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Driver Form Guide Part 2

Sebastien Bourdais

Bourdais deserved more from last season. Once he adapted to the Toro Rosso he showed great speed. He should have got great results in Italy, Spa and Belgium but luck eluded him.

By the end of the season, he wasn’t actually that far away from Sebastien Vettel’s pace. In 2009, I am tipping him to be a major surprise.

In 2009, the car should really suit him. He will be driving on slick tyres which he drove on in Champcar.

Also in Champcar he was used to cars with more emphasis on mechanical grip. He has a very inexperienced team mate, so he will very much be the man the team relies on. He will show the F1 paddock in 2009 why he won four Champcar titles.

In Champcar, he also used the “the push to pass” button. If Toro Rosso use KERs this season, he may be well prepared on how to make the most of it. Expect a few podiums from Bourdais in 2009.

 

Sebastien Buemi

Buemi’s signature for Toro Rosso was quite a surprise. Buemi is extremely inexperienced and didn’t figure heavily in the GP2 title race. It’s true he won twice in GP2 in 2008. Although these both came in the sprint races, where he took advantage of the reverse grid system.

However, he seems very well grounded, and in no doubt how big his challenge is in 2009. He seems to be quite bright and intelligent, and willing to put as much work into it as it needs. He has already put a lot of miles in already.

Whilst he won’t have a brilliant season, I don’t think he will be a complete flop as some have already predicted. He will have a solid, but not spectacular, debut season.  Whether it will be enough to convince the F1 paddock that he deserves to be around for many seasons to come remains to be seen.

 

Mark Webber

Mark Webber has always shown that he has great speed. However big results have never been forthcoming for him. Without some of the terrible bad luck he has endured, he may have won a race or two by now.

In qualifying, he is right up there with Trulli. His qualifying pace in poor machinery has always been magic. With the grid so tight, qualifying form really could be more critical than ever. Mark can benefit from that.

His race pace is also an area where has made big strides forward. If Red Bull gives him the car, then there is no doubt that he will perform. The F1 paddock has always been split down the middle on how good he is. This is Mark’s chance to prove all those sceptics wrong.

How his pace compares to Vettel will give us a great indication on how strong he really is once and for all.

Hopefully by the start of the season he will be fully recovered from his broken leg. Apparently he also his broke his shoulder in the bike crash. This may scupper him at the start of the season.

 

Sebastien Vettel

With his fantastic personality and surprise results in the final third of 2008, Vettel has become a firm favourite amongst F1 fans. He is already regarded as one of the best drivers in F1.

2009 though will show whether that last comment is accurate or not. It’s easy to pop up from nowhere and spring a shock when nobody expects you to. Life is far easier when there is no pressure on you for a result. Vettel’s 2009 challenge on the other hand couldn’t be more different.

Every weekend there will be great expectation on him to get a great result. He will be under pressure every race. He also is up against a very tough teammate, who will not be very easy to beat (and according to Vettel not very easy to understand either). He has never dealt with huge pressure, or faced negative media attention.

2009 will show just how good this guy is. Is he a cut above the rest just like Schumacher and Senna were back in their early career? Or is he just merely a decent driver? 2009 will answer tells is just how good this guy is.

I am sure Vettel will drive some more extraordinary races in 2009. However I also expect him to face a few reality checks, and that won’t do him any harm at all.

 

Nico Rosberg

This season is extremely important for Rosberg. He has to hope that Williams provide him with a great car. He needs to show the F1 paddock why he was one of the most talked about drivers in 2007.

In 2008, he started to fall off the radar of the big teams. However when the Williams was fast, he showed that he was very quick. In Singapore and Melbourne, when he got on to the podium, he was superb.

Clearly on a day he has a fast car he can deliver. If he gets a fast car in 2009, then he will show the other teams why he should still be on their radar. However if Williams has another poor season, and he isn’t able to get the results he deserves, he may regret not bashing Ron Dennis’s door down back at the end of 2007.

This season could well end up being critical, and decide where his F1 future takes him. Nico Rosberg’s career is currently at a crossroads.

Kazuki Nakajima

Nakajima has some of the makings of being a decent F1 driver. He is extremely intelligent. He doesn’t crack under pressure. Whenever there is a result to be had he goes and gets it.

He has shown that he is good at keeping his head when others are losing theirs. It’s fair to say that many people weren’t expecting much from him last season, but did deliver a few accomplished performances.

His raw pace is his biggest issue. If he can’t get himself sorted out in qualifying, then he could find himself near the back of the grid, therefore restricting the impact he can make in races.

The grid is that tight that lacking a few tenths over a single lap could cost a driver many positions on the grid. This is the huge risk Nakajima faces.

If he falls down that trap then 2009 may end up being a tough season for Kazuki. If he doesn’t find those extra tenths he is lacking, then his long term F1 future is in big doubt. His performance was satisfactory in 2008, but 2009 has to be much better. 2009 is a huge year for Nakajima.

 

Jenson Button

Jenson would have been far too good not to have been on the grid in 2009. He has so many skills. He is one of the smoothest drivers in F1. He is very good at overtaking. He is extremely good in the wet conditions. 

He is great at leading and inspiring a team. He has also matured through his years in F1. The fact that he didn’t say a bad word about the team in the last couple of years speaks volumes about him.

After his career almost evaporated he now appreciates what he so nearly lost. For Jenson this is like a brand new start. He is now fully motivated again, and just wants to race more than ever.

If the Brawn GP car is as good as it’s cracked up to be then expect him to fly. Throughout Jenson’s career he has always excelled in great cars (like he got in 2004 and for a time in 2006).

His weakness in his F1 career has been making the most of cars with shortfalls (think back to last season and 2001 with Benetton). He could well win races this season. But does Jenson have the outright raw pace to beat the likes of Raikkonen, Alonso, Kubica and Hamilton in a straight championship fight? Let’s wait and see.

 

Rubens Barrichello  

Rubens Barrichello is now the most experienced driver in F1 history, and the oldest driver on the current grid. However, despite taking part in so many races, Rubens still looks as motivated and enthusiastic as he did all those years ago. He seems to have a big smile on his face more than ever.

More importantly, he still has the speed. Even though his car last year was a complete dog, he still pulled out some great performances out of the bag. Rubens is a very adaptable driver. He will make the most out of any car that he is given. He has been great at pulling off shock results throughout his F1 career.

His continued dedication cannot be questioned either. He has gone on the “KERs diet,” along with a number of the drivers to ensure that he is at no weight disadvantage in 2009. If the Brawn GP is might quick Rubens could well show the paddock that the so called “old drivers “ can still win in F1.

It would also show that teams don’t need to search for the next Lewis Hamilton, in order to bring them success. Ross Brawn could have hired Bruno Senna this season. Instead he opted for an experienced driver with a proven pedigree.

It could well turn out to be one of the most inspired decisions made all season. Rubens still clearly has it. He will be one of the feel good factors of 2009.

 

Adrian Sutil

This season really is do or die for Adrian. It is clear that he is a talented driver. However he hasn’t shown this talent often enough. If it wasn’t for that superb drive in Monaco last season, he probably wouldn’t even be on the grid this season.

That one race showed that he is a talented driver. However he didn’t show anything else during the whole of 2008. His main issue is that he is a very aggressive driver. Therefore he is really hard on his tyres, compromising his race pace.

With the rear slicks tyres said to wear quite badly in race trim this issue won’t just disappear. Sutil has to change his driving style to be easier on his tyres.

At least a Force India capable of challenging for points will allow everyone to assess his talent more accurately. If he gets a couple of points finishes in 2009 then he has an F1 future.

 

Giancarlo Fisichella

Overall Giancarlo drove very well in 2008. He did the best with the machinery that he was given. Throughout his career Fisichella has driven some superb races in cars that are under par.

At Renault, Fisichella never got it together. This is probably because he doesn’t do very well under pressure. In a leading team the pressures is constantly on. At Force India there is no pressure on him to deliver results, because nobody expects it.

That’s the sort of situation Giancarlo thrives under. He is also very experienced now, and is good when it comes to car setup and development. I would say that when it comes to racing he is a good all rounder.

If Force India allows him to compete for points, then expect Fisi to deliver a few shock results in 2009.

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March 24, 2009 - Posted by | Main Features

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