Young hotly tipped drivers to look out for in 2024

It's not just Kimi Antonelli who you need to look out for on the road to F1 this year

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A stellar year of junior racing awaits in 2024, spearheaded by arguably the strongest-ever Formula 2 grid and several highly-touted prospects earning promotions lower down the ladder too.

While the likes of Victor Martins and Zane Maloney starting their second year of F2 definitely warrant attention and Ritomo Miyata‘s switch from Super Formula (with Theo Pourchaire going the other way) is a tantalising prospect, we’ve not limited this to the top of the junior racing tree.

Yes it’s harder than ever to break into F1, but Haas are the only team not running some form of driver academy and there’s constant work to expand the talent base making it into single-seaters, thanks to initiatives like F1 Academy, so who should you expect to be knocking on the door of the top teams in years to come?

Oliver Bearman & Andrea Kimi Antonelli

Oliver Bearman speaks with team principal Guenther Steiner the 2023 Mexico City GP | Haas / Andy Hone / LAT Images

These two are the real deal. Pairing up with Prema, this is THE strongest, most exciting F2 lineup ever and by some margin too.

Both enjoyed unprecedented success in junior racing, as Bearman became the first-ever driver to win two full-season F4 championships in a season before Antonelli repeated that feat a year later. Both drivers show blistering speed wheel-to-wheel and on a clear track, in all conditions, and marry it with the required consistency and ability to learn and develop out of the car just as quickly as they race in it.

They’re coming into this season on very different tracks – Bearman‘s in his second year of the series after finishing sixth last year whereas Antonelli has taken the almost unprecedented step of skipping F3 – but both are absolutely capable of winning the title.

Given Bearman and Antonelli are the most senior drivers in the Ferrari and Mercedes driver academies, it feels like a case of if rather than when they’ll step up to F1 as the Brit is a Haas and Ferrari reserve this season and impressed in two free practice sessions in 2023.

If you’re still not convinced that this is a historically talented pairing, why not check out our interview with Bearman and deep-dive on Antonelli‘s career?

Gabriel Bortoleto

Gabriel Bortoleto poses with his compatriot Ayrton Senna’s car after signing with McLaren | McLaren Racing

Bortoleto was relatively unheralded ahead of his debut F3 campaign last season, but is anything but under the radar this time around.

That’s thanks to a crushing title win – joining Oscar Piastri as the only other driver to win F3 in his rookie season – and also joining Piastri at McLaren as he was signed to their driver development programme. And did we mention he’s also a Fernando Alonso protege?

Bortoleto only moved from Brazil to Europe in 2020 to start his career in cars – a difficult transition at the best of times but even harder in pandemic conditions – but in hindsight the bedrock of his F3 title was already in place in that first season of Italian F4.

He finished in the top eight in 15 out of 20 races and after a difficult following season stepping up to Formula Regional Europe (FRECA), showed similar consistency en route to another top-six finish.

And all of that came together for a 45-point championship win last season. Ahead of a host of better-hyped drivers, Bortoleto marked himself as the man to beat with two wins in the opening two rounds and only failed to score twice for the rest of 2023.

That included 10 top-six finishes out of 14 races and while he didn’t win again, Piastri only won twice in his F3 title too. Bortoleto carries the same calmness as the Australian and expects his relationship with Alonso to grow in 2024, so don’t be surprised if he’s in the top five at the end of the F2 season.

Kacper Sztuka

Kacper Sztuka pours over the data during 2024 F3 pre-season testing | Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool

Fresh from winning the Formula Winter Series, Kacper Sztuka received backing from Orlen, Robert Kubica‘s lucrative former sponsor, before suffering a stinking start to the 2023 Italian F4 season.

Bad luck, bad luck and more bad luck meant he suffered four pointless races out of the first six as Prema pair Ugo Ugochukwu and Arvid Lindblad proved the early pacesetters.

However, he stormed back in the second half of the season with an absolutely stonking last three rounds – his last nine race results were: 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 3, 1, 1. He’s possibly the most in-form driver in feeder series racing entering the start of this season, where he’ll race for MP Motorsport in F3 having also signed with the Red Bull Junior Team.

Also keep a look out for Noel Leon, who lost his Red Bull partnership after a disappointing first season adjusting to European racing in 2022, but bounced back in style winning Euroformula Open by almost 100 points.

He’s a former champion in Mexican and US F4, and will drive for Van Amersfoort Racing in F3 in 2024.

Ugo Ugochukwu

Ugo Ugochukwu prepares for an F4 race at the Circuit Paul Ricard | Prema Racing

A McLaren junior driver who was a karting prodigy and has already translated that into single-seater success – sound familiar?

Ugo Ugochukwu was obviously highly touted after being signed up to Woking aged only 13, but McLaren have managed his development and allowed the American to adapt to each level at his own pace, he makes the step up to FRECA in 2024 with powerhouse Prema.

He’s enjoyed a solid if slightly unspectacular pre-season in Formula Region Middle East, but he’s still got plenty of time to fine-tune for FRECA before the opening round in May.

His teammate this season is just as intriguing, with reigning F1 Academy champion Marta Garcia also at Prema.

The biggest detractor for W Series was its lack of pathway to the next step of racing but with F1 Academy at a lower rung of the ladder, Garcia has received a fully-funded seat in FRECA for 2024 and should have everything in place to succeed in terms of external factors.

And who’ll replace her at the top of F1 Academy in 2024? Mercedes junior Doriane Pin seems a good bet after picking up a race win in the pre-season UAE F4 championship.

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, and previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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