As Formula 2 fans are aware we have a Ferrari Academy battle at the top of the drivers championship in 2020.
This scenario was always on the cards before the season begun with a the FDA having a wealth of talented drivers on their books between F4-F2.
With not only the battle for the FIA Formula 2 championship but the possibility of one or two Formula 1 seats available in 2021, it seems to be a race to the title for the guaranteed graduation on the #RoadtoF1.
The FDA at the moment has nine students in their programme such as Giuliano Alesi and Marcus Armstrong who are also racing in Formula 2, Enzo Fittipaldi in Formula 3, Gianluca Petecof and Arthur Leclerc in the Formula Regional Championship and Dino Beganovic is racing in Formula 4 in Italy and Germany.
The FDA doesn’t stop there with a further established a global talent scouting operation, in the U.S, Australia, Latin America and their involvement with the FIA “Girls on Track-Rising Star” initiative, that aims to bring four girls aged 12 to 15 to the FDA in the next two years.
With such a large network of scouting and development the bottleneck at the top of the tree will be to get these drivers a chance to drive in Formula 1 machinery. With Formula 1 testing restrictions its a challenge for teams to see if they have what it takes in modern machinery and benchmark them versus current driver like teams of yesteryear once did.
However FDS Director Laurent Mekies explained; “We wanted to organise this test session so that our three best youngsters would be as well prepared as possible to tackle an event that will always be a special moment for them. It will be a chance to get to grips with a Formula 1 car, which is much more complicated than the car they are currently used to driving.
I would like to thank Haas and Alfa Romeo Racing for offering Callum, Mick and Robert this opportunity. We believe strongly in our Academy, which has already proved its value, with Charles Leclerc, a driver on which the Scuderia can build its long term future.
Callum, Mick and Robert have already proven their worth in the current Formula 2 season and this test is a further step in their education.”
This is certainly a valid point, Shwartzman for example has never driven a Formula 1 car, Ilott has never had a chance in a modern Ferrari F1 vehicle and Mick the same despite having a chance in other teams or historical cars.
This means that if they did not have this chance to drive in Fiorano with FDA they would be going on track at their respective times on a Grand Prix weekend as complete rookies behind the wheel which many would deem a silly situation for a sport that prides itself on the little details and preparation ahead of any session.
This week on September the 30th the three drivers had the chance to driver a a 2018 Ferrari SF71H ahead of their actual Practice sessions this season.
First up was the Russian Formula 2 rookie Shwartzman. he commented, “I have dreamed of the day when I would drive a Formula 1 car for the first time ever since I was a little kid and finally today was the day. Driving this car was fantastic and great fun.
The power is what strikes you most: when you accelerate the horsepower never seems to stop. The brakes are equally impressive: the car stops when it feels as though it’s too late to make the corner. Apart from the actual driving, it was also special to work with the team. There are a lot of them and they pay attention to every little detail. They really work at a very high level. Thanks to everyone who made this memorable day possible.”
Next up to the wheel was the British front runner in the F2 Championship Callum Ilott. Similar to Mick Schumacher he has driver modern Formula 1 cars previously but this must have been a huge moment of pride for him as he got to sit inside the famous red car for the first time.
“This was an unforgettable day. I’d already been able to drive a Formula 1 car last year, but today I was able to get to grips with the car with just ten days to go to my debut on a Grand Prix weekend. It was very useful and I thank Ferrari for giving me this opportunity.
What struck me about the SF71H was its aero efficiency, which means you have grip levels you just don’t find in other categories. Then there’s the extreme power from the engine and instant braking.”
Mick Schumacher has caught the headlines this year with some amazing form and really proving many doubters wrong that he genuinely deserves a seat in Formula 1 on merit. His composure and consistency has seen him collect race results and points all season when others have had their ups and downs.
Mick has driven modern machinery for Alfa Romeo previously along with his historic drives on race weekends in his father’s cars. However, at Fiorano he had the chance to take to the wheel of the Ferrari for the first time.
“I would like to thank Ferrari and the FDA for giving me the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a hybrid-powered Formula 1 car, a few days before my debut at a Grand Prix weekend at the Nürburgring. It was very useful to get used to all the procedures again, which are pretty complex and also with how a team works in this top level of the sport.
A few weeks ago in Mugello, I was able to drive an F2004, an amazing car, but quite old fashioned now. Getting behind the wheel of a 2018 hybrid car allowed me to understand how important the electronics are for the Power Unit and how much progress Formula 1 has made in terms of aerodynamics.
I can’t wait to jump into the cockpit in Germany and it will be nice to take part in a practice session for the first time in front of my home crowd. In the team, there are some mechanics who worked with my father and that will make the day even more special.”
At the end of the scheduled session Marco Matassa Head of FDA Technical Department reflected on the days work;
“I am very pleased with how today went. I’d like to thank the Scuderia Ferrari race team for its support, because in the middle of such a busy season, it’s no small matter to change the car configuration to suit the individual needs of all three drivers, while helping them get to grips with something as complex as a hybrid-powered Formula 1 car.
On the technical front I’m happy with the way Mick, Callum and Robert quickly got used to the SF71H. For two of them this wasn’t their first time in a Formula 1 car, but even so it’s not easy to switch from the driving style demanded from a Formula 2 car to one best suited to Formula 1. The car has much more power, a significantly more sophisticated braking system and power steering that requires sensitivity and precision to use properly. However, they were all quick and immediately began running at a good pace. I believe the laps they did today will be very useful when Mick and Callum run on Friday at the Nürburgring.
On a purely emotional level, it was wonderful to see the lads in their red race suit in front of their Ferrari, posing for the group photo, especially with Robert who was having his very first drive in a Formula 1 car, which is an unforgettable moment for any driver.”
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