Just as Austria marked the beginning of the European season proper, it also marked the return of F2 and GP3 to the grand prix weekend roster. An appropriate moment then to review the opening salvos of the single-seater racing season and pick out the drivers Formula 1 teams should be watching amid the spiralling rumour mill of the silly season. Junior drivers of the quality we have seen thus far in 2017 give teams a safety net should their recalcitrant incumbents seek opportunities elsewhere, and other junior hopefuls are even marking themselves out as a first choice preferences for teams.
In a year where GP2 has been rebranded as F2, where F3 has seen an unprecedented convergence of talented rookies and impressive returners, Gerhard Berger’s original policy of a rigorous pyramid of single seater series reaching up to F1 is in evidence with greater clarity than ever before. It is a structure that has cultivated driver convergence and has therein amplified the challenge of acclimatising to a new championship. And yet, as this piece will, discuss, there are young drivers continuing to produce exceptional performances in spite of their relative inexperience. Be it Max Verstappen, Stoffel Vandoorne or Nico Hulkenberg, a driver who can overcome their own inexperience will always attract the spotlight.