Robin Frijns – the forgotten driver

frijnshilmerFollowing Robin Frijns’ dominating win in the GP2 race in Barcelona, I was asked by a reader if I had seen his victory. I had and was immediately thrilled that somebody had taken notice of a young driver so often pushed to the sidelines. Hilmer gave him a chance, but now we must wait to see if the opportunity to stand atop the GP2 podium will be presented again.

When he was announced as Sauber F1 reserve driver in November 2012, I thought Motorsport was beginning to witness and take notice of Robin Frijns’ talent. However, unlike some of his fellow reserve drivers and Formula Renault 3.5 alumni, Frijns is yet to stamp his authority in an F1 practice session.

It is inevitable within Motorsport that drivers will be compared to one another – Sebastian Vettel and Antonio Felix da Costa acting as a very recent example. Even when still climbing to the very top of your profession, these comparisons will be made. Some of my peers have referred to Stoffel Vandoorne and his impressive début weekend in this year’s Formula Renault 3.5 series. Frijns remains only the second driver to win the series at their first attempt, a feat the young Belgian is determined to match.

Worthy of note, Vandoorne’s one crucial credential that the Dutchman is yet to retain – a place on a young driver programme. The Belgian’s connections to McLaren are well deserved but will most likely help cement much of his future void of series wins. Lacking in funding, the battle for Robin Frijns is far from over.

Last year I spoke to the man himself, albeit somewhat briefly. Following his debut in the Sauber at the Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi, I asked him to explain the feeling of driving a Formula 1 car. His answer?

“It is like going from a normal plane to an F16”.

After that, the Dutchman had no words.

From that brief encounter, I was able to see the burning desire Frijns adopts day to day and the determination he possesses to make that feeling, one that rendered him almost entirely speechless, a regular feature in his life. Thus I take you back to the GP2 weekend and the significance it may hold in Motorsport’s immediate future.

Come race day, Frijns adopted, and later executed, a perfect strategy. The switch from the soft tyres to the hard compound came at a pivotal moment in the race. By lap six, it was difficult to look beyond his presence and relative comfort in the hands of the Hilmer.

robinfrijnsWhilst there is no doubting that Frijns feels most at home in his beloved cars, a lack of budget may push him out of the series. One sprint race and one victory may be it for him unless funding can be found. I will not sit here and beg, partly because I do not possess the authority to do so. Instead I will point out a fundamental flaw, how is the future of Motorsport to survive if money comes before talent?

If you are a regular reader here on ‘stoodonthepodium’ then you will know all about the youngster. What you may not know, in fact I suspect most of you will not, Frijns was the inspiration behind my ‘Future Stars’ series. The series was founded on the basis that the Dutchman is a forgotten driver, often overlooked in favour of his racing rivals.

I have previously defended the position of pay drivers and, to a certain extent, still do. However, I know I will never forget the day he described driving a Formula 1 car to me. The little boy within him seemed to resurface as the true extent of his achievements sank in.

We cannot deny the young racers of today these opportunities. As rumours continue to swirl regarding Mark Webber’s retirement and the average age in Formula 1 drops by an average of five years in 2013, it is important to look to the future. With Frijns at the helm of a race car, I know I am almost guaranteed a breath taking display.

All the best Robin, here is to your 2013.

IMAGES COURTESY OF ROBIN FRIJNS

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