Navigating the Future of Formula 1: Reserve Drivers and Their Path to a Full-Time Seat

ATRL’s Tiegan Batchelor explores the world of reserve drivers’ F1 prospects. Oliver Bearman’s standout performance highlights the talent of these drivers, yet the road to a full-time seat remains uncertain due to financial constraints and fierce competition.

Written by Tiegan Batchelor

April 12, 2024

In the high-octane world of Formula 1, reserve drivers play a crucial role in simulator work, practice sessions – and in Oliver Bearman’s case – jumping into an F1 car at a moment’s notice. Oliver Bearman’s recent stellar performance at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix underscores the talent these drivers possess.

Oliver Bearman: Rising Star of the Reserve Driver Realm

Oliver “Ollie” Bearman is the current reserve driver for MoneyGram Haas F1 Team, as well as Ferrari. As a member of the illustrious Ferrari Driver Academy, Oliver Bearman is a shining example of the promising talent nurtured by top-tier teams. 

Oliver Bearman, reserve driver for Scuderia Ferrari and Haas F1 Team (Photo via @OllieBearman on Instagram)

 

For the 2024 season, Bearman has 6 FP1 sessions with the team, where he will be keen to replicate his performance at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. At just 18 years old, the British F2 driver forfeited his pole position at the F2 feature race, to make his F1 debut in replacement of Carlos Sainz. 

The youngster narrowly missed out on Q3 and started in eleventh, but ultimately beat both Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton, finishing in seventh place and clinched ‘Driver of the Day’. However, the reality for many reserve drivers, including Bearman, is the uncertainty of securing a full-time seat in the pinnacle of motorsport. 

Reflecting on how his performance might influence his career trajectory, Bearman emphasises his commitment to his current F2 season, when he spoke to Sky Sports after the race:

“First of all, F2 will be a bit less complicated now. I don’t have to worry about this battery strategy or anything like that. It’s great to have this opportunity in F1 but my main focus this year is F2. I hope I did a good job interview today”. 

In an interview with Autosport after the race, Moneygram Haas Team Principal Ayao Komatsu highlighted that while Bearman deserves a chance in F1 in 2025, it is not a given that he will be occupying a seat for the US outfit. 

“Penalty aside, Kev’s done fantastic today. Nico delivered as well. So how can I sit here and say, [Bearman is] ‘our driver for next year’? […] Based on today’s performance, it’s Nico and Kevin.”

Other Talents in Limbo: Felipe Drugovich and Jack Doohan

Bearman’s situation is not unique; Felipe Drugovich is another F1 reserve driver who finds themselves in a similar predicament. While his potential is undeniable, the path to securing a full-time seat remains very uncertain. Especially, when most teams have their driver line-ups somewhat locked in for the next couple of years. 

The 2022 F2 champion is currently the reserve driver for Aston Martin for the second year in a row. He will be undertaking mostly simulation duties back at the Silversstone headquarters, as well as testing in previous F1 machinery. 

Felipe Drugovich, reserve driver for Aston Martin (Photo via @FelipeDrugovich on Instagram)

 

Additionally, Jack Doohan – the Aussie F2 driver who finished third place in the 2022 F2 Championship is also in the same boat, in his current position as the reserve driver at BWT Alpine F1 Team. 

Navigating the Road to a Full-Time Seat

So, what are the probabilities or timelines for these aspiring drivers to transition into full-time roles within their teams?

For starters, it’s essential to recognise the dynamic nature of Formula 1. Driver contracts, team strategies and performance dynamics are among the various factors at play, which can lead to unexpected – and sometimes desirable – opportunities. A standout performance in lower-tier series or a sudden vacancy within a team due to unforeseen circumstances can catapult reserve drivers into contention for a full seat.

However, the road to a full-time seat in Formula 1 is not without its challenges. Intense competition, limited vacancies, and the ever-present pressure to deliver results make it a daunting journey. In Formula 1, talent alone is often insufficient to secure a place on the grid. The exorbitant costs associated with running a team, coupled with the reliance on sponsorships and commercial partnerships, create a daunting financial hurdle for aspiring drivers like Drugovich. Despite his exceptional skill behind the wheel, he finds himself sidelined due to a lack of funding rather than a lack of talent.

The Future of Reserve Drivers: Hope Amidst Uncertainty

Despite these obstacles, optimism prevails among the ranks of reserve drivers. With determination, perseverance, and a bit of luck, they remain hopeful in their pursuit of a coveted spot on the Formula 1 grid. 2025 brings a number of possibilities, with 12 drivers on the grid coming to the end of their contracts. While the immediate prospects for reserve drivers like Ollie Bearman may seem uncertain, the future holds promise. 

As Formula 1 continues to evolve, opportunities for talented drivers to secure full-time seats will inevitably arise. Until then, these drivers will continue to hone their skills, biding their time for their moment in the spotlight.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Racing has always been an interest to Tiegan, but more seriously over the last 3 years. She is solely interested in F1 and her favourite teams include Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari. She also has a First Class Degree in International Business Management!

Related Articles

Raising Mental Health Awareness Beyond Formula 1

Raising Mental Health Awareness Beyond Formula 1

To raise mental health awareness, Formula 1 teams are partnering with charities like Mind. Founded in 1946, Mind emphasizes community-based mental health support despite controversies. Their collaboration extends to engaging fans and hosting events, supported by advocates like Lewis Hamilton, and promoting destigmatization through open conversations and support.

Stay Up to Date With The Latest News & Updates

Interested in Writing for ATRL?

Contact us now! Fill out the form below and wait for an email from us to get started.

Join Our Newsletter

Subscribe to updates when we post a new article! 

 

COMING SOON!

 

 

Follow Us

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @ATRacingLine