Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton will be replaced at Abu Dhabi GP: Who are the 10 rookies taking over FP1?

F1 teams are required to run at least two development drivers each season


Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton will miss Free Practice 1 at the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as teams comply with Formula 1 regulations, with eight other regular drivers also being replaced, but who are the 10 stand-in replacements for half of the grid?

F1 rules mandate that teams must run a developing driver in each of their cars at some point during the season, with many having to wait until the final round of the season for several practicality reasons such as other more demanding circuits, sprint race weekends and the post-season rookie test.

Two teams do not need to run a rookie in their second car as they’ve already complied with the rules with their primary drivers. They are McLarenOscar Piastri – and Williams Logan Sargeant meaning that those two teams only have to run one extra development driver in the entirety of 2023.

So who are the rookie drivers set to take to the track in Abu Dhabi? Here are the 10 rookies we will see during FP1 at Yas Marina on Friday.

Red Bull: Jake Dennis and Isack Hadjar

Neither Red Bull driver will strap on their helmets for the opening session of the weekend at the Yas Marina Circuit. After delivering both championships for the team, with Verstappen claiming the drivers’ crown, they’ve earned a well-deserved lie-in for the morning.

In their places are the 2023 Formula E world champion, Jake Dennis (28 years old) and Formula 2’s Isack Hadjar (19). Hadjar earlier drove for AlphaTauri, Red Bull’s sister team, but gets another shot with Christian Horner’s men.

Jake Dennis is on a run of four consecutive podiums going into the 2023 Jakarta E-Prix | LAT Images

Mercedes: Frederik Vesti for Lewis Hamilton

Frederik Vesti (21) will replace Hamilton after earlier standing-in for George Russell at the Mexico City GP. He was 19th in the FP1 session then, but didn’t complete any push laps.

He’s currently second in the Formula 2 drivers’ championship as he bids to overturn a 25-point deficit to Theo Pourchaire in the final two races. Will he appreciate having his preparation for the title showdown interrupted by FP1?

Frederik Vesti looks on in the garage during testing for Mercedes | Frederik Vesti

Ferrari: Robert Shwartzman for Charles Leclerc

Robert Shwartzman (23) has been a part of the Ferrari Driver Academy since 2017 and many will remember the Israeli-born Russian racer from his stints in F2 in 2020 and 2021.

He last sat in the car for Carlos Sainz at the Dutch GP back in August and was half a second slower than Charles Leclerc in FP1 at the 2022 Abu Dhabi GP.

He most recently raced in the 2023 GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup with AF Corse and placed eighth overall.

Robert Shwartzman at 2023 Dutch GP | Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

McLaren: Pato O’Ward for Lando Norris

Pato O’Ward (24) returns to an F1 car after a successful season in the USA’s NTT IndyCar Series, where he placed fourth overall with Arrow McLaren.

It’s his second test for the team after he appeared in FP1 at the 2022 Abu Dhabi GP and he’s a driver that McLaren‘s CEO, Zak Brown, seems to be quite fond of and rates highly.

McLaren’s Pato O’Ward in victory lane at Texas Motor Speedway | Penske Entertainment

Aston Martin: Felipe Drugovich for Fernando Alonso

Felipe Drugovich (23) was recently announced as Aston Martin’s reserve driver for 2024 and appeared at the Italian GP in September, ranking out as 18th fastest in the place of Lance Stroll. He was also linked with a full-time drive with Williams but that didn’t materialise.

He will stand in for Fernando Alonso as the 42-year-old sits out the first session on Friday.

Alpine: Jack Doohan for Esteban Ocon

It’s a repeat of the 2022 program for Jack Doohan (20) who will have sat in the car for the Mexico City and Abu Dhabi GPs come the end of the 2023 season as he replaces Esteban Ocon.

The Alpine reserve driver is fourth in F2 and has shown good form since July by winning two feature races. He trails third place by 14 points heading into the season finale.

Jack Doohan of Virtuosi Racing ahead of Round 12 in the Formula 2 Championship | Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images

Williams: Zak O’Sullivan for Alex Albon

Zak O’Sullivan (18) finished second in Formula 3 this year by just seven points to Paul Aron. For his effort, he’s been given a shot in the Williams team known for their backing of British drivers.

It will be his debut in an official F1 session after he joined the Williams Driver Academy in 2022. He replaces Alex Albon.  

AlphaTauri: No rookie drivers

AlphaTauri already completed their program through Liam Lawson’s debut at the 2023 Dutch GP and Hadjar’s appearance in Mexico. They will enter the session with both of their regular drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda, running their programs.

Alfa Romeo: Theo Pourchaire for Zhou Guanyu

Theo Pourchaire (20) last got into the car at the Mexico City GP but his session was plagued by mechanical issues that didn’t even allow him to flex the speed of an F1 car.

The F2 championship leader will get a second opportunity in the place of Zhou Guanyu, after Alfa Romeo praised how he handled the problems in Mexico, particularly noting his composure.

He looks to wrap up the F2 crown too, leading the championship by 25 points with 39 to play for, so barring a disaster he should get that over the line.

Theo Pourchaire at 2023 Mexico City Grand Prix | Alfa Romeo F1 Team

Haas: Oliver Bearman for Nico Hulkenberg

At 18 years old, Oliver Bearman has been one of the revelations of the F2 season with a particularly impressive drive during the Azerbaijan GP weekend. He has four wins and sits sixth in his rookie F2 season.

As the hype around him grows, Haas will eagerly get him into the car to test in the place of Nico Hulkenberg.

Complete Abu Dhabi GP FP1 rookie driver line-up

Here is the complete list of drivers at FP1 at the 2023 Abu Dhabi GP and who they will replace from the regular selection of F1 drivers.

Red BullJake DennisMax Verstappen
Red BullIsack HadjarSergio Perez
MercedesFrederik VestiLewis Hamilton
FerrariRobert ShwartzmanCharles Leclerc
McLarenPato O’WardLando Norris
AlpineJack DoohanEsteban Ocon
WilliamsZak O’SullivanAlex Albon
Alfa RomeoTheo PourchaireZhou Guanyu
HaasOliver BearmanNico Hulkenberg

When is the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?

It’s almost time for the curtains to close on the 2023 F1 season, with a few things still to be settled and put to bed in the United Arab Emirates such as whether Ferrari will catch Mercedes to finish second in the constructors’ championship or not.

The Abu Dhabi takes place this weekend – November 24-26 – with the race starting at 17:00 local time, which is 13:00 in the UK. F1 fans in the USA will be able to see the race from Yas Marina at 08:00 EST, and 05:00 PST.

Brandon Sutton
Brandon Sutton
Brandon is an alumni of an NCTJ and BJTC Liverpool John Moores University course, and has been with for over a year now. He enjoys covering all forms of motorsport but particularly focuses on Formula 1, and Brandon loves to debate various topics of the sport and other interests, especially if that topic doesn't have an open/shut answer such as the GOAT debate.
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