So as I’m sitting here at 1am (we’re under Daylight Savings, so my body just assumes it’s still 12am) and as I’m trawling through the forums with nothing better to do, I spot this link, “Van der Garde with two ‘concrete’ F1 offers”: http://www.gpupdate.net/en/f1-news/243999/van-der-garde-with-two-concrete-f1-offers/
And he first thing I think of is not “good for him”, but “Van der Who?”, and it got me thinking. We’re getting to a point where there’s a few drivers who will be retiting in the next few years. I don’t expect Mark Webber, Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Jarno Trulli and Nick Heidfeld to be around in a few years, as they obviously can’t drive forever. One they’re gone, it will make Jenson Button, Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso and Vitaly Petrov (oddly enough) among the oldest drivers on the grid. And as I got thinking, I started getting curious (always a bad sign): who will replace them? Where will they come from? Who should we be keeping an eye on in the future?
We’ve already seen and influx of young drivers this season – Kamui Koabayshi, Lucas di Grassi, Nico Hulkenberg – but there are going to be more looking to fill the vacant seats. We’ve already seen Sergio Perez take one. And from the looks of things, Giedo van der Garde is looking to take another. And then there’s Jules Bianchi, who many tip to Go Directly Past GO with Ferrari’s help very soon, and Pastor Malondado as the incumbent GP2 champion and Jerome d’Ambrosio has been linked to the second Virgin seat. But who else is there to fill in the void?
And more importantly, are they cut out for Formula 1? While Perez and Malondado and Bianchi have been going at one another all year, would they normally be able to do so? Consider this: the addition of three new teams to the grid opened up six available spaces. And no less than four GP2 drivers – Hulkenberg, Petrov, di Grassi and Koabayashi joined in the ranks. With Hulkenberg, Petrov and di Grassi finishing first, second and third in the 2009 GP2 Series championship, there was a sudden vaccuum at the top of the GP2 hierachy. Whoever won the 2010 title was always going to be the one to make the most of this situation, but are he and the others neccessarily cut out for Formula 1 simply because they won? After all, the main compeition has gone …