Rookie drivers like Toro Rosso signing Daniil Kvyat will need to be “exceptional” to successfully step into Formula 1 amid the 2014 rule changes, reckons McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale.
Toro Rosso announced on Monday night that it was promoting protege Kvyat straight from GP3/Formula 3 level to a grand prix seat, having decided he was a better prospect than Formula Renault 3.5 front-runner Antonio Felix da Costa.
Asked how McLaren would feel about taking a driver from that stage of the junior ladder into F1 next year, Neale said it would be a very challenging prospect.
“Stepping up from GP3 into F1 is still a very big step, with the weight of expectation,” he said. “In particular with the transition in technology from this year to next year.
“We ourselves are really trying to work out how this package is going to operate effectively, how we run efficiently, how we overcome the aerodynamic and powertrain challenges. It’s difficult enough for us without throwing a young driver into the mix. It has been done successfully historically by exceptional candidates, but Formula 1 is a very high-pressure environment and very unforgiving.”
McLaren is currently attempting to find F1 places for its leading junior drivers Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne, who finished first and second in FR3.5 this season. While so far its efforts have been unsuccessful, Neale emphasized that both remained longer-term candidates for McLaren seats, and that 2014’s reintroduction of in-season testing could help.
“We need the young drivers coming through. I think that some of the work that’s been done around the reintroduction of testing will help that,” said Neale. “It’s an exciting prospect watching the next generation of drivers readying themselves on the horizon.
“Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne are mouth-watering prospects for us for the future, and that’s all in the mix at the moment as we decide what we’re going to do with our driver line-up over the next two or three years. We’re working very hard to make sure that those two are part of our future plans.”