February 15h, 2013 (F1plus/Jack Leslie).- 2013 will see five rookie drivers take to the track, vying for the title of “best rookie”. However that is for another article, this is about the talent they replaced.
So we say a fond farewell to numerous racing talents this season, as drivers refuse to change attitudes or are pushed out by rookie talent with high levels of investment. It is a real shame to see some fantastic drivers wave goodbye to a sport that needs them so dearly, but it also needs fresh faces and plenty of pounds.
For some it will be a break, almost like a holiday away from Formula 1 before they return. Currently we do not know who will make a comeback; it could easily be some, or none. In a sport that evolves all the time, sometimes a change in a team’s driver line up is what’s needed. In some cases it keeps them on the grid.
So, to whom are we waving at? Firstly we will start with Kamui Kobayashi. Hailed as one of the sports up and coming talents, the Japanese racer was booted out in favor of sponsor heavy Esteban Gutierrez. He burst on to the scene at the end of 2009, replacing an injured Timo Glock at Toyota for the final two rounds. He instantly divided opinion for his aggressive driving style, coming in to contact with countryman Kazuki Nakajima on his debut in Brazil. He scored points at the next round in Abu Dhabi, doing enough to entice Peter Sauber to sign him for 2010. Controversial for his erratic but quick style -which we always enjoyed watching- his race weekends were often inconsistent. He showed strong speed at times and finished the 2010 season with 32 points.
After finishing his first full season in Formula 1 just inside the top 12 in the championship, he repeated that feat again in 2011. The debut podium still eluded him but he managed to score 30 points, with a best result of fifth at the Monaco Grand Prix. Going in to 2012 many expected Kamui to step up to the mark, and he did. Scoring from the off, he looked more composed. He still made the odd error but eventually made it on to the podium with a third place finish at the Japanese Grand Prix, his home race. The result was hugely popular with both the fans and pit lane.
Kamui celebrated his first podium finish at home.
In our opinion he drove brilliantly and deserved the recognition. However Hulkenberg was confirmed as his replacement, leaving one seat at the Swiss squad to battle for. Despite fan donations and raising over £1million he was unable to effectively “buy” a race seat. Latest news reveals that Kobayashi will test a Ferrari sportscar.
It is a big loss to the sport, not only having Kamui absent from the pit lane but also not having a Japanese driver present on the grid. The fans in Japan are so fantastic and supportive for everyone but not having a driver of their own to cheer for, or for businesses to sponsor will be a loss. Finnish fans will be relieved to see Raikkonen lining up on the grid in 2013, but will have to say goodbye to Heikki Kovalainen; who will join Kobayashi on the sidelines.
What really inspired me about Heikki is that he refused to turn to “pay driver” characteristics and kept true to himself, he wanted his driving to do the talking and not his wallet. The Finn had a difficult debut season for Renault, but scored a calm and controlled podium at the Japanese Grand Prix. He then moved to McLaren and underperformed alongside Lewis Hamilton, before making way for Jenson Button in 2010. Caterham was his next port of call, something we think it made him a better driver.
Because he was not constantly battling for position, he was able to tweak and improve his driving style and concentrate on getting the best from the car. He seemingly agreed with us too, when late last year he said, "I have full confidence in myself now, that wherever I was - regardless of the environment - I am a much stronger and a much tougher driver – and I can handle the situation better," However Caterham needed the money, and with Heikki refusing to draft in big sponsors with lots of cash they regretfully had to let him go.
His 2012 teammate Vitaly Petrov also looks set for a season on the sidelines, despite lots of investment from Russia. Some suggested he would be a good fit at Marussia, who are named and owned by Russian Car Firm Marussia Motors. However a deal failed to materialize and Petrov has been left without a seat.
The constant game of musical chairs meant Petrov was a late addition to Caterham’s 2012 line up. He previously raced for Renault, who then turned to Lotus, and scored a podium at the 2011 Australian Grand Prix. He was subsequently dropped from the Enstone team’s line up and was a rushed replacement for Jarno Trulli, who opened up his seat to give the team more money. I have never seen Petrov as a title challenger but he certainly gave Kovalainen, who I rate quite highly, a run for his money last year.
Pedro De La Rosa has been lucky enough to keep his foot firmly in the Formula 1 door, signing as Ferrari’s development driver. I personally see Pedro as a big asset to the team thanks to his extensive work with McLaren, his experience testing and driving different machinery and his great work ethic. However his former HRT teammate Narain Karthikeyan looks set to leave the sport forever. I must admit, I never saw Narain as world championship material, and was put to shame by De La Rosa when they raced together for HRT.
Who can forget? The second retirement of Michael Schumacher. Personally, I have never been a fan of “Schumi”, as mentioned in previous articles, but it is a shame to see such a glittering career end. However it had to conclude at some point, otherwise there would never be a chance for rookies like Chilton or Razia to enter F1.
Schumacher retired fro good from Formula 1.
We are happy to see him take up a role with Mercedes, his experience and global reputation are good assets to have, and he will always be a legend in Formula 1. I have to agree with that (even if I have never really been on Team Schumi!). But the time was right for him to retire, his second stint had been poor and new drivers needed to be introduced.
Of course this has always been the case, drivers being replaced despite being so talented. Some wiggle their way back in to the sport and others go off and do something else. That is one of the benefits of being a racing driver; there are so many established series to turn to. For example Sportscar racing, Touring Cars, Le Mans and many others that still gives drivers the “thrill”.
Of course you could also go in to TV, Team Ownership among others. Take Anthony Davidson as a recent example. After the demise of Super Aguri in 2008 he moved to TV commentating and as a pundit for first BBC Radio 5 Live and now Sky Sports F1. Meanwhile away from the camera’s he has also established a successful Sports Car career for Peugeot and Toyota.
So it is not all doom and gloom, and both Timo Glock and Bruno Senna showed this. The former was booted out of his seat at backmarkers Marussia to bring in someone who would have a lower salary and bring in more sponsorship, Luiz Razia as we now know. However instead of having a break from motor racing, he quickly signed to test for BMW in the DTM series and subsequently signed a contracted to race in the series.
Like my Anthony Davidson example, Bruno Senna has signed a deal to race for Aston Martin in the World Endurance Championship, including the Le Mans 24 Hours. I rated the Brazilian highly in 2012, after he showed consistency. This was something that his teammate failed to replicate, but 25 points at the Spanish Grand Prix meant Senna finished below him in the drivers’ championship.
As you may already be guessing, there are a fair few drivers leaving Formula 1 this season. We do have some exciting rookie talent moving up to the pinnacle of motorsport, but I feel it will still be a bit strange. In 2012 I got used to seeing names like “Kobayashi” and “Senna” on the timing screens, expecting them to continue. There is no doubt that as fresh talent gets promoted; we lose some super-fast drivers from the grid.
2013’s “silly season” has been one of the most radical and busy of recent times. Plenty of drivers have left, plenty have arrived and there have been plenty of rumours to discuss and talk about.
So a few fresh faces replace the friendly ones of old, but there is no doubt that away from the sport, drivers can not find the thrill of racing somewhere else