The summer break is good for several things; putting your feet up, spending a Sunday with the family (for once), etc, etc. For Badger, it’s a good chance to take stock of things, and have a look back at the season so far. But why stop there?
We’re going even further back this week, to some predictions that were made here, by myself, Craig Normansell, Jimmy Von Weeks and Benson Jammichello on who would be the best of the new bunch. So, this week the Scrutineering Bay is looking to ask;
“Are you still backing your choice for rookie of the year?”
Up first, and donning his sombrero yet again, is Jimmy;
Before the season started I made Sergio Perez my pick of the rookies and I’m standing firmly by that decision. The young Mexican has delivered some top-notch race performances aboard the Sauber, making a particular name for himself as a driver who can look after a set of tyres. He has out-qualified team-mate Kamui Kobayashi 5-4 and, unlike the Japanese racer, hasn’t been a Q1 dropout and is yet to make any major mistakes, apart perhaps from irritating Jarno Trulli so much in Hungary that the Italian described him as having “a rare kind of rudeness and a unique ignorance of the rules.”
Had he not suffered his very nasty and mildly brain-bending Monaco qualy shunt Sergio would have impressed even more. A winner in last year’s GP2 event in the principality, he’d hit Q3 for the first time before losing it exiting the tunnel. That hurt his in-season momentumn as much as his head, ruling him out of the next two races, but by Silverstone he was getting back in to his rhythym and took a season-best seventh place.
Overall 2011 has produced a promising rookie crop: Paul di Resta has shown plenty of F1 ability, particularly over one lap, whilst Pastor Maldonado has been far more of a match for Rubens Barrichello than I imagined pre-season. He’s also stopped crashing quite so regularly.
But Perez remains my long-term bet for success. More and more, the signs are pointing towards the Mexican landing at Ferrari in 2013. Team boss Stefano Domenicali’s recent comment that the Scuderia’s next driver line-up will see “one well established driver with great experience, alongside a talented youngster on the way up,” has left me increasingly convinced.
Next to reminisce, and still back himself up, is Benson;
Well then. Being asked to justify something I wrote what seems like an age ago? Welcome to consequence-land – let’s hope it’s not a rude awakening.
First up, I had a little read of what I wrote and I enjoyed it; is that bad?
Anyway, that aside, let’s recap how di Resta’s fared this season using the new Hot Rod or Hot Dog spreadsheet I’ve been tinkering with during the F1 break. Technology, that’s the future. The young Scot has out qualified Adrian Sutil seven times and out raced him five times (both out of eleven chances). Not bad for a rookie whose most recent racing experience wasn’t even in single seaters.
His highest place finish is seventh (achieved at the recent Hungarian Grand Prix) and he’s finished in the top ten three times out of eleven races; this compares to Adrian Sutil’s four top ten finishes. Again, not bad.
More broadly, and less stats based, he seems to have adapted well to the rigours of the F1 world and (yes, we know this isn’t the most scientific measure) alweays seems to come across well in interviews. Given that he’s got a relationship with Mercedes, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see him replace Schumacher at Mercedes at some point in the future.
So, to summarise, he’s done well, been calm, seemed an intelligent racer and has a bigger team than he’s currently with backing him up. Is this a good first season for Paul di Resta? Yes it is and I continue to think he’ll be the best rookie of 2011.
And last to look back is myself;
OK, it’s safe to say Williams isn’t having a great season. It was all about them for me before Australia – the car looked great, the drivers had the right mix of experience and youth, and the test pace was reliable. The future looked rosey.
And then the car hit the track in anger and it was clear that all was not well. Which is why, when looking at Pastor Maldonado, everything has to be relative. The race pace of the FW33 is extremely poor – only Rubens has scored points for the the team, with a ninth in Monaco (where it’s easy to hold people up) and Canada (which was a complete lottery where you finished in the midfield). Pastor has held his own on Sundays, but it’s on Saturdays where he’s the mightiest.
In Spain, where all the testing is done nowadays, the Venezuelan planted his car 9th on the grid, getting Williams into their first Q3 of 2011 and more importantly, before Rubens did. He fared even better in the Principality, going one better to qualify 8th and was running 6th in the race, which was ended by an angry Lewis Hamilton punting him into the barriers. At Silverstone, which one of the true drivers circuits left on the calender, he qualified his best yet in 7th. In terms of Saturday speed, that’s three Q3’s to Rubens none, and the score 6-5 in Pastor’s favour. That’s impressive stuff.
For a rookie, there’s better out there in terms of points scored, but for a first season, it’s pretty solid stuff. For once, it’s the driver delivering most of the time, and the team that must try harder.
With 11 rounds gone, all the Badger’s are still backing their picks for best rookie. Only time will tell if any of us are right though! The real question to ask is who’s picked Jerome D’Ambrosio or Daniel Ricciardo?