In the 2010 Formula 1 season, there were 6 drivers competing in their first full season of Formula 1. Some made their debut with experienced, successful teams, others with new teams who had never entered a grand prix before. And all experienced different levels of success and disappointment. Here I look back at how they have done, and how much of a future I think they can have in the sport
Nico Hulkenberg – Williams
‘The Hulk’ had what can probably be described as a mixed season during his first season in Formula 1. It would be fair to say he never had a great first half to the season, having a run of poor races and only scoring one point in the first 9 races of the season. He was rarely on the pace and did not look like the driver who had dominated A1GP and GP2 earlier in his career.
But a points finish at Silverstone seen him turn around his season, and the second half of the season was much more promising, with the highlight being his sensational pole position at the Brazilian Grand prix. A final total of 22 points was fair in the end, yet he never seemed to match Rubens Barrichello all year. But he does have potential, and he has been touted as a future Ferrari driver. He is currently looking for a seat for 2011 after announcing his parting with Williams, and Force India is a possible destination. If he continues to improve he will no doubt be a future grand prix winner.
PM Rating: 7/10
Kamui Kobayashi – Sauber
After impressing everyone in the final two races of 2009 with Toyota, there seemed to be a lot expected of the Japanese driver in 2010. But it was more Koba-crashi than Kobayashi in the first few races of the season, with the worst incident being his first-lap crash in Australia. Six retirements in the first 8 races meant that many people began to wonder whether his form at the end of 2009 was just a flash in the pan.
But, rather like Hulkenberg, his season turned around, beginning with a great drive at Valencia where, after pitting late on for the softer tyre, he managed to overtake Sebastien Buemi and Fernando Alonso within the last 2 laps to finish 7th. From then on, he was a regular points scorer, scoring points in 7 of the next 10 races. The highlight of his season was undoubtedly his home race, where 4 daring overtaking moves into the Hairpin, not usually an overtaking spot for an F1 car, seen him named by many as their driver of the race. He has re-signed for Sauber for next season, and with the team receiving extra funding next year, he should regularly score points, and is well on the way to becoming Japan’s most successful F1 driver of all time.
PM Rating: 7.5/10
Vitaly Petrov – Renault
Russia’s first Formula 1 driver entered the sport on the back of a successful season in GP2, finishing as runner-up to Nico Hulkenberg. And as team-mate to Robert Kubica he was never going to be measured against the Pole, and therefore was expected to drive steady and pick up points for the team. However, Petrov didn’t exactly meet expectations during his first season in the spot, never matching his team-mate at all during the year.
Although the Russian did have some good solid drives, such as seventh place in China and fifth in Hungary, these were few and far between – so much so that at one point there were rumoured to be 7 different drivers lined up to replace him next year. Perhaps the most memorable part of his maiden season in the spot will be Alonso’s inability to pass him in the final race in Abu Dhabi, ruining the Spaniard’s chances of winning the title – not exactly the best memory you want to have. Renault have decided to retain him for next season, but rather like Piquet a couple of years ago, he will have to raise his game otherwise he will be looking for another job come mid-season
PM Rating: 6/10
Jaime Alguersuari – Toro Rosso
Although he took part in the final third of the 2009 season, this was Jaime’s first full season of Formula 1 which is why I have included him. And Spain’s ‘other’ driver did impress during the season. He matched and even out-performed team-mate Sebastien Buemi throughout the season, with the pair the most evenly matched team-mates in the field.
However I think Jaime will be disappointed with his final total – two 9th places and a tenth meant he only finished the season with 5 points, despite often running in the tail end of the points at many races. He will be wanting to build and improve on this next year, and hope that his talent will be rewarded with a seat in the senior Red Bull team in 2012.
PM Rating: 6.5/10
Bruno Senna – Hispania
Having had zero testing before the season, and having not driven a Formula 1 car since late 2008, this season was always going to be a trying one for the nephew of Ayrton. Bruno wants to prove that his name alone isn’t the reason why he has made it this far, and to be fair he did produce a few good drives throughout the season, although they were disguised due to the poor performance of the Hispania car.
When he was replaced at the British GP, many thought that was the end of his season. But he came back at the next race in Germany, and since that race he was never beaten by a team-mate. However, he was outperformed in qualifying by both Yamamoto and Klien towards the end of the year, despite having considerably more time in the car than both of them. There is rumours that he could yet end up at Lotus or even Renault next season, which is a reflection on how well he has done this year, but the Brazilian could yet still find himself back out of F1 looking in.
PM Rating: 6/10
Karun Chandhok – Hispania
Like team-mate Senna, Karun started the season with no testing and no expectations. Yet India’s second Formula 1 driver done a good job in the circumstances. Despite only driving for half the season (making his last appearance at the British GP), Karun finished as Hispania’s top driver of the season, with his 14th place finishes in Australia and Monaco enough to help the team, somehow, finish above Virgin in the constructor’s standings – no mean feat considering Virgin had a full winter testing and a lot more finances available.
At the minute Karun appears to be aiming for a testing role for next season, possibly with Force India or Lotus, with the aim of making an appearance at his country’s inaugural race next season. He deserves another chance, in my opinion, in Formula 1 in a car where he can show his talents better.
PM Rating: 6/10
Lucas Di Grassi – Virgin
Having spent 4 years racing in GP2, Lucas finally made the step up to Formula 1 with the Virgin team this season, having previously been a test driver for Renault, and almost replacing Nelsinho Piquet in 2009. But it was a testing year for the Brazilian, who lined up alongside former GP2 rival Timo Glock. Often Lucas found himself fighting with the Hispania cars to stay off the last place on the grid – something he should have been above considering the pace of his team-mate.
Although Lucas did perform better in the races, including taking the team’s first race finish in Malaysia, he did not do enough in my opinion to warrant a second season of F1. I was disappointed with his performances – and crashing on the way to the grid in Japan didn’t help his cause either. Having been replaced by Jerome D’ambroiso for next season, he could perhaps follow the example of Glock, and move back to GP2 and rebuild his reputation before once again attempting Formula 1.
PM Rating: 5/10