It’s been years since we all watched a Formula 1 driver from Brazil every weekend on our TVs. The last one was Felipe Massa, racing for Williams in 2017. Since then, we have never been this close to seeing Brazilian racing again.
Felipe Drugovich, the newest test and reserve driver in Aston Martin, is the best hope to get Brazil racing in the main seats of Formula 1. The 22 year old driver won the Formula 2 championship last year, after 5 wins and 265 points scored. In his career, there are two more championship victories: MRF Challenge Formula 2000 Championship in 2017 and Euroformula Open in 2018.
In September, he signed with Aston Martin to be their development driver alongside Stoffel Vandoorne, the current winner of the Formula E championship. Furthermore, Mclaren can also use both athletes for the first 15 races of the year in order to replace their main drivers, if needed.
The 2023 F1 season just began and before the first race in Bahrain, Brazilians created a huge expectation about a Brazilian racing again. After Lance Stroll, Aston Martin’s main driver, suffered a bike accident in which he fractured both his wrists and his right toe, Drugovich did all the pre-season tests in Bahrain and was confirmed to race in the first Grand Prix of the year if Stroll didn’t recover by time. Fortunately, against all the conditions, Stroll got ready to drive safely 12 days after a surgery and a lot of physiotherapy.
Unfortunately, for the Brazilian, he couldn’t have the opportunity to race. But can this show how close we are to see Felipe Drugovich as a main driver?
Becoming a Formula 1 driver is tough. In the most popular motorsport category, getting one of the 20 selected seats requires more than talent and exceptional racing skills. Even after all the karting years and the preparation in base categories, such as Formula 2, this dream can’t become a reality without money. In Drugovich situation, even winning the main access category wasn’t enough to put him in a team to race in 2023.
One of these reasons is how expensive it can be to keep a driver at this sport. Until 2021, per season, each driver needed to invest US$ 25 million. This scenario turns the sponsors participation a key to success.
In a way to take Brazil back to the top of motorsport, XP Investimentos and Porto Seguro – both brazilians companies – started sponsoring Aston Martin after they hired Felipe as a development driver. Back in 2022, these companies had already sponsored a free practice in which Drugovich raced for the first time in the category.
About these partnerships, Jefferson Slack, marketing and commercial director of AMF1, said: “I am delighted to see Porto Seguro show their support for Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula 1 Team and Felipe Drugovich. They are Brazil’s most successful insurance company and share our determination to capitalize on the popularity of the sport in South America and support one of Brazil’s brightest talents in Felipe. Alongside our existing partnership with XP, they will champion the cause to establish Brazil’s place at the top of the sport in the years ahead”.
Alongside a sponsor, a driver needs an available seat to race in a whole season in F1. For the Brazilian, there are a couple of opportunities: he can, in the future, assume Fernando Alonso’s place or even Stroll’s seat. However, Alonso’s contract only ends after the 2024 season – in this scenario, Felipe could have an opportunity in 2025. In order to replace Stroll, the situation is tougher since his father is the owner of the company.
While Drugovich waits for a main seat, there is a lot of work to do as a development driver. Besides a couple of free practices in which they can use this season’s car and race in a Grand Prix weekend, their biggest work is getting experience in their last season car to help in the development of new technologies and follow the team in some races of the year. Long story short, Felipe’s job is to get ready to be a Formula 1 driver and help Aston Martin improve their car.
After Drugovich’s amazing season in 2022, we can expect a brilliant future for him in the sport. As a Formula 2 champion, there is a huge expectation for a main seat in the next few years, since five in the last ten champions are racing in Formula 1 teams this season, four of them have already raced at least one season and only three are working as development drivers in 2023.
Some other hopes
Fortunately, for all the Brazilians fans, there is another test driver from Brazil waiting and working for a seat. Pietro Fittipaldi, Emerson Fittipaldi ‘s grandson, is in his fifth season with Haas. In 2020, after the Romain Grosjean accident, he had the opportunity to race in two Grand Prix. Unfortunately, he didn’t get points in both races.
The country also has some upcoming talents in the access categories. Enzo Fittipaldi, Pietro’s brother, is in his second year in Formula 2. Besides him, there are three Brazilians racing in Formula 3 in 2023: Felipe Bortoleto, who has already won the first feature race of the season, Caio Collet and Roberto Faria.
One way or another, Brazil has a giant history in this sport. All the fans expect to see a Brazilian racing again in Formula 1. Felipe Drugovich may be the driver that we have been waiting for since Massa’s last season. Maybe in a couple more years and with a little bit of luck he can become one of the greatest brazilians in motorsport, bringing Brazil back to the top.
The article above was edited by Julia Queiroz.
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