At present, trying to secure a F1 seat is like rocking horse manure up Mont Ventoux, with only 20 seats available and drivers having extended careers at the pinnacle of motorsport.
Nonetheless, plenty of young hopefuls are stumping up the budget needed to move up the junior series ladder in an attempt to make it to F1.
So who are the five hopefuls that will have plenty of eyeballs on them in 2023?
ART Grand Prix: Theo Pourchaire – Formula 2
Just under two years ago, Theo Pourchaire became the prince of Monte Carlo following a dominant feature race victory that made him the youngest race winner in F2 history at 17 years of age.
Pourchaire’s rise has hit the buffers, however, following a 2022 season that saw him soundly beaten by Felipe Drugovich, finishing the season with three wins and vice-championship honours.
Rumours of a move to Japan and Formula E didn’t bear fruit, forcing Pourchaire into a third year of F2 with ART Grand Prix alongside countryman and reigning F3 champion Victor Martins.
With Sauber’s backing, Pourchaire could still make it to F1, but he will need to ace his final tilt at the F2 title or face an uncertain future.
Prema: Ollie Bearman – Formula 2
Although it was his rookie season, Britain’s Ollie Bearman impressed several paddock scouts during last year’s championship, taking eight podiums and one win on his way to third in the championship.
He could have been champion if a post-race five-second penalty for multiple track limits breaches hadn’t been imposed in Bahrain, with the shortened Monza feature race costing him a chance at victory.
The Ferrari-backed junior will move up to F2 with Prema for 2023, and considering the success of Charles Leclerc, Oscar Piastri, and Mick Schumacher at the Italian team, Bearman could easily follow in his predecessors’ footsteps.
Granted, the F2 grid is one of the strongest in years, but Bearman’s rapid rise through the ranks mirrors Pourchaire, and if his F3 season is anything to go by, he might be giving Ferrari plenty to think about.
Carlin: Enzo Fittipaldi – Formula 2
With a surname as rich as Fittipaldi, the pressure to make it to F1, as well as the hopes of an entire country, may break some drivers’ confidence, but for Enzo Fittipaldi, this hasn’t been the case.
Fittpaldi overcame injury in 2021 by having a breakout season for Charouz securing six podiums and finishing eighth in the standings catching the eye of Helmut Marko, who signed him to Red Bull’s junior team.
Despite not winning a race, Fittipaldi proved remarkably consistent, finishing in the points in at least one race in 11 of the 14 race weekends contributing to all but four of Charouz’s points.
Now at Carlin, Fittipaldi will be afforded the opportunity go for the title, knowing that success in F2 may land him a Grand Prix seat at AlphaTauri if Nyck De Vries or Yuki Tsunoda underperforms.
MP Motorsport: Franco Colapinto – Formula 3
Argentina have waited over 40 years to find a successor to Carlos Reutemann, but with Franco Colapinto, the land of Gonzalez, Fangio and ‘Lole’ may find itself back on the F1 grid.
Colapinto is a rarity in the feeder series ranks, dabbling in sportscars in 2021, enjoying some success and giving him some early experience with more powerful, heavier cars.
The 2022 season saw Colapinto flourish at times in his maiden F3 campaign, winning twice and taking a further three podiums finishing ninth in the standings and earning the attention of the Williams driver academy.
He’ll be back for a second bite of the F3 cherry this year with MP Motorsports, and if his rookie year is anything to go by, Colapinto goes into the year as one of the favourites for the title.
Prema: Andrea Kimi Antonelli – FRECA
In the past, Mercedes have been known for spotting talents from Michael Schumacher to George Russell, and now they have a young Italian wunderkind who could very well be the next Lewis Hamilton.
Andrea Kimi Antonelli is only 16, but many are touting him to be a future world champion after a stellar 2022 season that saw him dominate the Italian and German F4 championships.
Antonelli was so dominant in both champions he won over 50% of his races and finished over 40 points clear of his rivals, a fine achievement for a driver competing in his first full year of car racing.
Staying with Prema for a crack at the FRECA title, Antonelli will have plenty of pressure on his shoulders to dominate once again, and on paper, he should, but Mercedes will be hesitant not to rush his development.