The Rookie Digest: 13 – 16 Part 4

Both of the 2012  rookie drivers are well over the halfway point and in this penultimate installment it’s clear this has been a tough four races for the pair. Leaving the shores of Europe for the Far East near the end of an already busy season is a test for any driver, but with the extra pressure of being a rookie added those shoulders can begin to feel a little crowded. And if they weren’t feeling the pressure before, retirements certainly don’t make their lives any easier.

Previously: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Half Term Report: Pic and Half Term Report: Vergne

Charles Pic

Charles Pic

Timo Glock

Qualifying

1

3

Race

1

3

Things certainly aren’t as rosy as they were in Europe for the young Frenchman, in the last four races Pic was level with Glock but since the flyaways began again he’s struggled to get ahead of the German. With several years more experience it’s not surprising for Glock to get the upper hand at unfamiliar circuits for Pic, apart from Abu Dhabi Pic has yet to spend considerably time if any at the remaining stops on the calendar. Things are only going to get tougher.

Races

4 (ITA – KOR)

Points

0

Retirements

1

Out-Qualified Team mate

1

Higher race position than team mate

1

Highest qualifying position

21

Highest race position

16

Average qualifying position

21.5

Average race position

17.75

Although the straight head to head suggests otherwise, even with suffering a retirement, Pic has improved his average qualifying and race results which is of course important at this stage of his career. And as the season begins to head towards the final races Pic has posted his best set of averages yet which proves over that over the course of the year he’s shown a marked improvement, although the Frenchman hasn’t been able to match or better his result of 15th he achieved in Australia and Valencia, thanks to a penalty.

In 2011 Monza was the last race in the GP2 series for Pic (excluding the proceeding Asia series) and racing for Badwa Addax he took second in the feature race, something he couldn’t achieve this time around without a major incident in the race. However he remained close to Glock during qualifying with only 3 hundredths between them, and although the pair were lapped in the race Pic got ahead where Glock’s damaged front wing hampered his race. Dealing with front tyre degradation Pic’s race wasn’t an easy one either and an extra stop which lost him position to the Caterhams ahead.

Singapore was a marvel for the Marussia team when Glock took a shock 12th even though he made contact with the wall early on, the result put the team into 10th in the constructors title which has huge implications regards money. But for Pic it was another career best of 15th until his actions in the final practice session came back to haunt him, in FP3 it was deemed he had overtaken a car after passing four red flags triggered by Petrov’s broken suspension. His punishment was 20 seconds added to his race time and he would be joining his race engineer for a days community service for the FIA Action for Road Safety campaign.

Next up was Japan and another new challenge with a new track to conquer, and what a challenge it was for the rookie. Just off the pace of Glock in qualifying, a tough first stint on the hard tyre his fortunes were improved with the switch to the soft compound but in his final pit stop he overshot the pitbox which lost him precious time. Then as the race finally came back to him high air consumption on the engine that had been managed ended his race early.

Korea was yet another new circuit for Pic to master and on Saturday Pic got himself ahead of Glock in qualifying by a slim margin, however that lead was brief when an engine change demoted him to the back of the grid. Stuck behind the much slower HRT cars the time he lost was too much to make up when he did eventually get past to challenge the Caterham duo. Instead he lined up behind Glock again, however his pace in the later stages of the race impressed the team and his fastest lap was 8 tenths quicker than his team mate.

Jean-Eric Vergne

Jean-Eric Vergne

Daniel Ricciardo

Qualifying

0

4

Race

1

3

The other rookie on the grid was beginning to gain a little momentum on his team mate, however a double retirement seemed to stall his progress after an impressive showing in Belgium. From a career equalling best of 8th he headed away from Europe with a tough couple of races where Ricciardo had taken the opposite trajectory, aided no doubt by the Australian’s partial season with HRT last year.

Races

4 (ITA– KOR)

Points

4

Retirements

2

Out-Qualified Team mate

0

Higher race position than team mate

1

Highest qualifying position

16

Highest race position

8

Average qualifying position

16.75

Average race position

16.25

Vergne has demonstrated consistency in qualifying, however it has often seen him have to fight hard to stay out of the drop out zone and as can be seen from the difference between average qualifying and race positions he’s not making huge gains on race day.  However before deeper comparisons are made, in this set of four races Vergne has only finished two races which have had an adverse effect on his statistics.

Monza is a circuit Vergne has won at before for Carlin last year in the Formula Renault 3.5 series so it was a familiar territory to end the European stint on, and although it wasn’t a fantastic weekend for the team, Vergne found himself taking the company line a little too seriously. On the ninth lap of the historic circuit as he headed into the Rettifilo chicane a rear suspension failure turned dramatic as the car launched into the air after hitting the kerbs. Lucky not to flip the vehicle over he walked away with nothing more than a stiff back and a different perspective on how Red Bull gives you wings.

For Vergne, his first trip to Singapore probably wasn’t one he was going to forget, with pace in the car improving throughout the weekend, a surprising early end to his race ruined a chance to better his career best result. With the safety car even playing in his favour it took the most experienced driver to cut short his day and snatch a possible seventh placed finish. With his focus directed fully on Perez ahead of him Vergne didn’t expect Schumacher to brake too late and underestimate the tyre grip after the first safety car period.

Another new circuit for Vergne to contend with and after two retirements, neither his fault, the desire to rectify the non-finishing situation must have been strong. Even if it was to go home empty handed. Penalised three grid positions for blocking Senna during the first qualifying session he started behind and subsequently lost a lot of time behind Kovalainen, and dodging a backwards Rosberg (sent out of the race by Kobayashi) didn’t help matters.

Korea holds good memories for Vergne as that was where he took to the track on Friday for Toro Rosso last year, and with that previous knowledge safely filed away he dug it out and put it to good use. Making up nine positions from the start he took a measured approach to get himself into the points for the third time of the season, notably eighth every time. Fighting with Perez, Di Resta and Hamilton along the way, as well as his team mate Vergne again demonstrated his ability to better his qualifying efforts above that of other drivers simply retiring.

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