Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rookie, Sophomore, uh...Veteran?

Lap 16 at Spa-francorchamps might just have been the pivotal point of the 2010 F1 season. With Fernando Alonso having a shocker, Jenson Button's McLaren was running second and was being stalked by Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull. Jenson covered the inside so Vettel flicked hard to the left, lost control and speared into the sidepod of the reigning World Champ. That left Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber to pick up the pieces as the points went from five guys within a race win to just those two.

McLaren were not amused and Red Bull boss, Christian Horner, responded back to the criticism over Vettel's driving, "He is a great racing driver, he is still a very young guy and it is easy to be very critical on somebody who is relatively inexperienced - but for sure he will learn a lot from what happened."

That got me thinking...how much experience do you need to shake off being labelled inexperienced; five seasons, ten, two, where is the cutoff?

I think it depends on exactly what type of experience you're talking about. Taking Red Bull as the example, Mark Webber started in F1 back in 2002 while Vettel came onto the scene in 2007 (for 8 races with BMW and Toro Rosso). However, both guys didn't have topline equipment until 2009, so one could claim that Webber was just as new at racing at the front as Vettel was, despite the five seasons' difference from when they made their debut.

Racing incident or a rookie mistake by someone who should know better?

So is that why the Australian has been more consistant this year than last, because he has those extra years? Maybe, maybe not. Two other 'big name' guys also started in 2007; Lewis Hamilton and Robert Kubica (ok, Bob had six starts in 2006 after Villeneuve left the team) and while Lewis missed out on nabbing the title in that year with a rookie error at Japan, he made up for it by winning it in 2008. Kubica meanwhile got a semi-topline car in 2008 with the BMW. It wasn't on the pace of the Ferrari or McLaren everywhere, only at a few tracks, yet that didn't stop Robert from taking the title fight, mathematically anyway, up to the second last race.

No then, perhaps that isn't the reason why Sebastian has been hot and cold in 2010. And the pressure can't be it either since I'd wager Hamilton was under more in 2008 than Vettel is this year (he's not considered 'baby Schumi' for nothing). Nor really can age as Lewis and Robert both were mighty consistant in 2008 when they were the same age, 23, as Sebastian is now...and they had less races under their belts.

Back to the original question then; just what defines being called an experienced racecar driver? Personally, I think that in F1, it's either four years or two with a great team, whatever arrives first.

Which means, Mr Horner, that I don't believe you can use that excuse with Vettel since he's at that point now. Basically, Mark's done the better job thus far this season, despite everyone saying Vettel would blow his doors off just like he did in the points last year. Either that or Sebastian is just trying too hard, which isn't an excuse either as I presume the team have more than enough resources to deal with that situation...if not, they can always phone Kristen I guess *laugh*

So what do you reckon the changeover point in NASCAR is, when does the guy behind the wheel become a grizzled veteran driver?


  1. tez,

    Your analogy about top flight equipment carries a lot of weight for along with that comes top flight ownership, management and pit personnel. A young driver should gain on the experience score with all those things working for him. It's more likely that a young driver will run to the front of the pack where I believe mishaps are less likely to occur driving for a good team. By running up front the odds of winning now and then go way up too.

    One example of a rookie running with a top team in NASCAR would be Joey Logano. We know he's got the tools concerning how to handle a race car, but he lacks the experience of running against top flight competitors. He's into his second year of learning.

    How long in NASCAR to be considered a veteran? I'm going to say 3-4 years with top equipment and possibly 5 or more without it...

    I think Kyle Busch fits that criteria based on his current standing in the Chase and the time spent with top teams.

  2. and yet, it's difficult to think that Kyle, at just 25 years old, is a veteran, lol

    ignoring age though...yeah, I'd agree with the 3-4 years with top teams.

  3. thank you, Lewis, for pulling a bonehead move at Monza that proves my theory about you being experienced was in error *rolls eyes*