The F1 Rookies

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The F1 Rookies Class of 2013

Five drivers lined-up for the first race of the 2013 Formula One World Championship season in Melbourne, but who are they, where did they come from and just how good are they?  Could we be looking at the next Michael Schumacher, or indeed the next Alex Yoong?

Valtteri Bottas – Finland – Williams Renault

The latest in a long-line of fast Finnish race car drivers, Bottas is highly rated within the Williams team and was third & reserve driver for 2012, competing in a whole host of first practice sessions (usually at the expense of Bruno Senna!) to prepare him for his rookie season this time around.  Won the GP3 championship back in 2011, driving for the Lotus ART team, winning four races along the way.  The previous two years he placed third place in the Formula 3 Euro Series, winning also the Masters of Formula 3 both years.  An impressive resume.  No wonder Williams were interested in him.

Bottas has a bit of hype surrounding him following an Autosport started twitter tag of #BOTTAS, started during a pre-season test in the winter of 2012.  It soon caught on and was trending worldwide, and gained the Finnish driver a bigger fan base than he would have done otherwise.

There are high hopes for Bottas within F1, given the car he should do well.  Unfortunately at present, it doesn’t look like Williams have the car to challenge for points as of yet.  The season is early however, and with a bit of development, I expect Bottas to be challenging for points later in the season.

Esteban Gutierrez – Mexico – Sauber Ferrari

When Sergio Perez left Sauber for McLaren, Telmex informed the Sauber that to have their sponsorship remain on the car, they’d have to promote last years third driver Gutierrez to a race seat.  The young Mexican admitted during the off-season that he was unsure that he was ready for Formula 1, and was expecting another season in GP2 to build some experience.

Gutierrez doesn’t come without some speed behind him though, he’s not purely a pay-driver.  Still only 21, he won the inaugural GP3 championship back in 2010 driving for ART GP, defeating the highly rated Robert Wickens in the process in the season finale in Monza.  He progressed onwards to GP2 in 2011, with the same team, winning the Valencia sprint race.  In 2012 he improved and won three races on the way to third in the championship.

Providing Sauber can provide him and his highly rated teammate Nico Hulkenberg a decent car, you can expect Gutierrez to be challenging for the minor points on a regular basis.  He’ll have to be on the top of his game however to be anywhere near Hulkenberg.

Giedo van der Garde – Netherlands – Caterham Renault

The Dutchman seems to have been linked to Formula 1 now for ages – in fact it was 2007 when he was the subject of a tug-of-war between Super Aguri & Spyker for a third driver role.  A court case was won by Spyker and he was third driver for 2007, but never got to drive the car.  He was also linked with Renault, and was a candidate for the Virgin Racing drive in 2011.

Van der Garde’s services were noticed by the F1 teams as he won the 2008 Formula Renault 3.5 series title, before progressing into GP2 the following year.  In the four years he was in the series, he finished 7th, 7th, 5th & 6th, driving for iSport, Barwa Addax (2 years) and Caterham Racing in 2012, winning the odd race along the way.

Promotion to the Caterham F1 team was forthcoming, alongside Charles Pic.  However, the car he’s been given isn’t great, and it will be a real surprise if either of the Caterham drivers score points in 2013.  Giedo’s aims must be to compete at or around Pic’s level, the Frenchman being rated highly after a reasonably decent debut season for Marussia last year.  I feel however that the Caterham team have the drivers to build the team around for years to come.

Max Chilton – Great Britain – Marussia Cosworth

Max’s progression through the junior ranks has been quite rapid, having left F3 back in 2009, a winter in the GP2 Asia series, and then three years in the full GP2 series.  He & his brother Tom, who competes in the WTCC this year, have been well funded by their father throughout their career, but is Max in F1 purely because of his financial backing?

His first two seasons in GP2 didn’t go too well, driving first for Ocean Racing Technology and then Carlin, he only managed three and then four points throughout the season.  However his second season at Carlin, now rebadged as Marussia Carlin GP2 team saw a massive improvement.  He won twice on route to fourth in the championship, and earned himself a few outings for Marussia in free practice sessions at the end of 2012.

So yes, Max is regarded as a pay driver, but there is definately some talent there.  Long gone are the days of the Jean-Denis Deletraz’s, the Paul Belmondo’s & the Giovanni Lavaggi’s, the pay drivers these days need to have the talent to match.  He should be aiming for a solid and consistent 2013 season, competing with his teammate and the Caterhams on a regular basis.

Jules Bianchi – France – Marussia Cosworth

The Frenchman comes into F1 as a Ferrari Academy driver and was third driver for the Force India team in 2012 season, and was close to the second Force India seat for this season before Adrian Sutil took the seat.  The following day after Luiz Razia lost his seat at Marussia, Bianchi was called up to be Max Chilton’s teammate.

Since 2007, in every full-time season Bianchi has competed in, he has never placed lower than third in the final standings.  He won the Formula Renault 2.0 series in 2007, before placing third in the 2008 Formula 3 Euro Series.  A second season in the series brought him the championship, before he moved onto the GP2 series with ART GP.  In his two seasons in GP2 he finished third both times.  He finished second to Robin Frijns in his first and probably only season in Formula Renault 3.5 in 2012.

If anybody of Marussia or Caterham drivers are going to score points its more than likely to be Bianchi; he immediately outpaced Chilton in his first test for the team in Barcelona.  He has already put the Marussia closer to the midfield than the team have been in the three years prior since their inception.  This guy is one to watch, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him in a bigger team sooner rather than later, possibly even Ferrari.

The Last 10 F1 Rookies & Where They Are Now

  • Charles Pic – France – Debut Australia 2012 – Currently at Caterham
  • Jean-Eric Vergne – France – Debut Australia 2012 – Currently at Toro Rosso
  • Daniel Ricciardo – Australia – Debut Great Britain 2011 – Currently at Toro Rosso
  • Pastor Maldonado – Venezuela – Debut Australia 2011 – Currently at Williams
  • Paul di Resta – Great Britain – Debut Australia 2011 – Currently at Force India
  • Sergio Perez – Mexico – Debut Australia 2011 – Currently at McLaren
  • Jerome d’Ambrosio – Belgium – Debut Australia 2011 – Currently test driver at Lotus
  • Nico Hulkenberg – Germany – Debut Bahrain 2010 – Currently at Sauber
  • Vitaly Petrov – Russia – Debut Bahrain 2010 – Currently unemployed
  • Bruno Senna – Brazil – Debut Bahrain 2010 – Currently at Aston Martin in World Endurance Championship
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