Is Ferrari’s Young Driver Program ending or just starting?

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The timing of this AUTOSPORT story about Ferrari’s Young Driver program is interesting as I was just thinking about it this past week.

The reason I was considering the Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA) was because I was marveling at how effective Red Bull’s has been given the talent that we currently see on the grid. Vettel, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Kvyat, Sainz.

I’ll offer mea culpa because I’ve been confused by the program in the past with the Scott Speed, Sebastian Buemi, jamie Alguersuari, Jean-Eric Vergne and Sebastien Bourdais eras.

They would do a wholesale change of drivers and it always seemed to me that keeping an experienced driver was more typical in F1 history. A few of years ago, I came to the conclusion that they had experience at Red Bull and Scuderia Toro Rosso (STR) was really an extension of their program. Two new drivers didn’t surprise me any longer as I felt I was starting to get the plot…I know, I’m slow.

With the tragic passing of Jules Bianchi, I was wondering how Ferrari felt about their program as I compared the two approaches of both the Scuderia and Red Bull.

Ferrari has usually gone for the veteran drivers and Felipe Massa was the youngest driver at Ferrari in decades at 24-years-old. They tend to hire proven drivers with skills at the top of their game with Massa and Rubens Barichello representing younger driver moves on their part. I would argue that Rubens was pretty well established but perhaps Massa was not as much.

So if the FDA were to find a real talent, how long would it be before you’d see them in the red car? Red Bull has the STR program in which to cut their teeth in F1 but getting a ride in the Red Car is a different story…hence the loans to Marussia and Sauber.

So, is it an effective program? Does the driver loan program to Sauber, for instance, deliver great drivers for the team? It hasn’t so far but perhaps we were robbed of that reality with Jules Bianchi’s passing?

Perhaps it take time and if Maurizio Arrivebene is right, then the team will give the program time. The team boss called the rumors of the impending doom of the program “bullshit” and regarding the continuance, he said:

“Yes. For sure [next year] and for as long as we can.”

Current members of the FDA are GP2 driver and Sauber reserve driver Raffaele Marciello, GP3 driver Antonio Fuoco, European Formula 3 driver Lance Stroll and Chinese driver Guan Yu Zhou.

Anyone stand out as a potential for 2017? As AUTOSPORT points out, they program started in 2009 and I wonder just how long they will continue it if they do not find a new driver soon.

Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT

 

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Tom Firth

Marciello was Ferrari’s best chance of the FDA drivers in junior formula. His karting record was strong. He had a great record in F3, won the FIA F3 European championship with Prema, admittedly one of the top teams but beat his teammate, all the same. Went to GP2 last season with top team Racing Engineering, then Trident this year and unfortunately he just hasn’t had the finest couple of season to really show himself as an F1 hopeful it seems so far, at least when compared to Vandoorne, Lynn or Gasly. He’s still getting podiums and wins now and again,… Read more »

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