For many, F1 truly is the pinnacle of motorsports. Reaching a full-time F1 seat can be life-changing for drivers, and is a goal for so many kids in karts across the planet. To be considered one of the best 20 drivers in the world is an immense achievement.

While 2023’s summer break hasn’t been as ‘silly’ as past years in terms of driver swaps and contract disputes, there will certainly be some drivers in fear of keeping their drive for 2024. We previously looked at five drivers who could be at risk of losing their seat - let’s look at five that might be waiting patiently in the wings to take their place.

Alex Palou

Alex Palou is a name that has been known to the Formula 1 paddock and the wider motorsports world for some time now. The 2021 Indycar champion has pedigree, taking eight race victories in his three years in the sport, and is once again leading the championship this time around. 

The 26-year-old was at the centre of contract controversy in July 2022, when his team Chip Ganassi Racing stated he would be driving for them in 2023. Palou denied this, and it was announced he had joined McLaren’s roster of drivers - though it was unclear whether this was for McLaren’s IndyCar team.

Two months later it was settled and agreed that Palou would continue with Chip Ganassi for 2023 before signing for McLaren for 2024, as he was made test and reserve driver for McLaren’s F1 team, even partaking in an FP1 session at the Circuit of the Americas. 

The issue has once again arisen this summer, however, as he will not be honouring his McLaren contract for 2024. What it means for the F1 world is that one of IndyCar’s hottest talents is no longer tied to any rival organisation, and could therefore be available if they desired his services.

While Palou is a Spaniard, could having an IndyCar champion be of interest to the American Haas team? Kevin Magnussen has underperformed so far in 2023, and is out of contract going into next year. Palou would have both age and seemingly pace on his side in comparison to the Dane, and could bring immense commercial value to Gene Haas' team if American's take even more of an interest as a result.

The AlphaTauri seat currently occupied by Daniel Ricciardo could also become vacant come 2024, however there may be another prospect better placed for that oppurtunity…

Liam Lawson

Still just 21-years-old, Liam Lawson has made his case for a Formula 1 seat across several different series - most recently, the Japanese Super Formula.

The Kiwi has built upon an impressive 2022 F2 season that saw him finish third in the standings to show some real pace in Super Formula, taking three race victories in just six appearances so far. It adds to his ever-growing experience in single-seaters, alongside a magnificent 2021 DTM season in which he finished just three points off the championship.

A Red Bull Junior Driver since 2019, Lawson has participated in a number of free practice sessions and tests for AlphaTauri and Red Bull, and has been a reserve driver for both teams since last season. 

When Nyck De Vries was relieved of his duties earlier this season, Lawson was a name thrown around the paddock for someone who could take his place. It was Ricciardo who was awarded the seat, however the 31-year-old doesn’t fit the typical mould of the younger drivers normally in the Red Bull Sister Team. 

As a result, Ricciardo may not still be in the team past the end of 2023 - on his own accord or not. Lawson would then surely be in pole position for the place, given none of his other fellow juniors make more of a statement after the summer break.

Theo Pourchaire

Currently leading the F2 Championship at just 19, Theo Pourchaire has shown he has the pace and talent that should make him worthy of a seat in the top series.

The Frenchman is also a member of the Sauber Driver Academy, meaning he should be well placed for a smooth transition into their Formula 1 team. However, as things stand, that might not be so simple.

Neither Guanyu Zhou or Valtteri Bottas have made too much of an impression for Alfa Romeo this season, albeit their package hasn’t been great either. With Bottas penned down until at least the end of 2024, the team find themselves in a conundrum over Zhou, whose contract expires at the end of this season.

China’s only ever F1 driver was linked with a new deal at the start of the summer break, however that rumour seems to have gone quiet as time has gone on. It begs the question of whether Andreas Seidl and co. are turning their attention to Pourchaire, who is a talent they certainly wouldn’t want to lose.

Antonio Giovinazzi

While Giovinazzi lost his Alfa Romeo seat in 2021, his 24 Hours of Le Mans victory with Ferrari this year has put himself back amongst the elite names in motorsport.

At 29, it’s probably now or never for the Italian to get himself back in the Formula 1 fold, with younger and perhaps quicker drivers such as Lawson and Pourchaire also in the hunt for seats. However, he does have his Ferrari team on his side.

While it’s unlikely we’ll ever see Giovinazzi in a full-time F1 seat at the Scuderia, they might feel they should have a say in other teams - specifically, those they provide power units for. 

That’s when we turn our attention back to Haas. As mentioned, Magnussen isn’t performing to the best of his capabilities, and Giovinazzi tested with the outfit last season before Nico Hulkenberg was given the 2023 drive. While Hulkenberg has proven his worth, the other seat really could be up for grabs, and Gunther Steiner could be tempted by the idea of keeping his engine supplier happy, while also bringing in a driver seemingly at the top of his game.

Mick Schumacher

Perhaps the most unlikely on the list to have a shot at a seat for 2024, Mick Schumacher won’t be giving up on once again reaching the pinnacle of motorsport.

After two disappointing years with Haas, the son of seven-time World Champion Michael was left without a seat going into 2023. Mick never really reached the levels he had shown when winning the 2020 F2 Championship, and was under immense pressure as a result of his surname.

It’s likely many would’ve struggled in Schumacher’s circumstances at Haas, though, given the car wasn’t fantastic and was completely undeveloped in his debut 2021 season. Now, he finds himself at the hands of Toto Wolff and Mercedes, where he serves as their reserve driver.

Similarly to the situation of Giovinazzi, Schumacher could be hoping his team’s position as an engine supplier could be of benefit to him going forward. One team they provide a power unit for is Williams, and they might offer his best chance at a seat.

While Alex Albon has performed sensationally this season, rookie Logan Sargeant is yet to find the same form. The American has shown flashes of pace, though, and comes with strong commercial values.

If Sargeant can find some more tenths in the second half of the season, and more importantly score his first points, it’s likely his position will be safe for at least another year. However, if he drops back and fails to perform, Schumacher is probably best placed to take his spot.

Mercedes also have a history of getting their junior drivers into seats - Esteban Ocon similarly took a year out of the sport before Wolff helped him join Renault in 2020, while George Russell was a highlight of Williams’ team while being a Mercedes Young Driver. It could be in the German outfit’s best interests to get Schumacher back on the grid, given Lewis Hamilton will surely retire in the next five years.