Introducing the 2015 Formula 1 Rookies
Three rookies will sit on the Formula One grid when the season kicks off in Melbourne.
Red Bull Junior Team graduates Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz, Jr. will pair up to give Toro Rosso an all-new lineup. Verstappen will make history as the youngest driver the sport has ever seen, while Sainz will be hoping to make as great an impact on F1 as his legendary father made in rallying.
They'll be joined by fellow newcomer Felipe Nasr, who will drive for Sauber after a year of testing for Williams.
Last year saw the debuts of Kevin Magnussen and Marcus Ericsson. One no longer has a drive, while the other no longer has the £10-£12 million of sponsorship cash in his back pocket, after handing it over to Sauber to remain on the grid for 2015.
The other 2014 rookie, Daniil Kvyat, fared a little better—he'll drive for Red Bull this year after a strong debut with Toro Rosso.
How will the class of 2015 do?
Here we introduce each driver and look at his career to date. Where he drove, where he finished and—perhaps most importantly—how he stacked up against his team-mates.
|Titles||2009 Formula BMW Europe, 2011 British Formula Three |
Like most young drivers, Felipe Nasr began karting at a young age. Per DriverDB, his first title came at the age of eight—a regional Cadet championship in his native Brasilia.
By 2008, he was Brazilian Junior champion and ready to try his hand at proper single-seaters. Entering the final round of that year's Formula BMW Americas series, Nasr drove for his uncle's team, Amir Nasr Racing, and finished fifth and third in the two races.
Buoyed by this successful debut, the youngster moved to Europe to pursue his dream and won the Formula BMW Europe title at the first time of asking. The British Formula Three title came two years later.
After a brief return to the Americas, where he finished third in the 2012 24 Hours of Daytona, Nasr joined the highly successful DAMS team in GP2. He didn't have the best of debut years; while experienced team-mate Davide Valsecchi took the championship, Nasr managed just four podiums, no wins and a final position of 10th.
He failed to win a race in 2013, too, but consistent scoring kept him in the title hunt for most of the year. A late slump in form knocked the Brazilian down to a respectable but disappointing fourth, ahead of team-mate Jolyon Palmer.
It was nonetheless an improvement, and Nasr was signed as test and reserve driver for Williams in 2014.
He made five free practice appearances and also raced in GP2, winning four races on his way to third in the championship.
Nasr has substantial backing from Banco do Brasil but knew a promotion within Williams was impossible. Instead, he took his chequebook to Sauber to secure a 2015 F1 race seat. Per Sports Pro, the Swiss team will receive somewhere in the region of $24 million.
It would be easy to write him off as just another moderately talented pay-driver, but that may not necessarily be the case. Everyone needs a budget or backing from a big team to get into F1.
If he can consistently produce the pace he most certainly possesses, Nasr could surprise a few people in 2015.
Career Highlights and Team-Mate Comparison
|2009||F. BMW Europe||5||392||1st||Daniel Juncadella (2nd)|
|2010||British F3||1||136||5th||Carlos Huertas (10th)|
|2011||British F3||7||318||1st||Kevin Magnussen (2nd)|
|2012||GP2||0||95||10th||Davide Valsecchi (1st)|
|2013||GP2||0||154||4th||Jolyon Palmer (7th)|
|2014||GP2||4||224||3rd||Julian Leal (10th)|
|Titles||None (but many in karting)|
Max Verstappen will be the youngest driver in F1 history when he makes his debut aged 17 years, five months and 13 days at the Australian Grand Prix.
The youngster started karting early even by modern standards, but it was to be expected—motorsport is in his blood.
Many of us will be familiar with his father, Jos Verstappen, who started 106 grands prix in the 1990s and early 2000s, but it runs much deeper with Max. His mother and grandfather also raced, and his uncle Anthony Kumpen is a moderately successful sports car driver.
With a family like that there was only ever going to be one outcome. By the age of six, Verstappen was racing regularly and, per Red Bull, he won his first title in 2005—winning every one of the 21 races.
Shortly afterward, Jos began guiding his son's career full-time, and Max progressed through the karting ranks, winning as he went. In 2013, he took the KZ World Championship and was ready to step up to real single-seaters.
The usual approach at this stage would be one of the lesser categories such Formula Renault 1.6 or 2.0. However, Max went straight up to one of the most competitive junior formulae around—the European Formula Three Championship.
Racing against more experienced opponents, Verstappen was on the podium in his third race and won his sixth from pole. A string of six successive victories at Spa and the Norisring catapulted him into title contention and caught the eye of both Red Bull and Mercedes.
Autosport reported he received offers to join both teams' young driver programmes. He opted for Red Bull, and soon after it was announced, he would move straight to F1 in 2015 with Toro Rosso.
The move sparked plenty of debate. Some thought he was too young, and the FIA agreed—a minimum age of 18 will be brought in from the start of next season. But in an FIA press conference, his fellow drivers appeared to be OK with it.
Verstappen is a rarity in this day and age—a driver who has made it to F1 on talent alone. He'll face a very steep learning curve, but his talent cannot be denied and there's a good chance he's the real deal.
And despite his physical age, mentally he comes across as very mature. He should do just fine.
Career Highlights and Team-Mate Comparisons
|2014||FDA Florida Winter Series||2||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|2014||European F3||10||411||3rd||Gustavo Menezes (11th)|
|Name||Carlos Sainz, Jr.|
|Titles||2011 Formula Renault 2.0 NEC, 2014 Formula Renault 3.5|
Carlos Sainz, Jr. is another product of a motoring family—anyone with even a passing interest in rallying will have heard of his father. Carlos Sainz won the World Rally Championship twice and started more WRC events than any other driver.
Sainz the younger was seven when he got his first taste of karting at a venue owned by his father and has competed regularly since the age of 10.
His first season in proper single-seaters was 2010. Sainz entered the 2010 Formula BMW Europe championship, where he raced against such names as Robin Frijns and Daniil Kvyat.
The rookie finished a credible fourth with a single win, adding two more victories in Formula BMW Pacific, and became a member of the Red Bull Junior Team.
Sainz had four Formula Renault 2.0 outings that year as well. In 2011, he switched to the formula full-time and immediately found success. He beat team-mate Daniil Kvyat to the Northern European Cup title and finished second in the Eurocup—again ahead of Kvyat.
The Spaniard was flying, but his promising career ran into a brick wall in 2012. He moved up to Formula Three but failed to make a big impact in either the British or European championships. Sainz was fifth in the former, ninth in the latter.
He switched to GP3 for 2013 but the change of scenery did little good. Teamed once again with Kvyat—who he'd beaten in three championships earlier in his career—Sainz was nowhere.
While the Russian took the title at the final round in Abu Dhabi, winless Sainz trailed in 10th. He also failed to impress in selected appearances in Formula Renault 3.5.
Kvyat was promoted to Toro Rosso and Sainz went to do a full season of FR3.5, knowing he needed to do well to bring himself back up the Red Bull ladder. He took the DAMS seat vacated by F1-bound champion Kevin Magnussen—the pressure to succeed could not have been higher.
Fortunately, he was able to put the two disappointing years behind him. Sainz dominated the season, taking seven wins from 17 races and the title with a race to spare. A test for Red Bull at Abu Dhabi followed before the news broke that he would drive for Toro Rosso in 2015.
Sainz had a somewhat erratic junior career, but he would not have been retained for so long by Red Bull if they didn't see in him the potential to do well at the highest level.
If the Carlos Sainz of 2011 and 2014 shows up in Melbourne, he'll be well worth a watch.
Career Highlights and Team-Mate Comparisons
|2010||F. BMW Europe||1||227||4th||Daniil Kvyat (10th)|
|2011||FR2.0 Eurocup||2||200||2nd||Daniil Kvyat (3rd)|
|2011||FR2.0 NEC||10||489||1st||Daniil Kvyat (2nd)|
|2012||F3 Euroseries||0||112||9th||William Buller (5th)|
|2012||British F3||5||224||6th||Jack Harvey (1st)|
|2013||GP3||0||66||10th||Daniil Kvyat (1st)|
|2014||FR3.5||7||227||1st||Norman Nato (7th)|