If you want to get a flavour of which drivers might have a promising career ahead of them, it often pays to see who is in the F1 team Driver Academies. Being good enough, or sometimes being marketable enough, for an F1 team academy position will give a driver funding for a season with a top team, access to personal trainers, public speaker training, simulator work and all the other myriad strands that make up the modern single-seater driver. It is a coveted position but also once you have arrived, you must deliver the team’s required objectives to continue receiving their support.
Delivering the objectives set for you by the team, such as winning a particular championship will net you continued support. It might even deliver you a coveted F1 seat in time. Just ask Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, Esteban Ocon, George Russell, Lando Norris, Alex Albon, Kevin Magnussen, Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat to name but a few.
An academy driver will carry their affiliated team’s colours on their car either as full branding or sometimes just the logo. The driver might well wear the team’s race suit instead of their current team’s suit.
All of the teams have run academies at one time or another although it appears that currently, McLaren and Racing Point have no active junior programmes in place.
Haas are supporting two drivers but both Pietro Fittipaldi (age 24) in Super Formula and Louis Delétraz (aged 23) in F2 sadly do not appear to have a path to F1.
Mercedes have three non-F1 drivers on their books whom we will take a look at while also managing George Russell at Williams and having a stake in Esteban Ocon, currently at Renault.
Williams have four drivers on their roster, as do Sauber (the Alfa Romeo Driver Academy), with Renault having six supported drivers. But blowing them all out of the water are Ferrari and Red Bull who began the year with a whopping nine academy drivers apiece.
In this series, we will take a look at all of the academy drivers and see how they did in 2020 and assess where they might end up in 2021.