As in life, Formula One is often unfair. A talent may be overlooked, or a silly incident not of his creation can lead to a driver retiring from a great position in a race. Occasionally, these moments define a career and a driver fails to make it into a top team, or fails to win if already in a competitive car. While those fans who understand the sport may recognise the efforts and skill, the record books will tell a different tale. Does the current grid of 20 pilots contain any of these so close yet so far drivers?
It’s one of the sport’s ultimate what ifs, and it is very hard to judge a driver who hasn’t actually proven themselves one way or the other, but to speculate is interesting, and that is exactly what this post is about. Of the drivers competing in 2009, do any deserve a better car, a greater chance of proving themselves…
Being the son of a former world champion will always bring with it a great expectation. Keke was a fine driver who showed consistency like few others. Nico though has had a harder time of it. Like his father, Nico was given his break by Williams, but unfortunately the timing was quite different. In 1982, Keke joined the team on the back of their two consecutive constructors titles. It wasn’t all smiles and praise as the team started to endure mixed results, but Keke won his world title in his first campaign with Williams, and showed tenacity while the squad slipped down the rankings.
For Nico, he joined Williams when they were already quite firmly in a slump, which may have been his saving grace as with it comes understanding. In a clearly uncompetitive car, Rosberg Jr has shown he has talent, and a strong run of points finishes towards the tail end of 2007 were impressive. Even more impressive were his two podiums in 2008. Finishing second in the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix is surely both actually and emotionally Rosberg’s greatest result thus far, completing a race where all about him others were falling off the road and retiring.
2009 has once again proving to be a bit of a let down so far. The car is okay, as is the engine, but through a combination of errors from both team and driver, Nico has so far failed to stand on the podium, despite the FW31 looking very competitive in free practices. The experience of Williams should be guiding Nico to greatness, but alas it looks to be the other way around at the moment, with Rosberg guiding the team.
Does Nico have the talent to compete with the best? Lewis Hamilton seems to think so, and Rosberg’s championship winning GP2 season was impressive. The German pilot out-scored Heikki Kovalainen to take the title, and although both pilots equalled each other on wins in 2005, Nico managed 4 poles and 5 fastest laps to Heikki’s 2 poles and 1 fastest lap. Kovalainen is currently sitting in a McLaren and not enjoying his 2009 Formula One campaign, nor did the Finn do spectacularly well last time around. Would Rosberg do any better though?[poll id=”45″]
Speaking of Heikki, does he deserve a better car than he is currently driving? The McLaren MP4-24 is far from an all-conquering machine, and team mate Lewis Hamilton has been getting increasingly frustrated with it this year, telling the media that the team have not given him a machine which he can defend his title with. The Briton has scored some points though and looked, on occasion, quite competitive.
Conversely, Heikki has barely finished a race this season, failing to even get around the opening lap in the first two races. He has scored with the 2009 McLaren, but currently sits on half the points of his team mate. Previously, Kovalainen couldn’t match Hamilton in 2008 and while the Briton took the world championship, Heikki finished in seventh on just over half the points of his team mate. It wasn’t a great performance, but there were glimmers of hope. In 2007, Kovalainen’s debut year, the Finn got off to a slow start, but by the time the drivers had completed the final race, Heikki had comprehensively beaten his much more experienced team mate Giancarlo Fisichella.
Previous to Formula One and as mentioned in relation to Nico Rosberg, Heikki did well in GP2 and missed out on the 2005 title by just 15 points. Finishing second is still a good performance, but one has to wonder why this hasn’t translated into Formula One. Would Kovalainen blitz the field if he was given a decent car? Does he have enough talent, or was 2005, [2006 spent testing] and 2007 the peak of his motor racing career?[poll id=”46″]
Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi has proven to be a bit of a surprise this year. Being the only rookie in the field, Buemi has already shown up his multiple ChampCar champion team mate Sebastien Bourdais, and brought the Scuderia Toro Rosso home in points-paying positions twice already. In the opening round Bourdais scored, but unfortunately for him, Buemi scored better. At the third round in China, Buemi scored again, and currently sits on three points. It is, by all measures, a good start to his debut campaign.
Prior to Formula One, Buemi didn’t look particularly special, finishing in sixth in his first full GP2 season. Over the winter the Swiss driver competed in the GP2 Asia series and managed to finish second after one win and a string of second places. Compared to Rosberg and Kovalainen in 2005 though, Buemi looks vaguely average.
However, to finish in the points in a Scuderia Toro Rosso is not bad. Although the car is often said to be similar to the race-winning Red Bull, it is actually quite a different motor, being powered by a different engine and managed by a different team of people. Thus far, and while eating humble pie, I have to say that Buemi doesn’t look too bad of a driver and in a couple of years will deserve a shot in a better car. But what say you? Is Buemi any good, or are his results so far completely fluke?[poll id=”47″]
Having competed in Formula One since 2007, Adrian Sutil has endured the worse of all the cars currently mentioned. The Spyker wasn’t up to much and although the Force India he now drives is an improvement, it is still hogging the back row of the grid. However, on occasion Sutil has driven the wheels of the car and positioned himself in places that really he shouldn’t be in.
We all remember the 2008 Monaco Grand Prix where Sutil managed to haul himself up to fourth and was defending his position to the reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen. Unfortunately, Raikkonen crashed into Sutil and his race was over. It wasn’t the only time a Ferrari came into contact with Sutil’s Force India that year as the Scuderia’s pitstop technique often resulted one of their drivers pulling out in front of Sutil. It became almost comical due to the amount of times it happened.
Again this season Sutil has put in a couple of fine performances, finishing in ninth from sixteenth in the season’s opening round, and running in sixth in China before losing the tail of his car and clouting the barrier. However, the fact that the German is able to get his car into these positions shows maturity and skill on his part. Is it enough though. What would happen if Adrian found himself in a Brawn or Red Bull? Would he be winning, or would it be too much for him?[poll id=”48″]