The Belgian Grand Prix, held on Sunday, was an eventful affair. Headlines will likely be dominated by the increasing rivalry within the Mercedes camp after Nico Rosberg admitted that an instance of contact between himself and teammate Lewis Hamilton which left the Briton with a punctured tyre, dropping him to the back of the field, was deliberate. However, the more productive element of the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa was undoubtedly the continued successes of Formula One’s promising young drivers.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo topped the podium at Sunday’s race and may in the weeks to come be able to capitalise on the situation at Mercedes, enjoying quietly collecting points as he edges ever closer to the top of the driver’s standings. A beneficiary of his constructor’s presence throughout Formula One, the former driver for subsidiary Toro Rosso was promoted to parent team Red Bull at the start of the season, where he has proved real competition for teammate and reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel. The young Australian, who often lauds fellow countryman and previous holder of his Red Bull seat Mark Webber, has challenged both Vettel – an impressive feat given that the German won four consecutive world titles between the 2010 and 2013 seasons – and others on the grid with his rousing performances. Combining impressive lap times and dynamic overtaking manoeuvres, he is fast asserting himself within one of the sport’s most successful teams.
With his first place finish in Belgium totalling his third victory of the year, and the first time he has been awarded consecutive victories after similarly topping the podium at the Hungarian Grand Prix, Ricciardo widened the gap over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso to stake further claim to his career-high position of third in the current driver’s standings. Though 64 points behind leader Rosberg, the heightened competitiveness between the two Mercedes teammates might yet shorten their lead and allow Ricciardo to challenge for the championship. Winning only one race fewerthan Rosberg, and two under second-placed Hamilton, Red Bull’s newcomer remains firmly in contention.
Ricciardo, pleasingly, is far from the extent of the young talent emerging in Formula One. While he took first with a strong drive in an established Red Bull team, third place went to Valterri Bottas in a resurgent Williams.
Like Ricciardo, Bottas is beginning to overshadow a more established teammate with Felipe Massa, formerly of Ferrari, finishing a full ten places behind him in 13th. Fifth in the championship and filling the gap to fourth placed Alonso to just 11 points, Bottas’ assertive style has been perfectly complimented by the thunderous straight-line speed of his car. Demonstrably benefiting from the experience of teammate Massa and the tutelage of legendary team boss Sir Frank Williams, certain to be enjoying his team’s recent renaissance, Bottas is showing himself to be a talent to watch in the weeks, and indeed years, to come.
Similarly proving his presence in the top tier of world racing is truly deserved is Kevin Magnussen. The second youngest driver on the grid – Daniel Kvyat, who took Ricciardo’s place at Toro Rosso, started the season aged just 19 to become the joint sixth youngest driver to ever start a Formula One race – Magnussen had big shoes to fill as McLaren continued to search for a replacement for Lewis Hamilton. Taking over from Sergio Perez, himself a dynamic young talent who stood out during his time at Sauber and has transitioned well into new team Force India, Magnussen has consistently delivered in a McLaren car that has found mounting a legitimate push for consistent podium finishes challenging in recent seasons.
The young Dane has proved a wise acquisition for McLaren as they look to rebuild, aiming to provide talented drivers Magnussen and former world champion Jenson Button a more competitive drive in the near future.
With the emergence of these young talents, who continue to challenge the grid’s more established names, the future looks bright for Formula One.
How might the likes of Ricciardo build on early successes?