The 2018 Formula 2 season will mark the debut of the next-generation car and is likely to boast one of the series’ strongest ever grids.
2017 champion Charles Leclerc will race with the Sauber Formula 1 team in 2018, the 32nd driver to graduate from the series since its inception in 2005.
Russian Time and Rapax have exited the series but will be replaced by Formula V8 3.5 teams Charouz Racing and Fortec Motorsport, as well as the returning Carlin.
A fourth new entry is rumoured but is yet to be confirmed, with the identity of the outfit also unknown.
The most controversial entry next year is undoubtedly the introduction of the cockpit safety device; the halo, which will also be in F1 next season.
Six of the 22 drivers are confirmed for the 2018 season, we assess their relative chances and look at who will join them on the grid next year.
Confirmed – Sean Gelael and Nyck de Vries
With George Russell and Lando Norris on the market, fans were left with disappointment at the news of Prema choosing Gelael for 2018.
It’s going to be extremely difficult for Prema to reclaim the teams’ championship it lost to Russian Time this year.
De Vries on the other hand, is an excellent signing. There is the potential for a Gasly-like transformation occurring between year one and two for the Dutchman.
If the Italian outfit can work its magic, de Vries should be a real title threat in 2018.
Confirmed – Lando Norris and Sergio Sette Camara
European Formula 3 champion Norris will make his full-time debut with Carlin, who will return to the championship after taking a sabbatical in 2017.
Despite taking a risk by signing with Carlin instead of the established front-runners like Prema and ART, Norris will begin the season as the favourite.
He stood on the podium in 20 of the 30 F3 races this year and became the first non-Prema driver to win the title in this era of F3.
Norris’ biggest challenges will be overcoming his inconsistent race starts and managing the high-degradation Pirelli rubber.
Sette Camara will have a tough task partnering Norris but can call on a year’s experience in the series to try and compete on a similar level to Norris.
Charouz Racing System
Confirmed – Antonio Fuoco and Louis Deletraz
Charouz was extremely successful in Formula V8 3.5, so don’t be surprised if they find instant success in F2.
Fuoco has been handed a second opportunity and deservedly so after a brilliant second half to a difficult year with Prema.
He can lead the team and rebuild his reputation along with Deletraz who also suffered a disappointing 2017 but has a large amount of untapped potential.
Nicholas Latifi has all-but confirmed he will be sticking around for a third full-time season with DAMS next year.
While he’s heavily funded, he’s also incredibly quick and was arguably the most improved driver of 2017.
If he can go from podium contender to title contender is the key question for Latifi heading into 2018.
He should be joined by Alexander Albon, who made his F2 debut with ART Grand Prix last year.
ART Grand Prix
We’re 99% sure George Russell will race for ART next year.
After a difficult couple of seasons following Vandoorne’s dominant 2015 campaign, it will be interesting to see if Russell can get the team back on track next year.
He should be joined by Jack Aitken, who will also graduate from its GP3 squad.
This will provide Aitken with a chance to reverse some of the embarrassment caused by Russell’s thrashing in GP3 this year.
Rowland has an option to stay in the series in 2018, or to switch to Japanese Super Formula.
“Super Formula has really progressed in recent years and has provided a great platform for Stoffel Vandoorne and Pierre Gasly to progress to Formula 1,” he said.
“To follow in their footsteps would be fantastic but we will have to see.”
It seems to be his preferred option to race in Japan as a route into F1 for 2019. However if the deal falls through, another year in F2 going up against young talent like Russell and Norris is still a mouthwatering prospect for fans and a great chance to further prove his talent.
Like Rowland, Gunther has a choice between Super Formula and Formula 2 for 2018.
He’s spent three years in F3 and juniors such as Norris have jumped him on the F1 ladder.
Most of the top teams seem to be taken but if he picks Racing Engineering, who he tested with in Abu Dhabi, he should have a good chance to regularly challenge for podiums and wins.
He and Rowland would be an extremely strong line-up, but we’re not sure if they would both snub Super Formula.
Its 2016 driver Norman Nato and Thiago Vivacqua also tested with the team in Abu Dhabi.
– Santino Ferrucci switched from GP3 to F2 at Budapest earlier this year. He should remain with Trident for a full-season in 2018.
– Nabil Jeffri, who also drove for Trident in 2017, had a miserable debut season and didn’t participate in the post-season Abu Dhabi test. So don’t be surprised if he doesn’t compete in F2 next year.
– Ralph Boschung departed Campos before the season ended in Abu Dhabi. It was a tactical move to reserve funds for a future seat.
Though like many others he’s looking at Super Formula, we reckon he will do a second year in F2 with a team like Arden.
– Luca Ghiotto is another potential returnee. His 2017 team Russian Time has departed the series, but he tested with MP Motorsport and could be a great asset to a team like Racing Engineering or indeed any team.
– Alex Palou participated in the final two rounds of the season but didn’t seem too impressed with the machinery, despite out-performing Norris in Abu Dhabi.
– Don’t be surprised if Rene Binder, Sergio Canamasas or Johnny Cecotto Jr pop up during the season even if they don’t race in the season opener.
– Formula V8 3.5 series champion Pietro Fittipaldi made his intention to race in F2 next year clear. The identity of his team is still unknown.
– Nobuharu Matsushita will likely exit the series but fellow Honda junior Nirei Fukuzumi should replace him. It’s believed he will race for Arden in 2018 after a successful test in Abu Dhabi.
– Tadasuke Makino could make it two Honda-backed drivers on the grid next year.
– Arjun Maini could join Russell, Aitken and Fukuzumi in graduating from GP3. Trident duo Giuliano Alesi and Dorian Boccolacci would also be worthy of a promotion but might stick around for another season in GP3.
– Alfonso Celis Jr participated in multiple practice sessions for Force India over the last two years. However, with new rules for 2018, he won’t be able to continue unless he acquires the appropriate level of superlicence points or completes a full season in F2.