The phrase ‘the next Lewis Hamilton’ is a very overused one at present – but we’ve had an excuse to peer into the crystal ball, courtesy of the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award.
The bid to identify the next up and coming British driver allows us to speculate which names we might have to be adding to the blogroll in the next year or two – and to wonder whether any of them will show the promise to catapult themselves into the sport’s top flight, as Lewis has.
Mind you, winning this award is prestigious enough in its own right. Previous winners have included David Coulthard (the first ever, in 1989), Ralph Firman, Dario Franchitti, Jenson Button, Gary Paffett (who now has more than a passing acquaintance with that McLaren car), Anthony Davidson and Oliver Jarvis.
Hamilton himself has never won it – presumably because he advanced up the ranks too damn quickly…
The victor gets £50,000 plus the chance to test in a McLaren. They are also presented with the Chris Bristow Trophy, named after a British racing driver killed at Spa-Francorchamps in 1960.
Here are this year’s contenders:
- Duncan Tappy is a former McLaren Autosport BRDC Award finalist driving in Formula Renault UK where he has taken eight wins from 18 races and led the championship. He has also had conspicuous success in Formula Ford.
- Dean Smith won a Formula BMW scholarship in 2004 and finished third in the Formula BMW UK Championship Rookie Cup that year. He was a Formula BMW Champion in 2005, has been driving in Formula Renault for the last two years and lists Jenson Button as his favourite driver.
- Nick Tandy was a 2005 Silverstone Scholarship winner and BRDC single-seater champion and came third in the UK Formula Ford 2006 Championship. He is the brother of Formula Palmer Audi Champion Joe Tandy and son of oval racer Joe Senior.
- Callum MacLeod is this year’s Formula Ford champion for Jamun Racing as well as being winner of the Formula Ford Festival in the Duratec class, and building on a strong performance in 2006. In 2005 he drove in Formula BMW UK.
- Henry Arundel competed in the Formula BMW UK Championship for Fortec Motorsport in 2006, winning the Rookie Cup. He was also elected to the Motor Sports Association’s Race Elite Scheme in April 2007.
- Stefan Wilson is the younger brother of this year’s Champ Car runner-up and former F1 driver Justin Wilson. In 2006 he took part in the Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Trophy, finishing as top rookie in the six-race series. In 2007 he competed in the full Formula Palmer Audi series and finished second in the championship.
The six drivers have recently completed evaluation tests at the Snetterton racing circuit.
Each of them drove 50 laps in a single seater, 26 laps in a Mercedes and 52 laps in a Porsche.
On hand to appraise their performances were F1 driver, manager and commentator Martin Brundle, former award winner and current BTCC racer Darren Turner, Autosport’s Marcus Pye and Steve Hallam, head of engineering at McLaren.
Following that test the drivers visited the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking for formal interviews with the judging panel.
The winner will be announced at the Autosport Awards ceremony to be held at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London, on December 2.