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The F1 feeder collection kings who have been ignored the next 12 months

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Theo Pourchaire has change into the third driver in succession miss out on a commencement to System 1 within the 12 months after profitable the System 2 title. As with Oscar Piastri (2021) and Felipe Drugovich (2022) earlier than him, the Sauber junior will watch from the sidelines this 12 months, although he’ll maintain himself race sharp in Japan’s Tremendous System championship as he seeks to additional his case for a promotion to the staff that can change into Audi from 2026.

PLUS: Why F1’s junior logjam isn’t entirely a product of current issues

Quite a few champions of European F2, System 3000 and GP2 have suffered the identical destiny because the aforementioned trio in failing to succeed in F1 the season after their coronation. Whereas some needed to wait their flip earlier than getting onto the grid both later within the 12 months or the next season, an unfortunate few by no means obtained the prospect to drive a grand prix automotive in anger. However who have been the most effective of these ignored champions of F1’s feeder collection, and due to this fact most laborious completed by?

Drivers who’ve already raced in F1 are usually not excluded from the checklist. The one stipulation is that drivers can not have contested a grand prix within the 12 months after profitable the foremost junior collection title, even when they have been absent from the beginning of the season. That explains the omission from this checklist of runaway 2015 GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne, referred to as as much as substitute McLaren’s Fernando Alonso within the 2016 Bahrain GP, and his successor Pierre Gasly, who contested 5 GPs for Toro Rosso in 2017 after making an an identical journey east to Tremendous System.

A number of champions of the System Renault 3.5 collection that briefly vied with GP2 for the honour of being F1’s high assist class additionally missed out on the direct graduations afforded to Robert Kubica, Kevin Magnussen and Carlos Sainz. Nonetheless, the truth that extra of its champions headed to GP2 the next 12 months than F1 makes their {cases} tough to incorporate – even when its subject was arguably stronger than GP2 when Robin Frijns triumphed in 2012.

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The rating is predicated on 4 key standards; the energy of efficiency throughout their time within the premier sub-F1 class, how convincingly they gained the title, the extent of opposition and time spent within the class. Drivers that took 4 seasons to say the title naturally are ranked decrease than these ignored regardless of gathering the crown on the first time of asking. What they did afterwards has no impression on the rating.

The introduction of a number of races per weekend means win conversion stats aren’t instantly comparable between drivers from the GP2 and fashionable F2 period to the unique European F2 collection and F3000. However for the needs of this checklist, wins are valued above consistency. And with only one win on his method to final 12 months’s F2 title, by comparability with drivers who reached the honour sooner and extra emphatically, Pourchaire simply misses out on this high 10.

10. Bjorn Wirdheim

Wirdheim cruised to the penultimate F3000 title, however grid sizes had begun to wane

Picture by: James Moy

Championship/12 months: F3000, 2003
Makes an attempt to win title: 2
Wins in title 12 months: 3
Factors margin: 35
Wins/Begins: 4/22
Poles: 6

Slowing barely too early earlier than crossing the road to gather an assured victory at Monaco, which as a substitute went to Nicolas Kiesa, is for many individuals the defining reminiscence of Bjorn Wirdheim’s 2003 F3000 title success. However the Swede was merely a reduce above the remaining within the penultimate season for GP2’s predecessor, starting his second 12 months with Arden as he’d ended his first.

Having gained the 2002 finale at Monza, Wirdheim entered the 12 months as an anticipated favorite and didn’t disappoint. His victory within the Imola curtain-raiser set the tone for a 12 months through which he was solely off the rostrum as soon as, after an opening-lap conflict on the Nurburgring, and he added additional dominant victories at Silverstone and Monza.

Following F1 assessments for BAR and Jordan earlier than the season was out, he in the end landed a take a look at driver function at Ford-owned Jaguar that ought to have yielded a race drive for 2005. However the choice of the Dearborn cash males to drag out and the staff’s subsequent sale to Pink Bull – whose advisor Helmut Marko had unsuccessfully tried to lure Wirdheim to his F3000 staff – spelt the top of his F1 dream.

What might have been: The F3000 champion whose Champ Car move turned sour

The one motive Wirdheim isn’t larger on this checklist is as a result of his opposition in 2003 was weaker than it had been in earlier years, as F3000 started its decline. Third-year drivers Ricardo Sperafico (Coloni) and one of many drivers he beat to make this checklist, Giorgio Pantano (on the Durango staff which hadn’t beforehand been thought of a high outfit), have been the one others to place up something resembling a constant problem.

Nonetheless, Wirdheim proved dominant in a shorter timeframe than the likes of Pantano (the 2008 GP2 champion after a short F1 stint with Jordan in 2004) and 2019 F2 champion Nyck de Vries, and gained much more convincingly than Pourchaire, to cement his place on this checklist.

9. Bruno Junqueira

Junqueira took three attempts to win the title but claimed four wins from 10 starts in 2000

Junqueira took three makes an attempt to win the title however claimed 4 wins from 10 begins in 2000

Picture by: Sutton Photos

Championship/12 months: F3000, 2000
Makes an attempt to win title: 3
Wins in title 12 months: 4
Factors margin: 3
Wins/Begins: 5/31
Poles: 3

Regardless of profitable 4 occasions, Bruno Junqueira solely narrowly edged fellow third-year driver Nicolas Minassian to win the F3000 title in 2000. Talks with F1 groups got here to nought, and the Brazilian as a substitute started a profitable profession in US open-wheel racing that peaked with three championship runner-up finishes and a pole within the Indianapolis 500.

Junqueira had already proven his mettle with a swashbuckling drive to victory at Hockenheim in 1999, passing Petrobras team-mate Max Wilson through the grass into the stadium. And after Minassian had crushed him off the road to win at Imola, Junqueira emerged because the title favorite with a hat-trick throughout the Barcelona, Nurburgring and Monaco rounds – skilfully navigating changeable situations and doggedly battling sickness throughout the latter two.

Friday favorite: Bruno Junqueira picks his favourite track

Two wins for Minassian, whose Tremendous Nova staff was, like Petrobras, owned and run out of David Sears’ workshop in Norfolk, obtained him again into competition as Junqueira faltered with a run of three-non scores. However a managed victory over spectacular rookie Fernando Alonso in Hungary meant Junqueira had a sufficiently big benefit that third for Minassian at Spa wasn’t sufficient to deprive him of the crown.

8. Felipe Drugovich

Drugovich smashed the F2 field with MP Motorsport in 2022 and took a remarkable double in Barcelona

Drugovich smashed the F2 subject with MP Motorsport in 2022 and took a exceptional double in Barcelona

Picture by: Bryn Lennon – System 1

Championship/12 months: F2, 2022
Makes an attempt to win title: 3
Wins in title 12 months: 5
Factors margin: 101
Wins/Begins: 8/73
Poles: 4

After a disappointing sophomore season in F2 with Virtuosi, the return to MP Motorsport for 2022 introduced the most effective out of Felipe Drugovich. A 12 months many have been anticipating to boil right down to a struggle between extremely fancied second-year males Pourchaire and Liam Lawson became a walkover for Drugovich. The Brazilian’s benefit over Pourchaire after a season that tallied 5 wins was the biggest since Stoffel Vandoorne stuffed the GP2 pack in 2015 by 160 factors.

His tally of 4 poles surpassed the remaining (fast rookie Jack Doohan was closest with three), whereas no one might rival Drugovich’s consistency or remaining haul of 5 victories – together with the season’s solely double at Barcelona. He was confirmed as champion regardless of retiring on the opening lap of the Monza dash with suspension harm.

Introduced earlier than the top of the season as Aston Martin’s reserve and improvement driver in F1, Drugovich performed 2023 pre-season take a look at duties for the staff in Bahrain following Lance Stroll’s biking accident, however has but to get a shot at a race seat. That appears unlikely to alter quickly after being retained within the function for a second 12 months.

7. Justin Wilson

Wilson struck up a strong bond with his Nordic team over two years with the team that culminated in the 2001 F3000 title

Wilson struck up a powerful bond together with his Nordic staff over two years with the staff that culminated within the 2001 F3000 title

Picture by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Championship/12 months: F3000, 2001
Makes an attempt to win title: 3
Wins in title 12 months: 3
Factors margin: 32
Wins/Begins: 3/32
Poles: 2

Justin Wilson did attain F1 after profitable the F3000 title, however needed to spend a 12 months treading water within the Dallara Nissan championship earlier than squeezing his tall body right into a Minardi for 2003. The Yorkshireman delivered Derek Mower’s Nordic staff the crown in 2001 with virtually double the tally of his nearest pursuers, Tremendous Nova’s Mark Webber and his personal team-mate Tomas Enge, and solely completed off the rostrum twice in 11 races. A brake drawback on the Nurburgring brought on his solely non-score.

Prime 10: Ranking the greatest Minardi F1 drivers

There was a component of fortune to his victory in Brazil, when a number of drivers forward of him have been penalised for overtaking below yellow flags. However it was telling that Wilson, who had emerged as a daily podium finisher for Nordic in 2000, by no means misplaced the lead of the standings thereafter and he responded effectively to being crushed by Enge in Barcelona with an expertly judged defensive drive to win on the A1-Ring.

Webber swept Monaco and Magny-Cours, the place Wilson pounced on Enge to take second on the ultimate lap, however the Australian by no means visited the rostrum once more. Webber’s spin in Hungary, the scene of Wilson’s third win, conceded match level.

After assessments for Jordan in 2001 went nowhere, Wilson’s F1 alternative when it got here was temporary. A mid-season transfer to Jaguar wasn’t the hoped-for promotion to a steady midfield operation, however Wilson switched efficiently to US open-wheel racing earlier than his tragic dying at Pocono in 2015.

6. Sebastien Bourdais

His path to the F3000 title in 2002 wasn't straightforward, but despite sometimes struggling in races Bourdais was the year's standout qualifier

His path to the F3000 title in 2002 wasn’t simple, however regardless of typically struggling in races Bourdais was the 12 months’s standout qualifier

Picture by: Lorenzo Bellanca / Motorsport Images

Championship/12 months: F3000, 2002
Makes an attempt to win title: 3
Wins in title 12 months: 3
Factors margin: 2
Wins/Begins: 4/34
Poles: 8

The 2002 F3000 pole king departed the Monza finale considering he’d misplaced the championship to Enge, after being sidelined by a expensive engine failure. However when Enge was docked the ten factors he’d earned for profitable at Hungaroring attributable to a Positive medicine take a look at, Sebastien Bourdais was handed the primary title of F3000’s B02/50 period.

After dropping probably wins at Monaco in 2000 and the A1-Ring in 2001 to first nook tangles, an excellent breakthrough victory in blended situations at Silverstone was rewarded with a Tremendous Nova seat for 2002. However as subsequent years proved, it didn’t have fairly the identical deal with on the automotive as with the earlier two iterations of Lola.

Nonetheless, Bourdais hustled to 5 poles from the primary six races and transformed three into wins, dropping out in Interlagos to a puncture and in Barcelona when he made a final-lap mistake on tyres have been effectively previous their greatest. Victory on the Nurburgring can be his final of the season as Enge’s Arden staff discovered one other gear, however Bourdais held on within the factors race and will nonetheless be considered a worthy champion.

Though his automotive carried a Renault livery, Bourdais crucially lacked the assist of Flavio Briatore after the teen had turned down his administration contract, which left him to look elsewhere for an F1 berth. Bourdais believes he had an agreement in place to race for Arrows in 2003 had the staff not gone bust, however he confirmed F1 what it was lacking with pole at his first two Champ Automobile races in 2003. After 4 titles on the spin, he lastly joined the F1 grid with Toro Rosso in 2008, however their temporary union isn’t one the Frenchman remembers positively.

5. Jorg Muller

Victory at Pau in 1996 for Muller, flanked by Brack and Zonta, completed a hattrick of grandee single-seater wins

Victory at Pau in 1996 for Muller, flanked by Brack and Zonta, accomplished a hattrick of grandee single-seater wins

Picture by: Sutton Photos

Championship/12 months: F3000, 1996
Makes an attempt to win title: 1
Wins in title 12 months: 2
Factors margin: 3
Wins/Begins: 2/10
Poles: 2

Arguably probably the most controversial second in F3000’s historical past occurred at Hockenheim in 1996, when championship protagonists Jorg Muller and Kenny Brack clashed combating for the lead. Muller retired whereas Brack continued, however when the Swede was disqualified for his half within the incident, the primary title of F3000’s single-make period went the way in which of a driver in his first season at that degree.

Lack of funds had prevented Muller, the 1991 Monaco F3 winner and 1993 Macau GP conqueror, from graduating sooner. He’d spent 1995 racing touring automobiles for BMW earlier than getting his F3000 break for 1996 with Helmut Marko’s RSM staff, which might pretty be described as a David to the Goliath of Brack’s Tremendous Nova squad.

Muller rode his luck at occasions in opposition to third-year driver Brack, solely taking victory at Spa on countback after purple flags introduced out attributable to rain when he was working third on the highway. However along with a victory at Pau that accomplished his avenue observe triple crown, he collected 5 runner-up finishes and by no means completed decrease than third, crucially beating Brack at Estoril and Mugello when Ricardo Zonta emerged as a winner.

PLUS: The Monaco win that started another triple crown

Muller changed Brack as a take a look at driver for Arrows in 1997, however obtained little by the use of mileage, and an identical berth at Sauber in 1998 by no means opened the door to a race drive. He was evaluated by Williams when it united with BMW for 2000 however, after three years with out racing a single-seater, was as soon as extra ignored.

He can’t transfer larger on this checklist due to his slim margin of victory over Brack, who gained extra races and took extra pole positions (in each {cases} 3-2). However the fast adaption to the class as a first-time champion cements Muller’s place within the high half.

4. Ricardo Zonta

Despite a high-speed 360, Zonta won comfortably at Hockenheim as he completed a fightback from a tricky start to the year

Regardless of a high-speed 360, Zonta gained comfortably at Hockenheim as he accomplished a fightback from a tough begin to the 12 months

Picture by: Sutton Photos

Championship/12 months: F3000, 1997
Makes an attempt to win title: 2
Wins in title 12 months: 3
Factors margin: 1.5
Wins/Begins: 5/20
Poles: 5

A winner in his first season of F3000 for the Draco staff in 1996, Ricardo Zonta obtained the job completed on the second time of asking upon becoming a member of Tremendous Nova in 1997. However he needed to spend a 12 months racing sportscars for Mercedes, profitable the FIA GT championship alongside Klaus Ludwig, and testing for Jordan earlier than an F1 race seat turned accessible with BAR in 1999.

PLUS: How a 128-day Mercedes miracle crushed its opposition

In opposition to stiff opposition from the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya, Tom Kristensen and Jamie Davies, Zonta didn’t make life straightforward for himself. After a victory on the Silverstone season-opener was cruelly snatched away from him for a contentious gearbox infringement – and solely after the FIA had successfully appealed the stewards of the assembly – he shunted in Pau and Helsinki to reach at spherical 4 with none factors on the board.

However as inconsistency plagued Montoya, and Kristensen encountered every kind of misfortune, Zonta notched three wins and two seconds from the subsequent six races. He had the championship wrapped up with a race to spare at Mugello, the place Kristensen (non-compliant washers) and Davies (missed drivers briefing) have been each excluded.

So dominant was Zonta at Hockenheim that he gained regardless of a 360-degree spin that resulted in a visit by way of the gravel, and his remaining spherical gaffe at Jerez – throwing the automotive into the gravel whereas below no strain – went unpunished. That he earned extra pole positions than anyone, qualifying ace Montoya included, was no imply feat.

3. Mike Thackwell

Thackwell was unstoppable in the 1984 F2 season, three years after the campaign many had expected he'd cruise to the title before injury

Thackwell was unstoppable within the 1984 F2 season, three years after the marketing campaign many had anticipated he’d cruise to the title earlier than harm

Picture by: Sutton Photos

Championship/12 months: European F2, 1984
Makes an attempt to win title: 5
Wins in title 12 months: 7
Factors margin: 28
Wins/Begins: 9/52
Poles: 9

“His greatest drawback is that he’s too self-effacing for his personal good. He stored telling me what a fast driver can be doing. Because it was, he was doing the identical type of occasions persistently that Piquet had completed the week earlier than within the Brabham!”

Feedback from Williams technical guru Patrick Head after Mike Thackwell had performed an 80-lap shakedown of the Williams FW09 at Snetterton in 1984 give a sign of how extremely rated the Kiwi was.

The dominant winner of the ultimate European F2 championship had reached F1 throughout his rookie season in 1980, with fill-in outings for Arrows and Tyrrell, and seemed unstoppable in 1981 upon becoming a member of the works Ralt staff till a critical accident at Thruxton left him badly injured. That Ralt boss Ron Tauranac wasn’t sufficiently satisfied by Thackwell’s health to have him again for 1982 goes some method to explaining why it took till 1984 – after he’d spent the earlier 12 months supporting Jonathan Palmer’s title bid – earlier than he blitzed to the crown.

He had comfortably the most effective package deal at his disposal within the type of a Ralt-Honda, however made full use of it to win seven of the 11 rounds, taking quickest lap on all however two events. Thackwell raced for Penske’s Indycar staff on the finish of 1984, however by no means obtained the large F1 break his expertise deserved – though the political nature of F1 was by no means to his style.

His class was obvious when F3000 arrived for 1985. Remaining with the works Ralt staff, Thackwell was arguably the 12 months’s greatest driver and put in stellar drives to win amid deluges at Silverstone, on a fast-deteriorating observe floor at Spa and a topsy-turvy race at Enna with an overheating engine. Had it not been for a failure on his Monk rev-limiter whereas comfortably main at Estoril, he would have been out of sight when BSA March racer Christian Danner started a late season surge that netted the title after Thackwell and Emanuele Pirro tangled at Donington’s first nook. He walked away from motorsport two years later.

2. Juan Pablo Montoya

Montoya took the final International F3000 win at Enna on his way to defeating Heidfeld in 1998 - but had pushed Zonta hard in 1997 too

Montoya took the ultimate Worldwide F3000 win at Enna on his method to defeating Heidfeld in 1998 – however had pushed Zonta laborious in 1997 too

Picture by: Sutton Photos

Championship/12 months: F3000, 1998
Makes an attempt to win title: 2
Wins in title 12 months: 4
Factors margin: 7
Wins/Begins: 7/22
Poles: 10

Juan Pablo Montoya took to F3000 like a duck to water together with his flamboyant driving model, and will have gained the title in his 1997 rookie 12 months with out some self-inflicted errors. However he put it proper the next season after going toe-to-toe with McLaren junior Nick Heidfeld.

The RSM Marko driver spun out whereas main on his debut at Silverstone and in addition crashed in Helsinki after he’d claimed pole by virtually a full second, however took fashionable victories at Pau, the A1-Ring and Jerez to finish 1997 second within the factors behind Zonta.

Taking Zonta’s place at Tremendous Nova for 1998 and together with his cash troubles eased by the patronage of Frank Williams, who employed Montoya as a take a look at driver, he waltzed to pole in 5 of the primary six races. The exception got here in Monaco, the place he was docked his three quickest occasions for impeding. There he completed sixth, on three wheels and with no entrance wing, evoking Gilles Villeneuve.

There have been extra dramas alongside the way in which. He misplaced a wheel at Oschersleben after a pitstop, crashed with Heidfeld at Imola and made contact with him once more at Enna, the scene of his fourth win after triumphs at Barcelona, Silverstone and Pau. However when Heidfeld was thrown out of qualifying for the Nurbugring finale attributable to unlawful gasoline, Montoya’s path to the title was secured.

PLUS: Montoya’s magic motorsport moments

Williams had no room for him in 1999 when it signed Alex Zanardi, with Montoya despatched to take his place on the Ganassi CART Indycar staff. One title and an Indy 500 win later, Montoya finally obtained his F1 alternative in 2001, and rapidly acquainted himself with Michael Schumacher…

1. Oscar Piastri

Piastri was kept on the bench by Alpine after claiming the F2 title at the first attempt in 2021

Piastri was stored on the bench by Alpine after claiming the F2 title on the first try in 2021

Picture by: System Motorsport Ltd

Championship/12 months: F2, 2021
Makes an attempt to win title: 1
Wins in title 12 months: 6
Factors margin: 60.5
Wins/Begins: 6/23
Poles: 5

That Oscar Piastri was stored warming the bench by Alpine in 2022 was baffling to all who had noticed his storming run to the F2 title as a class rookie. The fateful choice in the end led to the staff dropping his providers to McLaren, who supplied Piastri a deserved F1 alternative for 2023.

PLUS: How F1’s new cool customer vindicated his McLaren gamble

Piastri’s meteoric rise in profitable back-to-back titles in F3 and F2 drew rapid comparisons with Charles Leclerc and George Russell, now extensively considered being among the many high performers on the grid. And the style of his title success was completely befitting of such comparisons.

Piastri’s F3 title-winning predecessor Robert Shwartzman had been anticipated to steer Prema’s assault, however ended up enjoying second fiddle, with all his wins coming in sprints. And though third-year driver Zhou Guanyu made the early working, by mid-season Piastri had reeled him in.

After hitting the entrance at Silverstone, the cool Australian was by no means headed thereafter. A winner in solely his second F2 begin in Bahrain, as F2 moved to a format of three races per weekend together with two sprints, he closed the season with victories in every of the final 4 characteristic races. A streak of 5 consecutive poles at Silverstone, Monza, Sochi, Jeddah and Abu Dhabi left the opposition reeling and confirmed his was a really particular expertise.

Alpine although caught with Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon, and its lack of a associate staff meant it couldn’t discover Piastri a seat elsewhere. Its loss was McLaren’s achieve.

Piastri's hot streak left the field gasping in his wake but it still wasn't enough to secure him automatic passage to an F1 seat

Piastri’s sizzling streak left the sphere gasping in his wake nevertheless it nonetheless wasn’t sufficient to safe him automated passage to an F1 seat

Picture by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images



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