Before I begin, just a short note to say that if things look a bit lop-sided at the moment, it is likely because I have moved BlogF1 over to a new server with a new hosting company, Media Temple. I’ll try my best to make sure everything works, but it is a case of learning as I go!
Anyway, on with the post: Who should drive the second McLaren next year?
This is a tricky one for me simply because I feel many drivers deserve it, but the McLaren team and their structure and sponsors need to be considered. There are many names floating around at the moment, so let’s consider just a few.
Pedro De La Rosa
Pedro has been McLaren’s test and reserve for what seems like an eternity. The Spaniard stepped up to the plate in 2006 when Juan Pablo Montoya walked away from the team, and Pedro managed a podium as well as some strong, although quiet, performances. Pedro’s knowledge of developing cars is surely one par with Alex Wurz, another long-time tester, and De La Rosa knows and hopefully still gets along with the crew at Woking.
As an older pair of hands, Pedro is safe and will deliver exactly what he can – nothing more and nothing less. For sure he isn’t as gifted as perhaps his team mate, but De La Rosa has experience, charm and knowledge. He is also Spanish, which would undoubtedly smooth the path for the sponsors.
I personally feel Pedro deserves the drive after all he has done for the squad. Before Hamilton was announced for 2007 I was championing De La Rosa’s corner, despite it meaning that the squad would have to field to Spaniards. Of course, we have since realised that Pedro was involved in the spy scandal that ultimately led to the teams exclusion from the constructors title this season. Whether his relationship with Ron Dennis has mirrored that of Alonso’s I do not know, but the smooth-talking tester is still employed by McLaren, so one can only presume he is in with a chance for the drive.
Aside from promoting from within, utilising Heikki is possibly the next easiest solution. Simply swapping Fernando Alonso with Heikki would ensure that Renault get their man and Ron has once again partnered a British hopeful alongside a talented Finn. Ring any bells…?
There is speculation that Alonso was only allowed to leave the team if he didn’t join a front-runner. Arguably, that does include Renault as they certainly have the capability to win in 2008. If this is true, then the straight swap is impossible, but it doesn’t rule out Kovalainen. The Finnish driver had a reasonably strong finish to his debut year and began to out-perform his much more experienced team mate Giancarlo Fischella. His name must be on Ron’s list for the future, but would it be too premature to nab him now?
Between Lewis and Heikki, they have contested just 34 races, and if that isn’t a weak lineup I don’t know what is. Yes, both are talented and neither are no longer considered a rookie, but experience plays a key role in Formula One. I honestly feel Hamilton will still need a strong team mate for next year.
Adrian is an intelligent and understated gentleman who has quietly crept into Formula One with little fanfare or fireworks. Competing with the under-performing Spyker in 2007, the German-born classically-trained pianist did well with the orange car. Although Sutil didn’t set the track alight, he generally kept his car on it and showed a high level of race craft and consistency. The point scored in Japan – Spyker’s first and last – must have been a memorable high point of the season for Adrian. Although he didn’t actually earn it on the race track, he was promoted afterwards when a penalty was handed to Sebastian Vettel of Scuderia Toro Rosso. Having said that, even ninth is outstanding for Spyker.
Sutil has apparently got a long term contract with Spyker, but this was based on the friendship he has with Colin Kolles. Colin remains with the team but it is unknown at the moment if everything will work out as planned. The Spyker team, now called Force India, are a little unstable at the moment simply because of the unknowns. Indian investor and therefore part owner Vijay Mallya has stated he would like to retain Sutil, but he is aware that many teams are interested in him and the contract may be be moved on.
There are other drivers in the hunt, some are wild speculation (David Coulthard returning, for instance) and others perfectly possible. But for now, it seems like these are the three front runners for the seat. Personally I would have liked to have seen Nico Rosberg in the car, but Frank Williams has a water-tight contract on his young whipper-snapper. I guess out of the three, I’d most like to see Sutil get the drive, but I think it’s fair to say that all of them deserve it in their own way.
Who would you like to see drive the second McLaren next year? Have your say in the comments below.