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F1 teams abandon junior programmes again in 2023

F1 teams abandon junior programmes again in 2023

30 September - 20:28 Last update: 20:58


The factory teams and the bigger teams like Red Bull Racing all have their own junior programmes, through which they try to prepare talent for Formula 1. With the silly season for 2023 (and those of recent years), the question arises: why don't F1 teams use these talent programmes anyway?

Young talents underrepresented in Silly season 2023

The silly season for the 2023 driver line-up began after the announcement of Sebastian Vettel's retirement. Fernando Alonso jumped at the free seat left by the German, but his current team, Alpine, apparently knew nothing about it. In haste, the team brought out that Oscar Piastri would join the team next year alongside Esteban Ocon, but that Piastri did not fancy it. As it turned out, the Australian had already secured a spot at McLaren.

The game of musical chairs continued, but most of the names on the F1 teams' lists were the established ones. Even former drivers like Nico Hülkenberg were mentioned again to possibly fill Mick Schumacher's spot at Haas F1. As Daniel Ricciardo is also still without a seat for 2023, he also has a chance to win the seats at Alpine and Williams. However, the biggest contender for the Alpine seat is Pierre Gasly, which would free up a spot at AlphaTauri. Nyck de Vries would again lay claim to that.

There are many possibilities, so there is also a lot of speculation about possible scenarios. Only, the names of the juniors are not mentioned much in these speculations. The current silly season reinforces the feeling that has been hanging around F1 for some time; 'old timers' occupying spots for up-and-coming talent. Consider, for example, the return of Fernando Alonso and rumours that Hülkenberg may return next season. Why don't teams dare to leverage their investment in juniors?

F1 age is getting lower and lower

Nyck de Vries is an interesting player in the silly season. De Vries is effectively still a junior and has only driven one F1 race. A full-season F1 debut next year would make him, at 28, one of the oldest debutants in recent years. Brendon Hartley was also 28 in 2018 when he started his first full season. Any debut of De Vries shows a separate development. If you look at the tables in the Instagram post below, you will see that the average age of F1 drivers is getting lower and lower. The age of debutants is also going down. De Vries jumps way above that.

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To extend the second slide in the post above to 2023, with a possible debut for De Vries, we arrive at an average age of 24.5 for rookies. With the retention of Alonso, Hamilton and possibly Ricciardo, the possible return of Hulkenberg and the possible debut of De Vries, the average age on the grid also goes up considerably. It's a hypothetical situation, but a hypothetical one that is much thought about and could just come true

2023 goes against falling numbers

It is strange to see the debut age possibly going up and it is also strange that the average age of the grid could also go up next year, when it has actually been falling for years. Of course, it could well be that this only happens one year and young drivers will return next year. Still, the question remains why teams are making little use of their juniors in this year and in recent years. Red Bull Racing has a large programme with several drivers in Formula 2, Mercedes has many drivers driving around in many different racing classes and Ferrari also has them in house. Only McLaren has so far dared to take on a real young talent, while this year in particular there is more than enough room to experiment.

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