Following the influx of young talent into Formula 1 in recent years, 2020 will see a number of racers in various feeder series hoping to follow in the footsteps of Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, George Russell, Alexander Albon and, most recently, Nicholas Latifi.

Crash.net has picked out 10 juniors to watch out for through the 2020 season, all of whom will look to make a splash and stand out as a star for the future.

Mick Schumacher – Formula 2 with Prema Racing

After a so-so first season in Formula 2, Mick Schumacher enters 2020 knowing that nothing less than a title challenge will be enough to keep up the momentum needed to land an F1 seat in the near future.

Schumacher will remain with Prema Racing for his second year in F2, having scored one win – Hungary Sprint Race – through 2019. The concerning stat of finishing no higher than eighth in a Feature Race is one that he will need to rectify quickly this season, particularly with a brood of fellow Ferrari juniors with him on the grid.

The buzz around Schumacher remains as he bids to emulate his father and make the step up to F1, but he must do so on more than a famous surname. Alfa Romeo is likely to have an opening in the near future that would be perfect for whichever Ferrari academy member makes the best case.

The chance is there for Schumacher. It’s now up to him to take it.

Robert Shwartzman – Formula 2 with Prema Racing

Added pressure on Schumacher comes in the form of FIA Formula 3 champion Robert Shwartzman, who is not only a stablemate in the Ferrari Driver Academy, but also his Prema F2 teammate for 2020, acting as a perfect yardstick for both drivers.

Shwartzman was head and shoulders above the field in F3 last year, clinching the title with one round to spare, and will enter the F2 season as one of the early favourites.

The Russian enjoys backing from SMP Racing and has excelled at every level he has raced at, meaning he could vault to the front of the Ferrari junior pecking order with a good 2020.

Shwartzman will naturally have to acclimatise to a new race format – he’s never raced with pit stops or multiple tyre compounds before – but the likes of George Russell and Charles Leclerc proved it is possible to excel from the off in F2.

Callum Ilott – Formula 2 with UNI-Virtuosi Racing

The third of the five Ferrari youngsters racing in Formula 2 this year is Callum Ilott, who will also be plotting a title bid in his second season in the category.

Ilott had a patchy first season in F2, more down to his team than his own form, but we saw flashes of the brilliance that convinced Ferrari to snap him up in Monaco qualifying – P2 – and his charge to pole at Monza where he was in the fight for victory.

Stepping up to UNI-Virtuosi for 2020, Ilott has the opportunity to show his true colours and get in the mix with a front-running team. He has the experience many of his peers will lack stepping into F2 this year, something he will hope to use to his advantage.

Like Schumacher, Ilott is under pressure not to be leap-frogged by the likes of Shwartzman and Marcus Armstrong (also in F2 with ART Grand Prix) in the Ferrari pecking order – but similarly has a golden opportunity this year to stake a claim to a future F1 role.

Yuki Tsunoda – Formula 2 with Carlin

Red Bull rarely places members of its junior programme in Formula 2, instead preferring to station them in Super Formula (as we shall come to). But 2020 will see Yuki Tsunoda buck the trend by joining the F2 grid with Carlin.

Tsunoda graduates to F2 after just a single year at Formula 3-level, where he finished ninth in the FIA series and fourth in Euroformula Open. The dual-programme was an intense way to start life in Europe after winning the Japanese F4 title in 2018, but the Honda-backed youngster has shown promising signs. The most obvious came in charge from sixth on the grid to win at a damp Monza last year in the FIA F3 round.

The desire for a Honda-backed driver on the F1 grid is strong, with Tsunoda seeming like the best bet right now. Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko has set Tsunoda the target of a top-four finish in his rookie season, which seems somewhat lofty given it will be his first year at F2 level. Nevertheless, it will be fascinating to see how Tsunoda rolls with the punches.

Juri Vips – Super Formula with Team Mugen

Following the struggles of Dan Ticktum and Pato O’Ward as Red Bull’s representatives in Super Formula last year, Estonia’s Juri Vips will be hoping to buck the trend when he embarks on a full season in the series this year.

Vips – once a winner of ‘Estonia’s Got Talent’ for his mental maths skills – was an early title contender in FIA F3 last year before his campaign tailed off, leaving him fourth in the final standings.

He currently stands as the leading member of the Red Bull Junior Team, meaning a good year in Japan could put him in the frame for a future AlphaTauri drive should the desire to keep the conveyor belt of talent still burn brightly under the team’s new identity.

Super Formula has proven itself to be a tricky series to master. Pierre Gasly and Stoffel Vandoorne are two of the few European exports who have done so at the first attempt. Should Vips follow their lead, he could be gracing the F1 grid in the very near future.

Dan Ticktum – Formula 2 with DAMS

As mentioned, 2019 was not a particularly good year for Dan Ticktum as he posting to Japan lasted just three races. Struggles to get to grip with the car and acclimatise to the series meant Ticktum was dropped from the Red Bull programme altogether, acting a dip in a career filled with ups and downs.

The two-time Macau Grand Prix winner has secured a development role with Williams for the 2020 season, making him the leading junior driver on its books. He will complement commitments there with an F2 seat at DAMS, which won last year’s teams’ championship and helped Nicholas Latifi secure P2 in the standings.

It’s another opportunity to Ticktum to make good on the clear talent he has, arguably with the strongest team on the grid, and prove himself on the F1 undercard against a number of talented names.

Frederik Vesti – Formula 3 with Prema Racing

Frederik Vesti has a tough act to follow when he steps up to FIA F3 with Prema in 2019, given the trio of Shwartzman, Armstrong and Daruvala were able to sweep the top three in the standings last year.

But the Dane has already display his talents at F3 level, dominating last year’s Formula Regional European Championship with 13 wins in 24 races to romp to the title ahead of Enzo Fittipaldi.

Vesti will now move onto the F1 ladder with Prema, and will surely be expected to contend for the title in his rookie year to continue his recent momentum.

If he can replicate his 2019 form across the upcoming season, it would be little surprise to see an F1 team knocking on his door for an academy spot.

Theo Pourchaire – Formula 3 with ART Grand Prix

Another racer moving into FIA F3 for 2020 off the back of a title win is 16-year-old Theo Pourchaire, who will race for ART Grand Prix.

Pourchaire has only been in car racing two years, but has two titles to his name. He won the French F4 junior championship in 2018 (by virtue of being too young for the main standings), and then took the ADAC F4 title in Germany last year at the first attempt.

Pourchaire will be one of the youngest drivers on the FIA F3 grid this year, but has all the backing he needs with ART Grand Prix, a team proven in junior formulae. He is also a member of the Sauber Junior Team.

The step from F4 to F3 will be Pourchaire’s biggest challenge yet, but if he can continue his recent progression, he’ll surely start to stand out as one of the bright young talents who could grace F1 in the future.

Liam Lawson – Formula 3, team TBA

Stepping into Formula 3 at the age of 16 may seem daunting for Pourchaire, but Red Bull junior Liam Lawson acts as proof that it is possible to do so with aplomb.

Lawson beat Marcus Armstrong to the Toyota Racing Series title in his native New Zealand last winter before embarking on a dual-programme 2019 in FIA F3 and Euroformula Open. He took four wins en route to P2 in the latter, and reached the podium twice on the F1 undercard.

Lawson is the early leader in the TRS standings again this year with three wins in the first six races, and while he is yet to confirm his programme, a return to FIA F3 looks likely.

Now 17, Lawson will hope to put his experience to good use and plot an assault on the title.

Jonny Edgar – Formula 4 with Jenzer Motorsport

If you’re looking to reach far down the junior motorsport ladder for 2020, then keep an eye out for 15-year-old Jonny Edgar as he embarks on a dual Formula 4 programme.

Edgar was snapped up by Red Bull while he was still in go-karts before graduating to single-seaters last year, finishing 10th in his first year in Italian F4.

Edgar will link up with the experienced Van Amersfoort Racing team for the 2020 season, racing in both Italy and Germany as he sets his sights on some silverware.

It’s a well-trodden path for many of the top juniors today, and Edgar will want to stand out to prove himself as one of the drivers who can be a leading light for British motorsport in the future.

 

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