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Meet Jack Doohan, Formula 1’s Reserve Driver on the Rise

Meet Jack Doohan, Formula 1’s Reserve Driver on the Rise

Esteban Ocon may have crashed his way out of a Formula 1 seat, at least for a race. Ocon, who competes for the Alpine team, made a costly error in judgement during the first lap of last week’s Monaco Grand Prix, when the 27-year-old French driver attempted to overtake his own teammate, Pierre Gasly. Ocon’s subsequent collision into Gasly’s car sent Ocon’s vehicle airborne and he was forced to retire. As for Gasly, he was able to recover and finish tenth, claiming only the second point of the season for Alpine. 

Team officials didn’t hold back in postrace interviews. Alpine’s principal, Bruno Famin, told media that “Esteban’s attack was completely out of line,” adding, “there will be consequences. We’re going to make a tough decision.” During the Monaco Grand Prix, one trackside reporter saw Famin summoning Alpine’s reserve driver, Jack Doohan, for a chat. 

From left: Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly, and Jack Doohan at the debut of Alpine’s new race car for the 2024 Formula 1 season.

Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images

Does this mean that Doohan, the 21-year-old who finished third in the Formula 2 series last year, may get Ocon’s seat for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix? Well, he did for yesterday’s first practice session at least. His future with the team, though, may certainly be on the fast track.

Doohan is an Australian racer with motorsport in his blood. His father is Mick Doohan, a five-time MotoGP world champion in the 500 cc class of bike. The younger Doohan has mentioned to the media that breaking his leg after a motorcycle crash on his fifth birthday “threw dad off, seeing me get hurt at such a young age . . . and also, I think I scared myself quite a bit.” 

Jack Doohan and his father Mick Doohan, a five-time MotoGP world champion, after a racing demonstration ahead of the 2024 Australian Grand Prix.

Jack and his father Mick Doohan, a five-time MotoGP world champion, after a racing demonstration ahead of the 2024 Australian Grand Prix.

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Accordingly, the junior Doohan ditched two wheels in favor of four and has been shredding tracks since he was nine years old, the age he started karting competitively. (Doohan’s first go-kart was a gift from his then-neighbor and seven-time Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher.) It only took Doohan three years to win the Australian Karting Championship, at the age of 12. He repeated his success the following year. 

By the time he was 15 years old, Doohan had jumped up to single-seat race cars, debuting in the Formula 4 British Championship, where he steadily notched a series of podiums. In 2019, he stepped up again, this time to the Formula 3 Asian Championship, where he finished second in the 2019/2020 season. His forward momentum continued, as he then moved to the FIA Formula 3 Championship. After a rocky first season there, where he finished 26th, Doohan took second on the championship podium the following year. 

Doohan (No. 4) starting strong at a 2021 Formula 2 race at the Sochi Autodrome in Russia.

Doohan (No. 4) starting strong at a 2021 Formula 2 race at the Sochi Autodrome in Russia.

Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Doohan soon graduated to FIA’s Formula 2 series, where he initially struggled, finishing 19th the first season. A quick learner, he went on to finish sixth and third for 2022 and 2023, respectively. Of his 59 total Formula 2 races, Doohan won six, earned five pole positions, and garnered 11 podium finishes. Not too shabby. 

Yet the goal for Doohan has always been Formula 1, and he’s been making increasing headway towards a start on its grid since 2017, when he signed with the Red Bull Junior Team. In 2022, he signed with the Alpine academy program, which mentors skilled younger drivers

Driving for Virtuosi Racing, Doohan competes in a sprint race at Silverstone during the 2022 Formula 2 season.

Driving for Virtuosi Racing, Doohan competes in a sprint race at Silverstone during the 2022 Formula 2 season.

Rudy Carezzevoli – Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images

Switching to Alpine was a move Doohan called a “no brainer,” as the team’s involvement in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) series leaves him another option for future racing if a Formula 1 seat never materializes. In 2022, he got his first Formula 1 test, through Alpine, and hurtled around the Losail International Circuit. More testing followed at Monza and Hungaroring, and he was even invited to participate in free practice sessions during both the Mexico City Grand Prix and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. (In Abu Dhabi, Doohan was the fourth fastest of all the rookies competing.) 

Following the conclusion of the 2023 season, he clocked more than 100 laps during a test session for young drivers in Abu Dhabi. Of that experience, Doohan told media, “It’s great to be able to explore everything the F1 car has to offer, to work through a whole run plan, run schedule, and different test items.”

Mercedes-AMG's Lewis Hamilton (left) and Alpine reserve driver Jack Doohan (right) share the track during a practice session for the 2023 Mexico City Grand Prix.

Mercedes-AMG’s Lewis Hamilton (left) and Alpine reserve driver Jack Doohan (right) share the track during a practice session for the 2023 Mexico City Grand Prix.

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Alpine eventually made Doohan an offer to become its reserve driver. The role includes traveling to all the grand prix contests with the team and be on standby should one of the two main pilots be unable to compete. Some reserve drivers also race in Formula 2 or other series around the world while still serving as a backup in the big league. Doohan, though, gave up all other race series this season just to be available for Formula 1 and Alpine. 

Formula 1's Jack Doohan, the reserve driver for Alpine, takes a moment for selfies with fans before the 2024 Australian Grand Prix.

Doohan’s fan base is already forming.

Clive Mason – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Whether Doohan sees more action than the first practice session at the 2024 Canadian Grand Prix remains to be seen. Alpine team bosses have also publicly lauded Mick Schumacher, son of Michael Schumacher, who could be another potential substitution down the road. (Schumacher is the reserve driver for both Mercedes-AMG Petronas and McLaren, but also has a seat with Alpine in the Hypercar class of the 2024 WEC series.) 

Jack Doohan drives during the first practice session of the 2024 Canadian Grand Prix.

Seat time was given to Doohan for the June 7 practice session of the 2024 Canadian Grand Prix.

Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images

After the recent Monaco mishap, Alpine announced that Ocon’s contract for 2025 wouldn’t be renewed. Gasly’s contract is also up at the end of this year, potentially leaving both cars without drivers. It seems that while Doohan will likely remain in reserve this weekend, his place on next season’s Formula 1 starting grid is lining up quite nicely.



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