Who will be the first driver to be replaced in 2012?
4th May 2012, 6:35 at 6:35 am #131350
With the recent speculation that Mark Webber will replace Felipe Massa at Ferrari, I started to get curious: who will be the first driver to be replaced this year? Next week’s Spanish Grand Prix will mark one quarter of the 2012 championship complete, and there are already a few drivers who are falling behind. Here are a few who I think really need to start improving, or else risk losing their seats:
Felipe Massa – okay, this one was pretty predictable; Massa is almost certainly under threat. He is nowhere near Alonso in terms of pace, though he does seem to be closing the gap of late. Ferrari are banking on their Barcelona upgrades to get them back on target, and if they work, then the pressure is really going to be on Massa to perform.
Nico Hülkenberg – after four races, Hülkenberg hasn’t really done that much. The only thing of note that I can recall is his first-lap retirement in Australia (though that wasn’t really his fault). The midfield is incredibly tight this year, and while some might argue that this means Hülkenberg should be given the benefit of the doubt, the fact remains that he still has two points to di Resta’s fifteen. Moreover, the tight midfield provides Hülkenberg with the opportunity to really shine, but he’s not doing it.
Kamui Kobayashi – poor old Kamui. Ever since Malaysia, Sauber has been the Sergio Perez show. But being overshadowed by Perez is not going to do him any favours, particularly since it’s been a year since he scored points in three (or more) races in a row. While popular with the fans – particularly in 2010 – Kobayashi seems to have lost the fire that was driving him. And with Esteban Gutiérrez impressing in GP2 and receiving backing from Sauber’s sponsor Carlos Slim, Kobayashi’s days might be numbered. The only thing that might save him is Perez moving on to another team.
Daniel Ricciardo – although highly-rated by Toro Rosso, Riccirado simply hasn’t been delivering in races. The speed is there – he was, after all, sixth in qualifying for Bahrain – but he’s just not converting it into race results. If this keeps up, it might be in Toro Rosso’s interests to remove him and put Buemi in the car to give Vergne a better benchmark.
Jean-Éric Vergne – on the flip side, Jean-Éric Vergne has the race pace, but has been eliminateing in Q1 for three consecutive races, so his potential is being wasted. At this rate, neither driver is making much of a case for being promoted to Red Bull (though if we could combine Ricciardo and Vergne into one person, then they would be in with a chance), so it might be in Toro Rosso’s interests to remove him and put Buemi in the car to give Ricciardo a better benchmark.
Bruno Senna – okay, this might be a controversial one, but I’m not putting Senna forward simply because I dislike him. Although he has more points than Maldonado, Senna does have a habit of making mistakes that have cost him front wings (Australia and Malaysia), or making errors in qualifying (Bahrain) that have resulted in early eliminations. It’s pretty clear that Williams want to get Valtteri Bottas into the car as soon as possible, and the combination of Senna’s frequent mistakes combined with the massive leap forward in car development since 2011 could motivate Williams to dump Senna for Bottas. It might seem unfair, but this was the team that got rid of Damon Hill the year he won the championship. If they can do that, they might be willing to do the same to Senna (whereas Maldonado’s money no doubt secures his seat).
So, that the six drivers who I think are currently at risk of losing their seats, and why. Your turn.4th May 2012, 6:43 at 6:43 am #200615
I trully think we might go a season without drivers losing their spots.
But the most likely one to lose out is Charles Pic, in my view.4th May 2012, 6:51 at 6:51 am #200616
I don’t know about Pic – he did manage to out-qualify Glock in Bahrain, and there’s no immediately-obvious replacement for him.4th May 2012, 7:12 at 7:12 am #200617
True, and it wouldn’t be too based on merit. I just feel the fluctuation in the small teams is greater, they feel freer to try stuff out. Since he’s new, I guess it would be easier to replace him if he slipped.4th May 2012, 7:25 at 7:25 am #200618
Well, he’s paying for the seat. So that helps his cause. And their official test and reserve drivers is Maria de Villota, who probably won’t be up to standard.4th May 2012, 7:29 at 7:29 am #200619
I don’t see anyone losing their seat…yet. Massa has improved considerably and has a strong chance of lasting the season if he does it at least one or two more times. And we all know what happened in 2009. Hulkenberg and Ricciardo have been unlucky, whereas Vergne has shown strong race pace. Senna and Maldonado also have their seats secured for the time being.
As for people being replaced at the end of the season, however…there’s a lot of them. Kobayashi comes to mind – Perez has overpowered him so far, Gutierrez is looking strong and Sauber won’t resist taking their sweet child Felipe back.4th May 2012, 8:12 at 8:12 am #200620
Before the season began most people were tipping either of the two HRT drivers, mostly Karthikeyan:4th May 2012, 8:26 at 8:26 am #200621
@keithcollantine For a moment I was amazed by the fact that people were also tipping De La Rosa to be replaced.
But then I realized that that’s what I replied with as well. Wow.4th May 2012, 8:29 at 8:29 am #200622
Last year was there anyone replaced through the season, other than Perez in Canada when he felt unwell? Then we had that weird scenario of a McLaren suit in a Sauber cockpit.4th May 2012, 8:30 at 8:30 am #200623
@raymondu999 – Yes. Ricciardo replaced the cucumber and Senna replaced Heidfeld. Karun also replaced Trulli for a race, whilst the cucumber also replaced Liuzzi for his home race.4th May 2012, 8:48 at 8:48 am #200624
I can’t say right now that anyone will be replaced based on driver performance. If anyone was to be replaced during the next few race, it would be down to money, so maybe someone like de la Rosa or Pic if their teams are desparate enough.
only thing of note that I can recall is his first-lap retirement in Australia
Hulkenberg was solid in Malaysia and I believe he would have scored more points if someone (Senna maybe?) didn’t punt him off the track (I think that happened).
Ever since Malaysia, Sauber has been the Sergio Perez show
China was more like the Kamui Kobayashi show in my opinion.
it’s been a year since he scored points in three (or more) races in a row
Kobayashi scored in the final two rounds of 2011 and the first round of 2012, so he has scored in three races in a row recently. I think Kobayashi has put that long spell without points behind him, he’s scored in four of the last six races.4th May 2012, 8:58 at 8:58 am #200625
Kobayashi scored in the final two rounds of 2011 and the first round of 2012, so he has scored in three races in a row recently.
That’s semantics, and you know it. It’s not going to be enough to save Kobayashi’s seat.4th May 2012, 8:59 at 8:59 am #200626
China was more like the Kamui Kobayashi show in my opinion.
I can’t agree with that. Sure, he came out on top in a qualifying session that caught a lot of people by surprise, but he was behind Perez by the end of lap one, and only got back ahead because of a problem at Perez’s pit stop.4th May 2012, 9:05 at 9:05 am #200627
Yeah, Kobayashi has been a bit Nobayashi this year.4th May 2012, 9:07 at 9:07 am #200628
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