Who could drive Ferrari's 2023 LMH entry?
There are quite a few people who could be up to the job...
Well, it's now official. Ferrari will be going back into the world of endurance racing from 2023, entering a brand new car into the emerging LMH 'Hypercar' class that's intended to be a part of the replacement for LMP1. Whilst the return of Ferrari will be exciting just in and of itself, there's also some potential excitement over who could be driving the car. As one of the biggest names in motorsport, Ferrari has a whole lot of money to spend on getting top-calibre drivers into their new machinery as well as a whole wealth of previous contacts and non-F1 talent who are already signed up to the Ferrari brand in some way or another.
Who could end up driving the Ferrari hypercar in 2023? I reckon there's a number of great choices out there. Some of them are fairly obvious, some of them are a bit left of centre and at least one of them might require a fair bit of wheeling and dealing to happen, but I'm sure that all of them have a fairly good chance of coming true in a couple of years. Do you agree with my choices? Are there any that you think could get a drive who I've missed out? Feel free to tell me in the comments below!
Ferrari's current golden boy Charles Leclerc has already expressed some interest in entering the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Whilst that's the only race he would be able to do considering his Formula 1 schedule, it does make a lot of sense for him to jump in the Ferrari hypercar for just that one weekend. If he did, he would be the first full-time Formula 1 driver to compete at Le Mans since Nico Hulkenberg (we'll get to him later...) did back in 2015. That's something that would definitely create quite a few headlines for Ferrari!
Would he be able to win the race like Hulkenberg did when he tried it? I genuinely think he could if he had enough luck behind him. Leclerc is genuinely one of the best drivers on the Formula 1 grid. Being good enough to hang on in Formula 1 does generally translate to being good in the top tier of endurance racing, as evidenced by countless ex-F1 talent including Martin Brundle, Johnny Herbert, Graham Hill (obviously) and the aforementioned Nico Hulkenberg. If the Ferrari hypercar is a genuine top of the field contender, we will see the Monegasque driver shine yet again.
Fisico has been working with the Ferrari brand since he subbed in for Felipe Massa in the 2009 Formula One World Championship. He was a solid and dependable Formula 1 driver in his day who could get pole positions even out of mid-tier machinery. Although he is getting on a bit in terms of age these days, he's still within the right kind of window for Ferrari to entrust him with their LMH entry in 2023.
Fisichella is no stranger to endurance racing either; he's been competing in the World Endurance Championship with the Ferrari-affiliated AF Corse since 2012 and he's been a regular face in the GTE class at Le Mans since 2010 when it was still called GT2, driving alongside people such as Jean Alesi, Toni Vilander, Thomas Flohr and Francesco Castellacci. With all this taken into account, it only seems logical that he'd be asked to potentially step up to the challenge of driving Ferrari's new hypercar.
Could he win? Well, he's a two-time GTE class winner at Le Mans already and he's come second in GTE class multiple times too over the years. That can only be a good sign as to how he'd fare in LMH machinery, even if the hypercar would definitely be a step up in performance from a GTE car. I'm sure Fisico, as an F1 veteran, would be able to handle the challenge of a noticeably speedier car though!
No, really. This could really happen. Let's face it, Kimi is pretty damn close to retiring from Formula One and, judging by how much The Iceman loves racing, he isn't going to quit racing altogether once he leaves the F1 paddock for good. With his long-standing connections to Ferrari through his two stints with the F1 team (2007-2009 and 2014-2018) and his current employment with Alfa Romeo/Sauber, who are Ferrari powertrain customers, you'd think that Kimi would be a pretty obvious choice for a driver who could do a full season in the World Endurance Championship.
Kimi Raikkonen has proven himself to be a solid, consistent and reliable driver over his lengthy Formula 1 career and, as proven by his excursions into rallying and Nascar, he's not afraid to try new things in motorsport. Maybe the next logical step in his racing career is to return to his old employers at Ferrari, but this time to take on the most prestigious championship in endurance racing and the greatest endurance race of all time? As a previous winner of the Monaco Grand Prix, a win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans would also get the Iceman two out of the three achievements required for the fabled triple crown. As a decidedly old-school racing driver, why wouldn't Kimi be tempted to get closer to the achievement of the legendary Graham Hill?
In short, Ferrari would be a bit bonkers not to call up the Iceman to get him to have a go in the new hypercar. He'd probably handle everything in typical Kimi fashion too; there's no doubt that we'd get some funny Kimi moments out of him going endurance racing! There's also an incredible amount of great talent, both older and younger, who he could be partnered with. It really does all make a lot of sense when you really think about it...
Yes, Fernando fits the bill here too. By 2023 he'll be out of his commitments with the Alpine F1 Team and he's got a lot of previous ties to Ferrari. He's also no stranger to the World Endurance Championship, having competed in it with Toyota Gazoo Racing during his sabbatical away from F1. He's not exactly bad at endurance racing either, as he's won the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice (2018 and 2019) and he took the championship with Toyota in the 2018-19 season. He's also a 24 Hours of Daytona winner, taking his only Daytona win in 2019 driving for Wayne Taylor Racing.
Honestly, if Ferrari doesn't even slightly consider Alonso as one of the drivers for the full WEC season in 2023, they're making a huge mistake. Alonso has proven himself to be an incredible driver in pretty much any form of motorsport he jumps into and endurance racing is definitely one of the types of racing he is strongest at. Maybe Alonso could get a third Le Mans win behind the wheel of a hypercar with the prancing horse on the front? It's definitely not out of the question.
Ah yes, the ever-popular Nico Hulkenberg. An incredibly talented driver who has just never seemed to find his true footing in F1 (despite doing very well in other motorsports), fans have been clamouring for a Hulkenberg redemption for a good while. Hulkenberg is a former Le Mans winner with Porsche and he's well known for being a solid and dependable driver in any kind of top-level motorsport. There's also those incredible performances he put in as a super-sub for Racing Point (now Aston Martin) last year where he managed to finish in the points in both races he started, despite being very much on the back foot compared to the other drivers on the grid.
With all this taken into account, it would be a bit crazy if Ferrari never even considered bringing Hulkenberg in for a full season in the World Endurance Championship. A drive like that with Ferrari could offer Hulkenberg the chance to be properly recognised as one of the world's top drivers and, perhaps, a second Le Mans win to add to his tally.
Callum Ilott is one of the brightest young talents in motorsport. He's more than proven that through his brilliant showing in the 2020 Formula 2 season, where he finished second behind his Ferrari Driver Academy stablemate Mick Schumacher. Whilst Schumacher did progress into Formula 1 for 2021, Ilott was left by the wayside somewhat as (for whatever reason) he wasn't able to secure a full Formula 1 seat for 2021. As one of Ferrari's test and reserve drivers for Formula 1, you'd think that the Scuderia would definitely be considering putting Ilott behind the wheel of the hypercar.
Even if Ilott was able to secure a Formula 1 seat at either Haas or Alfa Romeo by 2023, it might still be worth putting him in the car just for the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the publicity factor. in a situation like that, he could potentially work very well in a driver team alongside his Ferrari colleague Charles Leclerc. Whatever the case, whether a full season's drive or just for Le Mans, the incredibly talented Brit is definitely worth a shout for getting a drive in the new Ferrari hypercar.
Despite being an Alfa Romeo driver for multiple seasons now, Antonio Giovinazzi is very much within the world of Ferrari. With his F1 future somewhat under doubt and Ferrari seriously returning to sports car and endurance racing in the next couple of years thanks to this LMH project, could there be an easy seat for Giovinazzi available should he end up dropping out of F1 either this year or in 2022?
Giovinazzi is no stranger to endurance racing. He's competed in the Asian Le Mans Series and World Endurance Championship before in select races, as well as driving a Ferrari 488 in the GTE class under the AF Corse banner during 2018's 24 Hours of Le Mans. If he was ever to fall out of the F1 circus, going back to some somewhat familiar territory would be a logical career move and one that could, potentially, bring him great results.
Whilst most people remember kiwi Brendon Hartley for his abysmal luck in Formula 1 as a driver for Toro Rosso, he's found much more success in endurance racing. He's a two-time Le Mans winner now for Porsche (2017) and Toyota Gazoo Racing (2020) and, as a former Ferrari test and development driver, he's already close to the Scuderia. He also won the World Endurance Championship in 2015 and 2017 (both times with Porsche) and came second overall in 2020 with Toyota. In his run with Toyota last year he had no DNFs and didn't score outside of the podium in a single race either!
As an experienced and very successful endurance racer, Hartley would be a no-brainer for Ferrari to try and sign on. He's a proven talent who's a great team player and more than pulls his weight in getting those top-level results. Another Le Mans win wouldn't be too bad for him, either...
Ferrari's made it no secret that it wants to be a part of helping female drivers get into the upper echelons of motorsport. One particular woman who is showing a lot of promise in endurance racing and, via her ties with Alfa Romeo Racing has potential links to Ferrari, is Tatiana Calderon. Whilst the Colombian hasn't done so well in single-seaters, she has really shone in her recent efforts in endurance racing, putting on several impressive performances in the LMP2 car of the Richard Mille Racing Team. If Calderon ever wanted to jump into the top class of endurance racing, perhaps Ferrari could be one of the most tempting options for her?
Signing Calderon as a full-time driver for the World Endurance Championship would definitely create a lot of headlines, too. She would automatically become one of Ferrari's top drivers in any kind of motorsport and, if everything goes right, she could become the first-ever female Le Mans winner!
OK, this is a weird one, but hear me out. Danny Ric is no stranger to Ferrari. When he decided that he wouldn't be staying on at Renault beyond 2020, one of the teams he was in talks with regarding his F1 future was Ferrari. McLaren and Ferrari don't seem to have a rocky relationship either, as proven by that infamous ARRIVEDERCI video the team filmed after Carlos Sainz left for Ferrari at the end of the last F1 season. Ricciardo has also said that he is not only interested in doing the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the future but he was also headhunted by current McLaren Team Principal Andreas Seidl back in 2015 for one of the seats at Porsche. You'd think that, just for 2023's edition of Le Mans, McLaren might be willing to do a cheeky one-time deal with Ferrari to allow everyone's favourite Australian racing driver to step into Ferrari's hypercar?
Would it generate headlines? Absolutely. Danny Ric's popularity is sky-high across the entire world of motorsport. People would be generally very happy to see him take on one of the most prestigious races in motorsport. He's already regarded as one of the best drivers in Formula 1 and a win at Le Mans would just cement that even further. As well as that, like Kimi Raikkonen earlier on in this list, he's a Monaco Grand Prix winner. Winning at Le Mans would give him 2 out of the 3 achievements for the triple crown of motorsport and, let's face it, that would cause a huge amount of buzz for him, Ferrari and even McLaren!