Second Chance Sunday

We have had to bid adieu to a fair few drivers this year,  it has been hard to utter a final farewell to some stalwarts of the grid however it hasn’t just been fresh faced youngsters that have replaced them. Not quite, in fact you should recognise the new recruits. Looking back to the 2011 season there were five rookie drivers that took to the grid in total, with one joining the party a little later, and all but one has survived the cut. Although Jerome d’Ambrosio has since secured a third driver role with Lotus, not too shabby. With only two rookies joining the fight for 2012, the other seats must be filled with those familiar faces.

So hence Second Chance Sunday, with varying connotations as some will argue that certain drivers did not need to be given a ‘chance’ as they’ve already proved themselves, whereas other may have been given a lifeline. Regardless of which side of that particular fence you stand on, they’ve each done enough to warrant a personally moulded race seat with their respective teams.

Kimi Räikkönen

Renault have done the double this year to bring back two drivers from the past, and this one brings the statistics up to an impressive six world champions. Not exactly known for his exuberant off-track persona (although this doesn’t mean he’s without a few well known off-track moments), he’s been welcomed back to the grid with open arms from all sides; drivers, team principals and fans alike are eager to see what the 2007 Ferrari world champion can do for Lotus. From being found asleep half an hour before his debut Formula One race, from his infamous ‘magnum and coke’ moment, Räikkönen is a force to be reckoned with.

Sauber, McLaren and Ferrari have played host to the one-time ‘highest paid Formula One driver’, but now has come the time of Lotus to handle the infamously non-conformist star. His departure from the sport was odd considering his record, despite having a contract to race in 2010 Ferrari chose to run with Fernando Alonso instead leaving the Finn a free agent. However a lack of a suitable seat left him looking elsewhere for a ride, and the World Rally Championship provided him with one. Bedecked in a Red Bull livery he joined the Citroën Juinor Team for 12/13 races, but with a raft of car issues and incidents it was a far from ideal foray into the series.

Not to be put off he tried his hand at NASCAR, hinting that he has itchy feet when settling upon a post-Formula One career. So in 2011 he began in the Camping World Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports, making his debut at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. But Formula One has a sultry siren call and it beckoned Räikkönen back with the help of Lotus. Rumours were abound during the latter stages of 2011 that a certain Finn would be rejoining the grid, and for once the ‘F1 Silly Season’ bore ripe fruit and at then end of November it was confirmed.

Romain Grosjean

Having a complete clear out meant that Lotus had to find two driver to fill their seats, and with a Finn taking up one a Swiss driver (racing under a French licence) was their choice for the second. His first stint in Formula One was somewhat shorter than expected, with just 7 races to his name completed during the latter stages of the 2009 season, but after spending time as Fernando Alonso’s teammate he said he ‘learnt an enormous amount’, and one would expect so! Having taken over from an outgoing Nelson Piquet Jr, he was replaced by Vitaly Petrov for 2010.

Like Räikkönen above, Grosjean had to find other motorsport outlets to fill his time with. His first move was to sportscar racing, where he took part in the inaugural FIA GT1 World Championship. Grosjean also competed in his first Le Mans 24 hour race and Auto GP of which he took the title. Not content with this he also returned to GP2 with the DAMS team replacing Jerome d’Ambrosio for a race and Ho-Pin Tung from Belgium.

In 2011 he took to GP2 for a full season with the DAMS team, as well as the Asia series, the latter he clinched with six points to spare. He may have had a rocky start to the season, although he opened with a win in Turkey, he soon regained the lead and controlled the standings to win comfortably.

Pedro de la Rosa

The Spanish driver made he debut in 1999 with the Arrows before joining Jaguar,  McLaren and Sauber (twice). Although a staple of the grid for 13 seasons, he’s been listed as a test driver for 7 of those (including the 1998 season for Jordan). With a career best of 11th with McLaren in 2006 his career hasn’t exactly been illustrious which has led to many questioning the reasons behind his sudden return, but his vast experience giving feedback on cars should help HRT develop. In fact it has to otherwise serious questions will be raised as to their worth to Formula One, adding to those already being asked.

Narain Karthikeyan

Joining de la Rosa at HRT is the first Indian driver to grace Formula One, and if we are being particular with the details, this is actually his third turn on the grid. First driving for Jordan in 2005 it took until 2011 for him to reappear again with HRT, only to be replaced by Daniel Ricciardo from Silverstone onwards.

During his first break from Formula One he competed in the now defunct A1 Grand Prix series for India before heading over to Superleague Formula in 2010. But this isn’t all, he also put in an appearance in Le Mans 24 hours in 2009 and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, winning the Most Popular Driver Award in 2010. Much like de la Rosa he’s got to get his head down and show so promise in the car, if they have it built that is.

Nico Hulkenberg

Another welcome face finds its way back to grid for 2012, and in this instance it’s Force India we need to forward the thanks to. The team are certainly taking a risk by having a line-up with just two seasons between them, but it’s one that a lot of people support. And it’s never a bad thing to see talented young drivers being given a chance. Hulkenberg made a great impression during his first year with Williams, securing a shock pole position in Brazil (the first for the team since 2005) and finishing the weekend in eighth.

Despite the performance after the last race in Abu Dhabi his fate was sealed when it was announced, to a raft of criticism, that Pastor Maldonado would be replacing him. But with a consistent level of success leading up to joining Formula One it was considered only a matter of time before the young German would line up on the grid once more. And a year spent as a test driver for Force India paid dividends when he replaced an outgoing Adrian Sutil.

Jaime Alguersuari

It may not be the drive he was hoping for, it is certainly not what he would have envisioned doing for a season at the end of 2011, but he’s still very much art of Formula One. As it stands Alguersuari spending 2012 as an ‘expert summeriser’ on the BBC 5 Live team, with rumours circulating that he is negotiating a spot as a McLaren test driver. The arrangement is mutually beneficial, with BBC listeners benefitting from a very recent driver’s opinion and view about on track proceedings, and Alguersuari himself keeping himself in the eyeline of all team principals. Considering the nature of his exit, he may not have left Formula One in the best way, but his on track performance certainly improved noticeably last season, and with youth on his side his chances look good to be suited and booted and back in a seat in the near future.

One Response to “Second Chance Sunday”
  1. Rosie says:

    Great post, I hadn’t realised how many second chance drivers we had on the grid this year.
    I’m so glad Nico Hulkenberg has been given a drive, I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t given a drive last year.
    As for Alguersuari, I read today that he’s been linked with being a Pirelli test driver, I don’t know how much truth is in that though.

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