Since Jacques Villeneuve, Canada has not been blessed with the same outstanding race talent as other surrounding nations. That was until Toronto native Robert Wickens entered Europe intent on winning numerous titles, his path and deceptive laid back attitude intent on Formula 1.
He’s not there yet but at 23 he has plenty of time. Don’t forget Paul Di Resta was 25 when he entered Formula 1. Besides, racing drivers should not necessarily be viewed entirely on their present performance but on their career as a whole. Thus this ‘Future Stars’ series exists; it gives you the opportunity to follow their careers and judge for yourself.
But who is Robert Wickens and what has he achieved? His second places in the FIA Formula 2 Championship and GP3 along with an impressive win in Formula Renault 3.5 helped get him noticed. Mercedes have, ever since, taken him under their wing. A place in the Mercedes-Benz Junior Team is now his.
Worthy of note, the competition he has beaten in his career. Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez and in particular the delightful Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne who now races for Toro Rosso – he could only manage second in 2011, behind the Canadian. Despite this Wickens is not in Formula 1, instead he races in DTM (one of my personal favourites). His company for the championship included Gary Paffett, Ralf Schumacher and Susie Wolff. A very impressive list indeed.
In 2012, he performed what can now only be described as a ‘Robin Frijnsesque’ move. He turned down the chance to be Mercedes Reserve driver to race in DTM. For him it’s a drive or nothing it seems. A brave, unusual yet admirable move and perhaps the sign of a future champion? It may be a while before that particular question is ever answered.
DTM may not be the end. Paul Di Resta made the same move up from DTM and is now at Force India – though talks with higher placed teams do suggest a possible move in the coming years. Robert Wickens has to hold on and wait for his moment. He does occasionally fall out of the public conscience as wealthier drivers take the back pages of the newspapers and the articles on websites. You only have to watch an interview with him to see his personality off the track. I hope that his recent choices don’t cost him his future. Certain F1 drivers are at risk of losing their careers; he’s one driver who could, and genuinely might, be called up for their moment of glory. Perhaps Marussia, for whom he has acted as Test Driver?