Don’t know why the FIA denied Loeb a superlicence to partner Vettel at the end of 2007 – they’ll usually hand them out to anyone who is willing to pay the cash (Yuji Ide!). It would have been great to see the umpteenth time World Rally Champion mix it up in an F1 car. I don’t think he was that far off the pace either in a test session? Same with Rossi – he was originally a Karting champion, before going for the bike route as it was more affordable for his family. He definitely could have driven in F1/for Ferrari, and it’s rumoured there was a chance too in the same year.
Guys like Liuzzi and Pantano were world class in karts (Magnussen, Trulli, Liuzzi, Van der Garde all World Karting Champions) – Alonso was himself, along with Raikkonen, Button…. you get my point. Basically, they know that those guys should have had a decent F1 chance, as with the right preparation they would have been on the money. Pantano was going to partner Webber at Jaguar, but got outbid last minute by Klien and Red Bull (look where that went). Hence he got stuck in the Jordan that year, where backing the experienced Heidfeld was their only chance of points. The Jordan and Minardi that year were basically like the Caterham and Marussia this year, only lots of retirements meant they could sneak a few points if lucky. Liuzzi got shafted by Red Bull (promised a full time drive and given 4 races) after dominating F3000 in 2004 (again for Marko’s Klien) and never seemed to recover.
Guys like Davidson as well, Wheldon, Paffett etc. all won titles in Karting like Button, but didn’t get that break/have cash to make it and hence had to take what was available (test roles, one off drives etc.). That’s why Wheldon went to America, and dominated IndyCar in 2005-6, along with the similar no F1 chances gotten top drivers there like Dixon, Franchitti etc. who could all be competitive in F1. For the guys who went on to be successful in other categories, we can only see what their junior single-seater ladder results were to compare them to the F1 greats.
It’s unlucky we didn’t get to see Wimille vs. Fangio in F1. Wimille was probably France’s first WDC.