With the current plethora of 2013 F1 rookies or perhaps you call them a Roll of Rookies? (as in bank roll, no not you Bottas settle down) perhaps we can see if we can predict what they have in store for them. As the Monty Python song goes, lets look on the “bright side of life” first. I’ve taken a pole around my house and we have come up with our top 5 sensational F1 rookie seasons ever.
No.1- Senna 1984
With multiple testing contracts in hand Senna just wanted to race and took a ride with a lowly small team called Toleman. Scoring points in his 2nd & 3rd races (only top six scored points at the time) he followed that up with 3 podiums in Britain, Portugal and a 2nd spot at Monaco! Needless to say Toleman couldn’t keep him and off to Lotus he went. In the least competitive car of our entire top 5, he really lifted this car way beyond it’s capabilites
No.2 Clay Regazzoni 1970
Only enlisted 5 races into the season in a shared seat as the Ferrari no.2, Clay’s debut in Holland with a 4th place finish firmed up a permanent ride and with a repeat in the British GP, he followed his performance by 4 more podiums including a win at Monza!
Clay ended up 3rd in the 13-race WDC. Just 7 pts behind teammate Ickx & 13 behind Jochen Rindt.
No.3 Hamilton 2007
This is where I will get in trouble as I am weighing this up heavily with the fact he had so much time to prepare (since he was 10 or so) and was in the best car on the grid. The results speak for themselves with 4 wins, a ton of podiums and a championship lost on interteam rivalry and a lap too long on some aging Bridgestone’s.
No.4 Schumacher 1991-92
After a sensational and controversial beginning to his F1 career (go figure), Michaels 7th place grid spot in the Jordan saw him plucked up by Benetton to finish the small remainder of the season scoring points in the next 3 races. I’m calling his rookie season over 91-92 as he followed up the end of 91 with a 3rd place in the championship only a couple of points behind Patrese in the all conquering Williams FW14, a win in Spa and a number of podiums.
No.5 J Villeneuve 1996
As with Hamilton you have to look beyond the results a bit and take into account the circumstances to see why he is not no.1. JV probably racked up the most pre-season testing miles ever as the son of the late Gilles made the jump from Indycars. JV did indeed score a pole and a 2nd place on his debut and scored 4 wins in his debut season only being beaten by No.1 teammate Damon Hill. He followed this up of course by winning the WDC the following year and was never heard of again.
So who out of the current batch of rookies can try and replicate this? Well at this point I could defiantly see Bottas making some noise. No doubt the Finn has had some good mileage last year during Friday practice for Williams and shown really good speed in the car. Williams will be strong again and I can even see Bottas beating Maldonado in the driver points if Pastor continues his approach to racecraft.
Next up would have to be Gutierrez as the Sauber is an equal to the Williams in pace.
The last 3 drivers are in for a learning season as the Maurussia and Caterham are still holding that “new team” status at the bottom although I see a brighter future for both these teams in 2013 even taking the rookie drivers into account.
One group they don’t want to be in is the “disastrous rookie year” page on Wikipedia with the likes of Michael Andretti, Mike Thackwell, Tiff Needell and even our beloved Tommy Byrne. Many championship winning drivers from the lower ranks have been swiftly eaten up and spat back out in Formula 1, and yes money talks a lot more powerfully than ever, but then again there seems to be a line of talented funded drivers waiting in the wings.