Welcome to the Scrutineering Bay, Badger’s own version of question time that doesn’t go on too late and isn’t quite as boring. With 2011 so close to starting (so close we can taste it), the banter going around the Sett has been about the new drivers attempting to make a name for themselves and which one would come out on top. Which begs us to ask:

“Who will be this year’s top rookie?”

Luckily, three Badger writers were on hand to help out this week, and even more luckily, we all have different opinions! This week’s have-a-go heroes will be myself Craig NormansellBenson Jammichello and donning his sombrero, Jimmy Von Weeks

Why do I reckon Sergio Perez will emerge as the most impressive rookie this season? Well, it’s mainly thanks to one drive – because in the GP2 feature race at Monaco last season the young Mexican was simply peerless. That weekend will be remembered for Mark Webber’s superb triumph at the wheel of a Red Bull, but Sergio too deserves an avalanche of praise for his performance. He bolted in to the lead at the start and pulled away, only to see his advantage eradicated by a safety car. So he built another gap, before this too was wiped out. Then he dashed off again and took a commanding victory. I was sold; this kid was special.

Added to that the testing times have been hugely promising for his Sauber team, who have been quick to assure all who’ll listen that their pace down to low-fuel runs. That car looks fast. Sergio reckons points will be possible from race one and there are plenty who feel he’s right.

It’s also possible to argue that he’s got the most beatable team-mate. Maldonado vs Barrichello can surely only go one way – ditto Glock vs d’Ambrosio – and it’s also hard to see Paul di Resta overcoming the very solid and established Adrian Sutil. Kamui Kobayashi, meanwhile, whilst unquestionably very exciting, can lack a bit in qualifying and is entering his ‘difficult second season’. A driver of Perez’s calibre could make it very tough for the man from Amagasaki.

Ferrari recently signed Sergio to a long-term deal, clearly marking him out as a man worth watching. I for one can not wait to see how he takes to Formula One.

Jimmy has gone all Mexican and staked his claim for Sergio Perez to be the best of the newbies. All valid points, but will he shine?

Up next, with a Celtic flavour, is Benson:

Paul di Resta is nearly the same age as yours truly, being the trifling sum of five weeks older than me. This may not seem like much to you, but I think it finally may have hit home: I’m never going to be a Formula 1 driver. Devastating.

My personal realisations aside, di Resta comes into F1 as the reigning DTM champion and as someone who won the F3 Euro series title in 2006. Now, that may not seem like too much to shout about, apart from the fact that his team mate was Sebastian Vettel. And di Resta beat him. To the title. Not half bad then, really. Paul di Resta, he’s the besta.

He’s been one of the men spoken about for a while (in fact, it seemed like the BBC coverage was forever mentioning him last season, so excited were they by the prospect of having another British driver on the grid), but hasn’t had the chance to step up before, even as many of his contemporaries have made the leap.

Last season he was Force India’s reserve driver, enjoying pootling round on Fridays while one of the main drivers slept, played with their toys or did whatever F1 drivers do when not in a car. Probably just sitting in a chair smiling vacantly, realising they have one of the best jobs of all time.

As to his chances, he’s going to be coming into a solid midfield team and, with an established team mate in Adrian Sutil he has a real chance to impress. He knows the team, knows the car and therefore has an advantage over the other new drivers. The fact he’s got Nico Hulkenberg as the reserve driver behind him will serve as both a massive boot up the backside and as a salutory lesson as to what can happen in the harsh world of F1.

Let’s just hope it all works out.

Do you agree with Benson and think Paul Di Resta will..er…be the besta?

And finally, my two cents:

“I know what everyone will say, “oh look, another Williams piece from Craig”, but I really do feel the Pastor will be the best of the 2011 new bunch.

Yes, Sergio Perez looks fast and did perform well in GP2 last season, but Maldonado won the series outright and with a round to spare. Yes, Paul Di Resta has a season as a Friday driver under his belt, and the same with Jerome D’Ambrosio. Di Resta has the confidence behind from being DTM champ (however far THAT gets him…)

But, Maldonado is in the better placed team, has the most experiences driver in F1 history to learn from and, ultimately, is vital to the running of Williams thanks to that big fat sponsorship cheque. Money really does make Pastor’s world go round.”

Rookies are common place in F1, and every so often one or two surprise the experts and establish themselves. Can any of the above do so? We all seem to think so, but only time, as always, will tell.

Fancy a bit more info on this year’s rookies? Check out Badger’s guide to the four newcomers here.

 

 

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