As we eagerly await the return of Formula One action at Spa why not enjoy the concluding part of a feature that could only have come about during a four-week F1 famine: the ‘what if’ scenario of the entire Formula One field being abducted by aliens. If you have no idea what we’re talking about (and we wouldn’t blame you) check out the first two parts here– and then continue to count down the minutes until the lights go out on Sunday.
Poor Nick Heidfeld. He’s the obvious choice to take up a seat at Mercedes, but in their great wisdom the aliens have taken him too, impressed by his record of 169 grand prix. Smart aliens. The man to profit from this is another test driver, but one without any grand prix experience: Paul di Resta. Having never started a Formula One race the aliens had no interest (foolish aliens), but Mercededs certainly would. He’s been a racewinner for them in DTM, and they’ve helped him in to a test driver role with Force India in 2010. With Michael and Nico doing battle on another planet Paul would get the nod at Merc.
And for the other driver we’ve stuck to Mercedes’ current specifications: a once-great German driver in his forties whose brilliance has been blunted by age.
Yes Michael Schumacher has a ready made replacement in Bernd Schneider. The 46 year-old is a multiple champion in DTM, both in its old and current guise, and is rightly viewed as a tin-top legend.
But he’s a bit long in the tooth now, and his skills have been faded somewhat. He quit racing at the end of 2008, but then Mercedes have form for pulling ex-champions from the comfort of retirement and hoping they can recover their former glory. He’d struggled, just like Michael, but Merc would still sell truckloads of merchandise with his name on it.
And yes, we know Bernd has driven in F1 before, but his record of qualifying for just 9 races from 34 attempts left the aliens unimpressed. As such he’s been left here on earth to link up with di Resta at Mercedes.
A bit of a dull one this. Toro Rosso would stick to their current formula of employing two Red Bull juniors, chucking them in at the deep end and hoping they could keep their heads above water. It’s known in the business as ‘Vetteling’.
One seat would go to Jean-Eric Vergne. He’s recently wrapped up the British Formula 3 championship with impressive speed, making him the third Red Bull junior in a row to claim the title, after Jaime Alguersuari (in 2008) and Daniel Ricciardo (2009). Vergne should be knocking on the F1 door soon, regardless of alien intervention.
For the other seat they could take Mikhail Aleshin. The Russian racer isn’t backed by Red Bull any more but has been in the past, and with his current form (he’s beating Red Bull wonderkid Ricciardo in World Series by Renault this year) he comes highly recommended. He’s also got extra sponsorship cash behind him, something Toro Rosso probably wouldn’t say no to, and could fill the Vitaly Petrov shaped hole in Russia’s F1 interest. Simples!
Force India have shown impressive loyalty to their drivers since entering the sport. Adrian Sutil has been with them since day one, and when Giancarlo Fisichella left the team for Ferrari it was test driver Tonio Liuzzi who got the nod to replace him. Assuming aliens don’t abduct them these two could well be on the team’s books in 2011, and if they do decide to ditch Liuzzi it’ll be test driver Paul di Resta who replaces him. Like we said, they’re loyal.
But with Tonio and Adrian racing in the outer limits of the galaxy, and di Resta chasing bigger things at Mercedes, they’d have to take on total strangers. Scary.
You’d think they’d want a driver from their neck of the woods in the car, but with Karun Chandhok and even Narian Karthikeyan aboard the alien craft there aren’t too many to pick from with the necessary qualifications.
So who to go for? Well, the closest they’ve got to a ‘familiar’ driver is 2009 World Series by Renault champion Bertrand Baguette. He took the title for the Draco team, who last year linked up with Force India and ran Bertrand to glory in the distinctive orange, green and white livery. Added to the link Baguette has both proven speed and a name that makes you chuckle a little bit every time you hear it. It’s probably enough to push Jonathan Legard over the edge.
For his teammate Force India simply have to take a deep breath and accept that they’ll need to bring in an outsider.
But at least the mechanics who picked up a bit of Italian to chat to Giancarlo and Tonio in won’t have wasted their time entirely- because we’ve alloted the team Edoardo Mortara- the current leader of the F3 Euroseries- who races under an Italian licence. Perfetto!
Okay, he was born in Switzerland, and yes, he’s also raced as a Frenchman, but multiculturalism is what this team is all about: they’re India owned, powered by a German engine, and based in Britain. The very international Mr Mortara would fit right in.
And finally we reach Sauber, those careful customers whose knack for driver selection has seen them give F1 breaks to Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa and Heinz-Harald Frentzen, all of whom went on to be grand prix winners elsewhere. So who to pick now Pedro and Kamui are hurtling through outer space?
One of the vacated seats would be a suitable home for runaway GP2 championship leader Pastor Maldonado. There have been rumours that the Venezuelan will land a job with the team in 2011 regardless of alien intervention, so it would make perfect sense for him to land there if the invasion did take place (which itself makes no sense).
Why does Maldonado fit? Well firstly he’s got cash- and lots of it- thanks to an impressive list of financial backers. The lack of sponsors on the year’s Sauber is a tad worrying, and it wouldn’t hurt them at all to add a few through an association with Maldonado.
Because Pastor is also rather quick, as you’d expect of a guy who’s set the record for consecutive GP2 feature race wins this season. Not that we need to tell you about him here- we dedicated a whole article to the Venezuelan yesterday.
And his teammate? Why not continue the Japanese connection started by Kamui Kobayashi and bring in Tsugio Matsuda, the man who claimed back-to-back Formula Nippon titles in 2007 and 2008. He’s now switched to Japan’s Super GT championship (where he’s been a race winner) but could probably be tempted in to a full-time return to single-seaters if F1 came calling.
Okay, he’d struggle- pretty badly in fact- having not raced outside his home country, but the Japanese fans are F1 crazy, and it’s important that they have a driver to get behind. The country also brings sponsors to the sport (though this is dwindling with the departure of Honda and Toyota) and so Tsugio would be a welcome, if not all that speedy, addition to the post-alien grid.
So that’s it, and F1 grid made up of total rookies, and one that contains some pretty talented drivers that the sport has thus far missed out on.
And now that we’re finished with this madness could we please have Formula One back? The summer break has been tough, and we can’t wait for the cars to hit the hallowed Spa tarmac tomorrow morning.