Brazilians have always featured at the front of F1.
Emerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna are all multiple world champions, while Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa regularly competed for grand prix victories during their respective F1 careers.
The talent pool for Brazil has dried up in recent years with there being 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 stormed to the F2 title with relative ease in 2022, earning himself a development driver role with Aston Martin.
He was Aston Martin’s first signing to their 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 serious talent one year later, finishing third in ADAC Formula 4, missing out on the title to Juri Vips by just nine points.
He then won the Euroformula Open Championship in 2018 before making the step up 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 victories and four podiums put Drugovich ninth overall in the standings – a remarkable improvement on his first year in F3.
His move to UNI-Virtuosi Racing – on paper at least – looked the right one, but Drugovich struggled relatively to his maiden season, failing to register a single victory.
Title win with MP Motorsport
Drugovich returned to MP Motorsport and was immediately back on the pace.
He had to wait until Jeddah to take his first feature race victory of the year and followed it up with four more wins.
Drugovich’s consistency pulled him clear of the rest of the field, securing the title with one round to go at Monza.
Reflecting on his title triumph, he told F2’s official website: “After 2020, everyone’s expected big things for 2021. Things didn’t really happen and for a moment, I thought, okay, it’s gone, my F1 dream is kind of gone.
“After the Barcelona weekend, I thought that it might be my year but going into that weekend, we knew we were really quick there because we tested there, and I was P1 in testing. From then, I was expecting nothing less than pole position. In Qualifying, I had an issue with the brakes on the first run and basically didn’t do a second lap. And it was so painful to know that our best opportunity 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 messed up.’ But, I just went for it. No compromises and it panned out brilliantly. So after that win I really thought okay, this can be our year if we just put it together.”
His F1 chances
Despite an incredible F2 title-winning campaign, Drugovich was never in the frame for any of the vacant seats on the F1 2023 grid.
Even more perplexing, he never had any official F1 association in terms of an academy or junior team until after his title victory with Aston Martin.
A weaker F2 grid combined with a limited amount of seats being available didn’t work in Drugovich’s favour.
His role with Aston Martin should give him a chance to impress, although securing a full-time drive with the team looks highly unlikely in the future.