The new sensations: Rookies in line for Mexican GP action

The 2022 Mexican Grand Prix will see more F1 rookies being given a chance in Free Practice 1


With only two rounds of the 2022 Formula 1 season left after the Mexican Grand Prix, teams are running out of time to fill their young driver quota, forcing multiple drivers to watch the first Practice session from the pit wall as several youngsters get their chance behind the wheel of a Grand Prix car.

After a quartet of young drivers made their debut in Austin, five young drivers will be hoping to impress on motorsport’s biggest stage. With teams having to run use a rookie driver on at least two occasions during first free practice over the 2022 F1 season.

Some, however, already have contracts to race in F1 in 2023, whilst others are looking towards 2024 and potentially more outings as a team’s young driver in FP1.

So who are the five who will grace the track on Friday, what are they’re racing backgrounds and how have their seasons gone before arriving in Mexico City for a hot and humid session that will not just test their driving skills, but also their physical and mental strength. 

Nyck De Vries – Mercedes

2022 season – 9th in Formula E, replacing George Russell

Nyck de Vries (NLD) Mercedes Benz EQ

On the eve of Qualifying for the 2022 Japanese Grand Prix, Nyck De Vries’ Formula 1 dream finally came true as the former Formula E world champion moved to AlphaTauri in place of the Alpine-bound Pierre Gasly ending a three-year wait for a seat.

De Vries’ sudden rise into Formula 1 came off the back of a super sub appearance for Williams following Alex Albon’s sudden appendicitis before the final Practice session at Monza, with De Vries putting in a splendid performance that not only saw him outqualify regular driver Nicholas Latifi but also scoring points in the race.

However, whilst one door opened, another closed, with De Vries departing his role as Mercedes reserve driver at the end of the season after two years of service.

Mexico won’t be first De Vries’s first FP1 for the Silver Arrows either, as he took part in FP1 at the French Grand Prix when substituting for Lewis Hamilton setting the ninth-quickest time.

Jack Doohan – Alpine 

2022 season – 4th in Formula 2, replacing Esteban Ocon

Jack Doohan of Virtuosi Racing | Formula 1 via Getty Images

At the start of the 2022 season, many paddock judges expected that Alpine would field a young Australian in two FP1s this year, only to find that the expected choice Oscar Piastri would be on his way to McLaren, promoting another Australian into the hot seat.

Step forward Jack Doohan currently residing in fourth in the Formula 2 championship and is the son of five-time 500cc champion Mick. Still, despite his famous surname, the younger Doohan is stamping his mark on motorsport.

In his first Formula 2 outing for UNI-Virtuosi, Doohan stunned the paddock by taking pole position, and although he was unable to convert pole into victory, the Australian’s speed did impress many in the paddock.

Doohan eventually claimed his first Formula 2 victory at Silverstone, taking two more wins along the way as Alpine made him the new face of their driver academy, with rumours emerging that he would be loaned to Williams before the team confirmed its 2023 lineup of Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant.

Liam Lawson – AlphaTauri 

2022 season – 7th in Formula 2, replacing Yuki Tsunoda

Liam Lawson #7 Hitech, during round seven of the FIA Formula 2 Championship at Jeddah Corniche Circuit, in Saudi Arabia

It hasn’t been a vintage year for Red Bull juniors in Formula 2, but that hasn’t stopped Liam Lawson’s rise to becoming Red Bull Racing’s test driver and AlphaTauri’s go-to young driver for FP1.

The Kiwi native has had a tough second season of Formula 2 despite his three wins, with luck and results simply not going Lawson’s way, ending all chance of a title tilt. 

These hiccups haven’t stopped Lawson from getting some time behind the wheel of a Grand Prix with AlphaTauri using him for FP1 at Spa, where he replaced Pierre Gasly, finishing last in a session that was disrupted by wet conditions. 

Lawson will be hoping that warmer conditions will give him more track time, and with the Kiwi also being Red Bull test driver, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him returning to an F1 cockpit to fill out Red Bull’s young driver quota.

Logan Sargeant – Williams 

2022 season – 3rd in Formula 2, replacing Alex Albon 

Logan Sargeant – Williams | Williams F1 Team

After an impressive maiden FP1 at the 2022 US Grand Prix in Austin, Sargeant will get another chance in an F1 car, but this time, he will go into the weekend with a Formula 1 contract in his pocket.

When speaking in last Saturday’s team principal press conference, Williams CEO Jost Capito confirmed that Sargeant would graduate to Formula 1 in 2023, becoming the first American to compete in the series since Scott Speed in 2007.

Capito also confirmed that the team would run him in FP1 at Mexico City and Abu Dhabi as they try to get Sargeant as many super licence points as possible before the season ends in Abu Dhabi.

Sargeant will also need to finish third in the Formula 2 championship to guarantee him the 40 super licence points he needs to race in Formula 1, putting extra pressure on the American to deliver.

Pietro Fittipaldi – Haas 

2022 season – 10th in European Le Mans Series, replacing Kevin Magnussen

Haas’ Nikita Mazepin with Pietro Fittipaldi ahead of 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix | REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Back in a Formula 1 car for the first time since pre-season testing in March, Pietro Fittipaldi might have been entering the Mexico City paddock as a full-time Grand Prix driver following the departure of Nikita Mazepin only for the team to sign the more experienced Kevin Magnussen.

Fittipaldi has spent most of this year competing in the 2022 European Le Mans Series finishing joint-10th overall in the drivers’ standings with a best finish of second at Spa Francorchamps.

Like De Vries, Fittipaldi has got a Grand Prix under his belt, partaking in two races at the end of 2020 following Romain Grosjean’s terrifying opening lap crash at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix that left the Frenchman with burns to his ankles and hands.

Fittipaldi performed amicably in a problematic car that he had barely driven before finishing both of his races, but now with a quicker car, he knows that there won’t be too many excuses for him if he doesn’t come close to matching Mick Schumacher’s best times.

Ed Spencer
Ed Spencer
FIA accredited journalist
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