Ferrari’s young driver programme gears up for 2017

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Ferrari’s young driver programme was established back in 2009. The idea came from Felipe Massa’s grooming and success. The Brazilian was discovered by Ferrari and was loaned out to the Italian team’s then sister squad Sauber for three season. The 11-time GP-winner then went on to become Ferrari’s race driver when the most successful driver Michael Schumacher ended his first spell in Formula 1.

In 2009, Ferrari established a programme which was set to help the career of young talents by giving them test opportunities, simulator work and managing them in the feeder series. The programme is now headed by Ferrari’s former racing manager Massimo Rivola.

The first driver who was picked up was Jules Bianchi. The Frenchman competed successfully in the French Formula Renault 2.0, Formula 3 Euro Series, GP2 and Formula Renault 3.5 before having joined the F1 field with Marussia F1 Team. The Nice-born driver had a promising career of 34 races before his tragic death in the 2014 Japanese GP.

On the success of Bianchi, Ferrari recruited its programme with Mirko Bortolotti, Daniel Zampieri, Sergio Perez, Brandon Maisano, Lance Stroll and Raffaele Marciello in 2010. Ferrari parted ways with all these drivers though.

Until Christmas, FDA was formed by four drivers. Anontio Fuoco joined it in 2013, Guanyu Zhou in 2014, Charles Leclerc and Giuliano Alesi both in 2016. This will be expanded by two other drivers as Marcus Armstrong and Enzo Fittipaldi will join Ferrari’s field in 2017. They were selected after Ferrari held an evaluation test at Fiorano in November.

Enzo Fittipaldi is the grandson of the two-time F1 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi. The Brazilian’s elder brother Pietro Fittipaldi contests in the Formula V8 3.5 Series. 2016 was the first year of car racing for the 15-year-old who competed this year in UK’s Ginetta Junior Championship.

Marcus Armstrong contested the majority of the 2016 season in karting, but also made his single-seater debut in the Formula Renault Northern European Cup.

Charles Leclerc is now the most promising talent in Ferrari’s Driver Academy. The Monegasque has immediately set every series afire after joining it. He finished second in the 2014 Formula Renault 2.0 Championship in his first year, finished second in the 2015 Macau GP, scoring four wins in the 2015 FIA F3 Championship in his debut year. In 2016, he went on to win the GP3 title in his first year. The 19-year-old completed test outings with Ferrari at Fiorano and drove for Haas F1 Team in a couple of free pratice sessions in 2016. Leclerc will compete in the GP2 in 2017

Ferrari’s announcement follows the signing of Antonio Giovinazzi. The Italian youngster was discovered by Ferrari after finishing second in the FIA F3 Championship in 2015, winning the 2015 Macau F3 GP and finishing second in the GP2 Series in 2016. The 23-year Italian will take up the role of Ferrari third driver in the 2017 F1 campaign.

With the success of Antonio Giovinazzi and Charles Leclerc, they are both expected to make their debut in F1 in 2018 or at least to be in the fight for race seats.