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In the modern era, most of the truly special drivers—the potential grand prix winners and future world champions—tend to emerge from a young-driver academy of some description.
But for those with no links to Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes or Williams, the telltale sign of how good an up-and-coming driver is, and how great they may become, is when a number of teams fall over themselves to get a good, close look.
That was the case for Robin Frijns, who despite never making a grand prix appearance drove in the colours of three separate teams.
After accumulating three different junior championships in consecutive years—Formula BMW Europe (2010), Formula Renault 2.0 (2011) and Formula Renault 3.5 (2012), becoming the first debutant to win the latter since Robert Kubica—Frijns participated for two different outfits in a single young-driver test at Abu Dhabi in 2012.
The Dutchman was let loose in Sebastian Vettel's championship-winning Red Bull RB8 as a reward for claiming the 3.5 title and also appeared for Sauber, who subsequently signed Frijns in a reserve role for 2013.
Just days after representing the Swiss outfit in the young-driver test at Silverstone that July, Frijns was dropped by his GP2 team, telling GPUpdate.net how he had "no (sponsorship) money," before leaving Sauber in September.
Despite his lack of financial backing, Frijns clung on to the fringes of F1 by becoming the third driver at Caterham, where he came close to a breakthrough in the pinnacle of motorsport.
Tony Fernandes, the team owner, told GPUpdate.net that Caterham were tempted to employ him as one of their two race drivers, such was their excitement over his potential, before deciding to "be a little bit conservative in giving him time to get used to F1."
Caterham's high opinion of their young driver was evident in the amount of track time he was afforded in 2014, with Frijns appearing in pre-season testing as well as practice sessions in Bahrain and Silverstone.
If they did intend to hand Frijns a grand prix debut, however, they missed their window of opportunity as the team suffered terminal financial problems, with a Caterham seat going to the highest bidder in the closing months of the season.
At a time the independent teams faced more money worries than ever before, Frijns—who denied he rejected an offer to join Red Bull's young-driver scheme, per the official Formula E website—was frozen out of F1.
Still just 24, he finished second in the Blancpain sportscar series in 2015 and is currently competing in the second season of the all-electric series, where F1 careers go to die.