Opinion: GPUpdate team picks F1 wildcards

Opinion: GPUpdate team picks F1 wildcards

19 October 2017 – Toro Rosso's unexpected decision to draft in Brendon Hartley created a discussion among the GPUpdate.net team. Given the opportunity, who would we like to see get a chance to race in Formula 1?

First, there were some ground rules to implement; the drivers had to still be active in top-level competitive motorsport, while those with prior Formula 1 starts were excluded – which removed, for example, André Lotterer from the equation. Equally, those youngsters still climbing the ladder, or part of a young driver scheme, were not available for consideration, meaning potential stars such as Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris do not feature.

Here's who we came up with…

António Félix da Costa
Mike Seymour, GPUpdate.net editor

António Félix da Costa is the perfect example of a driver being in the right place at the wrong time. Picked up by Red Bull midway through 2012, aged 20, all signs pointed towards a highly successful partnership. During his first few months on the scheme, he claimed a standout double victory in GP3, took four wins from five races after joining Formula Renault 3.5 mid-season and won the prestigious Macau Grand Prix – every car he jumped into, he adapted with aplomb. With no room at Toro Rosso, the Portuguese entered a full FR3.5 campaign in 2013, tasked with repeating the dominance he displayed at the tail-end of the previous season. He remained at the sharp-end, as expected, but lost points to Stoffel Vandoorne and Kevin Magnussen amid a string of reliability issues, the momentum he had gathered dropping away at a crucial phase, through little fault of his own. At the same time, Daniil Kvyat charged to the GP3 title, convincing Helmut Marko that he was more deserving of a chance when Daniel Ricciardo moved from Toro Rosso to Red Bull. If only a seat had opened up a year earlier…

Felix Rosenqvist
Phillip Horton, GPUpdate.net editor

The Formula 3 master and the king of versatility – it's one of motorsport's peculiarities that Felix Rosenqvist hasn't even got near a Formula 1 car. It may have taken Rosenqvist several years to clinch the F3 title, but a record of 28 wins in four years is pretty handy, while he also triumphed at the Macau Grand Prix (twice) and the F3 Masters (twice). Clearly, he knows his way around an F3 car. In 2016, Rosenqvist was a winner in his bit-part Indy Lights campaign, was rapid in GTs and DTM, and impressed in an IndyCar test. Having joined Mahindra in Formula E, he delivered its first win and took the fight to Renault and Audi affiliated outfits, and this season could still emerge as champion in his rookie Super Formula campaign. And, because he's such a racer, he rocked up in Porsche Carrera Cup Scandinavia this year and bagged a pile of trophies. Amid all this, Rosenqvist is still only 25 – just a few months older than Stoffel Vandoorne; teams could do worse than to take a punt on the rapid Swede.

Scott Dixon
Luke Murphy, GPUpdate.net editor

It would certainly be intriguing to see what would happen if a Formula 1 team bucked the trend of youth and inexperience by selecting a driver who has already achieved legendary status, such as IndyCar champion Scott Dixon. An apparently-competitive test with Williams back in 2004 never developed into anything more, but he's built up a stellar CV elsewhere. He's a four-time IndyCar champion, an Indy 500 winner, two-time 24 Hours of Daytona winner and ranks fourth on the list of all-time IndyCar race-winners. He's won races in every season since 2005. Despite being 37-years-old, one could argue that he's now a more complete driver in an increasingly competitive IndyCar Series, having taken the title fight to the Penske juggernaut in 2017. While IndyCar's 'Iceman' would probably turn down a chance at competing in Formula 1, if the sport ever got to a stage of accommodating guest drivers for one-off appearances (in a similar fashion to Fernando Alonso at this year's Indy 500), then it's bound to pique the interest of the various motorsport megastars.

Robin Frijns
René Oudman, GPUpdate.nl editor

Without any doubt, I would pick Robin Frijns for a one-off appearance. He displayed some incredible race craft in junior formulas and, after that, his career yielded some unforeseen steps. Brendon Hartley's trajectory proves that nothing is impossible and let that be a driving force for Frijns, who would not struggle in this year's grid. Not every driver is capable of capturing five titles in seven years and Frijns won his championships against strong competition. In hindsight, it is always easy to judge, and the Dutchman made some choices which twisted the progress of his career, with reserve driver roles at Sauber and Caterham stalling his progress, accentuated by a lack of funding. However, everyone knows that the best way to respond always starts with stepping on the gas. He deserves to shine on the brightest podium one day.

Josef Newgarden
Ronald Vording, GPUpdate.nl editor

Josef Newgarden already made an attempt to succeed in Europe, and his remarkable progress in the United States suggests he could cut it in Formula 1. With a second place in British Formula Ford, his start in Europe was quite successful. But after a disappointing GP3 season and no full backing for the next step, he returned to the States. His return to his home country marked the beginning of his enormous progression. He won the Indy Lights championship in 2011 and was crowned IndyCar champion six years later, in his first year with Penske, against rapid, experienced opposition. Not all drivers have the teenage ascendancy of Max Verstappen or Esteban Ocon, and Newgarden is a much more rounded driver now than he was at the start of the decade. Finally, both Formula 1 and IndyCar will benefit from more interchange between these competitions. A media-savvy, American driver with an engaging personality would mean a lot to Formula 1 from a commercial point of view – and Newgarden would fit the bill.

Neel Jani
Rahied Ishaak, GPUpdate.nl editor

He may be approaching his mid-30s, but Neel Jani still has the speed. Together with his Porsche team-mates Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb, he won last year's 24 hours of Le Mans and WEC title, and in the previous decade he already proved his talents in single-seaters. In 60 starts in A1GP Jani achieved an amazing total of 30 podium finishes, including 10 victories, and in the 2007-08 season he led Team Switzerland to the title. In his first and only full year in GP2, in 2005, he took two race wins, and two years later in Champ Cars he showed his competitiveness with three finishes on the rostrum. Multiple times Jani was linked to Formula 1 teams, but he never quite made it onto the grid. In 2006, as a test driver for Toro Rosso, he frequently underlined his pace during Friday sessions, beating the team's regular race drivers Scott Speed and Vitantonio Liuzzi. Based on the pace he showed in other racing categories, Jani definitely should have had a chance to race in Formula 1.

Sébastien Ogier
Greg Woods, GPUpdate.net US correspondent

I've always been intrigued to find out what a top rally driver could do in Formula 1, and no active driver fits that role better than Sébastien Ogier. Following the nine-time champion Sébastien Loeb would have been an impossible task for nearly anyone else, but the Frenchman has since claimed four straight World Rally Championship titles of his own, capturing 40 victories in the process. Ogier has been on the podium in over half of all the rallies he's contested and leads the 2017 championship despite his off-season switch to a new team (and new car) in the wake of Volkswagen's withdrawal. Astoundingly, he has just three retirements to his credit since 2013 (over 60+ rallies). His otherworldly car control, reflexes and consistency make him a perfect candidate for Formula 1, even at age 33. Loeb very nearly made a publicity-driven appearance at the end of 2009 and Ogier, who had a Formula 1 run in an old Red Bull this year, would surely create a buzz.

We've made our choices which 'left-field' driver would you like to see get their chance in Formula 1?

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