You might spot some familiar names on the timing sheets at the Mexico City Grand Prix on Friday. As part of Formula 1’s mandatory rookie sessions, five drivers from the 2023 Formula 2 grid will be getting behind the wheel in Free Practice 1.
With three F1 debuts and two of our title contenders hitting the track, the high altitude Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez provides a very unique set of challenges for our drivers to master.
Here’s the lowdown of who you’ll be seeing in action for the one hour of running around the Mexican circuit.
Drivers’ Championship leader Théo Pourchaire will be getting his first F1 outing of the year, taking over the reins of the C43 from Valtteri Bottas. The ART Grand Prix driver has one FP1 session under his belt, having been in action for the Italian team during last year’s United States Grand Prix.
The Frenchman currently has one win and a further nine podiums to his name this season, giving him a 25-point lead in the Standings. Additionally, his reserve driver role has already been confirmed to extend in 2024.
Announced at the start of August, PREMA Racing’s Frederik Vesti has had plenty of time to immerse himself in the intense physical and mental preparation needed for his Formula 1 debut. Standing in for 2018 F2 Champion George Russell in the W14, he’ll be joining his title rival Pourchaire on track.
The 21-year-old Dane got his first taste of F1 machinery in the Abu Dhabi Young Drivers’ test last year, clocking in 124 laps in the W13. With one round of the F2 season remaining, the Mercedes junior will be looking to add to his tally of seven podiums, including five wins.
“I’m incredibly proud to be doing the FP1 session in Mexico City with the Team - it’s a dream come true,” said Vesti at the time of the announcement. “To think in less than two months that I’ll be doing my first official Formula One session with Mercedes, who have won eight consecutive Constructors’ Championships, is amazing.
“This has been my dream since I was very young and something I’ve been fighting for through my whole junior career. It’s taken a lot of hard work, and this is a very important step for me on my journey. To be able to develop myself in an F1 car alongside some of the best drivers in the world is something I’m looking forward to. I want to thank Mercedes for this incredible opportunity, as well as my sponsors and manager for always believing in me. I can’t wait to be driving W14 for the first time.”
Mexico City marks the first of Jack Doohan’s scheduled FP1 appearances this year, with the Invicta Virtuosi Racing driver taking over Pierre Gasly’s A523 this weekend, before hopping into Esteban Ocon’s car at the season finale in Abu Dhabi in November.
The Australian driver already has experience around the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez after making his F1 debut with the French team there last year, following it up with an appearance at the Yas Marina Circuit. Alongside this, the Alpine Academy driver has been undertaking extensive testing of the A521 and learning trackside with the team as part of his reserve driver role.
Sitting fourth in the Drivers’ Standings with back-to-back victories in the Budapest and Spa-Francorchamps Feature Races and a further two podiums, he has his eyes on a top three finish to round out his second campaign.
“It is a huge honour to be given the opportunity to drive a Formula 1 car on a Grand Prix weekend for the second year in a row,” said Doohan. “I am very grateful to BWT Alpine F1 Team for the chance to drive the A523 in Free Practice in both Mexico and Abu Dhabi.
“I have been working really hard with the team this year as their Reserve Driver, taking every opportunity to learn as much as possible for them and I feel prepared to step up and take over driving duties for the team. My sole focus is doing what is required of me by the team in order to contribute positively to the team’s outcome across the two Grand Prix weekends.”
Both PREMA Racing drivers will be in action on Friday, as Oliver Bearman becomes one of two 2023 rookies to be making his F1 race weekend debut. The Ferrari Academy junior will make his maiden appearance in Haas’ VF-23 in Mexico, before a second run in Abu Dhabi.
Bearman said: “I am so happy to be joining Haas driving in Mexico and Abu Dhabi. Getting to Formula 1 has been my dream since I was go-karting so to be driving a car for the first time this year is really special.
“I’m grateful to the team, and of course Ferrari, for allowing me this chance. I’m working hard to make sure I’m ready to support the team as best I can on both occasions.”
In preparation for the two outings, Bearman joined the American team trackside in Qatar. Additionally, the 18-year-old got his first taste of F1 machinery in a test earlier this month, driving Ferrari’s SF-21 at Fiorano and completing over the 300km needed to be eligible for the FP1.
Currently, the Briton sits sixth in the Standings. Taking victory in four races this season, he’ll be battling it out with Alpine junior Victor Martins for the top rookie honours in the final round.
The fifth and final of our ’23 stars to hit the track, Isack Hadjar is ready to step into an F1 car for the first time with AlphaTauri. Preparing to get to grips with F2 graduate Yuki Tsunoda’s AT04, the Frenchman has been learning the ropes in the Red Bull garage in Singapore.
The Hitech Pulse-Eight rookie lies 14th in the Standings, earning his maiden podium with third in the Spielberg Sprint alongside a further eight points-scoring finishes.
First Practice for the Mexico City Grand Prix is scheduled to begin at 12:30pm local time on Friday, October 27.