With five world champions in the field, F1 has a number of big names and quality drivers at the front of the grid at present.
But one of the most encouraging aspects of this 2014 season is that, despite fears that the rise of “pay drivers” would damage the long term standards, we have seen the emergence of a new generation – first or second year drivers – in whose hands the future looks secure.
There are some high quality young talents working their way up at the moment, led by Daniel Ricciardo, who has a bit more experience than the new generation we’ve picked out here.
We thought it was an appropriate moment to recognise this and look at some of them in more detail.
Finn Valtteri Bottas, racing in his second season, has been a revelation this year, bouncing back from the missed opportunity of a first podium in Australia to utilise his very quick Williams and score in 10 of 11 races this season.
The 24-year-old has been impressive in the last four races in particular, scoring his first podium in Austria with third and then following that up with two second places at Silverstone and Hockenheim respectively.
In doing so, he became the first Williams driver to score three successive podiums since Juan Pablo Montoya in 2003. Bottas was on course for a fourth successive podium in Hungary but lost out when the safety car came out.
However, he remains an impressive fifth in the drivers’ standings, one place ahead of defending champion Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull, and has more than double the points of his more experienced team-mate Felipe Massa.
“He’s a great driver, someone who could become an exceptional driver, so we’re lucky to have him,” said Williams head of vehicle performance Rob Smedley.
“His racecraft is phenomenal, he’s super-quick, but the good thing about Valtteri is he’s a young lad with his feet absolutely on the ground. He’s not spoiled in any way shape or form, which is great.
“He’s also able to accept advice very readily, not only about the very basics, but also about his racecraft and how he communicates with us. My opinion is growing of him week-by-week.”
Jules Bianchi was considered to be one of the best young driving talents on the world motorsport scene when he made his debut with Marussia last season.
And after a solid first year in the sport, the Frenchman has stepped it up this season, most notably scoring Marussia’s first ever Formula 1 points with ninth place on the streets of Monte Carlo.
After that race, double world champion Alonso said: “He’s a friend and I’m extremely happy for him and very proud of what his result will mean for him in his career. I have no doubt it will be a good career. Hopefully with this result he can have a more competitive car next year and show his talent even more.”
While it will be difficult for Bianchi to improve on that result in the car that he has, the Frenchman continues to impress by comfortably beating his team-mate Max Chilton.
The 25-year-old has out-qualified Chilton eight times in 11 races this season, and only once failed to beat the Brit to the chequered flag when they have both finished.
He has been a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy since 2009 and when he was called into an official test at Silverstone for the Scuderia, the JA on F1 columnist produced a commanding performance, finishing top of the charts after completing 89 laps of development work.
Almost 12 months ago, to some Daniil Kvyat was a surprising choice as the replacement for Red Bull-bound Daniel Ricciardo at Toro Rosso. But anyone who had studied him in GP3 could see his quality. The 20-year-old made a big step up from GP3 – as Bottas did – a championship which he won last year, to the premier class of motor racing.
However, he instantly made an impression by scoring points on his debut – then aged 19 – with ninth place in Australia, breaking four-time world champion Vettel’s record as the youngest ever points-scorer in Formula 1.
It was all the more impressive considering Toro Rosso’s difficult pre-season meant he didn’t get as much running in the car as he would have liked.
The Russian, who came through the Red Bull junior scheme, has impressed the team around him with his mature approach to racing and he would have more than four points finishes in 11 races had it not been for the car’s poor reliability.
His pace in qualifying has been impressive, reaching Q3 five times this season, and he has also performed well against more experienced team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne (who outraced Ricciardo several times last season) as well as drawing praise from Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.
“He has been sensational and has been the rookie of the season so far,” Horner said. “His raw pace and speed, considering the jump he has made from GP3, is hugely impressive.
“He had little pre-season testing and Jean-Eric [Vergne] is a very quick driver, so the benchmark he’s up against is good as well.”
Kvyat has looked good in changeable conditions and seems to have that combination of speed, aggression and mental calmness which characterises this new generation. He has a vert bright future in the sport, provided he keeps improving at the same consistent rate.
Kevin Magnussen is a bit more of a question mark than the others, but he made a big impression on his debut in Australia, the 21-year-old scoring McLaren’s first podium in more than a year with second place, ahead of team-mate Jenson Button. This was based on a sensational, front of grid qualifying performance in tricky conditions.
“Despite his youth and inexperience, he drove like a man who’d notched up 100 grands prix already,” said McLaren team boss Eric Boullier after the race. “It was a complex and challenging race, yet he managed those complexities and challenges faultlessly.”
It was an impressive drive and although he has failed to replicate that kind of form in the following 10 races, he has still shown good pace relative to his more experienced and decorated team-mate.
The Dane scored points in five successive races from Monaco and sits in 10th place in the drivers’ standings, 23 points behind Button. They have been well-matched in qualifying, with Button edging the head-to-head 6-5.
But in the last two races, Magnussen has looked particularly quick in qualifying, starting fourth on the grid in Germany before his unfortunate tangle with Felipe Massa and then reaching Q3 in Hungary only to be caught out by the tricky conditions.
If he can learn from his mistakes and do enough to secure the seat for a second season in 2015 with Honda engines, the Dane should have a platform to build a bright future.