8 ADAC F4 drivers who reached Formula One

ADAC Formula 4 has cancelled its 2023 season, and the series looks unlikely to return. Feeder Series takes a look back at the most decorated drivers who passed through ADAC F4 on their way to the pinnacle of motorsport. Here are the eight ADAC F4 alumni that have participated (in one form or another) in at least one Formula One weekend.

By Jan Husmann

Zhou Guanyu: 2015 – 15th

When Zhou joined F1 at the start of the 2022 season he had a lot of feeder series experience. Three years in European F3 were followed by three years in FIA Formula 2. But before all of this, he competed for Prema Powerteam at the first round of ADAC F4 in Oschersleben in 2015. He competed in the first three rounds of ADAC F4 before focusing on Italian F4, in which he finished second that season.

In his first race from eighth on the grid, Zhou stalled at the start and finished a lap behind the winner and eventual inaugural champion Marvin Dienst. In the following eight races, Zhou managed two podiums for 15th in the final standings. These three rounds in 2015 remained his only outings in ADAC F4, as he moved to the F3 European Championship in 2016.

In 2023 Zhou will continue his Formula One career with Alfa Romeo after a very strong rookie season. He scored three times in 2022, including his debut in Bahrain, helping Alfa Romeo securing sixth place in the Constructors’ Championship.

A boy in a white and red helmet adorned with Prema and Ferrari Driver Academy logos and a red racing suit gives a thumbs-up gesture to the camera
Zhou Guanyu, Spa-Francorchamps 2015 | Credit: ADAC F4

Lando Norris: 2015 – 8th

Like Zhou, Norris only competed in three rounds during his one season in ADAC F4. He started eight races in 2015 and finished in the top five in all of them. Six podiums, including a win during his first weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, hinted at the Briton’s potential.

In 2015, Norris also competed in three rounds of Italian F4 while dominating British F4, where he took the championship. Norris went on to win Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup in 2016 and Formula 3 European Championship in 2017 before finishing runner-up to George Russell in Formula 2 in 2018.

This very impressive feeder series résumé resulted in a full-time race seat with McLaren in 2019. As of today, Norris has competed in 82 Formula One races, achieving six podiums and one pole position for the revitalised McLaren team.

A boy in a black Pirelli cap and a grey racing suit gives a thumbs up to the camera. Behind him is a blue and orange car with a bollard reading "DMSB 3" in front of it.
Lando Norris, Nürburgring 2015 | Credit: ADAC F4

Robert Shwartzman: 2015 – 4th

Four of the eight drivers on this list competed in the inaugural ADAC F4 season. The highest finisher among them is Shwartzman. In his first full season in single-seaters, Shwartzman could not take a victory but stood on the podium eight times. Six of them came consecutively over two weekends in Spa and at the Lausitzring.

Simultaneously, the Russian-Israeli driver competed in Italian F4, where he won three times, finishing the championship in third. In 2016 Shwartzman moved to Formula Renault Eurocup and later became the first champion of FIA F3 in 2019.

Two good but not great seasons in Formula 2 landed him a spot as Ferrari reserve driver in 2022, which resulted in two appearances in practice sessions during the past season.

A boy with blond hair and braces wearing an SMP Racing–branded race suit grins at the camera
Robert Shwartzman, Lausitzring 2015 | Credit: ADAC F4

Mick Schumacher: 2015 – 10th & 2016 – 2nd

When ADAC F4 made its debut in 2015, Schumacher was the talk of the paddock. The son of seven-time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher made his long-awaited single-seater debut with Van Amersfoort. Schumacher also raced under his real name after racing under his mother’s maiden name during his karting career.

His only win in 2015 came on the very first weekend in Oschersleben, but he only returned to the podium once that season, finishing tenth in the final standings. After a move to Prema in 2016, Schumacher competed in ADAC F4 and Italian F4. His German campaign was much improved, finishing second in the final standings while racking up five wins and twelve podiums.

Schumacher made it a habit to spend two years in a series. He won the Formula 3 European Championship and Formula 2 in his second years, 2018 and 2020 respectively.

The past two seasons Schumacher has enjoyed an up-and-down stint with Haas in Formula One. While being in an uncompetitive car in 2021, he outclassed his teammate. But as the new regulations made the Haas F1 Team more competitive in 2022, Schumacher struggled to keep up with his more experienced teammate Kevin Magnussen. After failing to deliver satisfying results consistently, Haas did not renew Schumacher’s contract for 2023, and the German is joining Mercedes as a reserve driver.

A boy in a black Pirelli cap and black race suit holds up a trophy that reads "Sieger Rookie, ADAC F4 Rennen 3" (English: Rookie Winner, ADAC F4 Race 3")
Mick Schumacher, Oschersleben 2015 | Credit: ADAC F4

Jüri Vips: 2016 – 6th & 2017 – Champion

No ADAC F4 champion has raced in Formula One. However, 2017 ADAC F4 champion Vips participated in a practice session for Red Bull Racing at the 2022 Spanish Grand Prix.

In two seasons in ADAC F4, Vips scored twelve podiums and two wins with Prema. Both wins came in 2017 when the Estonian took the championship in a super-competitive field. Bar one retirement at the Lausitzring. Vips scored in every race. This consistency put him in front of Marcus Armstrong and Felipe Drugovich.

Vips seemed to be on track for a future in Formula One until he was suspended from the Red Bull Junior Team in 2022. For 2023, he is expected to take his talents to America after he tested with IndyCar team Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in October 2022.

A boy with blond hair in a red jacket over a Sparco race suit looks pensively to the left with his right Apple EarPod in his ear
Jüri Vips, Sachsenring 2017 | Credit: ADAC F4

Felipe Drugovich: 2016 – 12th & 2017 – 3rd

Drugovich finished the 2017 ADAC F4 season with five more wins than Vips, but the Brazilian failed to score in six races that season. This inconsistency left him nine points behind the champion.

After this ADAC F4 season, Drugovich went on one of most impressive runs of any junior single-seater career. He won 10 of 17 races in the MRF Challenge Formula 2000 Championship in the winter of 2017–18 and then won five of six races in Spanish F3 and 14 of 16 races in Euroformula Open during the 2018 season, winning all three championships.

Up-and-down seasons in FIA F3 and F2 followed for Drugovich until he rediscovered his winning ways in Formula 2 in 2022 – not only taking the championship in dominant fashion but becoming reserve driver for Aston Martin in Formula One, taking part in a practice session for the team in Abu Dhabi.

A boy in a black VAR race suit and a black Pirelli cap pumps his right fist in the air in front of a sign that reads "ADAC GT Masters: Hockenheim 22–24.09.2017"
Felipe Drugovich, Hockenheim 2017 | Credit: ADAC F4

Liam Lawson: 2018 – 2nd

After an impressive debut year in single-seaters in New Zealand and Australia, Lawson had his first European races in ADAC F4. His only season in the series came with Van Amersfoort in 2018. The Kiwi driver took three victories and nine podiums on his way to finishing second behind local hero Lirim Zendeli.

Lawson then contested two seasons in FIA F3 and F2 respectively. His path to a potential future in Formula One now leads him to Japan, where he will compete in Super Formula with Mugen in 2023. Meanwhile, the driver from New Zealand participated in Formula One practice sessions with AlphaTauri and Red Bull in 2022.

Arguably his most impressive season came in 2021, when he returned to Germany to compete in DTM alongside his F2 duties. Driving an AF Corse Ferrari, Lawson came close to winning the championship as a rookie, but questionable tactics by his championship rivals led him to lose the championship in the last race to Maximilian Götz.

A boy in a black and orange racing suit with VAR branding smiles while looking to the lower right of the screen and lifts up a trophy that reads "Sieger Rennen 1, ADAC F4 DTM Lausitzring: 18–20.05.2018" (English: Winner, Race 1)
Liam Lawson, Lausitzring 2018 | Credit: ADAC F4

Théo Pourchaire: 2019 – Champion

Pourchaire only competed in one season of ADAC F4 in 2019, but the Frenchman made the most of it. Coming in with the experience from one season in French F4, Pourchaire impressed in ADAC F4, becoming champion at the first time of asking by beating Dennis Hauger in a tight season-long battle.

Pourchaire’s rise after ADAC F4 was rapid. He finished as FIA F3 runner-up in 2020 and made the step up to Formula 2 in 2021 with big expectations. While finishing fifth and second in two full F2 seasons is impressive, Pourchaire did not do enough to convince F1 teams to give him a seat for the 2023 season.

Pourchaire is set to return as the highest-placed returning driver for the second season in a row in 2023, aiming to fulfil his goal of winning F2 and reaching Formula One.

A boy in a white and blue racing suit holding a yellow and blue helmet smiles at the camera and holds up his right fist. Pink, orange, white and black cars line up behind him two by two.
Théo Pourchaire, Sachsenring 2019 | Credit: ADAC F4

Header photo credit: ADAC F4

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