July 3rd, 2013 (F1plus/E. Marshall).- It’s a fickle game being a Formula One driver. One weekend you are heralded as a world beater, only for the sharks to circle before you’ve had time to take stock.
Without proper qualifications we are all prone to pass judgement on the current crop of stars from time to time, conjuring up notions which can live with individuals regardless of what they later go on to achieve.
A prime example of this is Nico Rosberg, arguably the sport’s greatest puzzle for some time now. Despite glimpses of brilliance, few could unequivocally say whether the German belonged alongside the sport’s top elite or if he was yet another promising talent who failed to deliver the goods.
After often singlehandedly leading the Williams assault, many expected big things when he finally bagged a dream move to Brackley. Even then the case remained adjourned, with the mature methods which wrapped up his debut victory in China failing to strike a decisive blow to sceptics. Of course the Monaco-based star was not helped by the collapse of the W03 as the season drew on, but this excuse wore thin when intertwined with his inability to eclipse an autumnal Michael Schumacher on a regular basis. The sight of the outgoing champion overcoming the worst of the Brazilian elements whilst Rosberg was out at sea in fifteenth only compounded this notion and raised worrying concerns about how he would match up against a hungry Lewis Hamilton – with many predicting a white wash for the arriving Brit.
But this has simply been wide of the mark, with German being more than a match for the 2008 World Champion and gaining the greater spoils in terms of race results. Yes Hamilton has indeed been unlucky, his exploits in Silverstone a prime example, but so too has Rosberg – the most recognisable being in Melbourne, where his qualifying preparations were foiled by unreliability in practice before more gremlins struck during the race, and in China where a suspension failure put paid to any hope of points.
Undeniably, the dramatic drop off in race pace at times remains a real concern, especially when up against a lion like Hamilton in the same car. Nevertheless, Rosberg appears to have taken the definitive turn this season; now a multiple winner few can question neither his credentials nor his ability to run at the front. Whilst time will tell if he can take the decisive step and become a serious title contender year-on-year, 2013 has given the most definitive answer yet of his talent and at 28 he could well be entering a golden period.
Another standing on uneven ground was Paul di Resta, who like Rosberg show glimpses of greatness but also sharp does of mediocrity. As with the Mercedes driver, Brazil was a poignant sight for the Scotsman; smashing his Force India in the barrier as team-mate Nico Hulkenberg flirted with victory itself. Following a good debut year, much was expected of the sophomore and all in all he went some way to deliver. But Di Resta was a dealt a body blow to his confidence when his form appeared to dwindle during the second half of the year – a fact only made worse by the rise in stock of his team-mate with his own batch of strong results. Coupled with being snubbed by top teams for a future, not even the high point of Singapore could reverse fortunes, with an unidentified crack in his chassis playing havoc with performance.
But instead of sulking or dwindling further, the 27-year-old has bounced back admirably. Despite nut jamming in Malaysia; qualifying disappointments in Monaco and Canada along with his Silverstone demotion, Di Resta has been nothing short of outstanding. Six consecutive points’ finishes have been built thanks to a series of stunning comeback drives, full of the vigour and ruthlessness to succeed alongside the overtaking prowess of the very best. It’s quite accepted that despite a string of good weekends, Formula One has yet to see the true potential of the VJM06, but should he manage to prepare without encountering difficulty, there is no doubt that a big result is just around the corner for Di Resta – one which he must grab hold of with open arms.
All the same, there still exists a fear that a passage to a top team may elude Di Resta, regardless of what he may achieve on track – with the fact he hasn’t tipped for a step forward in 2014 slightly alarming. There is no doubt that Force India is doing an outstanding job, but the Silverstone-based outfit is riding the crest of a wave at the minute and maximising the resources on offer to it. There is no guarantee that this approach will bring the same level of competitiveness in future, especially with rule changes set to stretch costs.
Therefore Di Resta will be hoping that the stars align at the right time so that he can have a fair crack at the front and does not hit the same glass ceiling which encircled the careers of fellow nationals Derek Warwick and Martin Brundle.
But that is a matter for the future as like Rosberg, Di Resta has gone someway to prove the doubters wrong and show yet again that some drivers just can’t be written off.