A look at the new drivers
In 2012 there are only four drivers who are starting their first full season as a Grand Prix driver, and two of those we have seen before.
Here I will profile all the rookies, and assess whether or not they are worthy of their place, and as all four are previous Stars of Tomorrow drivers, the outcome is clear.
ROMAIN GROSJEAN – LOTUS
2003 : Formula Renault 1600 Switzerland Champion
2004 : Formula Renault 2000 France, 7th
2005 : Formula Renault 2.0 France Champion
2006 : Formula 3 Euro Series, 13th
2007 : Formula 3 Euro Series Champion; UpdateF1 Stars of Tomorrow #8
2008 : Formula 1 (Renault), Test Driver; GP2, 4th; GP2 Asia Champion
2009 : Formula 1 (Renualt) Test Driver, Replaced sacked Nelson Piquet Jr from European Grand Prix, no points; GP2, 4th
2010: Auto GP Champion
2011: GP2 Asia Champion, GP2 Champion
Grosjean appeared on first ever the Stars of Tomorrow list in 2007, ranked at number eight. At the time he was a front runner in the Formula Three Euroseries and eventually went onto win the title. I said that he needed to clean up his reputation as he had been involved in on controversial on track incidents during his stay in that championship.
After than he landed himself the top of test and reserve driver for the Renault team and was promoted to GP2. His first time in a GP2 car he dominated the first ever GP2 Asia series and became its first champion, in the main series he showed his potential and was fourth in the overall standings. In 2009 he was dominating the championship, and was a long way ahead of eventual champion Nico Hulkenberg when the call came from the Renault Formula One team to replace the sacked Nelson Piquet Junior, despite not finishing the season he was still fourth.
The call came too soon for him, he did not have enough experience in a Formula One car to take on the role of supporting a team that was centred around Fernando Alonso, We also saw part of his old reputation come back as he was roundly criticised for the four car incident in Belgium that took out championship leader Jenson Button. After seven pointless races he was dropped.
For 2010 instead of returning to GP2 he chose to rebuild his career in AutoGP, where he was the class of the field and won the championship. In 2011 he moved back up into GP2, winning the Asia series again before fulfilling his 2009 promise and winning the main series.
2012 sees him return to the Lotus team to partner returning former World Champion Kimi Raikkonen, how he compares will be one of the most intriguing teammate battles of the season. With more experience I think he can match Kimi, and if the Finn gets bored again midseason I think Grosjean will beat him and cause problems in the championship for the big four teams.
CHARLES PIC – MARUSSIA
2006 : Formula Renault Campus France, 3rd
2007 : Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup, 3rd; Championnat de France Formula Renault 2.0, 4th
2008 : World Series by Renault, 6th
2009 : World Series by Renault, 3rd
2010 : GP2 Series, 10th; GP2 Asia Series, 5th
2011 : Formula 1 (Virgin), Reserve Driver; GP2 Series, 4th
Pic appeared on the 2008 Stars of Tomorrow at number ten, but his low ranking was mainly due to the fact that before his World Series by Renault testing that winter I had never heard of him. After his impressive testing form he moved up to World Series by Renault and was sixth in the championship. He returned to the series in 2009 and improved to third.
On the back of that his move into GP2 came in 2010 where he as a solid tenth in the championship, improving to fourth in 2011. His move to Formula One has not started well with his Marussia failing their crash test; he is yet to drive the 2012 car.
He already has a reputation as a pay driver, as it is his budget that has got him the seat over Jerome D’Ambrosio, and his failure to win a junior championship, but he is a lot more than that.
When he gets experience and the series returns to tracks he knows in Europe he could become the first Marussia driver to challenge Glock.
DANIEL RICCIARDO – TORO ROSSO
2006 : Formula BMW Asia, 3rd; Formula BMW World Final, 5th
2007 : Formula Renault 2.0 Italy, 14th
2008 : Formula Renault 2.0 WEC Champion, Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup, 2nd; RTL GP Masters of Formula 3, DNF
2009 : British Formula 3 International Series Champion, Windsor Arch F3 Macau Grand Prix, DNF; Tango Masters of Formula 3, DNF
2010 : World Series by Renault, 2nd
2011 : Formula 1 (Toro Rosso), Reserve Driver; replaced Narain Karthikeyan at HRT, no points
JEAN-ERIC VERGNE – TORO ROSSO
2007 : Formula Renault Campus France Champion
2008 : Formula Renault 2.0 WEC, 4th; Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup, 6th
2009 : Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup, 2nd; Formula Renault 2.0 WEC, 2nd
2010 : Formula 1 (Toro Rosso), Reserve Driver; Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series Champion; World Series by Renault, 8th; Windsor Arch Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix, 7th; RTL GP Masters of Formula 3, 4th
2011 : Formula 1 (Toro Rosso), Reserve Driver; Formula Renault 3.5 Series, 2nd
For me this is going to be the battle of the season, both are amazing talented, but only one of them will have the honour of replacing Mark Webber at the main Red Bull team when he retires.
For this season Ricciardo has the edge, their results over the last couple of years have been identical with the British Formula Three Championship, second in World Series by Renault and Formula One debut, but the advantage of Ricciardo is that he has done these achievements one year before Vergne did them.
For me Toro Rosso have the most exciting line up of the year and in a very tightly packed midfield with Force India and Sauber battling over sixth place Toro Rosso will be at an early season disadvantage due to the experience factor but from mid-season onwards their inter-team competition will push both drivers to improve to the benefit of the team.
To keep their progression the same I feel Vergne would have been better placed with a smaller team as Ricciardo was, but that is mainly due to the fact that I felt Jaime Alguersuari did a good job for the team and was progressing year or year and should have been retained alongside Ricciardo.
My prediction for rookie of the year is Romain Grosjean, not to surprising, of the four he has by far the best car and the most experience in junior formula and above I predicted him to beat Kimi Raikkonen. Second will be Ricciardo although Vergne will push him close it will again be the experience factor that will settle that battle. Charles Pic will not score any points.
Written by Paul Crossling on Tue, 13 Mar 2012 22:08:23