Performance


Race to the top: F1’s junior stars

28 April 2022

Meet the racing stars of the future with the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 junior program line-up. Introducing the Class of 2022.

Performance


Race to the top: F1’s junior stars

28 April 2022

Meet the racing stars of the future with the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 junior program line-up. Introducing the Class of 2022.

Paul Aron from the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 junior program.

Paul Aaron is one of seven racing stars of tomorrow in the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 junior program. Image: Mercedes-Benz Group AG.

Is there any harder school than Formula 1? Only 20 people in the world get to take their place on the grid each year to drive the world’s fastest and most physically demanding cars in a cauldron of competition so intense that only a very few will ever taste success, or even a spot on the podium.

 

But how do these incredible athletes and furious competitors even get to the starting grid?

 

Let’s take a look at George Russell, who has scored one of the most highly valued seats in the sport, sharing a garage for the first time this year with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS team.

 

In 2017, George joined the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 junior program, at the age of 17. Five years later, he became the first graduate of the program to join the senior F1 team.

 

It’s a career path that this year’s class of the junior program – Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Paul Aron, Yuanpu Cui, Luna Fluxa, Daniel Guinchard, Alex Powell and Frederik Vesti – will be desperately hoping to follow.

 

Toto Wolff, team principal and CEO of Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team, welcomed the next generation of potential stars to the fold.

 

“It’s going to be a really exciting year for our junior drivers, and we’re delighted to welcome them as part of our motorsport family,” Toto said at the announcement of the junior line-up in February.

 

“There are some familiar faces in the program from previous years, looking to build on their strong progress, and there are also several new members of the program who have joined us this year. It will be great to see how they develop in their first season with us.”

 

Meet the seven junior drivers in the program.

Luna Fluxa

Luna Fluxa

Luna Fluxa from the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 junior program.

Luna Fluxa, from Spain, is the first female ever selected to the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS junior driver program. Image: Mercedes-Benz Group AG.

One member of this year’s group stands out because she is the first woman ever selected to the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 junior program. And if she goes all the way, she could be the first woman ever to race in F1.

Luna was born in Spain in 2010, started racing in 2017 and has been competing in various European series since 2019, starring in Spanish karting before stepping up to larger events in the WSK Euro Series and IAME Euro Series, reaching the final in almost every race. She will compete in the OK–Junior class for 2022. OK stands for Original Kart and is the top racing category in the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) Karting competition for drivers aged 14 years and above. The OK–Junior category is for drivers aged 12 to 14.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli

Andrea Kimi Antonelli

Andrea Kimi Antonelli from the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 junior program.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli will be in single-seater racing full time in Italian F4. Image: Mercedes-Benz Group AG.

Andrea was born in Bologna, Italy, in 2006, began racing competitively at the age of eight and joined the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 Team’s junior program in 2019.

 

After plenty of success in karting, in 2021, Antonelli moved up to single-seater racing in Italian Formula 4 for the final three rounds, showing impressive pace and scoring podium finishes. This year, he will be in single-seater racing full time in Italian F4.

Paul Aron

Paul Aron

Paul Aron from the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 junior program.

Paul Aaron had a strong year in the Formula Regional European Championship in 2021. Image: Mercedes-Benz Group AG.

Paul didn’t enjoy driving that much at first, after being encouraged to try kart racing at the age of seven. But he eventually caught the racing bug, and has never looked back.

 

Born in Estonia in 2004, Paul joined the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS junior program mid-way through the 2019 season after winning the WSK Champions Cup and CIK-FIA European Championship in 2018 in the OK–Junior category.

 

Paul made the leap to single-seaters in 2019, racing in both the ADAC and Italian Formula 4 series. He moved into Formula Renault Eurocup in 2020, finishing 11th in the standings with one podium finish.

 

In 2021, he continued racing in the category, now called the Formula Regional European Championship, and finished third, with two wins and five other podium finishes. He’ll remain in that series in 2022.

Yuanpu Cui

Yuanpu Cui

Yuanpu Cui from the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 junior program.

he son of a racing driver, Yuanpu Cui has been in go-karts since the age of six. Image: Mercedes-Benz Group AG.

Young Yuanpu Cui, born in 2008, will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of his hero, Zhou Guanyu, who this year will become the first Chinese national to race full time in F1, with the Alfa Romeo team.

 

Yuanpu is the son of a racing driver and has been in go-karts since the age of six. He joined the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team’s junior squad in 2021, after a positive season of growth and development.

 

In 2016, he finished second in the Chinese Rotax series and then began to expand his racing outside of China, competing in events all around the world. He picked up podium finishes in 60 Mini and Mini ROK classes. In 2020, he picked up a P2 position in the 31st Andrea Margutti Trophy in OK–Junior, scored victories and podiums in the WSK Champions Cup in 60 Mini and scored podiums in the WSK Super Master Series in 60 Mini.

 

After another successful year of karting in 2021, he will step up to the OK class for 2022.

Alex Powell

Alex Powell

Alex Powell from the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 junior program.

Miami-born but raised in Jamaica, Alex Powell joined the Mercedes junior team in 2019. Image: Mercedes-Benz Group AG.

Alex is a native of Jamaica, where his father was a veteran rally driver. He was born in Miami in 2007.

 

After starting his career in the Caribbean and USA, Alex stepped up to compete in Europe in 2018, claiming the WSK Final Cup title in the 60 Mini class.

 

He joined the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS junior team in 2019, going on to win the ROK Cup Superfinal and 24th South Garda Winter Cup.

 

Alex stepped up to OK–Junior and Junior ROK categories for the 2020 season and remained in OK–Junior racing in several different international series in 2021, finishing second in the WSK Euro Series and third in both the WSK Super Master Series and WSK Final Cup – where he competed in OK. He’ll move up to the OK class full-time in 2022.

Daniel Guinchard

Daniel Guinchard

Daniel Guinchard from the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 junior program.

Newcomer Daniel Guinchard is part of a racing dynasty that includes his father and grandfather. Image: Mercedes-Benz Group AG.

Born in the UK in 2006, and part of a racing dynasty that includes his father and grandfather, Daniel is a new signing to the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team’s junior program, after showing great potential in kart racing.

 

In 2020, Daniel won the Rotax Max Challenge International Trophy in Junior Max and the ADAC Kart Masters in OK–Junior. He went on to more success in 2021, winning the British championship, the Ultimate Karting Championship and the British Kartmasters Grand Prix in Rotax Junior karts. He also won the British championship in the Junior X30 class.

 

This year he will make the big move into single seaters, racing in the British F4 series.

Frederik Vesti

Frederik Vesti

Frederik Vesti from the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 junior program.

Frederik Vesti will make the leap to Formula 2 in 2022. Image: Mercedes-Benz Group AG.

Frederik joined the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS junior line up for the 2021 season after years of success in the Danish Karting Championship. He was born in Vejle, Denmark, in 2002.

 

Frederik moved from karts into single seaters in 2016 in Formula Ford Denmark, finishing fourth, with two wins. After success in Italian F4 racing, he stepped up to the Formula Regional European Championship with Prema in 2019, taking the title with 13 wins from 24 races.

 

Then in 2020, Frederik finished fourth in the FIA Formula 3 Championship, with three wins.

 

In 2022, Frederik will take the next big step, moving up to Formula 2, just one step below his ultimate goal.

 

Discover more about the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 team here.

By Stephen Corby