Williams Racing Academy Driver Zak O’Sullivan will take part in the first Free Practice session at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, taking over the car of Alexander Albon
With teams required to run a driver, who has started two or fewer Grands Prix, in each of their cars across the season, several outfits have selected last weekend's Mexico City Grand Prix and the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as the venue where their junior drivers get to drive their cars.
Williams needed to run a young driver in only Alex Albon's car as rookie driver Logan Sargeant fulfilled the requirement at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. The Grove-based outfit has now confirmed that Zak O'Sullivan will get behind the wheel of Albon’s FW45 at Yas Marina Circuit for the hour session.
The 2023 Formula 3 Vice Champion will also take part in this year’s end-of-season Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi, sharing driving duties across the course of the day with fellow Academy driver Franco Colapinto. The Argentinian driver will get his first taste of a Formula 1 car during the test following his debut in Formula 2 with MP Motorsport in the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.
Commenting on the team's plan, Sporting Director Sven Smeets said: “Both Zak and Franco have had impressive seasons in Formula 3 and we’re now looking forward to giving them the opportunity to drive the FW45 in Abu Dhabi to aid their development as part of their roles in the Williams Racing Driver Academy.
"The pair have demonstrated a high level of understanding and maturity during their simulator work conducted at Grove. I know they'll both be working hard in preparation for this experience and will make the most of it.”
After successful seasons in Formula 3, in which O'Sullivan and Colapinto tied the all-time record for most wins in the championship (4), both Academy drivers will be stepping up into Formula 2 for 2024 with the Briton competing for ART Grand Prix and the Argentinian driver with MP Motorsport.
What dreams are made of for our Academy duo! 🤩 pic.twitter.com/T4edZ9ms29— Williams Racing (@WilliamsRacing) November 1, 2023
O'Sullivan's 2023 season included four victories with two Feature Race wins and two Sprint wins, along with one pole position and a further podium finish, resulting in second place in the Championship. The British driver joined the Williams Racing Driver Academy in 2022 and has most notably won the prestigious Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award.
O’Sullivan commented: “I’m really excited to participate in FP1 at Abu Dhabi. I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of the FW45 for the first time and get some good mileage under my belt. In addition to that, I’m returning to the car for the post-season rookie test to further my development with the team. Huge thanks to Williams Racing for the opportunity and for putting their faith in me to drive the 2023 car.”
Colapinto’s second season in F3 saw him finish fourth in the driver standings after claiming two Sprint victories and a total of five podium finishes. Franco has been a part of the Driver Academy since the start of 2023 and has impressive credentials, with his most notable achievements including becoming the 2021 Asian Le Mans Series Rookie of the Year and winning the 2019 Spanish Formula 4 Championship.
“I am extremely grateful to Williams Racing for giving me the opportunity to drive an F1 car in only my first year in the Academy," added Colapinto. "I’ve been dreaming of this day since I was a kid and have been working really hard for this. To have this chance at the official young driver test is a real honour. Thank you to the team for entrusting me with the FW45. Being part of the Academy this year has opened my eyes in so many different areas and I feel ready to make this step. I can’t wait.”