Here’s the scenario: aliens from a far off (but for the purpose of this piece very real) planet decide they want the greatest racing series in the universe, and so take a trip to earth, where they abduct the whole F1 grid- even Sakon Yamamoto. Not wanting to miss out on any grand prix talent they also take pretty much anyone who’s raced in F1 and can still physically drive a car. As you can imagine, they put together a pretty good grid, whilst also having the good sense to leave Riccardo Rosset on Earth.
But Bernie Ecclestone insists that the show must go on, and F1 will race at Spa this weekend as planned- there’s still a constructors title to do battle over. He proceeds to invest a sizeable amount of cash in buying drivers from other series out of their contracts so as to allow the teams the chance to sign them. In part one of this F1 sci-fi three-parter we’ll be looking at who gets picked to be parachuted in at McLaren, Red Bull, Williams, and Virgin Racing.
After years sitting on the subs bench McLaren would have to promote test driver Gary Paffett to a race seat were Lewis and Jenson to be whisked away to another galaxy. With Gary having not yet raced in F1 the aliens thought him unnecessary, and left him at McLaren Technology Centre- the fools! Gary would do a great job in a McLaren, and would be one of the strongest drivers on the post-alien abduction grid.
The other seat? That’d have to go to Indycar star Scott Dixon. Dixon is mega quick- hence his status as a double Indycar champ, and his triumph at the 2008 Indy 500- but what tips the scales in his favour is the fact that, like team founder Bruce McLaren, Scott hails from New Zealand. It’d be a nice touch to get another Kiwi in the car, even if it took racing mad aliens to make it happen.
One of the Red Bull seats would have to go to their latest protegee, 20 year-old Daniel Ricciardo. The Aussie- last year’s British F3 champion and currently a title contender in World Series by Renault- is already a test driver for the team, and looks to have bags of potential. Expect to see him in an F1 car soon, aliens or no aliens. In 2011 he likely be used as a warning to the Toro Rosso lads- if they don’t perform there’s a ready made replacement in Ricciardo.
The other seat could be filled by six (soon to be seven) times World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb. We know Seb fancies a go in an F1 car- he had serious talks about driving for Toro Rosso in Abu Dhabi last year- and an alien abduction would provide him with a perfect chance. At 36 he’s no spring chicken, but Bernie will just be happy to have a genuine star on board, what with the Schumachers and Alonsos of this world no longer being in this world.
So that’s an speedy Australian and a bloke called Sebastien. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
There’s a feeling in F1, right or wrong, that Williams have a preferance for a certain type of driver and, not wanting to ignore paddock myth, we’ve picked them a pairing who fit those moulds. More specifically, we’ve picked them a new Alan Jones and a new Nigel Mansell- we’ve even stuck with those men’s nationalities.
First up they’d take Australian Will Power, who could act as an Alan Jones for the 21st century. Aside from having a great name Power is also mega quick- easily quick enough for F1- as proved by his domination of this year’s Indycar championship. People often deride Indycar as a place where drivers not quite good enough for F1 end up, but that’s not the case with Power- he just followed a different career path. Will is undoubtedly better than several current F1 drivers, but sadly we’re unlikely to ever see him in a grand prix car.
Still, post-aliens this no-nonsense Aussie would be a great fit at Williams. ‘Get in and drive- fast’ is the mantra Frank WIlliams demands of his drivers, and that’s just what Power does.
In the other seat we’ve got GP2 rising star Sam Bird, who in many ways fits the Nigel Mansell mould, (though Sam is yet to drum up the guts to grow a moustache- consider that a challenge, Sam).
But moustache or not Bird is a fighter. He’s produced some great drives through the field in GP2 this year, and shown a great flair for aggressive, determined driving that reminds us of Mansell in his gutsy pomp. You get the feeling that Patrick Head and Frank Williams would love this guy were he driving for them. And hey, aliens or not, it’s not outside the realms of possibility.
Richard Branson doesn’t tend to miss a marketing trick, right? But John Booth- whose Manor Motorsports team run Virgin Racing- likes genuinely talented drivers, right? So whose a good compromise?
Post-aliens Virgin would be wise to hire Simona de Silvestro, the quickest female driver in the Indycar series- and possibly the world. Forget the hype and PR about Dancia Patrick, Simona is the real deal. Moving to race in America in her teens the Swiss-born driver won 4 races on her way to third in last year’s Atalntics championship, a series that tends to get you noticed in American open-wheel racing. (A bizarre note: one of her competitors in 2009 was Frankie ‘Malcolm from Malcolm in the Middle’ Muniz. Simona was way to quick for him though, naturally).
At just 21 she’s still young and her talent is raw, but she’s already maturing in to a fine competitor in Indycar. There have been rookie mistakes, but she’s generally outdone the more famous Miss Patrick, who drives for one of the series top teams. Simona meanwhile drives for the Indycar equivalent of Sauber, and without a teammate to learn from, making her achievements all the more impressive.
Bernie’s long wanted a woman in F1, but it’s important that it doesn’t become a publicity stunt, and that the woman in question can compete at the highest level. Simona looks like she may have the ability to cope well at motorsport’s pinnacle, and with age on her side could yet make the leap. You heard it here (in a feature about alien abduction) first.
The other seat? How about Andy Soucek, who recently quit his job as Virgin’s reserve driver to get back in to a racing role. With Timo and Lucas gone he’d be a perfect choice, and could go about his job quietly and professionally. But he’d best not expect too much attention- this one would be all about Simona.
Catch part two of this Twlight Zone-esque feature on Badger tomorrow.