Finally, I admit it, my desire to uncover the latest crop of young talents is becoming somewhat of an obsession. It is, for this reason, I find writing about the fate of a driver particularly challenging and somewhat repetitive.
Dare I say heart breaking at times?
The commitment and sacrifice required to even attempt a career as a racing driver is enough to deter most, leaving those few who are brave enough, to fight for their seat year on year. I will never forget the moment I spoke to Jack Harvey – I have never seen determination quite like it.
I was speechless, actually speechless. Not ideal for a writer, I must say.
The current incumbent of Formula 1 drivers really are creating some thought-provoking and memorable seasons. However, it feels me with great joy knowing that, potentially, an even better field of drivers exist ready for their moment of sporting glory.
A drive in GP2 is not as secure as it once was. The championship which moulded the likes of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton is not the same as it once was. This year, GP2 is suffering many a casualty.
Coletti. Lancaster. Bird. Frijns.
Four drivers unlikely to make it on the Formula 1 grid but you would struggle to find drivers as talented as them. Soon they may be pushed kicking and screaming to the sidelines.
To quote Robin Frijns: “winning championships is not enough”
This is not another plea to the Motorsport community to gift Robin Frijns with a, full-time, competitive seat (as nice as that would be). Instead, I will be examining the pitfalls certain drivers in GP2 face. After all, how many times can one write: “hire him” before people begin to get bored?
Much has been said about the Dutchman’s topsy-turvy season in GP2 but his Hilmer Motorsports team mate, Jon Lancaster, has endured an equally painful season. Unfortunately, Frijns’ return meant that Lancaster had to sacrifice his seat.
I have been following his career since way back in his Formula Renault 2.0 days in 2007 when, incidentally, he finished as runner up. Since then, Lancaster has faced mixed success but is beginning to emerge to his former best. Saying this, statistics do not tell the full story. A win may come at the cost of a second driver’s own success or a pole position may be purely weather dependent.
Instead, I choose to view the racer, the driving style and the package they offer as a whole. He is a great package but whose talent needs refining and moulding accurately – this is a statement I have stood by for years.
Two wins and a podium this year alone in GP2 suggest that his race craft is beginning to settle into something worthy of some attention. His performances this year have been consistent and joyous to watch. Sincerely.
In 2013, he looks at one with his car. GP2 can be ruthless so this no mean feat.
Sam Bird too is having a season to be proud of. He, admittedly, is not such a new face to Motorsport, having enjoyed connections to Mercedes for many a year, but he may sadly lose out. The build up to his return in the Mercedes grew and grew until the announcement that ‘tyre gate’ was to prevent his participation in the Young Driver Test.
That promised to be one of the highlights of the event.
Sam has entered what is, arguably, the toughest stage in a driver’s career. His third place in Formula Renault 3.5 was a great end to his time with the World Series but endless seasons of GP2 is not ideal for anyone. Now comes the daunting prospect of choosing which way to turn. Personally, I see his deadline to leave GP2 as 2016, beyond that, he has little time to further prove his talent to Formula 1 bosses.
Indy or DTM may come calling.
In an impressive list of British drivers, Sam Bird sits near the top for racing pedigree, undoubted natural ability and popular personality. Rather than strutting the paddock with a boastful grin, Sam Bird is clearly racing for all the right reasons – his first meeting with Michael Schumacher was touching and proved that no man is greater is than their idol.
Monaco is his stomping ground, his place to conquer above all. His master class of racing in the Principality is a marvel to watch. I challenge all non-Motorsport fan not to be enthralled by what he offers.
Sadly, GP2 could be his career highlight.
I very rarely admit this, another confession from me, but I really hope I am wrong. Maybe Mercedes will surprise us and will fund his time with a vacant 2014 seat? Well, a girl can dream anyway. Equally, the prospect of an ever-improving Jon Lancaster attached to a young driver scheme is a mouth-watering prospect.
Let us not also forget the career of Stefano Coletti, for so many do. The Monegasque is the first driver from Monaco to win a race in the Principality since 1931. His connections to Formula 1 run as far as Toro Rosso who will instead consider Felipe Nasr or Antonio Felix da Costa should this rumoured Ricciardo deal with Red Bull come to fruition. Much like Bird and Lancaster, this could be his career highlight.
2013 is one of the most competitive GP2 fields I can remember. It is bursting with talent just waiting to be given investment and nurturing. This season the championship has stumbled through Monte-Carlo pile ups and numerous Cecetto mishaps but its driver line-up cannot be overlooked.
The list could go on: James Calado, Tom Dillman and Jolyon Palmer also deserve a mention.
I will let Sergey Sirotkin’s sudden rise from Formula Renault 3.5 to Formula 1, aged just 18, slide if it means a team like Sauber can be saved. However, I refuse to accept that these drivers deserve to watch and not compete for many more years to come.
These drivers know they were born to race. Let us hope that their time is not up.