The budding F1 stars battling to emulate Russell and Norris

The four 2021 Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Award finalists have done all their fitness, simulator and driving tests. Now it’s just a matter of waiting to find out who will take away the £200,000 prize – and looking ahead to the new season

The budding F1 stars battling to emulate Russell and Norris

Each year, the Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award sets out to find and help the leading British junior single-seater racers around.

The 2021 edition was hard-fought across fitness, simulator and on-track tests. Since the Silverstone assessment in MotorSport Vision Formula 2, Garage 59 Aston Martin GT3 and BBM Sport Ginetta LMP3 machinery, the announcement of the winner has been pushed back to the new date for the Autosport Awards on 6 February.

During the wait to find out who has scooped the £200,000 prize and joined a list of winners that includes David Coulthard, Jenson Button, George Russell and Lando Norris, we caught up with this year’s four finalists…

Ollie Bearman

Bearman has signed to join the Ferrari Driver Academy

Bearman has signed to join the Ferrari Driver Academy

Photo by: Staley/Motorsport Images

Age: 16
2021: Italian and German F4 champion with Van Amersfoort

What got you interested in motorsport?

It came mostly from my dad’s side of the family. My dad and uncle raced when they were younger, and my grandad as well. I remember, when I was four or five, going to Brands Hatch and Donington Park, watching them race. I always found myself at race tracks, smelling the burning rubber and fumes, and starting to fall in love with it. My mum took me karting to Buckmore Park and from there I got a go-kart for Christmas – thanks Santa! – and have never looked back since. It’s got a bit more serious and expensive since then but I’m still loving every moment.

Tell us about your 2021

This season has been the highlight of my career so far. We set out the clear goal to win the championship, initially just Italian F4. We started off with selected rounds of German F4 but after the first two rounds I was leading the championship and it would be rude not to continue! I’m happy it paid off. It’s really nice to be also picked up by Ferrari – they’ve seen the potential I guess – and the recognition is encouraging.

How do you think the Award tests went?

I really looked forward to the challenge of driving the GT3 and LMP3 as they’re quite different to what I’m used to. It could be something that opens a door for the future. I really enjoyed driving the GT3 – although it’s the slowest lap time it was probably the most rewarding – and the LMP3 has a lot of grip in the high speed. The F2 was mega so I can’t really pick a favourite car. We all knew each other quite well and it was a really cool experience but we steered clear of the subject of lap times. I felt like I left everything on the track – maybe not the maximum out of the GT3 car – but in the F2 and LMP3 car I did my absolute best and that’s all I can do.

What can we expect from you in 2022?

I’ve signed with Ferrari Driver Academy, so they’re sort of dictating my career. For me there are only two options – FIA Formula 3 or Formula Regional European. Most of the tracks I’ve raced on in F4 are on those calendars so it’s less of a step into the unknown.

Jonny Edgar

Edgar is set to remain in FIA F3, but will switch teams after a tough first year at Carlin

Edgar is set to remain in FIA F3, but will switch teams after a tough first year at Carlin

Photo by: Staley/Motorsport Images

Age: 17
2021: 18th in FIA F3 (rookie season) with Carlin

What got you interested in motorsport?

A lot of people in my family have raced in karting – grandad and grandma, my uncles. Pretty much from when I was born I was always at a kart track on the weekends when my dad was racing. Not long after I was three years old I drove a kart for the first time and I’ve been racing since I was eight. I always wanted to be a Formula 1 driver, and at the end of 2017, after I won the European championships in karting, I joined the Red Bull junior team. Then they put me in F4 in 2019.

Tell us about your 2021

It was Red Bull’s choice to go straight from F4 [where he was 2020 German champion] to F3. It’s a huge step from F4 – the braking, the downforce, the tyres. You go from F4 doing a minimum of two days at every track you race on to maybe 40 minutes on a track you haven’t driven on, and you maybe haven’t driven a car for six weeks, so it’s quite different. It was difficult because, even if you’re not winning, you want to be up at the front. Some weekends were better than others but the main thing was trying to do the best you can with what you have.

How do you think the Award tests went?

The GT3 was quite different, with ABS and traction control, and the weight of the car was unlike what I’m used to. The LMP3 was probably the car I liked the best. It quite surprised me; I didn’t think it would feel that quick, but in the high speed I really liked how the car felt. I don’t think I’ve driven more than one car in a day before. It wasn’t too bad – the first lap in the LMP3 car I braked at the GT3 point and realised that’s too early, but it was fairly easy to adjust.

What can we expect from you in 2022?

It’s looking like FIA F3 again with a different team. I think it’s good to repeat a championship because you have experience of some of the tracks and the car. Especially after a difficult year it’s good to make sure you have a good year before moving up. A year of experience can make a big difference.

Louis Foster

Foster is targeting a move to the US for 2022

Foster is targeting a move to the US for 2022

Photo by: Staley/Motorsport Images

Age: 18
2021: Runner-up in Euroformula Open with CryptoTower

What got you interested in motorsport?

Motorsport runs in my family. Grandad wrote initial rulebooks for karting in the Blue Book with the MSA [now Motorsport UK] and dad [Nick Foster] used to do some rallying, then did some GT and touring car stuff. I started karting at five years old with my brother and dad as a fun thing to do, then jumped into Ginetta Junior and each year progressed up the ladder. Racing is all I’ve really known. I really enjoy it – it’s a thrill you don’t get anywhere else.

Tell us about your 2021

The season was amazing. I’d finished British F3 up there in 2020 and there wasn’t much point in doing a second year. Euroformula Open went really well, particularly at the tracks where I had previous experience. The tracks where I didn’t have that were quite tricky, that was probably the biggest challenge. It was for learning – and I say this after every year: my ambition isn’t to be British F4 champion, British F3 champion, Euroformula champion, it’s to learn and get to IndyCar. At this stage of my career it’s all about learning and I’ve learned 100 times more in the [old-spec F3] Euroformula car than I would have done in Formula Regional.

How do you think the Award tests went?

Once I understand how a car works I can perform a lot better. I think we saw this in the Award with the MSV F2 car. Once I’d figured it out and was comfortable I was able to push more and my pace drastically improved. Towards the end of the second F2 day was when I was able to give it everything, so those sessions were good. I enjoyed driving all the cars. I struggled a little bit with the GT3 car, it was quite different to what I’ve driven before, but I really enjoyed the LMP3.

What can we expect from you in 2022?

Most likely I’ll do Indy Pro 2000. The plan is to win that, get the scholarship money, then go to Indy Lights, win that, win the scholarship money and go to IndyCar. Obviously that puts a bit more pressure on – the next two years I have to win to get the prize money. Then hopefully have a successful career in IndyCar.

Zak O'Sullivan

O'Sullivan has tested an FIA F3 car and plans to step up to European competition next year

O'Sullivan has tested an FIA F3 car and plans to step up to European competition next year

Photo by: Staley/Motorsport Images

Age: 16
2021: GB3 champion with Carlin

What got you interested in motorsport?

My dad had a vague interest in cars and watched F1. I followed suit and fell in love with the sport then – it was the Michael Schumacher-Fernando Alonso and Alonso-Lewis Hamilton era. That was the starting point of my love of cars, and when I was seven we went to the Autosport show and we saw a go-kart on sale. After a year of pleading I got given a Bambino kart and it went from there – I practised drifting in a derelict tennis court near home! Due to some struggles in karting, after a tricky year in 2018, I decided to go to Ginetta Junior to get out of the karting scene and try my hand in cars. I enjoyed that year and it put me in good stead to go to F4.

Tell us about your 2021

My target was to learn. Part of the reason of staying in the UK rather than go to Europe was to learn a bit more. The competition is still pretty high and it was saving a bit of money before stepping up into more international series where you get noticed slightly more. It was the first year I got to see different team philosophies playing out throughout the year – there were some circuits we went to we knew we wouldn’t quite be as strong compared to Hitech and Fortec, and others where we knew we’d be strong due to the way we ran the car.

How do you think the Award tests went?

All the cars were pretty different to what I expected. The LMP3 was a lot pointier than I thought, the F2 car was a chunk faster. It was quite a big step up. The GT3 was pretty forgiving to drive and suited my driving style so I quite enjoyed that. It was a really cool experience. The hardest thing was jumping from the GT3 back into the F2, when I realised I had all this grip and had to brake later. I think we all had a pretty good idea we were quite close.

What can we expect from you in 2022?

The plan is FIA F3. I think I’ve learned enough in GB3 and that seems the logical step. I did the November test in Valencia, learned about the car and compared quite well to team-mates. I’m looking forward to it, it should be good fun.

The 2021 AMABA finalists were tasked with driving identical MSV Formula 2 machines and taking turns in the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 and Ginetta LMP3

The 2021 AMABA finalists were tasked with driving identical MSV Formula 2 machines and taking turns in the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 and Ginetta LMP3

Photo by: Staley/Motorsport Images

 

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