The McLaren Autosport BRDC Award was inaugurated in 1989, when future Formula 1 star David Coulthard won. Since then it has grown to include driving, simulation and fitness tests for six finalists each year, with the winner being announced at the Autosport Awards every December.
The aim is to boost the prospects of young British racing talent and the list of former winners is impressive. As well as David Coulthard, 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button, former Force India driver Paul di Resta, four time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti, DTM aces Gary Paffett and Jamie Green, and sportscar stars Anthony Davidson (World Champion in 2014), Oliver Gavin, Jonny Kane, and Darren Turner are all among the 26 previous winners.
2015’s six finalists tested at Silverstone in late October, in F2, Mercedes DTM and McLaren GT3 machinery. Each also had access to a McLaren 650S road car for sighting laps. Interviews with the judging panel then followed.
The 2015 winner, revealed as Will Palmer at the Autosport Awards in London, receives £100,000, a McLaren F1 test drive, full BRDC membership and an Arai GP-6 RC carbon helmet.
2015: Third in Formula Renault Eurocup (3 wins), second in Formula Renault ALPS (4 wins)
Seven wins across two competitive FR2.0 championships are a strong return. Switching to Koiranen GP has unlocked the sort of performances that made Aitken a finalist back in 2013, and nobody has won more races in the category this season.
2015: Fifth in Formula Renault Eurocup (2 wins)
The Formula Renault Northern European Cup champion's rookie Eurocup campaign started strongly with second, but mechanical problems, mistakes and plain bad luck threatened to wreck his season. Back-to-back wins at the Nurburgring and Le Mans make him an outside title challenger going into the final round, too.
2015: Second in MSA Formula (6 wins)
Moving to the Arden squad for the first-ever MSA Formula campaign has fired Collard into the British Touring Car Championship support package's spotlight. His pace and ability to overtake have him right in the hunt for the inaugural title.
2015: Formula Renault ALPS championship leader (3 wins), Sixth in Formula Renault Eurocup (1 win)
He leads the Formula Renault ALPS championship and has won in the more competitive Eurocup as well. His campaign in the latter has been hampered by misfortune, though his pace has often been without question.
Will Palmer - WINNER
2015: BRDC Formula 4 champion (12 wins)
The son of ex-Formula 1 driver, MSV owner and BRDC F4 founder Jonathan - and brother of GP2 champion and Lotus F1 reserve driver Jolyon - wrapped up the F4 title with a round to spare and winning a record-breaking 12 races along the way. A strong debut two-litre Renault performance, in the Eurocup at Silverstone, was also impressive.
2015: MRF Challenge champion, select MSA Formula outings
Despite limited opportunities this year, Sowery has shown frontrunning pace every time he has got in a car. After winning the India-based MRF Challenge in 2014/15, clinching the title in January, he has appeared occasionally in MSA Formula. Showing convincing speed and making the podium despite two switches of teams and a stop-start programme prove his ability.
All three partners – McLaren, Autosport, and the British Racing Drivers’ Club – are represented each year in the expert judging panel.
The judges usually consist of a mix of successful drivers, F1 technical expertise, experienced followers of the sport, and those with an overview of national-level motorsport.
The chairman of the judges this year is former F1 racer, 1992 world sportscar champion, and BRDC president Derek Warwick. Team boss and former GT racer Andrew Kirkaldy along with double British Touring Car champion Jason Plato join him on the driving expertise part of the panel.
McLaren's representative is Mark Williams, who brings a wealth of F1 technical experience, while veteran commentator Ian Titchmarsh has seen the finalists in action during the season and is a long-serving judge for the award.
Autosport features editor Scott Mitchell, who also monitors the progress of the finalists throughout the season, and Motorsport News editor Kevin Turner complete the team
The test drives are a crucial part of the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award. They take place at Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix, and the six finalists get their hands on three different cars.
Formula 2 returns for another appearance in the tests, with each driver having access to their own Williams-built machine. A series of different sessions challenge the drivers to display their natural speed and ability to maximise the car's potential.
DTM Mercedes provide a high-powered tin-top challenge, while McLaren’s 650S GT3 machine gives them a taste of GT racing.
Each driver will also have access to a McLaren 650S road car for sighting laps.
2014 - George Russell
Another karting star stepping into cars for the first time, taking the BRDC F4 crown in 2014 before going on to clinch the Award.
2013 - Matt Parry
After an impressive karting career, which included the Super 1 National Rotax Max Junior title, Parry stepped up to the British Formula Ford Championship in 2011 and won the Award in 2013.
2012 - Jake Dennis
Became the 24th recipient of the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award in 2012 and the youngest yet at 17 years, five months and 16 days old.
2011 - Oliver Rowland
Graduated to car racing with an impressive karting CV. Despite being hit by personal tragedy – the death of his father and of mentor Martin Hines – Rowland became an exciting performer in his first year of Formula Renault UK.
2010 - Lewis Williamson
Started car racing in 2008 and was Formula Renault UK runner-up in 2010, scoring more wins than anyone else. Won a race in GP3 in 2011, and tried Formula Renault 3.5 for 2012.
2009 - Dean Smith
After winning Formula BMW in 2005, and being Formula Renault UK runner-up (and Award finalist) in 2007, Smith almost gave up on single-seaters, but instead won the FR UK crown in 2009. Has raced in GP3 for the last two years.
2008 - Alexander Sims
Finished second in Formula Renault UK in his second season and was then a frontrunner in the F3 Euro Series for the next two years. Was a race winner in GP3 in 2011 on his way to sixth in the standings, and took a British F3 win on a one-off appearance.
2007 - Stefan Wilson
Was second in Formula Palmer Audi in his first year of car racing. After a year in British F3, Wilson moved to Indy Lights in 2009 and finished third in the series in 2011.
2006 - Oliver Turvey
Funding issues hampered Turvey’s early career, but he was runner-up in Formula BMW UK in his part-campaign in 2006. Moved to the Formula Renault Eurocup after winnning the Award and then picked up Racing Steps Foundation backing for British F3. Narrowly missed out on crown, then won races in Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2, and became a McLaren test and reserve driver.
2005 - Oliver Jarvis
Formula Renault UK champion moved to F3 after taking the Award and won the F3 Macau GP in 2007. Impressed in A1GP before joining the DTM with Audi in 2008.
2004 - Paul di Resta
Another winner in Formula Renault UK, di Resta moved to F3 in 2005 and took the Euro Series crown the following year. He then moved into the DTM with Mercedes and became a star, taking the title in 2010. Graduated to F1 with Force India in 2011 and put in an impressive rookie campaign.
2003 - Alex Lloyd
Current IndyCar racer won the Award after his second year of Formula Renault UK. Dabbled in F3000, then switched to America in 2006. Won the Indy Lights title the following season and first raced in IndyCar in 2008.
2002 - Jamie Green
Took the Award after finishing as runner-up in his first season of Formula Renault UK. Was second in British F3 in 2003 before taking the F3 Euro Series title the following year. Graduated to the DTM in 2005 and has become an established frontrunner with Mercedes.
2001 - Steven Kane
Stepped up from Formula Ford to F3, via a brief appearance in Formula Renault. After racing in Formula Renault 3.5 he switched to tin-tops, first in the Porsche Carrera Cup and then the British Touring Car Championship. He won races in both. Kane was also an LMP1 winner in the ALMS in 2011 with Dyson Racing.
2000 - Anthony Davidson
Formula Ford Festival winner was a British F3 frontrunner in his rookie year. Became a BAR Honda test driver and made it into an F1 race seat for two races in 2002 with Minardi. Was also part of the Super Aguri team in 2007-08 before moving to GTs and sportscars. Now an LMP1 ace with works Toyota squad.
1999 - Gary Paffett
Formula Vauxhall Lotus champion starred in Formula 3 before moving into the DTM, while also becoming test driver for McLaren in F1. Took the DTM crown in 2005 and has also been runner-up in the series four times.
1998 - Jenson Button
Karting ace exploded into car racing in 1998, winning the British Formula Ford Championship and the Award. Button was a British F3 race winner the following season and was in F1 by 2000. Went on to win the F1 world championship with Brawn in 2009 and is still a race winner for McLaren.
1997 - Andrew Kirkaldy
Another Formula Vauxhall graduate, Kirkaldy made it to Formula 3 before switching to GTs. Took the British GT2 title in 2005 and was a race winner in FIA GT2. Now runs CRS Racing’s GT programme and is helping develop McLaren’s MP4-12C GT3 contender.
1996 - Darren Turner
Formula Renault racer moved into F3 after winning the Award and was then a winner in the inaugural Formula Palmer Audi season. A long-term F1 test driver, Turner also raced in DTM, ASCAR, and the BTCC, but has established a sportscar career with Aston Martin, winning GT1 at Le Mans twice and racing for the company’s LMP squad.
1995 - Jonny Kane
Started in Formula Ford and raced in Formula Vauxhall Lotus before winning the British F3 title in 1997. Had a spell in Indy Lights, then moved into sportscars and GTs. Has been an LMP2 ace with Strakka Racing in recent years.
1994 - Jamie Davies
Used Formula Vauxhall Lotus success to graduate into F3 and then F3000. Moved successfully into sports-prototypes and GTs, which he raced until 2008.
1993 - Ralph Firman
Won the Award after a fine season in Formula Vauxhall Junior. Took the British F3 title in 1996 before a long spell in Japan, winning in Formula Nippon and the domestic GT series. Got to F1 with Jordan in 2003 before heading back to GTs.
1992 - Dario Franchitti
Franchitti went from Formula Opel Lotus and British F3 to the DTM, where he proved rapid. He then made a successful switch to American single-seaters, becoming an IndyCar legend. Franchitti has won the Indy 500 twice and in 2011 took his fourth IndyCar crown.
1991 - Oliver Gavin
Formula First champion in 1991, Gavin went on to take the 1995 British F3 crown. There were spells in the DTM and F3000 before Gavin found his niche in GT racing, where he has become a star with the crack works Chevrolet squad.
1990 - Gareth Rees
Another Formula Ford star, Rees successfully graduated to Formula Opel Lotus and then British F3 before making it as far as F3000.
1989 - David Coulthard
Awarded the prize based on his Formula Ford performances, Coulthard then starred in F3 before making it to F1 in 1994. He went on to score 13 grand prix wins for Williams and McLaren. Currently races for Mercedes in the DTM.