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 McLaren – Oscar 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.