It’s that exciting time of year again on the F1 ladder. The world is full of possibilities for not just the teams and drivers already competing in Formula 1, but for those who harbour a dream of one day getting there. Each year we like to compile a list of up-and-coming drivers we think you should keep an eye out for, and this year there’s ten exciting prospects we’ll have our eyes on.
10 future F1 champions to watch in 2023
1. Victor Martins
2022: F3 Champion
This year: Racing in F2 with ART
We try not to repeat drivers on our list too much, but after the dramatic conclusion to the 2022 season we feel that a return of focus to Victor Martins is deserved. At 21 he’s quite late on the ladder, but that’s mostly because he spent the large part of his youngest years as a gymnast rather than a racing driver – in fact Martins is the former French junior champion.
Since he made the full-time switch to motorsport there has been a steady rise. Martins has never been one for suddenly bursting through a championship, but has shown an ability to progress year-on-year at every level. His Formula Renault crown came in year three, his F3 crown in year two, so we expect this to be a learning year for the young Frenchman but, given he’s won a race in his first season at every level, don’t count him out entirely just yet.
2. Dino Beganovic
2022: Formula Regional champion
2023: Racing in F3 with Prema
If Dino Beganovic makes it to Formula 1 he will be the first Bosnian passport holder to do so – the 19-year-old Ferrari junior holds dual Swedish and Bosnian nationality. His promise was shown in karting over a decade ago, and he became the Swedish and Italian champion in 2019 before making the switch to cars at the beginning of the pandemic. His first season in an F4 car was a showcase of what he might be able to do.
Third in the Italian F4 championship brought a switch the following year to dual Asian and European Formula Regional Championship assaults (he’s actually racing in a third season of FRegional as I write this article). In Europe he showed exactly what he could do when teamed up with a top team. As a Ferrari junior he was slotted straight into Prema Powerteam and last year won the title at a relative canter. Four victories may not seem like a huge amount, but the consistency that came with it (he was hardly off the podium) will serve him well as he makes the step up.
3. Hugh Barter
2022: F4 France and Spain runner-up
2023: F3 with Campos
When a 17-year-old successfully navigates a dual programme in two top F4 championships in two different countries, on the other side of the world to the land of his birth, you sit up and take notice. Hugh Barter – born in Japan but brought up in Australia – won 12 F4 races in 2022 across two different championships, and finished second overall in both.
The run that really makes us pay attention was the second half of the Spanish F4 championship, where Barter finished on the podium in 11 of the final 12 races, winning five. A sluggish start to the season meant that wasn’t enough to overcome Nikola Tsolov (more on him later) but teamed up with his runner-up finish in French F4 – a championship he first raced in aged just 15 – and we’re very interested. His challenge this year will be to bed into fully international racing in Formula 3, but hopping between Spain and France over 2022 should serve him in good stead.
4. Franco Colapinto
2022: 9th in F3
2023: Racing in F3 with MP Motorsport
I like to throw a bit of a wildcard or two into these lists every year, and Argentinian Franco Colapinto is one of those for 2023. On the face of it his 2022 season in F3 wasn’t particularly striking. He won two races, but spent more time out of the points than in it. But that doesn’t tell the whole story of Colapinto’s last few seasons.
While most young single-seater hopefuls pin everything on season after season in the open-wheel junior categories, Colapinto already has a world of experience that his rivals would love to have. While competing in Formula Regional in 2021, Colapinto also raced an entire season in the European Le Mans Series, and the Asian Le Mans Series, two rounds of the World Endurance Championship, the Le Mans 24 Hours, one race in GT World Challenge Europe and another in the Intercontinental GT challenge. That will provide valuable world experience no matter where Colapinto chooses to go. The transition back to solo racing wasn’t totally smooth, but his knowledge of changing teams should help with the switch to MP Motorsport, if he finds more consistent speed this could be a big year for Franco Colapinto.
5. Oliver Goethe
2022: 1st in Euroformula Open
2023: Racing in F3 with Trident
Winning Euroformula Open is perhaps not the highest of shining accomplishments in the junior ladder, but Goethe did so convincingly, winning 11 races of the 26 on offer. But it’s his brief appearances with Campos Racing in F3 that caught our attention. Four races, split across trips to the Hungaroring and Spa gleaned 15 points from two top ten finishes. There were ten full-season entries that managed to accrue fewer points than Goethe.
His other single seater experience, across F4 and Formula Regional, is less than convincing, but if Goethe can find the knack for F3 that fast and keep hold of it, we could become very interested in the Monaco-born Dane.
6. Nikola Tsolov
2022: F4 Spain Champion
2023: Racing in F3 with ART
Nikola Tsolov was 15 when he clinched the Spanish F4 title. He only turned 16 in December last year, he won’t be legally allowed to drive a car in the UK until after he has completed his first season in F3. That showcases some of the potential excitement that we might find surrounding this young prodigy from Sofia.
Tsolov won 13 races of the 21 in the Spanish season, and in Formula Regional Middle East this winter he jumped straight into points-scoring positions. His karting record is OK, but it would be hard to ignore a young driver pulling out such a hot streak, especially in his first season in car racing. That incredible level of consistency – only finishing off the podium three times in 2022 – and the confidence that must flow from it can only serve Tsolov well in F3.
7. Louis Foster
2022: Champion Indy Pro 2000
2023: Indy Nxt with Andretti
A paucity of money and opportunities can often send junior drivers over to the other side of the Atlantic for opportunities. And that’s exactly what happened to Louis Foster. The Hampshire native finished third in British F3 in 2020, and followed that up with second in Euroformula Open in 2021, a finish that saw him nominated to the Autosport BRDC Award.
Rather than progress into F3, Foster moved to America, signing for a season on the third rung of the IndyCar ladder after impressing in a private test. In his 2022 championship season, he did what all potential stars need to do, he showed impressive and consistent progress. Early-season podiums became race wins and, perhaps more impressively, Foster won his first ever oval race. The consistency he found in the second half of the season clinched him the championship as a rookie and the chance to race with Andretti in Indy Nxt this year. Historically moving to America blunts a young driver’s chances of making it to F1, but the buzz around Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward seems to be just pushing that door open again.
8. Josh Pierson
2022: IMSA, WEC, AsLMS
2023: Indy NXT with HMD, World Endurance Championship with United Autosports
Another slightly leftfield option. Josh Pierson is the youngest person ever to complete the Le Mans 24 Hours. At the age of 17 he has already raced at Daytona, completed a season of IMSA and finished third in the LMP2 category of the World Endurance Championship. One of the only things that could stop Pierson from progressing to the top of single seater racing, is that he seems intent on racing in sportscars.
But, the significant change for the youngster from Oregon this year is that he has been signed up by Ed Carpenter Racing as a development driver for its IndyCar programme, alongside racing in the Road to Indy ladder in Indy NXT with HMD. Pierson’s previous open wheel experience was in F2000, where he struggled in 2020 and put together a solid 2021. Hardly the shining showcase of a future motorsport legend, but in his first F2000 season he was 14, and when he stood on the podium for the first time, he was just 15. Now at the age of 17, barely able to drive a road car, he has completed full seasons in global championships and has won races. His peers can talk as much as they like about wins in junior formula, Pierson’s experience may well set him apart.
9. Oliver Bearman
2022: 3rd in F3
2023: Racing in F2 with Prema
The second driver to return to this list was a nearly man for the F3 championship in 2022. As the slightly bizarre finale ended with the title contenders all in the pit lane, a slightly different decision from the stewards on lap countback could well have seen the young Brit walking away as a rookie champion, rather than Martins.
The fact that he didn’t doesn’t take anything away from Bearman’s talent. He only won a single race, but the way that he learned his craft through his only F3 season was incredibly impressive. A first race podium was followed by a difficult period of three races outside of the points. But rather than flounder, Bearman picked himself up and scored points in all but three of the remaining races.
This will be the first season that Bearman has stepped straight into a new series rather than having a second crack at it. What will be important to see now is whether he manages the immediate step up into F2 or whether a second season in F3 would have been better to establish himself. If he does well in F2 then Ferrari will start to look at him as a future prospect with increased interest.
10. Abbi Pulling
2022: 4th in W Series
2023: Racing in F1 Academy with Rodin Carlin
Perhaps the most convincing of the W Series challengers so far, other than Jamie Chadwick, has been Abbi Pulling. Aged 18 she secured her first podium in the series in her fourth race. At 19 she added two more, challenged for race victories and clinched fourth in the championship, only beaten by three more experienced drivers who had raced in every season of W Series.
For 2023 she has been one of the first drivers announced for F1’s own all-women championship F1 Academy, which debuts in 2023. Using similar cars to W Series, Pulling should have the experience to kick start a title bid straight away, and with the support of Alpine as a junior driver there’s no reason Pulling can’t develop into the first full-time female F1 driver.
What happened to our 2022 future f1 champions?
You may notice that there’s not a massive amount of F2 drivers in this list – there’s two – and that’s because the field this year either has people we’ve mentioned before or drivers that we don’t really see moving up any time soon. Jack Doohan is the obvious one to mention here. His first season in F2 was a real showcase of his potential, if he isn’t a title contender in 2023 we would be surprised.
Dennis Hauger did not do as well. There was a definite struggle to adapt at times to the faster machinery, the Norwegian wasn’t as quick to acquit himself to F2 as Doohan or as his dominant F3 championship win suggested. Theo Pourchaire has also found himself in something of a trough. Having been right up there for the F3 title in 2020 with Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant, Pourchaire has not kicked on the way the other two did. He moves into a third consecutive F2 season under pressure to deliver a title.
Caio Collett progressed from ninth in F3 in 2021 to eighth in 2022 and will remain in F3 for another season, whereas Victor Martins took the title and retains a place on our list. Zak O’Sullivan really struggled, managing 11th in his first F3 season with two podium finishes to his name while Oliver Bearman found himself a place on this list for the second year in a row, like Martins. Pato O’Ward had a mixed season in IndyCar, winning two races, but dropping from third to seventh in the overall standings.
Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.
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