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How Aston Martin, Autosport and the BRDC find the next British F1 rising star

The 34th member of the Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award winners’ club will be announced on Sunday, with the four finalists having been through a series of rigorous tests, challenges and different machinery to assess their credentials. Here’s how the test played out this year

Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award testing

Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award testing

Jake Grant / Motorsport Images

Autosport Awards

The Autosport Awards are a series of awards presented by motor racing magazine Autosport to drivers that have achieved significant milestones each season. Some of the presentations are selected by the general public via a reader's poll.

The time has come. This Sunday at the Autosport Awards at Grosvenor House, the winner of the 2023 Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award will be revealed.

Teenagers Taylor Barnard, Arvid Lindblad, Joseph Loake and Callum Voisin all stand a chance of becoming the 34th winner of the programme to find and assist the best British rising stars in single-seater motorsport.

As well as joining a list of previous winners that includes 2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button, current frontrunners Lando Norris and George Russell, and 13-time grand prix victor David Coulthard, the successful finalist will earn an Aston Martin F1 test, £200,000, full membership of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, an Arai helmet and a Jordan Bespoke personalised helmet bag.

Strong campaigns in F3, F4 and GB3 got the quartet selected, an initial 10 finalists being whittled down by the judging panel led by Derek Warwick in September. Then there’s a reset. The scores for each were zero when they began the process in October: it’s all about what they did during the assessments that followed, though the level of experience each finalist brings into the competition is always considered.

Insight: How to win the Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Award

As usual, the finalists conducted simulator tests courtesy of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team before getting their hands on real racing cars. Each was given 40 laps on the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit with a virtual Mercedes W14. Three runs were done with a baseline set-up, while in the final one a blind set-up change was done to test the drivers’ feedback and ability to adapt.

A full simulator report was sent to the judges, with the finalists scored across pace, consistency, feedback and approach/attitude. As a sign of things to come, this year’s quartet were covered by just three points out of 20, with one scoring 18/20.

Due to tight schedules, the fitness tests – conducted by Athletic Thinking – had to wait until after the driving element in 2023, so the next stop was Silverstone.

The finalists had to master F2 machinery in the wet - having never driven the cars before!

Photo by: James Sutton / Motorsport Images

The finalists had to master F2 machinery in the wet - having never driven the cars before!

Seat fittings, briefings and media sessions aside, the drivers first got sighter laps at the start of day one in Silverstone’s Aston Martin school cars before settling in with their F2 machine and engineer.

The Williams-built JPH1B might now be more than a decade old, but it holds many benefits for the Award. Quite aside from having them all centrally run to ensure parity, the 1.8-litre turbocharged F2 cars are also alien to all the finalists – they can’t ‘sneak’ in a random test day at Pembrey with one, for example.

Set-ups are well known and the 425bhp cars are a real challenge for those used to junior single-seaters with little more than half that, such as GB3. And, as one of the finalists said, “these F2 cars in the wet are pretty crazy”!

After a familiarisation run using wet tyres on a drying track, the proper action got under way with a series of qualifying-style sessions on both used and new Pirelli slicks. Towards the end of the day there was also a pursuit run, in which the lowest overall ‘race’ time was the goal, before a final qualifying push that produced the fastest times of the entire test.

"It was more complicated than I expected because it was so close. One driver would shine, then another and another – for the whole damn process!" Johnny Herbert

Thanks to having four MotorSport Vision-run F2 cars, the finalists were all on track at the same time for the single-seater running. Remarkably, in 2023 all four of them topped at least one of the sessions during day one and were normally separated by a handful of tenths around the 3.7-mile circuit that was taking around 1m45-46s for the F2 cars to circulate.

The weather was nastier at the start of day two, providing a difficult challenge for the drivers and engineers but yet more data for the judges. Except that the order was completely different in the second wet run compared to the first!

“It was more complicated than I expected because it was so close,” says new guest judge Johnny Herbert. “One driver would shine, then another and another – for the whole damn process!

Herbert joined the judging panel this year and remarked how close the competition was

Photo by: James Sutton / Motorsport Images

Herbert joined the judging panel this year and remarked how close the competition was

“Being part of it was nice from my point of view because I’ve always enjoyed analysing other people’s styles. We could look at what was going on and it was interesting to see how they responded after a good or bad session.”

With the F2 running complete, attention turned to the GT3 and LMP3 racers. Benchmark drivers Wayne Boyd and Jonny Adam recorded baseline laps first, something they repeated later in the day to account for track evolution.

With only one United Autosports Ligier and Beechdean Aston Martin, each finalist experienced slightly different circuit conditions as the track dried. Using the benchmark drivers as the circuit changed allowed the lap times to be ‘corrected’ to take that into account, negating the disadvantage of those running first.

More: The 'no-win' job vital to the young driver Awards test

Each finalist got two runs in the 455bhp 5.6-litre V8 Ligier and two in the 500+bhp four-litre turbocharged Aston Martin, with time for a quick word with the teams in between. The star performances of past winners have often come in the non-single-seaters – think Button in the Nissan Primera Super Tourer or Norris in Mercedes DTM – and these elements can be crucial when the F2 running is close.

During all this, the various judges did a mix of talking to the drivers and engineers, watching trackside at various vantage points and looking at the lap times provided by TSL and data coming into the judges’ room in the Wing. Aside from Warwick and Herbert, this year’s panel included Award winners Dario Franchitti, Darren Turner, Andrew Kirkaldy and Alexander Sims, successful Lola and McLaren designer Mark Williams, Le Mans-winning engineer Leena Gade, leading commentator Ian Titchmarsh and Autosport Chief Editor Kevin Turner.

Once all the running was completed, MSV, United Autosports and Beechdean engineers reported back to the judges, while the finalists were also interviewed before being handed their phones back and finally being allowed to escape! The benchmark drivers were also asked who they’d want to share their cars with if they were going into a race meeting the next day…

Each finalist was also tested out in a Beechdean Aston Martin GT3 and United Autosports Ligier LMP3

Photo by: James Sutton / Motorsport Images

Each finalist was also tested out in a Beechdean Aston Martin GT3 and United Autosports Ligier LMP3

As the finalists’ long wait until 3 December began, the judges settled in for a long discussion. Lap times, improvement during the two days, mistakes, driver feedback and the views of the teams running the cars are just some of the things taken into account. There’s also reams of data and onboard footage, which can be called upon to assess anything from driving styles to (whisper it) track-limits transgressions.

“All the judges had slightly different views, but that was good because then you work through everything,” adds Herbert. “The Award can be very important to the career of a racing driver and it gives the opportunity for them to shine.”

As usual, the 2023 process was rigorous – but hopefully enjoyable – for everyone involved. Which is how it should be before the winner of an F1 test and £200,000 is announced in front of a room full of motorsport experts in London.

The 2023 finalists

Barnard endured a puncture during one of his runs during the test

Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images

Barnard endured a puncture during one of his runs during the test

Taylor Barnard
Age: 19
2023: 10th in FIA Formula 3 with Jenzer Motorsport

“It’s an experience that I’ll never have again and I had to make the most of it. Everyone was friendly and helpful but it was very high pressure as well.

“I’m happy with what I’ve done. We did a pursuit run and in that I got a puncture and had to get the car back to the pits. I got back out there and finished the run really strong. To have that hiccup and come back I think I did a good job.

“When you look at the names of the people who have won the Award, to add my name to that list would mean so much to me. It’s hard to take my mind off it to be honest!”

For Lindblad, who has competed in F4 categories this year, the run in F2 machinery was

Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images

For Lindblad, who has competed in F4 categories this year, the run in F2 machinery was "a completely different level"

Arvid Lindblad
Age: 16
2023: 3rd in Italian F4 and 4th in Euro 4 with Prema Racing

“I really enjoyed the opportunity and loved driving all three cars. They were great and it’s an all-new experience. Being a single-seater, the F2 was more familiar but it’s a completely different level to F4.

“I loved the GT3 and LMP3 cars, it was just a shame it was wet. The F2 in the dry, when the track temperature went up and we could get heat into the tyres, felt really good.

“To win the Award, I can’t quite put what it would mean into words. It’s such a prestigious Award with an incredible list of winners. It would be an honour and I tried my best in all the tests.”

Loake relished the wet conditions at Silverstone

Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images

Loake relished the wet conditions at Silverstone

Joseph Loake
Age: 18
2023: 3rd in GB3 with JHR Developments

“The whole thing was such a privilege and I’m proud to have done enough to be there.

“My pursuit run and F2 qualifying were strong and I know I was quick in the wet. I was nervous because the last two wet GB3 rounds hadn’t gone well, but Silverstone in the wet is good for me. It would have been nice to drive the GT3 and LMP3 in the dry to see what they could do, but it was still cool to drive them.

“It’d be incredible to win the Award and prove to myself that I can achieve more in motorsport. The prizes are good, but the biggest thing would be having my name on the winners’ list.”

GB3 champion Voisin completed the finalists line-up

Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images

GB3 champion Voisin completed the finalists line-up

Callum Voisin
Age: 17
2023: GB3 champion with Rodin Carlin

“It’s a weird experience because you don’t know how other people are doing. The environment was completely different, but I liked it.

“The last run we got in the F2 car in the wet felt really good. The first run didn’t go so well but the second was a big step – I got the tyres switched on and it was a night-and-day different.

“I really enjoyed the LMP3 – it was faster and more nimble than I expected – and the GT3 was cool. The number of buttons in that car!

“The Award is something I’ve had in the back of my mind and I really wanted to show what I can do.”

The 2023 Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award winner will be revealed on Sunday

Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images

The 2023 Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award winner will be revealed on Sunday

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