2019 marked a decade of the Ferrari Driver Academy and it is still growing
The Scuderia Ferrari programme aims to bring on talented youngsters and, as is often the case, takes its inspiration from a comment made by Enzo Ferrari: “I love to think that Ferrari can make drivers as well as cars.” The company’s founder often thought outside the box, surprising people with his very different approach. He did it with his cars that combined innovation with very powerful engines and he also took that approach with his drivers.
The most glaring examples of this are Niki Lauda and Gilles Villeneuve, who were given Formula 1 drives when they were virtually unknown. Then as now, Ferrari believes in the value of training its personnel and young drivers. In 2002, Felipe Massa was given time to learn and progress with the Sauber Formula 1 team, before making his Scuderia Ferrari debut in 2006 as teammate to Michael Schumacher. The success of this method with the Brazilian driver led to the creation of the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2009. Its first student was Jules Bianchi, who had just won the Formula 3 Euro Series.
The programme really got underway in 2010, with the arrival of Mirko Bortolotti and Daniel Zampieri, followed in 2011 by Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll, Raffaele Marciello and Brandon Maisano. Three years later, the student roster included Antonio Fuoco, with Guan Yu Zhou joining in 2014 and in 2016 Charles Leclerc was on the books.
However, the FDA is not just a race driving school. It is a true academy for the sport, where its students are taught all aspects of their chosen profession. They also study the rules of the sport, the history of the team and legal matters related to racing. It involves a total immersion in the world of Ferrari and, over the years, many of the Academy students have gone on to race at a high level, with four students to date making it all the way to Formula 1. Currently the best known is Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow driver, Charles Leclerc.
The work of the FDA is still carried out in memory of its very first student, Jules Bianchi, who passed away in 2015 as a result of injuries sustained in an accident at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, when at the wheel of a Marussia-Ferrari.