Williams’ next racer George Russell is the latest in a long list of announcements regarding youngsters accessing the Formula 1 grid in the last few years, as a result of more frequent deals between factory and customer teams, plus an increasingly accurate management of youth programmes.
Russell’s Formula 2 title rival Lando Norris was announced one month earlier as McLaren’s new prospect after Vandoorne’s failure, whereas 2016 GP2 runner-up Antonio Giovinazzi saw his two-year long wait come to an end recently, being appointed as Kimi Räikkönen’s right-hand man for Alfa Romeo-Sauber’s 2019 campaign.
Additionally, a couple of debutants having confirmed their star-of-the-future potential this season have deservedly been promoted to first-team duties: it’s anyone’s guess who will feel the toughest pressure between Charles Leclerc at Ferrari and Pierre Gasly at Red Bull. Last and probably least, 19-year-old Lance Stroll is likely on his way to a higher rank, joining Force India from Williams – be it for economic reasons or not. This goes without forgetting some already well-established but still recent newcomers such as 21-year-old quadruple race-winner Max Verstappen, McLaren’s next leader Carlos Sainz (24), his Renault successor Daniel Ricciardo (29), Toro Rosso returnee Daniil Kvyat (24), his fellow compatriot Sergey Sirotkin (23), Haas’ Kevin Magnussen (26) and Mercedes protégé Esteban Ocon (22), looking curiously set to miss out on a full-time drive for the coming championship.
With long-standing protagonists such as Mark Webber, Felipe Massa, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso all bidding their farewell (or perhaps just a goodbye in the last case) in the last five years, the Formula 1 grid has plummeted to an average age of about 22. Twenty-two.
Apart from a much overage ‘Iceman’, none other than the soon-to-be five-times Champion Lewis Hamilton will be the oldest competitor for the 2019 season. With Formula 1 cars getting increasingly quick and tough as a result of 2017 regulations, it is yet to see – and it will definitely stand out as one of the most intriguing themes – how many of those promises can live up to their task, and more broadly, how Formula 1’s landscape will evolve with all of this.