With a drove of new drivers emerging this year, who will have what it takes to break through?
The driver merry-go-round over the past few months has thrown some interesting surprises into the F1 mix, with many teams opting to go for youth over experience when selecting racers to fill empty seats. Established drivers who are missing out on a race seat in 2013, despite some good results in previous seasons, include Timo Glock, formerly of Marussia; Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber; and Bruno Senna, nephew of the great Ayrton, who regularly made the top ten in two years of racing.
Also surprisingly missing out is 2012 GP2 winner Davide Valsecchi, who, despite testing heavily for a number of teams over the last two years, failed to secure a seat. That said, for those who hit the jackpot and picked up a race seat this year, the pressure is on to prove themselves worthy of driving alongside the world’s best – as will transpire at the Malaysian GP.
After spending two seasons as Sauber’s test driver, the current youngest driver in F1, Esteban Gutierrez, was rewarded with a race seat, replacing the outgoing Kobayashi. Although he will probably play second fiddle to Nico Hulkenberg, Gutierrez will hopefully take inspiration from fellow-Mexican Sergio Perez, who recently earned himself a seat with McLaren after a successful couple of seasons with Sauber.
Another former winner of the GP3 championship, Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas has earned himself a drive with Williams this year after a series of impressive performances as test driver, and filling in for then-regular, Senna. Two teams which are putting their trust solely in youth – and no doubt saving a little money by doing so – are Caterham and Marussia. Both teams have chosen to go with virgin drivers, with the slight exception of Caterham, who have retained last year’s fresh recruit, Frenchman Charles Pic. Despite the large amount of experienced talent vying for a race seat, it appears that the decision has more to do with gaining sponsorship than proven racing prowess.
For the neutral and purist alike, nothing is better than a spirited drive from a youngster in an underpowered car beating the odds and mixing with the big boys. Fingers crossed that one of these future stars will do just that at Sepang!
It’s been a while since a Malaysian made a splash at the F1 – 11 years, to be precise, when Alex Yoong finished seventh in 2002 for Minardi. However, thanks to heavy investment in youth development programs over the years, the future now looks bright for local motorsports talents. At the vanguard of new hopefuls is Jazeman Jaafar, a now veteran of two International Formula Three series, coming in sixth last season, with four podiums. And at the tender age of 20, Jazeman’s only way to go is up. The rising star has said he aims to be driving in Formula One in four years’ time – so getting a Malaysian on the podium at Sepang could certainly happen, sooner than we expect.