The Rookie Digest: 1 – 4 Part 1

Here we are, four races into what has been a truly exciting opening to the 2012 Formula One season. Four races, four winners, each unexpected in their own way. To recap each race click here to get access to all the race reports so far, it’s worth it just to remind yourselves how different they are to 2011, where by now Vettel already had an iron grip on his second championship title. Vettel might be leading the championship at the present time, but he’s far from in control, and Red Bull Racing are not exactly running away from the pack either.

But enough about last year’s winners, the Digest is all about the Rookies. Charles Pic of Marussia and Jean-Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso are the official 2012 Rookies, fresh out of the box and onto the grid. Then the Lotus duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg of Force India, Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan of  HRT are the Second Chancers, having been around for a few laps before.

Charles Pic

Much like many before him, the young French driver is starting his Formula One career in a backmarker team Marussia, as they are known this year since the title sponsors took over from Virgin. Beginning at the back of anything isn’t easy, but partnering up with a vastly more experienced driver who has helped develop the team since inception is really going to test even the most skilled driver.

Charles Pic Timo Glock
Qualifying 1 3
Race 0 4

Above are the basic statistics between the pair, the only we can considering as the disparities between Marussia and Toro Rosso are too great. So the only marker Pic has is Timo Glock, which is not someone he was expected to make inroads on quickly, except between Australia and Bahrain Pic has gotten up to speed rather quickly, impressing onlookers. Olivier Panis, former Formula One driver and manager of the young French driver, reported that Ron Dennis came to speak to him on the grid indicating that Pic’s progress has been making waves in the upper echelons. It helps of course that there is a technical link up between Marussia and McLaren, but Panis explains, “He is building an image slowly, which is positive. He has earned the respect of the paddock, and now we have to continue.” That is certainly true if he is to avoid the same fate that befell Lucas di Grassi and Jerome d’Ambrosio who are now swimming around in the background, not really where they deserve to be.

Races 4
Points 0
Retirements 1
Out-Qualified Team mate 1
Higher race position than team mate 0
Highest qualifying position 21
Highest race position 15
Average qualifying position 21.75
Average race position 19.75

Looking at some more in depth statistics Pic has set off solidly, but has done no better than d’Ambrosio did last year (his first four races 14, RET (accident), 20, 20), in fact he is one race position behind. In comparison Pic’s results so far are 15, 20, 20, RET (engine), so manages to brush his retirement away as out of his control. The most positive aspect to look at is the difference between where he starts on the grid and where he finished on race day, aided of course by a few retirements here and there.

It was in the last race that Pic got ahead of Glock for the first time in qualifying, so if he really wants to make use of that McLaren link Panis is so ready to highlight, he’s got to consistently outperform his more experienced team mate on Sunday. Impressing Ron Dennis or not, when your team is counting the pennies you’ve got to make your results count to ward off those with a bigger cheque book.

Jean-Eric Vergne

Being part of the Red Bull young drivers programme is a double edged sword, shine brilliantly and you’ll be cosseted and led along a gilded path, not meet expectations and a P45 might just be winging its way to you. For both Toro Rosso drivers this year the bar has been set high, following the departure of Alguersuari and Buemi the sister team in yet again on the look out for the next Sebastian Vettel. Who will then partner the man himself, although when that is is another matter entirely. Dr Helmut Marko said of last year’s duo, “We didn’t see in them any possibility of growth. Both are Grand Prix drivers, but for us that’s not enough. We want Grand Prix winners.” Marko is not one to mince his words, Verne and Ricciardo know exactly what they have to prove to the decision makers.

Jean-Eric Vergne Daniel Ricciardo
Qualifying 0 4
Race 3 1

It’s clear to see that Ricciardo can get that lap in on Saturday under pressure, this is not to say that Vergne is a slouch in qualifying. However as the old adage goes in Formula One, ‘you don’t get any points on Saturday’, and it’s on Sunday that Verge has Ricciardo under control. It was widely assumed that the Australian would have the edge thanks to half a season on the grid with HRT last year, but the Frenchman has double the points of team mate so far.

Races 4
Points 4
Retirements 0
Out-Qualified Team mate 0
Higher race position than team mate 3
Highest qualifying position 11
Highest race position 8
Average qualifying position 16.5
Average race position 12.25

Vergne made up 10 positions and scored his four points in Malaysia, the race after Ricciardo scored two at home, in difficult conditions which showed maturity under pressure and ability to take advantage of a mixed-up field; he managed to stay on track on intermediates when some struggled on full wets.Looking above at his statistics Vergne is moving forward on the grid when it matters, but to break into the midfield he along with the team desperately need to start banking those points as they are eleven points adrift of Force India.

The rookie is currently in the enviable position of being ahead the likes of Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa, his team mate and their midfield competition, and continues to bring the fight to the intra-team battle. And while he’s only four races into his burgeoning Formula One career, Vergne isn’t afraid to speak his mind saying his considers himself no more of a rookie than Ricciardo and several months ago he declared he would have done no worse than Webber in 2011. Conversely he is reveals that he doesn’t see himself in an immediate race for the ‘other’ Red Bull seat with Ricciardo.

Part 2


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