First up in my new ‘Future Stars’ series is a man who has defied Formula 1’s elitist tag, rejected Red Bull and still paved his way to a successful career. Robin Frijns is quite simply unique. The Dutchman’s lack of funding should have forced him out of the sport years ago. Instead he has been persistent and through talent alone, has worked his way to the top.
He may be no Sebastian Vettel or Fernando Alonso but Robin Frijns (to myself and my fellow race fans) is one to watch and it seems that Sauber agree. In 2012, the team that introduced Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez to Formula’s top teams announced that young Frijns would be their new test driver – negotiations are still underway to ensure he gets opportunities in FP1.
But who is Robin Frijns and what makes him so special?
At 21, Robin Frijns is only two days younger than Esteban Gutiérrez who will vacate Sauber’s race seat alongside a more experienced Nico Hulkenberg. It is Mexican money that has pushed Gutiérrez into the Championship hunt and not his Dutch rival. However I’m sure his youth will give him time; Formula 1’s average age is shrinking as 2013 says hello to numerous rookies.
Unusually for a test driver, Frijns will not compete in other racing categories in 2013; money troubles once again are plaguing the Dutchman. Many expected him to join the ranks of GP2 or take a similar route to Britain’s Paul Di Resta by joining DTM prior to his F1 debut. The fact this isn’t happening is a great shame, not least because Frijns is the first (and only) person to win the World Series by Renault at their first attempt.
For a driver lacking in funding, aiming for the pinnacle of Motorsport – Formula 1 itself – it might be sensible to attach oneself to a young driver scheme. Ferrari’s Programme should help Jules Bianchi and Red Bull has introduced numerous drivers to Formula 1’s dedicated fans. Sebastian Vettel, Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastien Buemi, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne have all benefited from this system (admittedly with varying degrees of success). Frijns bravely rejected the mighty Red Bull when so many others wouldn’t.
Perhaps Gutiérrez has done Robin Frijns a favour? His copious amount of Mexican money has helped secure Sauber financially (a factor truly fundamental to an independent team). Without that Frijns may not have been given the drive.
I hope this isn’t the end for Frijns, or more that Formula 1’s money driven ways won’t force out such talent.
I have spoken more about Robin in a recent article, examining the future that Formula 1 faces without talents like him.