The 10 young drivers set to take part in FP1 in Abu Dhabi
A host of new – and some more familiar – names will be getting behind the wheel of various teams’ cars in Free Practice 1 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
As F1 teams are required to run a young driver – defined as someone who has started no more than two Grands Prix – in two FP1 sessions per season, several are taking their final opportunity to replace one of their regular drivers with a rookie on Friday at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Half of the grid will skip the session while the following 10 drivers step in for the opening hour of running in Abu Dhabi, with some making a return appearance while others are set for their F1 weekend debut…
Jake Dennis – Red Bull
Rather unusually, Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez will both be absent from FP1, with Red Bull opting to run two rookies in their place for the session. One of these is Jake Dennis, the 2023 Formula E world champion.
Dennis – who also acts as a simulator and development driver for Red Bull – will jump into the RB19 for his first Formula 1 weekend appearance.
Isack Hadjar – Red Bull
The other seat at Red Bull is set to be filled by Isack Hadjar, who previously got behind the wheel for AlphaTauri in FP1 at the Mexico City Grand Prix. He finished that session in P17 on the timesheets, with only one fellow rookie ahead of him.
Hadjar competes for Hitech in Formula 2 and currently lies 14th in the drivers’ standings ahead of the category’s finale this weekend.
Robert Shwartzman – Ferrari
Another familiar face returns in the form of Robert Shwartzman. The youngster – who has been a part of Ferrari’s Driver Academy since 2017 and is currently the squad’s reserve driver – will make his second FP1 appearance for the team in 2023, having already taken part in the session at Zandvoort.
After taking Carlos Sainz’s place last time, on this occasion Shwartzman will sit in for Charles Leclerc.
Frederik Vesti – Mercedes
Over at Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton will hand over his W14 to Frederik Vesti. The Dane was amongst the rookies who took part in FP1 in Mexico, where he got behind the wheel of George Russell’s car.
It looks set to be a big weekend in store for Vesti, who remains in second place of the Formula 2 drivers’ standings. Can he close the 25-point gap to championship leader Theo Pourchaire?
Jack Doohan – Alpine
Alpine are again calling on reserve driver Jack Doohan, with the Australian taking Esteban Ocon’s spot for FP1.
After making his F1 weekend debut for the team in the opening practice sessions for the 2022 Mexico City and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix, Doohan is repeating this pattern in 2023.
Pato O’Ward – McLaren
Returning for McLaren is Pato O’Ward, who previously took part in FP1 for the Woking-based squad in Abu Dhabi last year.
The Mexican finished fourth in the IndyCar championship this season for Arrow McLaren and has also been signed as a McLaren reserve driver for 2024.
Oliver Bearman – Haas
For the second time in 2023, Oliver Bearman will be in the hot seat at Haas, this time sitting in for Nico Hulkenberg. The teenager impressed many with his prior appearance for the team during FP1 in Mexico City.
Bearman is amongst those who will also be in action for the Formula 2 season finale over the weekend. The Briton currently sits in sixth place in the drivers’ standings.
Theo Pourchaire – Alfa Romeo
This could be a weekend to remember for Theo Pourchaire; not only will the Frenchman return to FP1 with Alfa Romeo, but he is also on course to potentially clinch the Formula 2 championship.
Pourchaire will be hoping for better luck all round after a mechanical issue during his previous F1 practice outing in Mexico City limited his time out on track.
Felipe Drugovich – Aston Martin
Another familiar face is back in action for Aston Martin. The 2022 Formula 2 champion Felipe Drugovich – who has been acting as the squad’s reserve driver this season – is set to take the wheel of Fernando Alonso’s AMR23 in FP1.
Drugovich has already competed in a practice session for the team this year, having completed 24 laps during the opening hour at the Italian Grand Prix.
Zak O’Sullivan – Williams
Amongst those returning names, a new name will appear on the timesheets for Williams in Abu Dhabi. Zak O’Sullivan is making his debut F1 weekend appearance, with Alex Albon sitting out the session and handing over his FW45 to the teen racer.
O’Sullivan ended the 2023 Formula 3 season as runner-up and will make the step up to F2 for the 2024 campaign.