The 2024 Formula 1 season sees no driver changes from the previous year for the first time ever, but that’s helped push more young stars into reserve roles on the brink of F1 as all but one team has announced their reserve driver lineup so far.
There’s eight drivers waiting in the wings should anyone have a repeat of Nyck de Vries or Daniel Ricciardo‘s 2023 seasons, from former grand prix drivers to F2 prodigies and even a double-world champion taking his first step into F1.
The free practice rookie rule has also pushed these drivers in front of the limelight as 11 drivers took to the track in 2023 having never raced a grand prix, but the blockage to the top seats remains worse than ever with most teams giving rookies at least two years in F1 before pulling the plug.
Red Bull & Visa Cash App RB: Liam Lawson
The hottest property on the driver market right now? Lawson enjoyed an undeniably successful but sometimes hit-and-miss junior career, unfortunately performing at his worst in the F1 support races.
However, after a mightily impressive Super Formula campaign, Lawson was drafted in for AlphaTauri at the 2023 Dutch Grand Prix for the injured Ricciardo and took to F1 like a duck to water.
He overtook Max Verstappen at Zandvoort (how many other drivers can say that about their F1 debut?) and would later dump the Dutchman out of Q2 in Singapore on his way to points in just his grand prix.
While he can’t bank on a similar scenario in 2024, Lawson would surely be the first port of call for the majority of teams if they’re pursuing a permanent mid-season swap and the Kiwi will also surely be monitoring Sergio Perez‘s form with interest.
Red Bull also have development partnerships with at least two drivers eligible for FIA super licences: Jake Dennis and Ayumu Iwasa – plus potentially Isack Hadjar – and share their pool with the artist formerly known as AlphaTauri.
Mercedes: Mick Schumacher
Mercedes made Mick Schumacher their reserve driver despite his commitments with another team for 2024, it will be his second season with the team after he spent his junior career with Ferrari.
Frederik Vesti could also be in the mix, the reigning Formula 2 runner-up is yet to announce his plans for 2024 but is still listed as a Mercedes driver and spent two free practice sessions behind the wheel of the W14.
But while the experienced Dane appears the lead candidate right now, that could all change from the 25th August – when Mercedes junior superstar Andrea Kimi Antonelli turns 18 and can immediately claim his FIA Super Licence.
While it may seem a bit forward backing someone who was driving in Formula Regional Europe last year to step up to F1 in 2024, Antonelli really is that prodigious.
Ferrari: Antonio Giovinazzi, Robert Shwartzman, Oliver Bearman
An interesting mix of youth and experience, Antonio Giovinazzi would surely be the preseason favourite to step up if Charles Leclerc or Carlos Sainz were unavailable after already writing himself into Ferrari folklore as part of their 2023 Le Mans victory.
‘Italian Jesus’ never did enough to establish himself as a long-term F1 driver and didn’t look too impressive on his last grand prix weekend appearance – in two free practice sessions with Haas in 2022 – but still has 62 races under his belt at this level as is a safe pair of hands.
However, Ollie Bearman can change all of that. Still aged just 18, Bearman‘s enjoyed a stellar career in the lower junior formulas including finishing third as an F3 rookie, and finished sixth in his debut F2 campaign.
Still with Prema, he’s one of the favourites this season and if he starts the year in that form then Bearman could make himself the first pick to step up for Ferrari if needed. Robert Shwartzman completes the set, he’s firmly entrenched in the Ferrari WEC team and was just 0.027 seconds behind Sainz in FP1 at the 2023 Abu Dhabi GP.
McLaren: Pato O’Ward, Ryo Hirakawa
It’s two years since Pato O’Ward sent got motorsport fans dreaming with a strong performance at the 2021 F1 post-season test – finishing fourth and less than a tenth behind Lawson and Oscar Piastri – just a few months after finishing third in IndyCar.
The much-anticipated jump to an F1 seat hasn’t happened yet – and truthfully now seems further away than in 2021 – but O’Ward is still extremely talented and now an old hand with McLaren as he once again balances his reserve driver commitments with another tilt at the IndyCar crown in 2024.
Alongside O’Ward is Ryo Hirakawa – easily the most experienced reserve driver on the grid. The 29-year-old’s currently gunning for his third consecutive WEC championship and tested McLaren‘s 2021 machinery last year alongside O’Ward, and it’ll be an interesting crossover to see how he performs Hirakawa is given a free practice session this season.
Hirakawa‘s also a stalwart of Super Formula, with two top-three finishes in the last four years, and boasts a championship and three runner-up finishes in Super GT too.
Aston Martin: Felipe Drugovich
Felipe Drugovich looked set to make his F1 debut in the 2023 Bahrain GP after deputising handily in pre-season testing for the injured Lance Stroll.
But the one-handed wonder returned and actually put in one of his best performances of the season in Sakhir, so the wait goes on for Drugovich.
He doesn’t really feel any closer to an F1 drive than 12 months ago and isn’t set to compete elsewhere in 2024 either, as the next generation of drivers like Bearman and Antonelli look set to push him further down the pecking order for other teams.
Alpine: Jack Doohan
Schumacher‘s driving in WEC for Alpine in 2024, ironically in the hypercar seat they originally earmarked for Fernando Alonso, but doesn’t appear part of their F1 setup given his connections to Mercedes. Would they really deny him the opportunity to replace Esteban Ocon or Pierre Gasly if that situation arose though?
Jack Doohan is their full-time test driver in 2024 though, he’s driven four free practice sessions in the last two seasons and is working exclusively on Alpine F1 after bowing out of F2.
Finally, Alpine Academy drivers Victor Martins and Gabriele Mini will compete in their second F2 and F3 seasons respectively in 2024 and are both eligible for super licences.
Williams currently don’t have any junior drivers holding a super licence, but have shared Mercedes‘ reserve pool in previous years (leading to De Vries‘ F1 debut with the team) so should be able to reprise that partnership.
Stake: Theo Pourchaire, Zane Maloney
Theo Pourchaire finally fulfilled his destiny of winning F2 in 2023, but that still wasn’t enough to earn him an F1 seat with Stake instead renewing Zhou Guanyu for another year and sending Pourchaire to Super Formula.
It’s hard to escape the feeling that Pourchaire would be evenly more highly touted if he was at Red Bull, Ferrari or Mercedes rather than the Sauber Academy, but F1 team principal Alessandro Alunni Bravi said he viewed Stake as running three drivers in 2024 with the Frenchman firmly at the forefront of their thinking alongside Valtteri Bottas and Zhou.
And Zane Maloney joins Pourchaire in the Stake reserve ranks, the precocious Barbadian has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks highlighted by finishing runner-up in his only season in F3. Now in his second season of F2 after tenth last year, he’s well-placed to be a title contender this time around despite his surprise exit from the Red Bull Junior Team at the end of 2023.
Haas: Oliver Bearman, Pietro Fittipaldi
Haas were the surrogate team for both of Bearman‘s impressive free practice showings in 2023 and they’ll again partner up this time around.
Pietro Fittipaldi also returns in his long-term reserve role too. His career is a bit of a miracle – he never marked himself out as an F1 talent in his junior career, but exploited every super licence loophole so earned the right to ended up in the right place at the right time to replace Romain Grosjean for Haas after his fiery crash at the 2020 Bahrain GP.
Fittipaldi‘s presence brings a financial boost to the team and he’s an experienced hand by now.
Who are the 2024 F1 reserve drivers?
|Ferrari & Haas
|3rd, F3 2022
|3rd, F2 2023
|1st, F2 2022
|23rd, F1 2020
|17th, F1 2019 & 2020
|1st, WEC 2023 & 2022
|Red Bull/Visa Cash App RB
|20th, F1 2023
|2nd, F3 2022
|3rd, IndyCar 2021
|1st, F2 2023
|16th, F1 2023
|2nd, F2 2021