The new FIA Institute Young Driver Academy is taking shape as today 19 youngsters were named, from which 10 will be selected to take part in the 2011 Academy programme. The most experienced of them is Alexander Rossi, an American who has been racing in GP3 and GP2 Asia and is known in the F1 paddock.
The drivers come from all over the world; Bahrain, France, Spain, Israel, Estonia, Norway, USA and New Zealand. There is a requirement for one candidate to come from each of the FIA’s five funding regions; the Americas, West and North Europe, East and Central Europe, Middle East/Africa and Asia/Oceania.
The FIA’s programme differs from other young driver programmes in two key areas; the programme is a training course rather than a source of funding for a season of racing, it’s something that will look good on a CV rather than present a cheque for a drive in F3. Secondly it has a strong emphasis on making the drivers into good ambassadors for the sport, particularly in terms of going back to their home regions and spreading the word on road safety, which is one of FIA president Jean Todt’s principal goals while in office.
As legendary F1 doctor Sid Watkins observes, “The Academy programme aims to ensure that our future stars are not just quick but also have the education and attitude that you need to succeed at the very top level.”
The spotlight on young talent and the opportunities or lack of them at the top level, comes at a time when racing teams are finding it increasingly hard to find sponsorship. It seems that perhaps 10 or 11 of the drivers on the F1 grid this coming season will be bringing sponsorship with them.
The 19 who will take part in the shootout are:
Kevin Abbring, 21, Netherlands
Winner of the Junior world rally championship.
Hamad Ahmed Al Fardan, 23, Bahrain
Finished 4th in the Rotax Max World kart Finals. Finished third in the rookie standings in FBMW Asia.
Paul-Loup Chatin, 19, France
Comes from F4 Eurocup 1.6 where he finished a fourth last season, with two victories.
Albert Costa, 20, Spain
Drove for Räikkönen Robertson Racing in F3. Won the Renault Eurocup in 2009 and graduated to the Formula Renault 3.5 Series in 2010.
Alon Day, 19, Israel
Won the Asian Formula Renault Challenge in 2009. Raced in the German F3 Championship last season. r
Philipp Eng, 20, Austria
Won the Italian Open Masters karting in 2004. Won the Formula BMW World Final in 2007. This earned him a test for the BMW Sauber Formula One team, which he undertook in 2008. Raced in F2 last two seasons.
Robin Frijns, 19, Netherlands
Finished third in the KF2 European Kart Championship. Won Formula BMW championship last season with six race victories.
Adam Gould, 23, UK
Won the Pirelli Star Driver rallying title and with it a Pirelli funded drive in a Subaru Impreza in the British Rally Championship in 2009.
Timmy Hansen, 18, Sweden
Third in the Formula BMW Championship last season
Egon Kaur, 23, Estonia
Won the Estonian Rally Championship in 2006. Has also competed in selected rounds of the World Rally Championship.
Andreas Mikkelsen, 21, Norway
Competed in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, with a best finish of second on the 2010 Rally Scotland. Won the SWRC class at the season-ending 2010 Wales Rally GB.
Josef Newgarden, 20, USA
Won the TAG World Championship in karting. Runner up in British Formula Ford Championship in 2009 with nine wins. Raced in GP3 Series last year.
Norman Nato, 18, France
Finished fourth in the 2009 KZ1 World Kart Cup. Runner up in the F4 Renault Eurocup 1.6 last year
Alexander Rossi, 19, USA
Won Formula BMW USA series in 2008 he won the series with ten wins from the fifteen races. He completed the season by winning the 2008 Formula BMW World Championship and was awarded a Formula One test with BMW Sauber F1 Team. Raced in 2009–10 GP2 Asia Series. In 2010 finished fourth in GP3 Series. He has former USF1 front man Peter Windsor working in his team.
Jan Skala, 19,Czech Republic
Jan Skala started as a rally driver switched to circuit racing. Won the European Cup Formula 1400.
Richie Stanaway, 19, New Zealand
Originally from a speedway background. Moved to Germany and won the ADAC Formel Masters season championship last year.
Molly Taylor, 22, Australia
She moved to the UK to compete in the full British Rally Championship in the Suzuki Swift Sport Cup, winning three of the six events.
Stoffel Vandoorne, 18, Belgium
In 2009 he finished as runner-up in the CIK-FIA World Cup in KF2 category. Won the F4 Eurocup 1.6 series, taking six wins. In 2011, he will graduate to Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup.
Joni Wiman, 17, Finland
Has competed in karting, rallying and circuit racing. Came second in the 2008 European Championship in karting. Raced in the 2010 Formula Renault UK Winter Series.