Brazilians have always been at the forefront of F1.
Emerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna are multiple world champions, while Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa regularly competed for grand prix wins during their respective F1 careers.
Brazil’s talent pool has dried up in recent years and there has been no Brazilian on the grid since 2018.
One driver who will be looking to end Brazil’s wait for a native driver is reigning F2 champion Felipe Drugovich.
Drugovich clinched the F2 title with relative ease in 2022, earning a development driver’s spot with Aston Martin.
He was Aston Martin’s first signing into its driver academy and will make his F1 debut during first practice at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Who is Felipe Drugovich?
Born in Maringá, Brazil, Drugovich spent his early years karting in a variety of Brazilian championships, taking his first title in 2011.
He then made his single-seater debut in 2016 after a successful karting career.
Drugovich emerged as a major talent a year later, finishing third in ADAC Formula 4, losing the title to Juri Vips by just nine points.
He went on to win the Euroformula Open Championship in 2018 before making the move to F3.
Early promotion to F2
Despite a difficult rookie season in F3 with Carlin, scoring just eight points, Drugovich was promoted to F2 with MP Motorsport in 2020.
Three wins and four podium finishes put Drugovich in ninth place overall in the standings, a marked improvement on his first year in F3.
His move to UNI-Virtuosi Racing, at least on paper, seemed like the right thing to do, but Drugovich struggled relatively in his first season, failing to record a single win.
Win the title with MP Motorsport
Drugovich returned to MP Motorsport and immediately got back into the groove.
He had to wait until Jeddah for his first main race win of the year and followed it up with four more wins.
Drugovich’s consistency set him apart from the rest of the field, securing the title with one round to go at Monza.
Reflecting on his title win, he told the official F2 website: “After 2020, everyone was expecting big things for 2021. Things didn’t really happen and for a moment I thought, okay, it’s gone, my F1 dream. he went.
“After the Barcelona weekend I thought it could be my year but going into that weekend we knew we were very fast there because we tested there and I was P1 in testing. From then on, I expected nothing less than pole position. In qualifying, I had a problem with the brakes in the first race and basically didn’t do a second lap. And it was so painful to know that our best chance was basically gone.
“Then I got a penalty, so instead of starting first in the Sprint Race, I started fourth. I was like ‘okay, this is wrong’. But, I just did. No compromises and it worked brilliantly. So after that win, I really thought okay, this can be our year if we put it together.”
His chances in F1
Despite an incredible F2 title-winning campaign, Drugovich was never in the field for any of the vacant seats on the 2023 F1 grid.
Even more perplexing, he never had an official F1 association in terms of academy or junior team until after his title win with Aston Martin.
A weaker F2 grid combined with a limited number of available seats did not work in Drugovich’s favour.
His role with Aston Martin should give him a chance to impress, although it seems highly unlikely that he will secure a full-time tour with the team in the future.