experienced tough 2019 season at Trident in F2 so these next few seasons will be crucial to seeing his full potential. 
  • Callum Ilott – Ilott has the ingredients to become a top F1 driver but needs to improve his tyre management, which was an issue last season in F2. 
  • Richard Verschoor – Verschoor struggled to adapt to the new F3 car last season but has the pace to deliver a title if can build on his Macau GP success. 

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.