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The talent factory

Discovering and nurturing future Formula One stars is the raison d’etre of the Ferrari Driver Academy. Plucked from around the world, this year its young racers brought home a European title, podia finishes, and plenty of promise for the future
Photography Mattia Balsamini

When Dino Beganovic crossed the finishing line at Mugello in the final meet of the European Formula Regional Championship he wrapped up the 2022 title with one race still remaining of what had been an astonishing season.

The Ferrari Driver Academy racer had led the standings from start to finish, from Monza in April through to Mugello that fourth weekend in October. In only his second season in the category, the 18-year-old Swede notched up 4 wins, complemented by 7 podia finishes.

The young drivers of the academy had a promising year in 2022 with high hopes for '23 being even more successful. However they must still complete their academic studies

“Managing expectations” is one of the FDA’s more delicate tasks, so as not to overload its young charges, but FDA Engineer Alessandro Vantini can't disguise the excitement in his voice when he concedes, "Dino is certainly 'one to watch'."

The young Swede had already demonstrated in 2021 that he was fast. But, according to Vantini, it was the hard miles put in during last year’s Winter training that was key to success.

“He improved his car knowledge, race preparation, and things like reviewing previous races; plus he arrived at the beginning of the season already on great form.” Beganovic has matured physically, now standing at one metre eighty-three and weighing sixty-eight kilos. “And also mentally,” confirms Vantini. A poor performance in Hungary in early July could have seen his season take a nosedive. “But instead, he boomed right back, winning the next race in Belgium."

Next year Dino will be promoted into the F3 championship, reflecting the FDA’s belief in his abilities.

Several FDA drivers will now make a step up for next season from Formula 3 to Formula 2, including the 17-year-old Brit Oliver Bearman and Arthur Leclerc

Reviewing the 2022 season as a whole, Marco Matassa, Head of FDA, declares himself “relatively satisfied,” describing the European Formula Regional title win plus podia placings across all categories “as a step forward from 2021.”

He picks out several highlights of the 2022 FDA season. James Wharton, the 16-year-old Australian ‘baby’ of the group had a steady F4 Italy campaign, and “will be expected to be a contender next year."

His fellow F4 Italy racer, 17-year-old Rafael Camara from Brazil, notched a highly creditable third place in the championship, as well as being named ‘best rookie’ in the equivalent series in Germany. 

Behind the scenes, Israeli driver Robert Shwartzman, 23, performed as an official test driver at the Austin and Abu Dhabi GPs – becoming the 112th Ferrari driver to have participated in a Formula One meet. Maya Weug, one of two female racers in the current FDA line-up, is singled out for particular praise. The Dutch eighteen-year-old, in only her second season, has integrated seamlessly into the team.  "She's perfect,” enthuses Matassa, “as an example for others, due to her dedication, professionalism, behaviour, and even how she handles herself with the media.”

The Head of FDA, Marco Matassa congratulates his young driver Dino Beganovic after he clinched the 2022 European Formula Regional Championship

Arthur Leclerc's second season in F3 suffered from various competition red-flag setbacks and accidents. "But he demonstrated once again that he has the speed," says Matassa. "He pulled off some great comeback performances, featuring some aggressive overtaking. Overall, he showed his racing skills."

British driver Oliver Bearman, 17, won a noteworthy third place in F3. "Two years ago," says the FDA Head," Oliver was competing in F4 Italy and F4 Germany, and, coming from Britain, it was a big thing when he then chose Maranello. His third place in his very first season in F3 demonstrates his continuing progress." Both Leclerc and Bearman will move up to the F2 category come next season.

The FDA works hard to install a team ethos in promising young talents, most of whom are far from home as they follow their dream of becoming Formula One Pilota whilst continuing their academic studies. Recently, Matassa was out and about in nearby Modena. The pretty Emilia-Romagna town so associated with Ferrari history. He rounded a corner and came across a sight that gladdened his heart: gathered around some cafe tables was the entire Ferrari Driver Academy team, out together enjoying an early evening aperitivo. The FDA family is clearly thriving on, and off, the track.