This week we are counting down our top 50 drivers from junior single-seater racing in 2013. Part one details those from 50 to 41.
50. Dan Cammish
United Kingdom – age 24
Formula Ford GB champion
Cammish was the definition of dominant in Formula Ford GB this year. He won all of the first 24 races, and then left with the title wrapped up and let some of the other drivers taste victory for a change. It’s obvious that he lacked competition, but you can only beat what’s put in front of you and Cammish did that to devastating effect.
Having rivalled Alex Lynn, Oliver Rowland, Tio Ellinas and Jack Hawksworth in Formula Renault UK in 2011, Cammish is clearly a talented driver. Unfortunately his progress was halted by a big accident in the opening round of the 2012 Eurocup at Motorland Aragon, which ruled him out for the rest of the year with injury. The comeback to Formula Ford – where he had finished third in 2010 – provided him with an opportunity to prove himself once again. 2011 champion Scott Malvern provided him with a challenge at the first round but once his money ran out, Cammish was a clear favourite for the title and so it proved to be, with his nearest rivals Harrison Scott and Nico Maranzana being newcomers to car racing.
With his advancing years and a lack of budget making progress up the single-seater ladder unlikely, Cammish is looking for a well-deserved move into the British Touring Car Championship for 2014 having been racing on the support package all year long. He has tested with the Motorbase Ford team and can hopefully get a deal in place.
49. Nick Cassidy
New Zealand – age 19
Toyota Racing Series champion
With his European career having failed to take off following his first Toyota Racing Series title in 2012, Cassidy returned to his domestic series in 2013 to stay race fit and further prove himself to anyone watching. It was certainly a greater challenge this year – he switched from the Giles team to the M2 squad, and was up against a stronger field of international talents.
He had a quiet opening three rounds, as Lucas Auer, Alex Lynn and Felix Serralles shared the majority of the wins. Consistent points-scoring however had put him in the lead of the standings, a margin he only stretched with two wins over the remaining two rounds. He also retained his New Zealand Grand Prix title.
He returned to Europe and spent pre-season testing in GP3 with the Marussia Manor team. He set promising times and was confident of a deal for the season, but with title favourite Tio Ellinas also struggling to pay for his seat, there was no room for Cassidy when another driver arrived with the required budget. Cassidy switched his focus to F3 and after impressing in some in-season tests he lined up for EuroInternational at the Norisring, running well but failing to score a top ten finish. He had to wait until the Hockenheim finale for another chance, when he replaced good friend Daniil Kvyat in Carlin’s Red Bull-backed car. He qualified sixth for one race, but his lack of experience again saw him slip back in the races. Hopefully he gets the chance he deserves in 2014.
48. Robin Frijns
Netherlands – age 22
15th in GP2
A lack of budget left Frijns without a ride at the start of the season despite his title success in Formula Renault 3.5 last year. With the top GP2 seats gone, there were reports he turned down offers with lesser teams for Malaysia, but he arrived at round two in Bahrain with Hilmer.
Despite qualifying tenth, the rest of that first weekend was something of a struggle, finishing both of the races outside of the top 20 as he battled to get the hang of the Pirelli tyres and the close racing. Three weeks later at Barcelona though, he did get to grips with it all, with spectacular results. Although he only qualified eighth, he won the feature race in style. Starting back in eighth again for the sprint race, he rocketed up to third at the start and then moved up to second later on the first lap.
Like many other drivers, his Monaco weekend was wrecked by the first corner pile-up, and he was never a factor at Silverstone. He qualified third at the Nurburgring but struggled with tyre wear late on and fought too hard trying to keep Stefano Coletti at bay and ended up falling to sixth at the very last corner. He had to make way for the slightly better-backed Adrian Quaife-Hobbs for Hungary and then made one final appearance at Spa, where he mustered a ninth place. Hopefully a change of management will secure him the backing he deserves and he can do the full campaign next year, assuming F1 is still out of reach.
47. Vittorio Ghirelli
Italy – age 19
Auto GP champion
The fact that Ghirelli had failed to register on the radar in his previous three seasons in single-seaters was explained by the fact that those years had been spent in GP3 (twice) and Formula Renault 3.5 – each time lacking the necessary experience to compete in such competitive championships.
Moving into the less well-supported Auto GP with top team Super Nova gave us the opportunity to see what Ghirelli was made of, and he did exactly what was expected of him by succeeding Adrian Quaife-Hobbs as champion. He wasn’t fastest in the first couple of rounds but clearly developed in the David Sears-led environment and came close to a double win at the Hungaroring. He had to play second fiddle to Narain Karthikeyan once the veteran became his team-mate at Silverstone but was never far off, and beat him to victory at Donington Park before a pair of podiums at Brno sealed the title.
A successful karter in his time, Ghirelli’s rise is a lesson to other well-backed drivers to not ascend the ladder too quickly. He contested the final five GP2 rounds with the unfancied Lazarus team and scored their only point in that period. With a good car underneath him, he’s shown this year that he’s talented enough to do great things.
46. Artem Markelov
Russia – age 19
Second in German F3
Seventh in 2012, Markelov returned for a second season of German F3 this year with the Lotus-branded Motopark Academy squad. He spent the campaign in the shadows of near-irrepressible team-mate Marvin Kirchhofer, but still produced a consistent performance to see off Emil Bernstorff for the runner-up spot.
The three second places he recorded in the opening round at Oschersleben rather set the tone for his season. 17 races in, arriving at Lausitz for the second time, he had finished nine races in second place, six races in third, one in fourth and one in sixth. He then finally broke his duck by winning race one at Lausitz and repeated the feat in race three. He lost his consistency at Oschersleben when he crashed out in race one and finished 13th in race two, but recovered to take three podiums from the final round and hold off six-time winner and 2012 Euro Series driver Bernstorff for second place in the final standings.
Managed by Igor Mazepa – owner of the Russian Time GP2 outfit operated by Motopark – and with his own father reportedly funding the project, we’ll be hearing plenty more of Markelov in the future. The new Russian Time GP3 arm looks purpose-built for him, but it was with the GP2 team that he spent all three days of the Abu Dhabi joint test.
45. Luca Ghiotto
Italy – age 18
Second in Formula Renault Alps, ninth in Eurocup Formula Renault, Pau Grand Prix winner
After two years in Formula Abarth, Ghiotto stuck with Prema for their return to Formula Renault competition this year. While he was overshadowed by phenomenal rookie and team-mate Antonio Fuoco, he still took five wins on his way to second in the Alps series behind the Ferrari protege, and got the upper hand on fellow Abarth graduate Bruno Bonifacio.
He claimed probably the most important win of his career so far in the one-off event that headlined the Pau Grand Prix. It was something of a fortuitous result, after Matt Parry and Jake Dennis tangled and Pierre Gasly was penalised, but it was a win nonetheless. In the Eurocup he was a consistent frontrunner on pace, even though he found converting that into race results to be difficult, and he only finished ninth in the final standings. Still, he beat Fuoco and the rest to win at Spa and took a second place finish and a pole position at Paul Ricard.
Post-season, he produced some impressive top-ten showings in Formula Renault 3.5 testing with Pons and Draco, but at still only 18 years of age, he’s got time on his side should he wish not to move on.
44. Kevin Korjus
Estonia – age 20
Seventh in GP3
Ditched by Gravity and the Lotus F1 Team after a difficult 2012 season in Formula Renault 3.5, Korjus returned to the familiar surroundings of the Koiranen team for their maiden GP3 campaign. He had previously won the Eurocup title with the Finnish squad in 2010.
Things started remarkably well for the Estonian driver and the team, setting the fastest time in qualifying for their debut at Barcelona. Unfortunately he had already picked up a grid penalty for a yellow flag infringement in practice, but finished the weekend with a second place to team-mate Aaro Vainio in the reverse grid race. He was on the podium again in Valencia and took a pole position proper at Silverstone, only to lose out to Jack Harvey off the line and therefore finish second. He then went three races without points, but returned to the podium at the Hungaroring. A quartet of top six finishes from Spa and Monza kept him in title contention, only to finish the year on a low after a poor start in Abu Dhabi, which dropped him from third to seventh in the final standings.
That slump, combined with a lack of wins, means that his season was not as good as it needed to be to boost his career, despite the early promise. After the talent he showed in 2010-11, it would be a shame if a lack of funding derails him now.
43. Alessio Rovera
Italy – age 18
Formula Abarth champion
With small grids last year and top teams Prema and Jenzer switching to Formula Renault over the winter, Formula Abarth was a shadow of its former self in 2013. Despite that, it unearthed an exciting rookie champion in Rovera.
The experienced Simone Iaquinta came in as the pre-season favourite from the otherwise-unknown grid, but he was immediately upstaged by Rovera, whose karting CV lacked any international achievements. He was a double winner from pole at Vallelunga and added one more win at each of the next four weekends – the last of which at Misano secured him the title with a round to spare. He claimed the first nine of the 12 available pole positions, even recovering to claim two podiums at Monza despite not setting a time in qualifying.
There haven’t yet been many clues as to where his future lies in 2014, other than a prize Auto GP test where he performed respectably for the Ibiza team, but as a top Italian talent he ought to have attracted the attention of teams like Prema if he’s got the financial backing that his abilities clearly deserve. It would be a shame if he can’t test himself in a competitive series next year.
42. Carlos Sainz
Spain – age 19
Tenth in GP3, 19th in Formula Renault 3.5
After an F3 campaign in 2012 that was full of highs and lows, Red Bull moved Sainz to GP3 this year with Arden. Things began difficultly when Sainz and stable-mate Daniil Kvyat’s aggressive style punished the high-wearing tyres used in Barcelona, but once the compound choices were changed and the drivers found their feet, the team became faster as the year went on.
He immediately found the podium at Valencia, only to show a return to his erratic ways of F3 when he took Lewis Williamson out at Silverstone. A second podium came in Hungary, before he claimed pole at Spa. He was beaten off the line however by Kvyat, in a moment which set the tone for the rest of their years. Sainz was wiped out of third place through no fault of his own by Jack Harvey, while at Monza he used a good start to follow pole-sitter Kvyat into the first turn, only to get collected by the pile-up that began behind him. In Abu Dhabi he was excluded for a collision with Patric Niederhauser. Finishing tenth in the standings looks awful compared to Kvyat, but he had the speed to be much closer.
There were two moments outside of GP3 that reminded everyone of his abilities – running fourth on his Formula Renault 3.5 debut at Monaco before brake trouble cost him a couple of places, and a rapid Formula 1 testing debut at Silverstone. Later FR3.5 appearances were the usual story of failing to extract the results from his undoubted talent. When he moves there full-time next year – potentially in place of Kevin Magnussen at DAMS – he needs to start delivering again.
41. Alexander Sims
United Kingdom – age 25
Eighth in GP3, tenth in FIA F3 European Championship
When he lost Gravity funding after failing to win the GP3 title in 2011, Alexander Sims signed a GT and development deal with McLaren and said goodbye to his single-seater ambitions for the time being. He was a one-off winner in F3 for T-Sport last year, and was the obvious choice when the team split with William Buller in the middle of the season.
After a pair of top fives at the Norisring, he then added two podiums at the Nurburgring – the scene of his 2012 win for the team. He was off the pace at Zandvoort but right back on it at Vallelunga, where he was the closest man to locals Raffaele Marciello and Prema as he claimed two seconds and a third. He went on to finish a strong fourth at Macau. Prior to his F3 return, he rejoined the Status GP3 team at the Nurburgring when Adderly Fong was busy with a title-winning campaign in an Audi in China. While the team otherwise barely scored points all year, Sims finished second in race two.
When Eric Lichtenstein’s backers pulled the plug on an overly-ambitious step up from Formula Ford, Carlin called Sims on the eve of the Spa weekend and this time he did win the reverse grid race. Two more top six finishes followed at Monza and then he finished second to Kvyat in Abu Dhabi. As before, he deserves a chance at the next level of single-seaters but finding anyone to pay for it is the hitch. The McLaren deal is certainly better than nothing, but he is worthy of something where he’s more in the spotlight, like the DTM.