PRE SEASON BUILD UP – DAY 3
I admit that, technically all drivers are under enormous pressure and scrutiny but Formula 1 is known for its cut throat attitude. A driver emerges as the next great racer and soon finds himself clinging on to a career that had shown so much promise. In 2013 we say goodbye to Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock, two drivers who were dubbed ‘future champions’ when they were first revealed to the racing world.
Towards the end of their Formula 1 careers, which were not as successful as previously hoped, they found themselves towards the back of the grid. Their experience was ultimately not enough; the millions they were asking for was too high a price for Caterham and Marussia to pay.
Some drivers risk facing the same fate unless the cards are dealt in their favour. Please excuse the analogy but it does seem appropriate here. Formula 1 fans have become accustom to a sport that hangs the strategies and lives of a driver on the roll of a dice or the deal of a hand ready to conclude this racing chapter.
It does seem that Toro Rosso drivers, Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo are playing this dangerous game. It seems that drivers for the Red Bull feeder team need to design a survival kit and create an infallible poker face if they are to make it out unscathed. Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Speed (remember them?) left the sport almost as quickly as they entered it. Young Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari was too dismissed, his anger apparent from the moment the news surfaced.
These two must prove that they are the next Sebastian Vettel. Many have given Mark Webber’s career a few more years at most; when it comes time for the Australian to leave one of these drivers will hope to be called up. With a three time champion in Vettel as the team’s driving force, this is a potentially intimidating proposition. In the hands of Vettel at the classic Italian track of Monza in 2008, the Toro Rosso team has just one race win to their name. Alas it seems only the same result is enough to guarantee their future especially with the Austrian outfit’s next prodigy, António Félix da Costa, casting a formidable shadow over the careers of these drivers.
Also playing this dangerous game is Paul Di Resta. It’s fair to say that the cards weren’t dealt in his favour in 2012; the Briton almost seemed under-confident as the swagger of Nico Hulkenberg got the great and good of Motorsport talking about his potential. As Jake Humphrey explained at this year’s Autosport Show, this needs to be Paul Di Resta’s final year at Force India. Talks with McLaren show that interest is there, now he needs to create his own future path or risk losing out.
Indeed, the very man who won the race to the McLaren seat, Sergio Perez, has a point to prove. From a podium finishing Sauber to a potential championship winning McLaren may not sound like a huge step up but it is. Increased emphasis on corporate sponsors and media appearances could be far away from his previous norm with the Swiss outfit. This issue is addressed in more detail in my interview with his former trainer Simon Fitchett which will be included as part of this countdown.
Ultimately the greatest challenge will fall to the new players of this high-pressured games, the rookies. Five rookies make up the 2013 grid, that’s five drivers who have to adapt their racing minds and strategies to stay on top. Second chances are not gifted often to those who falter, this is their chance and they have to take it.
So let the dice roll and the racing begin. Come March 16th, twenty-two cars will line up ready for lights out. In the end, at least one driver will ultimately miss out next year.
This blog post is the third in this year’s pre season build up. For the next eleven days, ‘stoodonthepodium’ will be bringing you exclusive interviews, stories, analysis and more from the world of Motorsport.
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