Young gun Doohan ‘will do anything’ for his F1 chance as possible Le Mans switch looms

Aussie rising star Jack Doohan’s journey to Formula 1 looks increasingly likely to take him to the World Endurance Championship in 2024 to spearhead Alpine’s return to the hypercar class.

Doohan joined Alpine’s young driver academy last year for his first full-time campaign in Formula 2, when he finished sixth in a close battle for runner-up behind runaway champion Felipe Drugovich.

Despite chronic car problems beyond his control hampering the start of his follow-up season, the Australian has already bettered his 2022 points haul and is currently fourth in the title standings with one round remaining.

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But the door to Formula 1 has remained closed to Doohan, the son of five-time 500cc motorcycle champion Mick.

Not only had Alpine already signed Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon on two-year deals expiring at the end of next season, but the broader F1 grid appears likely to see no year-on-year change, with only Logan Sargeant without a contract for next year among the sport’s current drivers.

Instead a diagonal move now appears to be on the cards, with Alpine finalising its driver line-up for its return to the World Endurance Championship hypercar class with its A424 car.

“We’ve been speaking about this in the last couple of days,” Doohan told select media, including Fox Sports. “That’s an amazing platform that Alpine have within that.

“The goal is Formula 1, that’s where I want to be. But if I have to take time away and potentially up the endurance avenue to get to my end goal, honestly, I will do anything that I have to to get to Formula 1.

“To be able to go to WEC, be with Alpine and learn even more about potentially stuff that could be valuable coming back to Formula 1, that would be awesome.”

The move could see the Australian partnered with Mick Schumacher, with Alpine confirming talks with the German F3 and F2 champion are ongoing.

But Doohan emphasised that he wanted any detour away from single-seater racing to be temporary, with F1 remaining his career target.

“I believe that’s where I should be,” he said. “I believe I have the talent and the potential to be there.

“I know I’m comfortable in a Formula 1 car, so I would like to see my long-term future there until someone says otherwise.”

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The WEC’s premier hypercar class is arguably the closest F1 analogue in terms of prestige, with he 24 Hours of Le Mans its signature event. In performance terms hypercar machines sit between Formula 1 and Formula 2.

Next season Alpine will compete for the WEC title against at least seven other manufacturers, including incumbents Toyota, Ferrari, Porsche, Peugeot and Cadillac and newcomers BMW and Lamborghini, along with several independent constructors.

At the time Alpine confirmed its intention to enter the hypercar class, former CEO Laurent Rossi said he wanted the brand’s F1 and WEC programs to work together to mutually benefit one another, with only Ferrari competing in both categories.

Doohan said sticking with Alpine was an obvious choice for 2024.

“I’d be crazy not to,” he said. “We’ve got such a good relationship and foundation together.

“I’m comfortable with the team. We’re working well together with the academy, with the Formula 1 team.

“I think it would be no-brainer to continue together for the future.”

An extension of his contract as a test and reserve drive would also appear likely, which will keep him in touch with the F1 driver market, which is expected to move significantly for 2025 after barely shifting for 2024.

“I continue to work with the team, and if I can be on the grid in 2025, that would be awesome,” he said.

“At the start of this year we knew there wasn’t going to be a seat at Alpine until the end of 2024, so even if I won the championship this year — I want to drive with Alpine, I want to be a part of their team — it wasn’t going to be a possibility until 2025.

“Seeing the way the market has played out as well, that wouldn’t have been a possibility anyway, so it’s not a big deal at all.”

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Last season Doohan made two cameos with Alpine during free practice at the Mexico City and Abu Dhabi grands prix.

F1 regulations require each team to devote at least two practice sessions to inexperienced drivers. Alpine is yet to use either of its mandatory practice outings, but Doohan strongly hinted that a similar plan was on the cards this season.

“I will let the team confirm, but if I was at home, I‘d be turning into Mexico and Abu Dhabi,” he said.

The Queenslander said there was no fixed time line for confirmation of his plans beyond his pair of practice outings and the end of his Formula 2 campaign in Abu Dhabi, but he was confident that he would be announced in a racing seat “in due course”.

“By the start of 2024 would be a good start!” he said. “There’s no stress. There’s no deadline. There’s no pressure.

We’ll just make sure we’re doing it correctly and in the right timeline. I’m sure it’ll be sorted soon enough.”

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This motor sports news item came from: https://www.foxsports.com.au/motorsport/formula-one/young-gun-doohan-will-do-anything-for-his-f1-chance-as-possible-le-mans-switch-looms/news-story/c04f93da6aaa6b30bb9bb88d48bec26d

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