2012’s new boys are not so new

The 2012 season will see several different drivers from last year towards the rear of the grid, but so far only Charles Pic is really a rookie. Next season will see the return of several F1 Drivers:

Kimi Raikkonen – Lotus Renault
Romain Grosjean – Lotus Renault
Pedro De La Rosa – HRT Cosworth
Nico Hulkenberg – Force India Mercedes

Charles Pic and Jean Eric-Vergne will be the only 2 real rookies that start next season with Daniel Ricciardo having had a half season running with HRT. It further highlights the problems rookies face with getting into the sport now with the huge restriction of testing miles. Charles Pic will only get 6 days in the car in Feb having previously only had one day at the young drivers test before the season starts. Michael Schumacher recently stated that the lack of testing has hurt his progress in his comeback and Kimi Raikkonen is planning on jumping in a 2010 Renault in Janurary in prepartion for the season.

2011 Drivers Rankings Pt1

After reviewing the teams its time to rank the drivers in a completely different order to their championship results. This is a hard task as some teams have simply been racing themselves this season while others have had constant fights through the field. But here we go:

15. Vitaly Petrov – Renault – WDC: 10th
In his second season the money bags Russian found himself without his former team leader due to crashing in a rally pre-season. He was put up against Nick Heidfeld who he only just managed to outscore by 3 points, however “quick nick” managed to only last 10 races before being ousted from his seat. A maiden podium in the first race was a geuine highlight but failed to make an impression in the following races to capatilise on the cars speed.

16.  Sergio Perez – Sauber Ferrari – WDC: 16th
Started very well but suffered after his Monaco crash where he showed a lot of maturity in sitting out in Canada. Has come out and bravely stated it took him till Hungrary to recover, but was the start of the show in Austrailia with the tyres. Looking forward to a second year with the squad and fully deserved but its hard to place him much higher when his team mate outscored him (30 points to Sergio’s 14) and wasn’t regarded as having that strong a year.

17. Sebastian Buemi – Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari – WDC: 15th
Although he started well in a Toro Rosso that wasn’t quite on the pace as soon as his team mate got his head round the tires he was outscored all the way home. Failed to get the team to overhaul Sauber in the constructors championship. He was in the points as many times as his team mate but failed to capitilise with a headline drive to haul in some more points. Is now without a drive for next year as Torro Rosso have plonked for Ricciardo and Eric-Vergne.

18. Bruno Senna – Renault – WDC: 18th
Parachuted into the car in place of “quick” Nick Heidfeld as the cars performance tailed off. Great speed in qualifying but lacked the race craft of his great late uncle even if he appears to have some of his real raw pace. Good effort and quite surprising for many of us watching this year.

19. Rubens Barrichello – Williams Cosworth – WDC: 17th
A poor season from the Brazilian veteran (the most experienced man in F1) could be the book end in the longest career in the history of the sport. Hes come close to the championship on more than a few occasions and has won countless races. Humbled by his rookie pay driver team mate and failed to get into Q3 at any point this year during Williams worst season ever. He has shown glimpses of the old Rubhino, with a few drivers into the points in the crazy races and a sterling effort in qualifying at home.

20. Pedro De La Rosa – Sauber Ferrari – WDC:  20th
Its hard to know where to put DLR this year, only one race for Sauber this year in place of the injured Perez he promptly jumped in the car for FP2,3, Quali and the race. He brought the car home 12th in that mental mental race in Canada. His team mate did manage points but it was a safe pair of hands and it could be why HRT are fielding him in 2012.

21. Pastor Maldonado – Williams Cosworth – WDC: 19th
This position is so low in the table for debutant Maldonado not due to the Williams being rubbish – which is was – but to do with two incidents in particular. The first was turning in on Lewis Hamilton (yes he did, go and look at the footage again) and loosing himself his first points and the second was swiping Lewis post quali in Spa, which I think in days gone by would have seen him have his license suspended – which it should of done – idiotic. Redemable features have been a good showing against Reubens and illegally funding the team by not getting the parlimentary go ahead for his PVDSA sponsorship which has kept the team in Grove running this year.

22. Felipe Massa – Ferrari – WDC: 6th
There have been 5 drivers this year at the front and then theres been Massa, the 2008 World Champion of about 35 seconds. Long gone are those days of near triumph with the Scuderia as he was embarresed by his team mate this year. Yes its Fernando Alonso but still no podiums and a glut of 5th places the best (only achieved by either having a run in with Lewis Hamilton or by someone else retiring). Nothing redemable this season at all apart from a few nice qualifying appearences which showed he still has some raw pace locked in there somewhere. Another season this bad we’d start to wonder what Badoer could do given this much time in the cockpit.

23. Timo Glock – Virgin Cosworth – WDC: 25th
Im sorry why does everyone think Timo’s done a great job this year?? his rookie team mate may of been seen off most days in quali but come race time his partner picked up the goods. The car was rubbish, but I dont think Timo was THAT good.

24. Jerome D’Ambrosio – Virgin Cosworth – WDC: 24th
A tough rookie year for the Belgian driver who managed to keep Timo Glock honest from time to time and beat him in the standings. However he’s been dumped for next season for another rookie and there was THAT spin in the pits which er… erm… oh dear.

25. Daniel Ricciardo – HRT Cosworth – WDC: 27th
A surprise this season was seeing Daniel Ricciardo, not because he arrived mid-season for a seat – that was quite expected – it was where he turned up. The latest Red Bull wonderkid was parachuted into the HRT in place of Narain Karthikeyan and impressed in qualifying right from the off. However he was consistantly out-raced by his experienced team mate but the miles will certainly help him along the way. To be fair its been the lack of hilariously bad drives this year that sees Ricciardo so low in the standings.

26. Jarno Trulli – Team Lotus Renault – WDC: 21st
There are times when you’re beaten by a team mate (see McLaren) and there are times where there is a gulf so wide your future is threatened. This is the latter. Beaten all but twice in qualifying by Heikki, the former quali master has been truely embarresed (nice pun) this season despite pipping him in the standings (due to the way it works outside of the points). Failed to escape Q1 all year while his team mate started to take the fight to the mid field.

27. Narain Karthikeyan – HRT Cosworth – WDC: 26th
Once again HRT fielded an Indian driver (this time a driver that last raced 5 years ago in F1 for Jordan) and them promply dumped them after 1/2 the season. Failed to make an impression on his experienced team mate unlike his successor. However he redeemed himself with a solid drive in India, despite the pointlessness of trying to return down here. These two have proved  Mr Mallya with all the ammunition he needs as to why he hasn’t fielded home grown talent (or lack thereof)

28. Karun Chandok – Team Lotus Renault – WDC: 28th
Last in both the standings and this ranking, the former HRT driver made a one off appearence in Germany in place of Jarno Trulli as the Italian continued to struggle with his power steering. However the Indian didn’t impress at all, finishing 2 laps down on his team mate after a mediocore qualifying session. A sign should of been him not getting past turn 3 in FP1 at the first race of the year. Id assume this will be the last we see of the popular Indian driver, however he does have a wonderful career in broadcasting ahead of him.

Young Bulls for STR in 2012

Scuderia Toro Rosso have announced that they will field Jean Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo in a all new line-up for the team. It is a surprise announcement as the common logic was that they would field the same line-up as 2011 and find a drive for Ricciardo at Caterham (who changed their name today from Team Lotus).

It is especially harsh on Jamie Alguesuari who has had a sterling second half of the season and is a mere 21 years old.

Too much too soon??

Silly Season throws up a result at Lotus Renault GP

Romain Grosjean will be the partner of Kimi Raikkonen next year at Enstone as the team field none of the 3 drivers they raced this year. The Frenchman is another returning driver having previously raced half a season for the team in 2009 alongside Fernando Alonso. This was during the wake of the singapore scandel and he didnt really impress in the car against the double world champion.

Since then Grosjean has gone back to the junior categories and won practically everything: GP 2 Asia Seris, Main GP2 series, Auto GP (despite only showing up to about 1/2 the races). In prepartion he jumped in the car for free practice 1 during the last two races to get him up to speed.

This leaves Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna without race seats for next year and only spots at Williams and HRT realistically open. There will now be fierce competition for the places as there will be an outcast from both Force India and the Red Bull group to place in teams.

A Festive Silly Season Continues as Sauber Head for the Exit Door

A rather late Silly Season is in full swing this year as rumours swirl around the remaining seats at Lotus Renault GP, Williams, HRT and Force India. And also in the smaller teams who have confirmed their line ups.

The latest is that Red Bull new boy Daniel Ricciardo could be placed at the newly crowned Team Caterham (the former Team Lotus – The Green Lotus team) instead of Jarno Trulli. Trulli hasn’t been on the pace of Hekki who has had a new lease of life at the Norfolk based team. Furthermore although he was announced as staying, it made no mention of it as staying in race seat next season.

There could be further swapping of drivers from the class of 2010, as Marussia could gain Vitaly Petrov in a swap for Timo Glock as they morph into the Russian national team. Glock surely must be dissapointed with the lack of progress of the team as they lie at the very bottom of the time sheets.

No news yet on who HRT will partner Pedro De La Rosa at the spanish squad, the team hopefully will hold onto Luizzi who has done a sterling job for the team this year in all honesty.

We expect Force India to make that announcement soon but we assume they might have given the drivers time to see if any of them can nab a spot at Williams or Lotus Renault to drive next season and remove them of the headache they posses of the best 3 driver line up on the grid.

 

One team that have nailed their colours to the mast is Sauber, who have not only decided to continue with the driver line up next year (and a timely decision it was too) but they have joined other teams in leaving through the EXIT door at FOTA. Apparently the team are very concenered about Toro Rosso and their relationship with Red Bull.

Pic highlights rookie plight

Both Charles Pic and Virgin Marussia team boss John Booth have been managing expectations ahead of the Frenchmans race debut in 2012. The driver has only had one day of young drivers testing in Abu Dhabi and with only 12 days of pre-season testing this year for the teams Pic is looking at starting his first Grand Prix weekend with only 7 days of running under his belt.

This is in contrast to rookies prior to 2009 where they would have many days of running on test days before ever stepping foot in a race car. It is making it increasingly hard for rookies to come in and impress in their debut year. Paul Di Resta’s stellar campaign must be attributed in part to his large amount of Friday running before making the jump up to a race seat this year.

The sport really needs to increase the amount of mileage for drivers outside of the 24 race seats to stop this turn and burn of drivers through the ranks.

Grids pack out for next year

The top classes of Motorsport are now concluding deals in the backrooms and announcing their line up for the following season. Or in the case of Ferrari and Red Bull, posturig ahead of the concord agreement negotiations this season which has seen the grand old team and the new pretender leave FOTA. The 2012 entry list has been revealed for F1 next year and the cast and crew is remaining fairly stable at least at the front, however down the grid things are moving.

The return of Kimi will be the story of the winter one would assume as the 2007 World Champion is making a popular return with Lotus Renault (EG Enstone Genii, black Lotus team). The team really need to produce a solid car and we all hope the Finn is still as hungry as he was before he went to Ferrari. Despite winning the title with Ferrari he never looked as good as he did at McLaren where any sniff of victory would result in sublime racing (see Japan 2005 or Spa 2009) and in 2009 despite that victory in Belgium failed to measure up to Massa before his crash. But the Finn is a popular man due to his dislike of the corperate world of F1 and has always been seen as something of a rebel in a pack of ever increasingly clean cut young men. But Kimi is only 31 and still has plenty of miles left in the tank. His partner remains a mystery as it could still be Petrov or Senna (both of whom come with serious backing) or Romain Grosjean (2011 GP2 Winner) and theres also the outside possibility of Jerome D’Abrosio (who was cruely dumped by Virgin) or even Sutil.

Williams have confirmed Pastor Maldonado after he was suspiciously missing from the 2012 entry list. With Kimi going to Lotus it looks like a straight fight between Sutil (who looks out of a job at Force India) and Barrichello. Valtteri Bottas will take the test/reserve roll and will run in 15 friday practices a la Force India, Im assuming he will also compete in GP2 after a thrilling GP3 season where he came from the back to win the series with 4 wins towards the end. The young Finn’s stock seems to be very high at Williams and I think its a case of when not if he will make the jump to full time racer.

Force India are still no closer to revealing their driver lineup but they have 3 very good drivers, Paul DiResta has had a fantastic debut season but in the end it was probably over shadowed by Sutils huge up turn in form to finish 9th in the standings – the highest placed driver outside the top 4 teams. And Nico Hulkenberg is understood to have a contract for next year and has huge potential and likely to have some backing from Mercedes. A tough choice and they are going to get slated whatever way they go as all 3 are fine choices and they only have 2 seats.

Torro Rosso are also in a pickle with 4 drivers for 2 seats. The plan was a straight shoot out in 2011 from the 2 current drivers to slot alongside Daniel Ricciardo. However both have performed very well and picking between them is going to be very difficult. Current thinking is that Buemi and Alguersuari will remain at Torro Rosso for 2012 (tormenting people who like me cant spell) and Riccarido will be farmed out to possibly Team Caterham (old Team Lotus) with Jean Eric-Vergne taking the test/friday roll for the team.

HRT have made the slightly surprising move of enlisting Pedro De La Rosa, the team apparently have been designing a car with a new team in Germany and building a base in valencia with the design office staying put for now. They are trying to style themselves into a spanish national team and further to this Dani Clos will be taking on reserve and test duties with the team next year alongside GP2 with a view of taking Pedros seat once he retires. The new spanish squad are running KERS and there seems to be some positive noises coming from the team. But results as always will be the barrometer.