The paddock is silent. Eerily silent. The delicious Ferrari pasta remains uneaten; McLaren’s beautifully functional but painfully uncomfortable chairs remain empty; and, somewhere in the depths of the Renault motorhome, a reporter realises (after fifteen minutes of questioning) that he isn’t talking to Robert Kubica, but rather a yellow wall.
So where are the F1 drivers? Why, they’ve been abducted by aliens and taken to race on another planet of course! Where have you been?
But, in their absence, Bernie has got his cheque book out and poached a host of drivers from rival series so that the F1 season can continue seamlessly. Yesterday we discussed who’d get the vacant seats at McLaren, Red Bull, Williams and Virgin; today we’re looking at Ferrari, Renault, Lotus and Hispania.
One seat at Ferrari would go to their bright young hope Jules Bianchi. The Frenchman, whose uncle Lucien raced in F1 in the sixties, has a long-term contract with the Scuderia, and with Felipe and Fernando dining on alien delicacies in an other worldly paddock he’d get the shout. He’s had a decent rookie season in GP2, and should find an F1 seat sooner or later, aliens or no aliens.
The other seat? There’s only one man who could handle being an Italian at Ferrari right now, and that’s multiple MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi. Possibly the coolest racing driver on the planet Rossi is so talented it hurts- at least it has lately, as he broke his leg in a shunt a few months back. He returned to action still hobbling about on crutches, but has already managed a podium.
Valentino (also known as Valentinik and The Doctor) is such a big name, both in Italy and abroad, that you feel he could manage the pressure of being an Italian at Ferrari better than anyone. Could he compete in a Formula One car? He’s been behind the wheel of one before and posted some respectable times. In fact he’ll switch to ride for Ducati next year, the Italian squad who join Ferrari on their winter ski holidays, and his dad said this is a step towards F1. Interesting…
Renault would need a real talent to replace Robert Kubica, and they’d find that in double DTM champion Timo Scheider.
In fact the German could have been a single-seater star had he not switched to tin-tops in 2000. In 1997 he was runner-up to a certain Nick Heidfeld in the German F3 championship but a couple of troubled seasons following that sent him down the touring car route.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, especially if you achieve the success Timo has. After a few solid years he took back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009 with Audi, cementing his position as one of the series’ finest drivers.
If Gary Paffett can perform in an F1 car (and most people reckon he can) then so can Timo. However only alien abduction would make it a reality.
For his teammate Renault would be wise to pick a Frenchman, mainly for marketing purposes but also because F1 has been rather short on them lately. With Bianchi Ferrari bound their best choice would be Charles Pic, who currently drives for the Christian Horner-owned Arden GP2 team. Pic made everyone sit up and take notice when he won the championship’s opening race, and despite failing to repeat the achievement he’s a man with plenty of potential. He’s also a bit of a scruffy looking lad, something F1 doesn’t really have at the moment. Scraping the barrel? Not at all!
The natural choice for one of the Lotus seats would be their current test driver, Fairuz Fauzy. He’s had a steady rise through the junior ranks, but taking runner-up spot in last year’s World Series by Renault campaign was a big step for Fairuz. His nationality obviously helps, but 2009 proved he’s no slouch. More consistent than rapid, he’d make a good number two to a more experienced lead driver.
So who should that be? Well they’d want a Brit, so as to ensure a pairing that mixed the old (British) and new (Malaysian) of the Lotus team.
And who better than Britian’s most successful driver on the international stage over the past few years: Andy Priaulx. The Channel Islander is a triple World Touring Car Champion, having claimed the title for BMW in 2005, 2006 and 2007. He’s chasing the championship again in 2010, and has every chance of making it four. It’s a little mystifying that his success is pretty much ignored by the British press.
Not that he cares too much. Priaulx is an uncomplicated guy, almost in the Jim Clark mould, and would sit well with old school Lotus fans. He’s no megastar, just a bloke who happens to be very, very quick behind the wheel of a racing car. It’d be great to see him get a go in F1 machinery, and what better place for him to do it than at Lotus? That’s that sorted then.
Are we assuming Hispania have money in this alien invaded world? Or perhaps the aliens, feeling bad about nicking Bruno Senna and Sakon Yamamoto, leave the Spanish squad with some cash.
Either way they’d be sensible to rush out and hire Sergio Perez, the dauntingly fast Mexican racer who’s shown prodigious pace in GP2 this season. Perez is the sort of driver a team like Hispania dream of: he’s mega quick but also has a large sponsorship kitty, backed as he is by Mexican telecommunications giants Telmex. They, by the way, are owned by Carlos Slim, who is officially the richest man in the world. Not a bad chap to have back your career.
This year he’s probably been the outright quickest man in GP2, but a series of problems have prevented him really challenging Pastor Maldonado for the title. But his superb win at Monaco showed he’s a driver of real potential, and with his financial backing he’d be an outstanding signing for the team, whether or not aliens stole their current racers.
And for the other seat how about another heavily backed driver, just to get Hispania somewhere near a decent budget. Milka Duno, who currently competes in the Indycar Series, has bags of cash from Venezuelan oil company Citgo, and could probably talk them in to buying her a seat with the team. Okay, Milka is by far the worst driver in the series, regularly qualifying several seconds off the pace and causing problems for those lapping her, but money talks in this sport, and being as her sponsors don’t seem to mind her lack of success why not let her have a go?
A world in which aliens abduct the F1 grid and Milka Duno lands a drive with Hispania? We might just have pushed this too far now…