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″]
Nico both deserves a better car and is not as good as his father was. I ticked the second option because Keke was special; Nico is still good enough to deliver the goods in the right car, however.
It is still far too early to say anything about Buemi. He has beaten Bourdais so far but that is quite likely to be thanks to STR’s habit of playing favourites. I didn’t vote.
Nor did I vote on Sutil. Note that he shines when the track is wet but is pretty anonymous otherwise. I suspect that he is a true rainmeister, one of those guys who are brilliant in the wet but very ordinary in the dry. The last real rainmeister I can think of was Hans Stuck Jr in the seventies – not a bad number 2 driver but amazing when it rained. So it all depends on what a team wants from a driver – if they need a sound number 2 who can win in the wet, yes, Adrian deserves a seat.
I think so as well.
Fair enough, it is still very early in his career.
I voted yes for Sutil, just because I think it would be interesting. He’s one of those guys who you wouldn’t put down as a racing driver if you didn’t know already, but has some kind of knack to it. Maybe it is just in the wet as you say, but I think there is something about him. Sutil is no Alonso or Hamilton or Raikkonen, not by a long shot, but I think he would be interesting to watch in a top car.
So what of Heikki, did you vote on that one or did diplomacy win out and a vote of silence become the better option? 🙂
Oh, I voted Heikki out, of course. Heck, the guy’s had plenty of chances in a good car and just doesn’t seem to be able to stay out of trouble. I think he can be quick on his day but those days are few and far between.
Well, I think Rosberg is highly overrated. He beat Heikki in GP2 surely, but he was in a way better car. Don’t think every GP2-Car is the same, he had the best and dominating team, while Heikkis car seemed to retire with mechanical problems every 3rd race. Thinking about that while rating their drives in 2005 GP2-Season, I think Rosberg won the title more by luck than by talent. And there is also his character-problem. It’s always the team’s fault, never his. And he often enough did mistakes. The only think I like about him is, he is able to talk charismatic on english broadcasting, while he seems to be an idiot in front of our german cameras. I don’t mind that very much, as I always watch the races on BBC and not any more at RTL-Germany.
Heikki is a bit like Kimi was with McLaren when it comes to luck. Everytime there is a collision or anything breaking on the McLaren, it’s his. Barrichello was one of the same kind wit Ferrari, whilst his car was retiring every 4th race, Schumacher finished about 30 races in a row without any technical problem. But Heikki isn’t the greatest talent too, his a good number two driver. Maybe Brawn should think about him when Rubens starts to make more trouble about his (if true or not) Number 2 Status. Heikki wouldn’t bother I think.
Adrian instead is highly underrated. He finished a good second behind Hamilton in Formula 3 Euroseries and dominatet Formula Nippon the year after. He truely is great in the rain, but hey… which german isn’t in Formula 1? The fact, that he drives a horrible to control car and still gets, as you said right, in positions he shouldn’t be in, really shows that he deserves a better car. He just needs to learn to keep position and doing no more mistakes when he reaches a Top-10 position. Better what for the failures of others and then score solid points instead of risking everything for a miracle and then losing all in one mistake.
Buemi really surprised, as for a rookie he seems to be damn solid. I don’t think he is a complete championship contender for the future, but he will make his way to be a solid driver who can survive many years in F1, like a Webber or Trulli.
When Kovalainen replaced Alonso at McLaren he was very firm with the press in pointing out that he would never have joined the team if he was to be number two. As it turns out, he’s made himself into a number two anyway, but I think it would bother him. Surely it would bother any racing driver?
Really, that’s kinda odd. Do you think he begrudges racing under a German flag?
Wow! At the time of writing this, Rosberg is the most undecided of the four drivers. You guys are split 52:48 on whether or not Nico deserves a better car. I thought of all the drivers here, he would have been the one that would have seen the largest margin, in favour of yes. Interestingly, that currently goes to Sutil. 81% of voters feel that he does deserve a better a car.
So most of you are Sutil fans. Interesting… 😀
Not necessarily, Ollie. It may just be that Rosberg already has a pretty good car, whereas Sutil could hardly do worse than a Force India. I think you may have been a little too clever in your wording of options for us to choose. 😉
I already know that. I wasn’t expecting someone to say that Nico deserves a better car, but that doesn’t mean he is better than his father. You caught me out there. 🙂
Your point about the Williams is interesting though. I wonder if people think it is a good car not being utilised well by driver and team, or if it’s considered a dog and Nico and Kazuki are simply doing the best they can with it. The practice times vs. race pace is a bit of a puzzler. I feel I need to write about this some more. Maybe later this evening I’ll engage the brain and write a post about the FW31.
Hehe yes. Surely Sutil deserves that, but I wouldn’t call myself a fan of him. Neither of any german driver, beside Vettel maybe, but that’s not because of his nationality. As Clive pointed out right, he couldn’t do worse than being in a ForceIndia (at the moment). I somehow still got the feeling they will make their step to a midfielder.
Don’t know about Rosbergs view driving for Germany, but he really sounds stupid on our broadcasts. His words are more like from a kart-driving 10 year old with a rich father who got his own kart-track. Strangely this goes with all the “former-champion-sons”, Piquet is from the same kind, even if I think Rosberg is by far better than the brazilian. But both always argue, that the team did mistakes and not them. I also don’t think his feedback is as good as everybody believes, he doesn’t even know how to explain what “a bumpy track” is… dear!
I agree with you, that no race driver WANTS to be a Number 2, but some seem to accept it after a while, if they driven themself into that position. Coulthard was one of these, who started to drive for the team, not for himself. Heikki looks so, what makes me a bit sad because he was way faster every raceweekend than Hamilton this year, but sent back to a heavier strategy by the team he will never be able to show his true speed under race-conditions.
He had the option to be a McLaren driver last year and with a far better deal than Kovalainen has. He decided against it on the recommendation of his father who owned a karting where Lewis and Nico were the drivers. Nico didn’t beat Lewis often. If he couldn’t do that in a team run by his father he was never going to beat him in a McLaren. I think he arrived with a big reputation which was at least partly deserved but has lost all momentum from his career and is therefore destined to spend his life in th midfield unless he gets lucky like Button did this year.
5 or 6 years ago I was asked which drivers from the junior formuale I thought would succeed in F1. I chose Hamilton and Kovalainen. Heikki alwways looked a little bit special but it hasn’t panned out that way in F1. If I was running McLaren he would be out at the end of the season and Paul diResta would be in that seat to see if he can hack it in F1.
Too early to say if he is any good or not
Hamilton rates Sutil so he must be deserve something better than a Forse India but I can’t judge him on what I have seen so far. I need him to be in a car that is at least capable of running in the midfield. It is easy to look at his good drives and say that he desrves better but for all we know in a midfield or leading car he may be good one race in 6 and go backwards the rest of the time. Before Alonso went to McLaren the erceived wisdom was that he was on it all the time and occasionally Fisi would raise his game and be on the same level. What became clear at McLaren was that Alonso clearly had his off days. That therefore reduces Fisi’s level and that is all we have to compare Sutil against.
Glad you didn’t bother adding Piquet or Nakajima to this post!
I think Sutil could be a better driver, but even if you disagree with that premise, you still have to think he deserves a better car! No one deserves to drive the Force India cars.