Here is part three of PaddockScout’s countdown of the best 50 drivers of 2013, featuring those we ranked from positions 30 to 21.
30. Alexander Rossi
United States – age 22
Ninth in GP2
Rossi wasn’t set to race this year and instead concentrate on Friday practice outings with the Caterham F1 Team, but the opportunity came up to race for their GP2 squad when the Ma Qing Hua experiment crumbled after the first round. He had previously done an Asia Series campaign and a non-championship race, but Bahrain was his proper debut and he finished a superb third in his first race.
Unfortunately, he and the team then struggled in qualifying over the next five weekends, restricting him to only a few minor points finishes despite some strong race performances. When he eventually cracked his one-lap pace at Spa, he was able to return to the podium. He then took a second in the Monza sprint race after starting the feature back in 14th. He continued to be competitive in Singapore and qualified fourth, but braking issues forced him to retire from the feature races. In Abu Dhabi he claimed a maiden pole and converted it into victory after a race-long fight with form man Jolyon Palmer.
Rossi has not had the most competitive packages with Caterham’s FR3.5 and GP2 teams in the past two years, but has impressed when he’s been able to. It would be good to see him back in GP2 next year, but the team have tested some fast and well-funded drivers and so he may end up with an F1 practice programme instead.
29. Maximilian Gunther
Germany – age 16
Second in ADAC Formel Masters
After contesting the Formula BMW Talent Cup in 2011, Gunther sat last year out but his first proper racing campaign in ADAC Formel Masters this season showed why Mucke Motorsport were wise to have taken him under their wing.
After scoring a number of podiums during the opening rounds, he then became the class of the field in qualifying at least, claiming double poles at the Nurburgring, at Spielberg and Lausitz. After being overhauled by his vastly more experienced team-mate Alessio Picariello for the race wins at the first two of those rounds, he successfully kept the Belgian at bay at Lausitz to score his first two race wins. He suffered a number of non-finishes in the last couple of events, but that couldn’t stop him from claiming the runner-up spot. He also finished the year having claimed half of the available pole positions.
With Mucke’s FIA F3 European Championship squad a step too far for a 16-year-old, Gunther is likely to remain in ADAC Formel Masters for another year. That will allow him to pair his speed with a year’s experience, and so his rivals will be doing well if he doesn’t dominate.
28. Stefano Coletti
Monaco – age 24
Fifth in GP2
After joining Rapax in late 2012, Coletti continued with the Italian squad into his third full season of GP2 and put his name down as a title contender when he beat the less experienced James Calado and Felipe Nasr to pole for the Malaysia season opener by just 0.008 seconds.
The tyre difficulties that marked his previous campaigns stopped him winning on that day, but he put that right with victory in the sprint race and took the points lead. He took a pair of podiums in Bahrain and two more sprint race wins in Barcelona and Monaco – an emotional home victory. In total he finished six of the first eight races on the podium and all of them in the top six. He then took a hit at Silverstone (literally, from rival Fabio Leimer), and commenced an incredible run until the end of the year where he scored points just once. He clung onto the points lead until Monza, but finished up back in fifth place. A lack of qualifying pace was the main cause, reaching the top ten just once after Silverstone.
At the start of the year it looked as if Coletti was finally delivering on the promise he had shown since karting, but now he just seems to have too many flaws in his game. After that sort of breakdown, it remains to be seen whether he returns for another season in 2014 or looks at alternative options for his racing career.
27. Jack Harvey
United Kingdom – age 20
Fifth in GP3
Last year’s British F3 champion returned to European competition with a move into GP3 with ART, but was never quite a title threat in a wide-open season. That’s not to say that there weren’t some top-line performances, though.
He had a quiet couple of opening rounds in Spain at Barcelona and Valencia but thrived upon returning to home soil. There he followed Lewis Hamilton’s pole and Sam Bird’s GP2 win on Silverstone’s super Saturday with a great victory of his own in the GP3 race at the end of the day. His campaign continued gaining momentum with a podium at the Nurburgring and a pair of top fives in Hungary, but it came crashing back down again at Spa with an uncharacteristic and unnecessary tangle with Carlos Sainz while they fought over third. He rebounded with a race two win at Monza, but had to make do with fifth in the standings in the final reckoning.
With the Racing Steps Foundation deciding that further seasons for Harvey on the F1 ladder were unsustainable, the decision was taken by both parties to move to the United States and the Road to Indy. If he can adapt, there’s no doubt that he has the raw talent to be a success, even if he hasn’t shown it consistently enough over the past three years.
26. Anthoine Hubert
France – age 17
French F4 champion
As one of his nation’s top karters and with a good amount of testing under his belt, Hubert entered the French F4 season as the pre-season favourite and he certainly delivered on that promise.
His car racing career could hardly have got off to a better start. At the classic French venues Le Mans and Pau he won both of the feature races, and then followed that with a treble at none other than Spa-Francorchamps. Another pair of wins followed at the less glamorous Val de Vienne, before Jules Gounon hit his stride and collected five victories from Magny-Cours and Ledenon. His upturn in form was too late to stop Hubert though, who had already wrapped up the title before he finished the year with two more wins at Paul Ricard.
With French F4 having produced Stoffel Vandoorne and Pierre Gasly among others in recent times, Hubert has signalled that he’s one to watch in the coming years. He is set to make the standard move for graduates of the Auto Sport Academy into Formula Renault 2.0 next season.
25. Nigel Melker
Netherlands – age 22
Sixth in Formula Renault 3.5
After a tough GP2 campaign with the sinking Ocean team last year, Melker made the switch to Formula Renault 3.5 for 2013 with Tech 1, and carried on where he left off when he finished on the podium on a one-off with Lotus at Silverstone last year.
The start to his campaign was solid rather than spectacular, with three top sixes from the first two weekends – although he did start outside the top ten on each occasion as he struggled to nail qualifying. His first big result came in the first race at Spa when, after starting tenth, he was up to fourth by lap five and then picked off Arthur Pic for a podium spot at a safety car restart. More podiums followed once he cracked qualifying, with one third place in Moscow and a pair of seconds at Spielberg. He was up to third in the standings at one point, but a loss of his consistency over the last couple of weekends cost him and he slipped back down to sixth.
That was still a strong effort for a ‘rookie’ campaign, and it would be good to see him come back for more next year, although things have been quiet on that front other than a DTM test with his former F3 backers Mercedes.
24. Matt Parry
United Kingdom – age 19
Formula Renault 2.0 NEC champion
Caterham-backed Parry won the Intersteps title last year but a move to the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC provided him with the chance to go up against some of Europe’s best. And it was doing just that when he was at his most impressive on his way to the title.
The opening couple of rounds saw the NEC regulars joined by a large number of Eurocup runners. At Hockenheim Parry claimed a double pole ahead of all of them, although he had to make do with a couple of third places and a fourth from the three races. He pulled everything together next time out at the Nurburgring though, winning both of the races. His performances gave him a huge margin already over others doing the full campaign, and he only stretched that with two wins at Silverstone and another at Spa. His run-in was a bit of a nightmare, but he had already put himself too far ahead of nearest rival Jack Aitken for it to matter.
Any doubts over Parry’s ability were quashed when he impressed enough in the assessment tests for the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award to win the prestigious prize. Next year he is all set to move into the Eurocup with Fortec.
23. Alessio Picariello
Belgium – age 20
ADAC Formel Masters champi0n
After promise in karting, Picariello’s single-seater career took a while to get firing due to a lack of opportunities, but a full-time ride in ADAC Formel Masters with Mucke Motorsport this year allowed him to thrive.
Victories in all but four of the season’s 16 feature races made him unstoppable on his way to the title, following Daniel Abt, Richie Stanaway, Pascal Wehrlein and Marvin Kirchhofer as champion of the German series. He was at his dominant best throughout the season, claiming double wins at the start (at Oschersleben and Spa), middle (Nurburgring and Spielberg) and end of the campaign (Hockenheim). If there was one negative, it was that he wasn’t the best in qualifying, and that that honour instead went to his rookie team-mate Gunther. But his wins record shows that it never really mattered.
If there was any justice, Picariello would get a promotion to Mucke’s European F3 outfit next year. His budget constraints may however limit him to either German F3 or Eurocup Formula Renault.
22. Jordan King
United Kingdom – age 19
British F3 champion, sixth in FIA F3 European Championship
Well respected but lacking any headline results from two years in Formula Renault 2.0, King stepped up to F3 with Carlin this year and impressed beyond expectations.
In the well-supported FIA F3 European Championship he started solidly for a newcomer, before ascending the podium for the first time at Spielberg. His progress continued as he picked up a series of fourth-place finishes at the Nurburgring and Zandvoort before finishing a close second to Felix Rosenqvist in the final race of the weekend at the Dutch circuit. By this time he had the upper hand on team leader and third-year F3 racer Harry Tincknell, and finished the season only one place behind him in the standings.
In the concise British F3 series, King was not initially a match for fourth-year F3 campaigner Will Buller, but a win at Spa and a consistent run of top four results moved him into the points lead going to the Nurburgring for the finale. There he claimed two wins from pole as he wrapped up the prestigious crown. Next year he is poised to continue in the European championship for Carlin and will be a force to be reckoned with if the team is capable to challenging for the title.
21. Tio Ellinas
Cyprus – age 21
Fourth in GP3
Once he overcame the difficulty of scraping a budget together in his native Cyprus over the winter and secured a second campaign in GP3 with Marussia Manor, Ellinas was the pre-season favourite.
He duly won the first race of the season and then gradually stretched his points advantage with a run of top six finishes as everybody else struggled for consistency in a wide-open field. That run came to an end at the Hungaroring, when he lacked pace. At Spa he stalled in race one before producing an almighty fightback from 19th to eighth in just five laps of green flag racing. That lost him the points lead to Facu Regalia, but reverse grid pole gave him a chance to take it back. However, he was then wiped out of the lead by Melville McKee at the first corner. He was then the victim of another opening lap assault at Monza, this time from team-mate Dino Zamparelli. He bookended his season with a second win in Abu Dhabi.
Marussia were impressed by his maiden F1 test at Silverstone in the summer and will hopefully be able to help him take the next step into Formula Renault 3.5 or GP2 next year – particularly after a promising debut test with MP Motorsport in the latter.