George Russell and Pierre Gasly among five F1 stars to be replaced at Mexico GP

Several teams were compelled by Formula One regulations to use alternate drivers during practice for this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix, which means that drivers like Pierre Gasly and George Russell will not be competing.

On Friday, a number of less well-known racers will take the Mexican Grand Prix track instead of some more well-known drivers.

Teams are required by F1 regulations to permit rookies to participate in a minimum of two FP1 sessions each season. However, with just four rounds remaining in 2023, there aren’t many instances of teams fulfilling their commitments on time. Instead, they all try to avoid them.

The Brazilian Grand Prix will use the Sprint format out of the final four race weekends, and more reconnaissance work will be needed to become familiar with the new Las Vegas track. Therefore, it would not be a good idea to blood young drivers on either of those weekends.

So teams are making their mandatory switches at the Abu Dhabi season finale and, first, Mexico. There will be no fewer than five rookies on track in FP1 on Friday – here’s a lowdown of who you will be watching drive.

Oliver Bearman – Haas

Bearman, a young British man, is developing quite a name for himself. At the tender age of eighteen, the Chelmsford native and star of the Ferrari driver academy has already won a race in Formula 2. He is a strong contender to end the season as the series’ top rookie.

Bearman will be driving a Haas car in Mexico thanks to his connections at Ferrari; however, the team has not yet disclosed if Kevin Magnussen or Nico Hulkenberg will be the driver who misses out. Bearman tested an old Ferrari car at Fiorano and spent the weekend of the Qatar Grand Prix trackside with Haas in preparation.

Jack Doohan – Alpine

Australian racer Doohan has more experience in that area than Bearman does. The 20-year-old, who is nearing the end of his third season of Formula Two competition, is the son of motorsport legend and former world champion in motorcycle road racing Mick Doohan. Last year, he participated in two Formula One sessions for Alpine.

And he’s going to pull off the same ruse with this squad in Abu Dhabi and Mexico. Given his extensive experience operating Formula One vehicles, Doohan is expected to offer insightful commentary to both the team and Pierre Gasly, who will be based in the Alpine garage during the first practice session.

Isack Hadjar – AlphaTauri

Red Bull currently has six F2 drivers on its roster, but as the team streamlines its young driver program, that number will soon change. This weekend, Hadjar, one of the two anticipated survivors of that cull, will make his first FP1 appearance with AlphaTauri.

In his first F2 season, the French-Algerian racer is ranked 14th in the championship and is highly regarded by Red Bull taskmaster Helmut Marko. Yuki Tsunoda will put his feet up for the first practice of his trip to Mexico.

Theo Pourchaire – Alfa Romeo

Frenchman Pourchaire sits at the top of the standings heading into the final round of the F2 season and so is well placed to go one better than his runner-up finish in the championship last year. Winning the F2 title is no guaranteed ticket to F1, but he will do his chances no harm by getting the job done in Abu Dhabi.

First, the Alfa Romeo junior has another job to do in Mexico. Filling in for the experienced Valtteri Bottas in FP1, Pourchaire will take part in his second F1 practice session after a debut showing in Austin last year, and has already been confirmed as the team’s reserve driver for 2024.

Frederik Vesti – Mercedes

Bearman’s Prema team-mate Vesti is Pourchaire’s chief F2 title threat, 25 points behind the Frenchman. But before he can think about how he is going to get the better of his rival, he has an important job to do for a Mercedes team which has not always found it easy to set up its temperamental W14 cars in practice this year.

So his feedback will be vital to how George Russell’s weekend goes in Mexico City. Luckily for the Brit, Danish driver Vesti already has experience behind the wheel of an F1 car and will be trusted to do the job well by Mercedes.

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