One sporting change in the new generation of Formula 1 regulations from 2022 was a specification that every driver must give up one free practice session per year to a ‘rookie’ who has completed fewer than three grand prix.
While that can seem a pretty unimpactful rule, it does actually have practical implications. Logan Sargeant‘s place in F1 for 2023 could’ve come down to the Super Licence point he earned for driving 100km in FP2 at the 2022 Sao Paulo GP.
And it was interesting to compare the various successes and failures over the season too – newly crowned IndyCar champion Alex Palou really impressed when given his chance by McLaren. For 2023, expect to see appearances ramp up in the closing stages of the season, after no team chose to use a rookie before the summer break.
There is a loophole, that teams fielding a rookie as a full-time driver also don’t need to field another one as a practice substitute.
But in that boat last season, Alfa Romeo still gave Theo Pourchaire the chance to sit in for Zhou Guanyu at the US GP, so it remains to be seen whether McLaren, Williams and AlphaTauri will follow suit.
Felipe Drugovich – Aston Martin
The reigning F2 champion replaced Lance Stroll for FP1 at the Italian GP – which actually turned out to be a pretty unhelpful deal for the Canadian when his Aston Martin packed up just a few minutes into Friday afternoon.
The team’s run plan focussed on the medium tyres and Drugovich was alright, but just alright. Predictably he was slower than Fernando Alonso and probably didn’t show much that’ll turn the heads of any other teams, but equally didn’t make any major errors.
Drugovich later told Sky Sports he’s expecting to also stand in for Alonso later in the season, where he’ll hope to push Stroll close.
Robert Shwartzman – Ferrari
Handed a bit of a raw deal at the 2023 Dutch Grand Prix, the 2018 F3 champion didn’t get chance to run on the soft tyres thanks to Ferrari‘s run plan.
That being said, Shwartzman finished last of the runners who set a time at three seconds behind pacesetter Max Verstappen.
Despite never racing in F1, Shwartzman is pretty experienced especially for a 23-year-old – he’s done plenty of F1 testing for Ferrari plus two free practice sessions in 2022 and enjoyed a seven-year junior career including two years of F2.
Shwartzman was eight-tenths behind 18th-placed Nico Hulkenberg, who crashed out of the session, and 1.3 seconds away from Charles Leclerc.
The Ferrari junior is likely to appear in Abu Dhabi too so will have a second chance to stand out, but will need to improve on his Zandvoort performance.
Frederik Vesti – Mercedes
The F2 driver will race for Mercedes in FP1 of the Mexican GP, likely replacing George Russell.