It was a weekend filled with chaos for the newest class of rookies to join the Formula 1 championship. This weekend had pretty much everything! Dry running during Friday practice, torrential rain and an interrupted qualifying session on Saturday, finish qualifying and then start your first round of the championship on Sunday in tricky conditions. At the end of the day however, all five rookies kept the car on the island and finished their first ever grand prix.
Both Valtteri Bottas and Jules Bianchi showed a lot of promise as they should have. Bottas had been signed to his Williams contract based more on talent than financing and was expected to deliver. Not only did Bottas make it out of Q1, but firmly thrashed his teammate Pastor Maldonado. The Venezuelan complained about his car all weekend while Bottas put his head down and drove the car. It was Pastor that looked to be the rookie all weekend as Valtteri put together a good performance to finish P14. Bianchi who was a very late signing showed some truly awesome pace in his underpowered Marussia-Cosworth. Bianchi put the Russian squad comfortably ahead of Caterham and didn’t put a wheel wrong. Bianchi would end up finishing P15.
“I had a good start from my grid position and it felt great to be back racing again. A small mistake a few laps in cost me some places though. We got the maximum performance we could from the car today and although the pace isn’t there yet, there are still some positives to take away. The next race is only a week away, so we will work very hard to prepare as best we can and try to score our first points of the season”. – Valtteri Bottas, Williams F1
The highest placing rookie of the weekend was Esteban Gutierrez. The Mexican put together a respectable performance as the lone Sauber on Sunday and finished P13. Good result after a disastrous time during Q1 on Saturday as he wrecked the car in the fading moments of that rain soaked nightmare. I still don’t know what to make of young Gutierrez though. Speaking strictly from the point that the Sauber is one of the better mid-pack cars, how does his skill as a driver stack up against his peers?
The other two rookies (Max Chilton/Giedo Van der Garde) also did well to finish the race. Especially Van der Garde who looked like he did not belong on the track during Saturday’s attempt at qualifying. I had made a comment on Twitter (@Shaunpaddock) about his terrible driving and had a few responses that concurred. I understand what it means to be a rookie in such a competitive sport, but his demonstration on Saturday was pretty much as bad as it can get for a rookie. Luckily the drivers make their money during the race and both he and Chilton finished the race which is very respectable as Australia usually sees pretty high attrition rates.
Overall, I think for sure Bottas and Bianchi performed the best given their cars were not overly competitive. The problem is the other three are going to have a tough time selling their place on the grid I think, especially with all of the talk in regards to having too many pay drivers in the series. There is still a full season of competition to prove that piece, but overall the weekend resulted in a success for all five Formula 1 rookies.