The Inkling - 4 F1 Drivers Set To Change The Game
By Caitlin Deal
Formula 1 is known as the pinnacle of motorsport, with many avid karters dreaming of one day reaching the dizzying heights of winning a World Driver's Championship. When most are asked to name an F1 driver, many revert to the most successful drivers, such as Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher or Sebastian Vettel, however recently a flurry of young talent has entered the grid and are set to make F1 history within the years to come. So, here are 4 young talents that are set to change the game!
Max Verstappen - The Dutch Lion
Born in Hasselt, Belgium on the 30th of September 1997, the Dutch driver made his F1 debut at the Australian Grand Prix in 2015 with Toro Rosso at the age of 17. His talent truly came to light in 2016, when he replaced the Russian Daniil Kvyat at Red Bull Racing - Verstappen's current team.
This season, Verstappen has gone from strength to strength, fluttering between first and second in the World Driver's Championship. He has had many highs this season, most notably winning the coveted Monaco Grand Prix, one-third of the infamous triple crown. He has shown pure pace and skill when leading at races such as the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at a rain-soaked Imola as well as converting pole position into a win at the Red Bull Ring in Austria not once but twice in this season. However, he has had his moments. More so in past seasons rather than this season, crashes have been had that could have been avoided if he had only yielded his position. Most recently, during the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, himself and Lewis Hamilton crashed at turn 2 after Hamilton came out of the pitlane in front of Verstappen. Verstappen sent himself down the inside line, bouncing him off of the 'sausage kerb' and shooting him airbourne, with his rear-right tyre hitting Hamilton's head as he returned to the ground.
Charles Leclerc - The Future For Ferrari
Born in Monte Carlo, Monaco on the 16th of October 1997, the Monegasque driver made his F1 debut in 2018 at the Australian Grand Prix for Sauber at the age of 20. Everyone knew of his talent from the day he won Formula 2 in his first season and this was soon recognised by Ferrari, who gave him a contract from 2019 until 2024.
In the past few seasons, Leclerc’s talents have shone through, despite his car not always being up to the standard previously set by the highly-regarded Scuderia Ferrari team. He got his first pole position during qualifying at the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, and led most of the race until a mechanical failure meant he was overtaken by both Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas - representing the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 team - to end up in third position. Despite all disappointment, this was his first podium in F1 and was a defining moment in his career. Later that season, he got his first win in F1 at the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix. However, this was not without mental struggle. The day before, in the Formula 2 Feature Race, there was a fatal crash involving Juan Manuel Correa and Anthoine Hubert - a close friend of Leclerc’s. Hubert passed away at the scene and Correa was left with life-changing injuries. Leclerc valiantly fought through the grief to get pole position and then the win. Another pivotal moment was the 2019 Italian Grand Prix, where Leclerc won the race in front of the ‘tifosi’ - the name for all avid Ferrari fans, mainly based in Italy. Most recently, Leclerc has achieved pole position at the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with help from his teammate, Carlos Sainz, who brought out the red flags due to a collision with the wall, stopping qualifying early. His career hasn’t been without hurdles and bitter disappointment, most predominantly from never finishing his home Grand Prix in Monaco due to a mix of mechanical failures. Nevertheless, he has a prosperous future ahead of him, and all of the signs point to one thing - a World Driver’s Championship.
George Russell - A Generational Talent
Born in King’s Lynn, England (but growing up in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire) on the 15th of February 1998, George Russell made his F1 debut at the 2019 Australian Grand Prix at the age of 21 for Williams Racing - who he is currently driving for. However, the Mercedes Junior Driver has been announced as a driver for the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 team next season, replacing Valtteri Bottas.
Russell’s career started back in Formula 2, where he won the championship despite being in his rookie season, and was soon announced as a Williams F1 driver for 2019. He truly showed his drive and resilience during the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, where he stood in for the 7-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton after he tested positive for Coronavirus. Despite this only being his first time in the ‘silver arrow’, Russell qualified P2, only being 26 milliseconds from pole position, held by Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes drive. During the race, Russell took a lead through turn 1 and quickly flew into the distance. His chances were vastly increased by both Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen crashing out in the first lap. However, the tides changed when Jack Aitken - the Williams reserve driver - lost his front wing, bringing out a safety car and causing both Mercedes drivers to pit. A mix-up meant that Russell had a mixed-tyre set on the car, causing him to pit again for a new set of tyres. After working himself up to P2, the pitwall found a ‘slow’ puncture in one of his tyres, causing him to pit for a third time, ending the race P9 with an extra point for fastest lap of the race. The pain of losing his maiden win was eased slightly after an unlikely podium at the rain-soaked 2021 Belgian Grand Prix after the track was not deemed safe to hold a race without it being behind the safety car. Next year will be the real challenge - being teammates with a driver with over 100 wins - but many fans believe he will rise to the challenge and be a stronger, tougher driver because of his experiences.
Lando Norris - The Fast-Starting Brit
Born in Bristol, England on the 13th of November 1999, Lando Norris made his F1 debut at the 2019 Australian Grand Prix, much like George Russell, at the age of 19. After being part of the McLaren Young Driver’s Academy since 2017, he was made an F1 driver for the McLaren F1 Team in 2019, with a contract extension being announced this year as a 'multi-year deal’.
Norris has truly shone this year, maintaining P3 in the World Driver’s Championship for most of the season, until being overtaken by Valterri Bottas recently. He has had his best-ever result this season after achieving P2 at the 2021 Italian Grand Prix, with his Australian teammate Daniel Ricciardo winning the race. One race later, he achieved his maiden pole position at the 2021 Russian Grand Prix and led the race until the closing laps, when rain clouds rolled over the circuit and caused strategic chaos. Norris chose to stay out on older, less grippy hard tyres whilst everyone else chose the grippier intermediate tyres. The late call to change tyres dropped Norris down to P7, earning only a handful of points from an otherwise successful weekend. However, Norris has gone on to do much more in his life away from Formula 1 such as creating his own esports team called ‘Quadrant’ and most recently, setting up his own karting team called ‘LN Racing Kart’ - a plentiful career for the 21 year-old.