Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – This weekend’s opening practice will have a very different look as half the field will be made up of rookie drivers.
For the past few seasons teams have been required to give each of their cars over to a rookie driver, who hasn’t competed in more than two Grands Prix. So far this year only AlphaTauri have managed to complete both requisite sessions – Nyck de Vries on his debut for the team in Australia, and Formula 2 racer Isack Hadjar in Mexico.
Liam Lawson jumping in to replace the injured Daniel Ricciardo at the Dutch Grand Prix event couldn’t count towards the team’s rookie quota as the requirement is for a rookie in each car and Lawson was replacing Ricciardo who had in turn replaced de Vries, who had already completed that car’s rookie session.
So while AlphaTauri have both rookie practices checked off, and Red Bull are the complete opposite having not had one yet, the rest of the teams have had one rookie each so far this season.
This Friday will see both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez watching from the sidelines as Jake Dennis, who won the Formula E World Championship with Andretti back in July, and Hadjar deputise for them. As AlphaTauri did, McLaren and Williams completed half of their rookie obligations in Australia when Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant took part in the first practice session before their race debuts.
The other teams will be fielding the same rookie they had out in a previous session this year: Alfa Romeo with Theo Pourchaire, Alpine with Jack Doohan, Haas with Oliver Bearman and Mercedes with Frederik Vesti – those four appeared in Mexico – while Aston Martin will field Felipe Drugovich again after his appearance in Italy, while Robert Shwartzman will be back for Ferrari after his FP1 in the Netherlands.
For their final rookie, McLaren will bring Pato O’Ward, one of their IndyCar drivers, in for the Abu Dhabi FP1 as they did last year. Finally, Williams will be giving their Williams Academy Driver, and newly announced ART Grand Prix Formula 2 driver, Zak O’Sullivan in for his F1 weekend debut.