Yeah, you couldn’t have picked a worse time to start this thread. Particularly with Petrov: he was on the pace of Kubica in Silverstone until a mechanical fault knocked him out of qualifying, but he finished at Hockenheim within sight of Kubica, and now he’s out-qualified the Pole in Hungary. He’s easily been the most impressive rookie this season since he’s been running in the points or fighting for them at every race except Canada, he’s estabished a reputation – notably with Hamilton in Malaysia and Alonso in Turkey – as being relatively immune to pressure and someone who is not easily intimidated by the sight of a Ferrari or a McLaren in his rear view mirrors. He also doesn’t give up places easily; just ask Alonso. Ferrari told Alonso that Petrov would crack “in a few laps” in Istanbul, yet Alonso spent most of the race behind the Russian. If Petrov had gotten the points he deserved in Turkey, people would probably be saying something else entirely about him. The problem is that he’s in a highly-rated team with a highly-rated team-mate, but unlike 99% of all drivers, he didn’t have the base education in karting and Formula 3 that everyone gets. He started out racing in Formula Lada, which despite the name is actually a touring car series (it’s called “Formula” because the cars are all identical). The first time he drove open-wheelers competitively was in GP2. And unlike the Hulkenbergs and Koabayshis of this world, Petrov didn’t have an established, working relationship with a team. Hulkenberg was with Williams for years – and was being groomed for Formula 1 from the moment Williams spotted him – whilst Kobayashi was with Toyota. All things considered, Vitaly Petrov has probably had the greatest odds stacked against him – and he’s still the best rookie in the points standings. Yet his pace this wekeend has been incredible. If he hadn’t done that second run in Q2, he would have had a set of fresh super-softs for Q3. Imagine what he could have done then; he’s convinced he could have been higher up, but the team wanted to secure the place in Q3 first.
If there’s a driver who needs replacing, it’s Nico Hulkenberg. He’s been on Barrichello’s pace all year and has been out-qualifying him on occasion, but he’s only finished one race in a position that was higher than he started in. His races have been full of stupid unforced errors, and he’s generally been his own worst enemy. Take Canada for example: he tried to pass Sutil (or maybe Rosberg; the angle was hard to tell) at the hairpin, even though there was no room. He needlessly damaged his front wing and then sped in the pits when replacing it. Two stupid, unnecessary errors that took him out of a promising points finish.