Part two of our Top 50 looks at the drivers filling positions 40 to 31.
40. Emil Bernstorff
United Kingdom – age 20
Third in German F3, third in Masters of F3
After racing in European F3 last year, a lack of budget left Bernstorff taking a step back for 2013 and returning to German competition, rejoining the Motopark Academy team that took him to second place in ADAC Formel Masters in 2011. He actually began the year winning all six races in the abortive Formula Middle East series in Bahrain.
His experience made him the sensible title favourite in German F3, but from the start he struggled to cope with the power of team-mate Marvin Kirchhofer. An incident in race one at Oschersleben left him playing catch up from the start, but from round two at Spa he won one race at each of the next five meetings. He was the only driver to stop Kirchhofer in qualifying, claiming five pole positions including two on the second visit to Lausitz, when his rival failed scrutineering. However, he failed to convert either of those into victory, Artem Markelov instead winning. Despite six race wins to Markelov’s two, a lack of consistency cost Bernstorff in their fight for second in the standings.
Bernstorff did get one opportunity at the top level of F3 when Ferrari opted not to enter Raffaele Marciello into the Masters at Zandvoort, and the Briton took his place at Prema. He grabbed the chance with both hands, qualifying fourth and then finishing third, right behind team regular Alex Lynn. Hopefully he will get the chance to race full-time at a higher level next year, perhaps in GP3 where he has tested with Carlin and Arden.
39. Ed Jones
United Arab Emirates – age 18
F3 Open champion, 11th in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0
Dubai-born Jones began the year with a dual programme of a second year in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and a maiden season in the F3 Open. When the opening rounds of both series clashed, he chose the Eurocup, but it quickly became clear that F3 was the series to focus on when he won on his first weekend at Portimao.
He was a race winner in six of the seven weekends he entered, and scored a pair of second places in the remaining meeting at Jerez. He didn’t gather as many points as rival Sandy Stuvik, but the dropped points rule removed the effect of missing the first weekend, and so from their best 14 races, Jones outscored his rival by nine points.
In the Eurocup with Fortec he showed progress from last year, finishing third in both races at Spielberg and scoring more points later in the year to finish 11th in the final standings in the competitive series. He entered a European F3 round and Macau with Fortec and is almost certain to step up full-time to the FIA series next year, but he looks likely to race for Carlin instead having been testing with them lately.
38. Marcus Ericsson
Sweden – age 23
Sixth in GP2
Ericsson was left to nowhere to hide after following champions Romain Grosjean and Davide Valsecchi into DAMS, but failed to deliver them a third straight title. In fact, he was never really in contention after repeating his poor start to the campaign from last year.
While Malaysia was a bit of a disaster, he and DAMS showed pace afterwards, qualifying on the front row in Bahrain and on pole in Barcelona and Silverstone. But a stall in Sakhir and clumsy collisions in Spain and Britain meant he didn’t finish in the points until race two at Silverstone. At the Nurburgring he qualified on the front row and finally made the most of it, winning the feature race. It would be his only win of the campaign, but he did finish second in the feature races at the Hungaroring, Spa and Singapore and third in Abu Dhabi as he recovered to sixth in the final standings.
Ericsson emerged as a surprise candidate for a drive at Caterham, presumably carrying a large amount of sponsorship money. While he has consistently failed to perform in GP2 – taking just three wins from four years – he was an exciting prospect in his time in Formula BMW and Formula 3 and tested for Brawn GP on merit in 2009.
37. Jake Dennis
United Kingdom – age 18
Fourth in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0
Dennis enjoyed a solid, if unspectacular, campaign in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 after his title successes in the NEC and Intersteps in the past two years. While his Racing Steps Foundation stable-mate Oliver Rowland fought for the title, Dennis failed to win a race and only secured one podium in the penultimate round of the season.
However, he also finished all but four races inside the top five. That is some feat in such a competitive series, and ensured that he finished fourth in the standings. He had qualified on pole position at Spa, but found himself slipping down to sixth as Rowland surged to victory. At other times, he often had to recover from starting in the lower end of the top ten – coming from eighth on the grid to finish inside the top five on no fewer than five occasions. He was usually able to stay out of trouble – with the notable exception of an embarrassing coming together with Rowland in difficult weather conditions in Hungary.
He looks set to make progress into the FIA F3 European Championship next year, where he will continue to test himself against some of the most exciting talents around.
36. Jake Hughes
United Kingdom – age 19
BRDC F4 Champion
There were plenty of raised eyebrows when Jonathan Palmer announced the BRDC F4 Championship for 2013, but it produced a large and exciting crop of drivers – and Hughes was the pick of the bunch.
The karting graduate looked promising in pre-season testing and claimed pole for the first race, but it took him until the end of the third weekend at Snetterton to notch up his first win. That lifted him into title contention, and he moved into the points lead with a win at Brands Hatch. A further win at Silverstone stretched his advantage, and he wrapped up the crown with his fourth victory of the year at the Donington Park finale. Topping half of the eight qualifying sessions was crucial to his success.
35. Mitch Evans
New Zealand – age 19
14th in GP2
Entering GP2 as a rookie these days is a pretty thankless task, even if you’re the reigning GP3 champion. After scraping the budget together, Evans overcame food poisoning to finish third on his first weekend in Malaysia.
Unfortunately, that didn’t quite set the tone for the rest of the season. After tough weekends in Bahrain and Barcelona, there was another remarkable performance in Monaco when he finished third in both races. Having topped his qualifying group, he then got the jump on team-mate Johnny Cecotto off the start (probably triggering the Venezuelan’s mistake that caused a pile-up and a one-race ban), before succumbing to Monaco specialist Sam Bird later on. One further podium came in Hungary, but he could have won the sprint race had he not underestimated Nathanael Berthon’s ability to both build a gap and keep the life in his tyres.
Those would be his final points of the season. Getting caught up in collisions often hampered him, but learning anything from his erratic team-mate will also have been difficult. Still young, it will be interesting to see which team he races for next year. Mentor Mark Webber is cutting ties with Arden boss Christian Horner, but Evans may lack the budget to interest other teams.
34. Marco Sorensen
Denmark – age 23
Seventh in Formula Renault 3.5
After a promising but often unlucky campaign in 2012, Sorensen entered 2013 as an outsider for the Formula Renault 3.5 title. However, from the off that combination was struggling. He mustered just a couple of points from the first two weekends.
A second place at Monaco showed what he could do when everything came together, but that didn’t really happen again until Spielberg. There, he absolutely dominated, winning both races. There were some decent showings in qualifying over the final three weekends, but he slipped backwards in the race on each of those occasions, while in Barcelona he barrel-rolled out of the first race on the opening lap after starting fifth.
The Spielberg performance appeared to keep the Lotus F1 Team’s faith in him, and they gave him a test after Paul Ricard. Back in FR3.5M he’s been testing for Tech 1 recently, and could continue in the series for a third year if the funding is there.
33. Conor Daly
United States – age 22
Third in GP3, MRF Challenge champion
Daly raced no fewer than four different cars during the 2013 season. He started the year with success as he secured the MRF Challenge title in India. He then contested the first round of the GP2 season in Malaysia with new team Hilmer and finished an impressive seventh in the second race.
He returned to GP3 however for a third year, and a second with ART. After a podium in Barcelona he then won from pole at Valencia. His title bid took a bit of a hit however with a point-less round at Silverstone – triggered by a very narrow jump start – and only one point at the Nurburgring after mechanical issues. Three second places from the next four races brought him right back into contention, only to have his hopes dashed when Dino Zamparelli lost control at the start in Monza and smashed into him.
A lack of budget and his failure to win the GP3 title leave his options limited in Europe for next season. But having made his Indy 500 debut in May, the former Star Mazda champion is likely to have options on his own continent to continue his career.
32. Sergey Sirotkin
Russia – age 18
Ninth in Formula Renault 3.5
After his Formula Abarth title and promising year in Auto GP, Sirotkin moved into a major championship for the first time by signing up to Formula Renault 3.5 with ISR. Things started very brightly indeed for him, qualifying second to Stoffel Vandoorne for the first race at Monza and then fourth for the second race – even if results were wrecked by a hit from behind and a mechanical issue respectively.
At Motorland Aragon he again qualified on the front row, this time only narrowly pipped by Kevin Magnussen. He finished the race in fourth, and then took second in the rain on Sunday. Things then went quiet, until it was announced before Spielberg that he was part of a rescue deal for Sauber. Under the spotlight, he scored a fine fourth from tenth on the grid in race two in Austria, and then at the Hungaroring he returned to the podium, again in the rain.
It’s a shame that Sirotkin and ISR lost pace as the season wore on, but he proved that he’s a capable driver and exciting talent. He also showed that he really needs at least one more year at this level. The Sauber deal appears to be off for now, at least in terms of a race seat, and he tested with both Fortec and ISR at the end of the year with a view to 2014.
31. Jolyon Palmer
United Kingdom – age 22
Seventh in GP2
For the first time outside of his father’s Formula Two series, Palmer proved himself as a top driver this year in his third season of GP2. He impressed in race trim early in the year but lacked the results, but by the end of the campaign he was just about the top performing driver in the field.
He caught the eye with some superb overtaking in the early races, but while team-mate Felipe Nasr was ever-present at the front, Palmer was failing to crack qualifying and having to drag the car into the points. He finished on the podium in Barcelona but was penalised for a clash with Sam Bird while defending the place late on. In Hungary he only qualified seventh, but used a longer first stint to rejoin from the pits in second and then pass Marcus Ericsson for the win – his first podium of the year. Hit by Nasr in Spa and eliminated by a loose wheel at Monza, he then returned to the top step with an impressive victory in Singapore. He then led the feature race in Abu Dhabi but ultimately finished behind Alexander Rossi.
Having been such a competitive force with Carlin late on, it’s a slight surprise to see him switch to DAMS to 2014 but the French squad can at least be relied upon to deliver a fast package.