Already contending with a more compact season than anticipated and an increasingly tight fight at the top of the table, the murmurs of F1 for 2021 are only likely to raise the stakes further for the leading F2 drivers this season.

As it stands, only 31 points cover the top five drivers after 14 races, with only ten more races over five rounds to come after Abu Dhabi was lopped off the end of the season.

Of those, at least three - but potentially five - could be in line for a promotion into F1, provided they are able to secure the Superlicence points they need to tick the necessary boxes.

 

 

It’s a measure of the effort and investment that has gone in to F1 teams’ young driver programmes that shows just how important they have become to nurturing talent, helped in part by the accomplishments of Alex Albon (Red Bull), Lando Norris (McLaren) and George Russell (Williams) raising the profile of the next generation.

Leading the race to get into F1 next year is perhaps a surprise contender in Yuki Tsunoda, who in recent rounds has positioned himself as a title contender with two wins in the Carlin car. Already well backed by Red Bull but especially by Honda, the Japanese firm is desperate to get one of its own into F1 on its terms having seen similar projects - Nobuharu Matsushita and Nirei Fukuzumi - blend into the background.

If Tsunoda lands the title or maybe even the top three, it certainly wouldn’t be against form for Red Bull to take a wild punt on him at AlphaTauri in place of Daniil Kvyat, where he’d stand to become the first Japanese driver in F1 since Kamui Kobayashi in 2014.

"Since he has started this year in Formula 2, he has showed good performance in practice, qualifying and the race," Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda technical director told Sky F1. "We are waiting for a Japanese Formula 1 driver so we are excited watching his performance at the track. 

“It's a good sign that F1 team people look at his performance. I hope he keeps going with his current momentum and then he has a good chance to get a seat in an F1 car."

With KimI Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi’s futures at Alfa Romeo next season unclear as the former considering retirement and the latter winning few over with his results, there are plenty of enticing options waiting in the wings there, while the Haas F1 Team is expected to replace at least one of its drivers for 2021.

Indeed, while Ferrari may be flopping in F1, its Ferrari Driver Academy (its prestigious but not terribly successful junior programme) is flourishing in F2 at least, filling three of the top four spots after Belgium.

Of these, it is the man in fourth - Mick Schumacher - that is arguably the most likely candidate to follow his legendary father into F1. This is the 2018 European F3 champion’s second season in F2 and he’s developing more consistency now to make that F1 transition more of a jump than a leap.

Then again, he will still prefer to come out on top of his FDA counterparts that sit atop the standings in Robert Shwartzman and Callum Ilott. Russian rookie Shwartzman - last year’s F3 champion - is almost certainly on course for F1 at some stage whether it’s 2021 or 2022, the well-backed but supremely talented youngster arguably the pick of the newbies.

In F2 terms Ilott isn’t so experienced but he made his F3 debut a full three years before Shwaztzman made his. It means most had written the Briton off before this season’s convincing run at the title, but with Ferrari influence behind him, a spot at Haas stands out for instance.

Rounding off the top five in F2 is Nikita Mazepin, who isn’t directly associated with an F1 team but has previously tested with Mercedes and Force India (Racing Point). Very well-backed, if he finishes the season well he could be a very attractive option for one of the most cash-starved outfits.

 

 

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