The Ferrari Driver Academy has developed some incredible drivers in the last few years. F1 graduates Mick Schumacher and Charles Leclerc are only a handful of names that raced with the Italian outfit during their years in the feeder series’ ladder, and many more have won championships for them. With eight drivers ready to impress in the 2023 season, here’s what to expect from each and every one of them.
By Daniele Spadi
Ollie Bearman (F2, Prema)
After impressing everyone in his rookie season in Formula 3 last year, Ollie Bearman got a much-deserved promotion to Formula 2 with Prema, and he’s definitely one of the main candidates to win it all in 2022. The first year in F2 can be daunting, and adapting to a more powerful car like the Dallara F2/18 is often the biggest step to take. However, Bearman looked really quick during post-season testing in Abu Dhabi, clocking the third fastest time on day 1 – and as he gets more comfortable in the car, he will definitely be a menace for everyone on the grid.
With Ferrari being less and less involved with Haas and Alfa Romeo as the years go by, it’s difficult to talk about Bearman’s chances at making the F1 grid in 2024. With Bottas and Magnussen being on a multi-year contract, the Brit could have a tough time trying to fit in any of the two teams, but a mighty F2 campaign could really play out in his favour.
Arthur Leclerc (F2, DAMS)
Arthur Leclerc has a very important season ahead of him. After a promising rookie year in F3 in 2021, the Monegasque failed to impress last season, not performing as expected and failing to show major improvements to his racecraft. However, he will feature on the F2 grid in 2023 with DAMS, snd it’s going to be crucial for him to stand out right from the beginning, challenging for podiums and race wins during the season.
If Bearman’s chances at graduating to Formula 1 in 2024 were low, Leclerc’s are even slimmer. It will be really hard to fit him into F1 next year, but a good maiden season in F2 could set him up for a brilliant 2024 as one of the main contenders for the title in the best championship that the feeder series’ world can offer. However, beating Bearman and fighting for the title could give him an outside chance.
Dino Beganovic (F3, Prema)
Beganovic was clearly the best driver in FRECA in 2022, claiming four wins and nine additional podiums on his way to the title. This year, the Swede will get his chance in Formula 3, partnering Paul Aron and Zak O’Sullivan at Prema. It will be a very interesting season for Beganovic, as he tries to win yet another championship for the Italian outfit.
After doing a solid job during post-season testing at Jerez, Beganovic will definitely be one of the main favorites to win the title in 2023, but his adaptability and consistency will be put to the test. With race weekends being on tracks that the Swede has never raced on, he will need to learn quickly and stay on top of his game for longer periods of time if he wants to win the championship and get a direct promotion to Formula 2 in 2024.
Rafael Camara (FRECA, Prema & FRMEC, Mumbai Falcons)
FRECA has always been kind to Prema, and the team are the favourite to win the title once again. Rafael Camara could be one of the challengers for the drivers’ championship. The Brazilian started his single-seater career last year and was mighty quick, winning two races in Italian F4 and shining in both ADAC F4 and F4 UAE.
Camara has already started his 2023 season in FRMEC with Mumbai Falcons, where he’s sitting in second place in the standings after a promising round 1 in Dubai. He’s shown good consistency and intelligent racecraft, but he will need to make a step forward if he wants to beat his main rivals this year – one of them being current FRMEC championship leader and future teammate Andrea Kimi Antonelli.
Maya Weug (FRECA, KIC Motorsport)
One of Camara’s rivals in FRECA in 2023 will be Spain’s Maya Weug. The 18-year-old is set to be racing for KIC Motorport as she makes the jump from Italian F4, where she performed very well given the piece of machinery she was dealing with. Weug was the first female driver to join the Ferrari Driver Academy, and she looks to keep improving in a much more powerful car compared to what she was used to drive in 2022.
Weug could find things tough on her debut in FRECA, but she was a fast learner in Italian F4, so the same could be expected this season. Being a consistent points scorer and the main KIC car for her rivals to worry about is definitely the aim for her, and she has the talent and speed to achieve both of these goals.
James Wharton (Italian F4, Prema & F4 UAE, Mumbai Falcons)
Being the only driver in the FDA to stay in the same category as 2022, Wharton simply has to win the title in Italian F4 this year. The Australian finished fifth last season, claiming five podiums but failing to win a single race; in 2023 he will have to show what he’s truly capable of and challenge for race wins in every single race weekend if he wants to be in the title fight altogether.
Wharton is currently competing in F4 UAE in the Middle East and is sitting in fourth, finishing on the podium in the opening race of the season. He’s shown good racecraft and overall speed, but ultimately failed to put everything together to challenge the likes of Ugo Ugochukwu and Arvid Lindblad, who will be two of his main rivals in Italian F4.
Tuukka Taponen (Italian F4, Prema & F4 UAE, Mumbai Falcons)
Finland’s Tuukka Taponen is one of the two new names that are joining the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2023: he’s the winner of the FDA Scouting World Finals and will therefore be racing in Italian F4 with Prema. There are many expectations on the Finn, as he looked really quick in post-season testing last November – his adaptability and raw talent could make him a dark horse for the title fight.
Taponen had a great start to his 2023 campaign, claiming two podiums in the first round of F4 UAE in Dubai and sitting in third place in the standings. If he grows fonder of the F4 car, he will definitely become a threat for everyone this season.
Aurelia Nobels (Italian F4, Iron Dames)
The latest addition to the Ferrari Driver Academy is Aurelia Nobels, who won the 2022 FIA Girls on Track Rising Stars programme. She competed in the Brazilian F4 Championship last year, claiming three points finishes in twelve races before having to sit out the last two rounds of the season. As the Brazilian enters a new championship in 2023, it’s going to be crucial for her to adapt quickly and learn as much as possible in what looks to be a year full of challenges.
Unlike her F4 rivals, Nobels isn’t competing in the Middle East at the start of 2023, and will instead focus on pre-season testing to improve her understanding of the car and practice on the new tracks she will have to learn and race on this season.
Header image credit: Ferrari Driver Academy
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