Felipe Drugovich aiming to make Formula 1 breakthrough

Felipe Drugovich is hoping an upcoming practice session at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix later this month will be the springboard to bigger things in Formula 1.

The Brazilian driver will replace two-time world champion Fernando Alonso for the first Friday practice session at the Yas Marina Circuit.

The 2022 Formula Two champion previously replaced Lance Stroll in first practice at the Italian Grand Prix in September, but is yet to compete in an F1 race.

Drugovich recently agreed to continue as Aston Martin’s test and reserve driver next season, despite being strongly linked with several other teams.

Many respected pundits have tipped the Brazilian racer to secure a regular seat in F1, but he insists he is happy to bide his time while he develops his skills.

“I’ve learned a huge amount from Lance, Fernando and the rest of the team – whether that’s at the AMR Technology Campus or at the track,” Drugovich said. “I feel like both the team and I are growing and building on this journey we are on.

“I cannot wait to drive the AMR23 again in FP1 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. It’s hugely exciting and I’m looking forward to being reunited with the car after my FP1 outing at Monza earlier in the season.

“We’re pushing for more in the final races of the season and over the winter break to prepare for 2024. It feels fulfilling to be a part of that.”

Drugovich was touted as a future F1 star after producing some stellar performances on his way to the F2 title in 2022. He won five races and barely finished outside the points to end the campaign a shopping 101 points clear of runner-up Theo Pourchaire.

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He subsequently became Aston Martin’s first signing to its young driver programme, but has had to remain patient with the team boasting two talented drivers.

Alonso is currently fourth in the championship standings after producing a series of consistent performances this year. By contrast, Stroll has had a mixed season and is in tenth place.

However, a measure of the size of challenge facing Drugovich with the team can be found in the latest odds for the upcoming Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Several of the best Formula 1 bookmakers operating in Brazil rate Alonso as one of the favourites to secure a podium finish, while Stroll is tipped to secure a place in the top ten.

Despite this, Drugovich will undoubtedly have one eye on Alonso’s contract situation, with the 42-year-old’s current deal set to expire at the end of next season.

If he decides to walk away from F1, the Brazilian driver would be the bookmakers’ favourite to replace him for the 2025 campaign.

Stroll is in a more comfortable position, with his father currently the team owner. However, he is reportedly considering selling the team, which would cast serious doubt on his son’s future.

Regardless of what happens, Drugovich says he is ready to grasp any opportunities which come his way with Aston Martin over the next year.

“I’m ready to race – but there are only 20 seats in F1 and, as I said, this year has taught me to be patient,” Drugovich added. “I’m hungry to compete, but I have an important job to do as test and reserve driver for the team.

“It’s a job that is helping me become a better driver and helping the team on its journey. I’m fully committed to it. This is something I’m prepared to give my all for.”