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Insight: how the young pretenders to 2017 F1 race seats qualify for super licences

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Insight: how the young pretenders to 2017 F1 race seats qualify for super licences
Sep 13, 2016, 7:05 PM

The starting gun on the Formula 1 driver market for 2017 was fired with the news that Felipe Massa will retire from Williams at the end of the seas...

The starting gun on the Formula 1 driver market for 2017 was fired with the news that Felipe Massa will retire from Williams at the end of the season and Stoffel Vandoorne will replace Jenson Button at McLaren.

He already has an FIA Superlicence, which is a must for drivers wanting to race in F1. But what of the other young drivers, pushing for a chance to race in F1 next season?

All of the seats at Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari were confirmed some time ago, but as outlined in these pages last weekend, the rest of the teams are yet to confirm their driver line-ups for next year.

Lance Stroll, a Williams development driver and current leader of the FIA Formula 3 championship, has been heavily linked to Massa’s seat at the Grove-based squad and the Canadian driver guaranteed that he would qualify for an FIA super licence by securing the points he needed at last weekend’s F3 races at the Nurburgring to ensure he will finish no lower than fourth in the championship.

lance-stroll-f3

With a number seats looking likely to open up on the 2017 grid, several other drivers currently competing in the junior categories have the chance to step up to F1.

JAonF1 introduces four pretenders to a 2017 seat and examines whether they would qualify for an F1 super licence.

Super licence rules:

Max Verstappen’s meteoric rise to F1 for the start of 2015 after just a single season of car racing led to the FIA dramatically change how young drivers qualified for an F1 super licence.

Rules that came into force for the start of this season mean that all prospective F1 drivers must be at least 18-years-old and have completed at least 80 per cent of two seasons in lower single-seater categories. They also need to hold a Grade A competition licence, a valid ‘civilian’ driving licence, pass a test on the FIA’s sporting regulations and accumulate at least 40 qualification points during the three-year period preceding their super licence application.

Max Verstappen

There are 14 current motor sport series that offer super licence points, as well as the FIA’s proposed future Formula 2 series. The winner of the Formula E championship is also given a super licence but the series itself does not provide qualification points.

The winner of the future FIA F2 series, as well as the champions of GP2, FIA F3, World Endurance Championship LMP1 and IndyCar, will all receive 40 points, and the winner of the Formula V8 series gets 35 – with points awarded to the top ten drivers in each of those championships.

A GP3 title earns 30 points, Super Formula (the Japanese series where Vandoorne is competing this season) awards 25, while the World Touring Car Championship, DTM and Indy Lights winner will receive 15, and the V8 Supercars winner could get 13.

BRDC British Formula 3
BRDC British Formula 3

National FIA Formula 4 winners get 12 points, with national F3 and Formula Renault EuroCup, ALPS or NEC champions earning 10. A CIK-FIA Senior karting champion would be awarded 5 points.

If a driver earns the 40 points needed for a super licence but does not get an F1 seat immediately, they are given a three-year period of grace. This would mean those points were still valid during that time if the driver was testing but not racing in F1.

A drivers that goes through a full season of those series without being hit by any penalty points for infractions will be given two super licence points as a reward for safe driving.

Pascal Wehrlein

All new F1 drivers must also have accumulated 300km of testing experience in a recent F1 car before they can appear at an official event.

Possible candidates for 2017 seats:

Sergey Sirotkin

Sauber signed Sirotkin back in 2013 with a view to running him as a race driver in 2014. But he only tested and made an FP1 appearance for the Swiss squad that year and then moved into GP2 for 2015, where he finished third in the standings.

This season the Russian driver has stayed in the F1 feeder series racing for the ART team and he currently sits fourth in the championship. Sirotkin already has 42 super licence points, which would become 60 if he finishes the season in his current position.

Sergey Sirotkin

The 21-year-old also appeared in FP1 for Renault at the Russian Grand Prix and he tested for the Enstone-based squad at the mid-season F1 test that followed the British Grand Prix.

Sirotkin is ready to move up from GP2 and is likely to appeal to teams that may need money going forward, like Sauber.

Lance Stroll

The current FIA F3 championship leader was signed as a Williams development for this season and has been heavily linked as a possible replacement for Massa’s seat for 2017.

The 17-year-old has already been conducting a private F1 testing programme in older Williams cars alongside his F3 campaign for Prema Powerteam.

Lance Stroll

Stroll would have 60 points if he finishes in his current championship position. He will turn 18 at the end of October.

Antonio Giovinazzi

Giovinazzi is currently second in the GP2 standings and is the high-placed rookie driver so far this season. He has also won four races, including a feature/sprint race double in Baku, and was recently given a simulator run by Ferrari.

The Italian currently has 36 super licence points thanks to his strong performances over the last three seasons in FIA F3, which will become 76 if he finishes GP2 in his current position.

antonio-giovinazzi-prema-baku2016-4165

He would be an outsider for an F1 seat as he has no existing ties to a team but his impressive GP2 performances mean he is well in the title hunt and that has made him an attractive up-and-coming F1 prospect.

Pierre Gasly

The Red Bull junior driver has been linked with a move to Toro Rosso in 2017 ever since Verstappen was swapped with Daniil Kvyat at the Italian team on the eve of the Spanish Grand Prix.

Senior Red Bull figures, including its team principal Christian Horner, have insisted Kvyat remains a part of Toro Rosso’s plans but Gasly’s strong GP2 form for Prema means speculation that the Frenchman could be promoted to F1 has grown stronger.

Pierre Gasly

The 20-year-old currently has 39 super licence points – largely thanks to his second place in Formula Renault 3.5 (which is now Formula V8) in 2014 and his Formula Renault Eurocup title in 2013 – and he has tested extensively for Toro Rosso and Red Bull in the last two seasons. If he wins the GP2 championship this year his super licence total would rise to 69 points.

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Driver Age Current championship
position
F1 test or FP1
appearence
Current SL points Future* SL points
Sirotkin 21 3rd in GP2 Both 42 60
Stroll 17 1st in FIA F3 Private tests N/A 60
Giovinazzi 22 2nd in GP2 No 36 76
Gasly 20 1st in GP2 Tests 39 69

*Future total based on the points given to current championship position

Another up-and-coming-driver that has recently been linked to an F1 seat in 2017 is Charles Leclerc. The GP3 racer has emerged as a candidate to possibly replace Esteban Gutierrez at Haas F1, the team Leclerc drove for in FP1 at the British Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc

What do you make of the young pretenders to F1 race seats? Do you think any of them will be on the grid in 2017? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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