Badger is taking a conversational look at the rookies who will make their F1 debuts in Melbourne. First we looked at Carlos Sainz Jr., and next up it’s the funded-but-fast Brazilian, Felipe Nasr.
This lad sounds familiar. Thinning hair, Martini overalls and a unique fondness for Yorkshiremen named Rob?
Not quite. You’re thinking of Felipe Massa. Nasr is pronounced very similarly, but he’s another person entirely.
If you say so. And who is he making his F1 debut for?
Everyone’s favourite Swiss midfielders, Sauber.
Aha, just like Felipe Massa did in 2002!
Nothing gets past you.
Can we expect a move to Ferrari in a few years time then?
Probably not, but then again it’s impossible to rule out. Nasr is a very difficult man to judge. He was a rocket in British F3, convincingly winning the title in 2011, and made the jump to GP2 while still in his teens. His first year was good, but during the following two he seemed to tread water. He became inconsistent, his qualifying could be abysmal, and at times he lacked the killer instinct.
So he’s not here solely on talent?
Well no, but then only guys with world titles under their belts are these days. The fact that the most visible sponsor on the Sauber is for a Brazilian bank should offer a clue as to how Felipe landed his drive.
Gotcha: another pay-driver with more cash than dash.
Well, not exactly. There is real ability there, but he seems to have trouble harnessing it. Perhaps Sauber is the place to do that, though given their financial perils and his less-than-spectacular team-mate that may not be easy.
Who’s the other customer – sorry, I mean driver – at Sauber then?
The mysteriously-well-funded Swede Marcus Ericsson. Who’s paying for him? Nobody knows!
That sounds like a reasonable scalp for young Naz?
Oh, absolutely. If Nasr can beat Ericsson his stock will rise. But if he’s shown the way home by a driver we know to be average, you’d have to conclude that he’s just a pay driver. So it should be an exciting scrap – at Sauber of all places.
Given that the other 2015 newcomers are from motorsport families – Sainz, Verstappen – would it be fair to assume that Felipe has a few racy relatives of his own?
Why yes! His uncle, Amir Nasr, owns a highly successful Brazilian racing team.
I was thinking more along the lines of our friend Felipe Massa?
They spell and pronounce their names differently. Is that not a sufficient clue?
Come on then, hop off that fence and give us an assessment
He’s good – you don’t win British F3 the way he did without talent – but if he was a megastar he’d have taken GP2 by the scruff of the neck. So while he could feasibly move up the grid and win races, he’s probably not a world champion. A solid 7/10.