Friday, 21 June 2013

Drivers shine out of the shadows of substandard cars.

Achieving surprise and unexpected results with a car that is below par can be an eye catching way to showcase talent.  With seven races run in the 2013 season there have been flashes of brilliance from drivers showing their potential in cars that aren't aligned with their ability.  

Rookie Finn Valtteri Bottas is highly rated by Williams and the man who managed him on his journey to Formula One, Toto Wolff, but it took a few races for his true potential to emerge. Despite showing early promise at pre season testing, on commencement of the races, Williams have struggled with the car and have been unable to claim any points.  A wet qualifying session in Montreal provided a chance for Bottas to stage a performance indicative of his talent, driving a scorcher of a lap to put his Williams on the second row of the grid in third position.  Starting the race at the pointy end of the grid with the top drivers didn’t faze the young Finn as he pulled away displaying a mature, assured approach.  Sadly the FW35 couldn’t match the performance and pace of the cars around it, but its driver’s potential was promoted. Prior to the Canadian Grand Prix Valtteri compared his performances to those of his Venezuelan team mate when speaking to, 

 “I think my performances relative to Pastor have been pretty good.  Pastor is experienced – it’s already his third year at Williams- and I would say that I match him more or less.”

Following his foray into the world at the front of the grid it is safe to say he more than matches him.

Bottas has left Pastor in the shade.  

A glittering prize; Mark Webber’s seat at Red Bull.   The team mate duel to win that prize adds an extra dimension to the intra team battle between Daniel Ricciardo and Jean Eric Vergne.   Prior to Canada, it was Ricciardo who seemed to have the edge on performance particularly in terms of qualifying results.   Trailing his Australian team mate by 4 -2 before the race at the Gilles Villeneuve circuit, Vergne closed the gap by qualifying seventh to Ricciardo’s tenth.   Following his good qualifying position Vergne was asked whether a Sebastian Vettel Monza type win would gift him that gold encrusted seat.  While not quite reaching those lofty heights, he did bring the Toro Rosso home in sixth, the highest finishing position since that rainy day in Italy.  On the back of an eight place in Monaco, these favourable finishing results have imparted a turbo boost to his confidence as he fervently awaits Silverstone, have shown a glimpse of what he can do in a car with below par performance, and have bolstered his racing portfolio.

It is no secret that Paul di Resta was hugely disappointed when he failed to secure a drive with one of the top teams for 2013 and at times appeared rather bitter about it.  With the season underway however, he has channelled this positively into producing some good performances on track.  The Scot is lying eighth in the driver’s championship due to eighth positions in Australia and China, a tremendous fourth in Bahrain, narrowly missing out on a podium appearance, and seventh places in Spain and Canada, the latter of which he achieved after clawing his way up from seventeenth on the grid.   Force India have been the surprise package of the season currently lying fifth in the Constructors Championship, so he has a better car with which to boast his talent, but he has outshone his team mate and has double the amount of points.  Some of these performances and in particular the one in Bahrain will catch people’s eyes and could be the platform to propel him closer to a top seat. 

Paul has more to smile about this season.  Photo:

Since his switch to Sauber from Force India, Nico Hulkenberg has made no secret of the fact that he believes Sauber need to improve their performance.  Considering the team are languishing in eighth position in the Constructors Championship, he has produced some good results which have seen him slotted in just behind the top team finishers.  Widely regarded as being well endowed with driving ability, Nico’s eighth in position in Malaysia, tenth in China and twelfth and eleventh in Bahrain and Monaco respectively have cemented this. 

The ability to procure stand out, stellar results in a car lagging in the pace and performance race will get these drivers noticed.  It was just these sorts of results that caught the eye of McLaren when they needed to replace departing Lewis Hamilton.  In 2012, Sergio Perez’s podium finishes in Malaysia, Canada and Monza were to be thanked for his opportunity to move to a top team. With seats possibly becoming available at Lotus, Ferrari and Red Bull, these drivers are putting themselves on the inside track.  

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