This morning marked the twelfth year of courses for the Ferrari Driver Academy, the Prancing Horse programme established in 2009 with the aim of preparing talented youngsters to one day drive for Ferrari in Formula 1.
Seven young men and Maya. This year, there are eight young drivers that will be trained and supported by the Ferrari Driver Academy, six of whom were in Maranello this morning. Mick Schumacher was absent with the good reason that he is working with the Haas F1 Team with whom he will make his Formula 1 debut this season. Dino Beganovic will join his fellow students tomorrow as he is returning from Abu Dhabi, where he took part in the second and third rounds of the Formula 3 Asian Series. As at the start of any academic year, the more experienced drivers who, partly because of the pandemic, had not seen one another for a while, spent some time before the bell sounded to recount what they had been up to over the winter. For two of them, this was a more nerve wracking and serious moment: Australian James Wharton is just 14 and was selected at the FDA Scouting World Finals, as the best of the youngsters from around the world and 16 year-old Dutch girl Maya Weug, who very recently won the FIA “Girls on Track – Rising Stars” to become the first girl to join the FDA. They make up the 2021 intake.
Busy week. Welcoming the students was Head of FDA, Marco Matassa, Scuderia Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto and Sporting Director Laurent Mekies. This week the drivers will take part in the usual start of the year Camp, consisting of five demanding days of lessons on various topics, from technical matters to regulations, marketing and communications, as well as some physical and mental aptitude tests, as well as sports and two days of karting on the Lonato track, run by Tony Kart, a long time partner of Maranello’s young driver programme. Over the course of the year, the FDA will follow each driver personally with support on and off the track, organising specific activities, depending on their level of experience and the type of race category in which they will be competing.
Programmes. Mick Schumacher will continue his development in Formula 1, at the wheel of the Haas F1 Team car. The arrival of the German means there are now four FDA members past or present on the F1 grid: apart from Charles Leclerc, one must not forget Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll. Also on the scene and present at several races will be Callum Ilott in his role as the Scuderia test driver. The youngster from Cambridge will still enjoy the thrill of racing as he will also be taking part in a GT programme, at the wheel of a Ferrari for some of the most famous sports car races.
Formula 2. Robert Shwartzman and Marcus Armstrong will race in the junior category. The Russian stays with the Prema team and his clear goal is to win the title, given his 2020 performance in the category when he took four wins, the most of any driver, as well as proving to be very consistent. Marcus, who drove a Ferrari Formula 1 car for the first time two weeks ago in a test at Fiorano, has recently switched to the DAMS team and is more determined than ever to be a front runner.
Formula 3. Last year, Arthur Leclerc finished second in the Formula Regional championship, even though he took more poles and wins than anyone else. His performance has earned him a step up to Formula 3 for this year. Arthur can once again count on the support of the Prema team and right from the start he should be a protagonist.
Formula Regional. Last year, Ferrari Driver Academy students did very well in the European Formula Regional championship and this year, the Maranello marque can again count on a very quick driver in the shape of Dino Beganovic. The Swede, born in 2004, made his single-seater debut last year and made a very positive impression in the Italian F4 Championship certified by FIA, taking his first win at Imola and demonstrating consistency on his way to third in the championship. Over the past two weeks, as part of his training, Dino competed in the Formula 3 Asian Series, which uses the same car that he will race in Europe in Formula Regional. He has already demonstrated a clear affinity for the car, finishing on the podium four times from nine races.
Maya and James. Lastly, two new arrivals, Maya Weug and James Wharton. The Dutch girl had her first taste of a Formula 4 car during the FIA “Girls on Track – Rising Stars” programme and will continue in this category. As for James Wharton, his age means he has to continue racing in karts in 2021 and so the FDA has prepared a programme to get him ready for single-seaters, including a series of tests in the second part of the season. Have a good year guys!
Mattia Binotto Team Principal & Managing Director Scuderia Ferrari
"Today marks the official start of the new season for the Ferrari Driver Academy. It’s an important moment, not just for the eight participants in the 2021 academic year but also for the whole Scuderia. We have always said that the FDA is not just a school that has to help the best youngsters make it to Formula 1, but that above all it must train those that one day will be the standard bearers for Scuderia Ferrari in the top level category of motor racing.
We achieved that with Charles Leclerc and we are pleased that this year, another driver who grew up with us, Mick Schumacher, will also make his F1 debut. Apart from the well known names of Callum, Robert, Marcus, Arthur and Dino, listed in order of their ages, I am very pleased to welcome the two new students, Maya Weug and James Wharton, who join the Academy this year. Their arrival is important because it also confirms the effort we are putting in when it comes to making motorsport more inclusive.
I wish all of them the very best of luck and hope that they will progress and be successful during this season which they should tackle with humility, determination and with a desire to learn, without ever forgetting that they are following their dream."
Marco Matassa Head of Ferrari Driver Academy
"The start of a new year for us at the Ferrari Driver Academy is always a very special moment. We are pleased to see our drivers again and say welcome to our new intake knowing that we can expect an intense season. In 2020, our drivers got excellent results and that can only spur us on to try and do even better in 2021, because looking for continuous improvement is the basis of Ferrari’s and therefore also the FDA’s philosophy.
I want to extend a special welcome to our newcomers, James Wharton and Maya Weug, whose arrival signals new frontiers for the Academy. James is actually the winner of the first FDA Scouting World Finals. This event featured six finalists battling it out for a place on our programme, chosen from a large group of very young drivers from around the world, thanks to our collaboration with ACI, Tony Kart, Motorsport Australia and Escuderia Telmex.
Maya is the first girl to join the FDA through our partnership with the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission’s global programme to find the best young female drivers, a project we really believe in. We can’t wait to start working with all these youngsters to prepare the groundwork for another year of good results."