April 29th, 2013 (F1plus/R. Baillie).- This year five rookies make up the 22 drivers taking part in the 2013 Formula 1 World Championship. Before the season kicked off some fans were concerned that having so many rookie pay drivers in the sport would lead to a huge amount of crashes and incidents, similar to what we experienced in Maldonado’s rookie year.
Impressively, we’ve had no safety cars so far and haven’t seen any major incidents caused by rookies, proving that just because they’re pay drivers doesn’t mean they aren’t good drivers.
Now we’re roughly a quarter of the way through this 19-race season, let’s take a look at how our five rookies are doing so far.
Esteban Gutierrez - Sauber
Following Perez’s move to McLaren, Sauber announced they would sign their test driver Esteban Gutierrez who finished 3rd in the 2012 GP2 Championship.
Gutierrez has had a fairly quiet start to the year, though being the youngest driver in F1 (at only 21 years old) must be quite daunting and must take some time getting used to. However Formula 1 is a ruthless sport and he won’t be given too many chances to show his worth, especially when you consider that Sebastian Vettel won the Italian Grand Prix at only 21 years old.
Thankfully for Gutierrez Sauber understand it will take the youngster time as Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn recently told Autosport that they were keeping an eye on his performance and would give him a chance, and went on to comment that “as a team we don't have many chances, and whatever you do in a season can have a straight impact on your finances for the future.”
Kaltenborn also said that the car may be partly to blame, though teammate Nico Hulkenberg has managed to pick up 14 points so far with a highest finish of 8th place, while Gutierrez has no points and a highest finish of 12th place.
Valtteri Bottas - Williams
Valtteri Bottas and teammate Pastor Maldonado seem to be fairly evenly matched so far.
Bottas managed to finish the first three races ahead of his teammate, though that wasn’t too tricky as Maldonado was forced to retire from the first two, however during the race he’s mostly been ahead of Maldonado and looked a touch more competitive.
In terms of qualifying they’re both tied having out-qualified each other twice.
Occasionally we’ve seen some fantastic performances from Maldonado in the Williams, however this years car is much less competitive with the team having picked up no points so far this season, which is disappointing compared with the 18 points they’d picked up at the same time last year.
Hopefully the updates Williams are taking to Spain will improve the car and we’ll start to get a better idea of Bottas’ performance and ability.
Jules Bianchi - Marussia
A drive in Formula 1 for the 2013 season was looking unlikely for Jules Bianchi after Force India chose Adrian Sutil over him following a ‘shootout’ during Winter Testing.
Thankfully for Bianchi, Marussia were having issues with Luiz Razia’s sponsors and in the end were forced to let Razia go and take on Bianchi instead.
Bianchi has grabbed the opportunity with both hands and has been impressive since the get-go, finishing the first three races ahead of both his teammate Max Chilton and both of the Caterhams.
Thanks to his performances so far, the Banbury based team are currently 10th in the Constructors Championship. If he continues to perform like this and consistently beats both Caterhams, the team will finish the season 10th in the Constructors Championship, meaning that for the first time since they entered the sport they’ll pick up much needed prize money to help them develop the 2014 car.
Bianchi is clearly getting the best out of the car and has certainly caught everyone’s attention, including Ferrari Team Principal Stefano Domenicali, who when asked whether he could end up driving for Ferrari replied “I don't know about next year, but in the future, yes of course”.
Max Chilton - Marussia
Unfortunately for Max Chilton his teammate Jules Bianchi has out-qualified and out-performed him at all four races. Which is disappointing, especially when you consider that Chilton spent much more time in the car during Winter Testing due to Razia’s sponsorship issues.
Chilton currently sits at the bottom of the Drivers Standings with a highest finish of 16th place at the Malaysian Grand Prix, though unfortunately that was because only 16 drivers finished.
Giedo van der Garde - Caterham
van der Garde has had a fairly uninspiring start to the season and has failed to out-perform teammate Charles Pic, and has only managed to out-qualify him once at the Australian Grand Prix.
To make matters worse he has finished three out of the first four races of the season in last place, and somehow managed to finish the Bahrain Grand Prix a full lap behind second to last place man Max Chilton after being caught up in an incident at the start of the race.
Perhaps worryingly for van der Garde, Caterham announced last week that they were welcoming Finnish driver Heikki Kovalainen back into the team as a test driver. Kovalainen replaced van der Garde for FP1 during Bahrain and will take part in FP1 in a couple of weeks time at the Spanish Grand Prix, igniting rumours that Kovalainen will replace van der Garde if his performance doesn’t improve drastically.
At this stage in the season it’s probably far too early to start making any real kind of judgements, however the common opinion amongst fans seems to be that Jules Bianchi is seriously impressive and Giedo van der Garde really needs to step up his game.