Formula 1’s Rookie Class of 2023
When the season kicks off on Sunday in Bahrain, three rookies will have achieved their dreams of grabbing seats in Formula 1.
Logan Sargeant with Williams, the first American driver in the sport in almost 10 years; Nyck de Vries with AlphaTauri; and Oscar Piastri with McLaren are embarking on their first seasons.
Piastri has replaced another Australian driver, Daniel Ricciardo, who has returned to Red Bull as a reserve driver after racing for the team from 2014 to 2018.
“It is nice to be the next Aussie into F1,” Piastri said. “There’s usually only one of us at a time, but there’s a big sense of pride being the only Aussie on the grid. It is a special feeling.”
After winning the Formula 3 championship in 2020 and the Formula 2 title in 2021, Piastri became a reserve driver with Alpine last year.
Piastri has already impressed Andrea Stella, the new team principal of McLaren.
“A characteristic we like a lot is that he’s a man of few words, but the right words,” Stella said.
Formula 1: On and Off the Track
- Rookies Ready to Go: Logan Sargeant with Williams; Nyck de Vries with AlphaTauri; and Oscar Piastri with McLaren are embarking on their first seasons.
- A Championship Run: Mercedes had many problems last season with its racecar, but after a redesign the team hopes it can challenge for a title.
- Listening to the Radio: With the press of a button on the steering wheel, drivers communicate with their team. It’s an improvement from when they used hand-held signs.
- Covered From Head to Toe: Drivers are loaded with equipment, like a biometric sensor and fire-resistant overalls, to keep them safe in racecars. Please, no jewelry — and let’s discuss the underwear.
- More on Formula 1: Stories about drivers, teams and issues.
“He’s certainly focused, and also, I would say demanding. The focus goes into being demanding to the team, and this will certainly help elevate the standards.”
After a year on the sidelines last season, which he said was “not ideal,” Piastri, 21, is eager to again go racing.
“I tried to make the most of what I had last year, trying to learn as much as I could about the F1 environment outside of the driving,” he said.
“I learned some things I wouldn’t necessarily have learned elsewhere. Now, I’m definitely looking forward to getting stuck in again.”
De Vries has one advantage over the other rookies: He raced in last year’s Italian Grand Prix.
De Vries, of the Netherlands, was called upon by Williams after Alex Albon had appendicitis. The rookie scored two points when he finished ninth.
Then after Pierre Gasly announced about a month later that he would be joining Alpine for 2023, AlphaTauri signed de Vries, the 2019 Formula 2 champion and winner of the 2020-21 Formula E title.
At 28, de Vries is older than usual for a rookie driver, but he is grateful to finally get his chance.
“I get the opportunity to live my dream,” he said.
“I think partly because my journey has been slightly unusual and longer, I’m even more grateful for the opportunity, more motivated to grab it and hungrier to show what I’m worth.”
De Vries, who was a reserve driver for Mercedes in 2021 and 2022, will share the stage with another Dutch driver, the two-time champion Max Verstappen.
“Obviously, Max has done incredibly well in Formula 1,” de Vries said. “He’s dominating our sport at the moment and rightfully the whole country is behind him, and the Dutch are very excited about Formula 1.”
Unlike Piastri and de Vries, Sargeant has not had the experience of winning a junior single-seater title.
Sargeant was fourth in last year’s Formula 2 championship, taking him beyond the 40-points threshold required to obtain the F.I.A. Super License, the document issued by the sport’s governing body that allows drivers to compete in Formula 1.
Although Williams has finished last in the constructors’ championship in four of the last five seasons, Sargeant knows that he will still be under pressure to deliver results.
“In Formula 1 you’re never completely safe,” he said. “You have to come in and perform at an extremely high level, but I do have to be realistic.
“The approach, especially at the beginning, is to learn as much as possible and take it from there. I don’t want to put too much expectation on myself. I’m just going to take it as it comes.”
Sargeant, 22, is the first American driver on the grid since Alexander Rossi in 2015.
He will have the distinction of competing in three home Grands Prix as Las Vegas joins the calendar this year in addition to the races in Miami and Austin, Texas.
“Having three home Grands Prix is not something many have ever been able to say,” Sargeant said. “I just really see it as a privilege and an honor.”