The F1 silly season and its implications
Just three days into the new year, and already the Formula 1 silly season is drawing to a close – or at least threatening to do so – with the first test of 2012 now little more than one month away.
Ostensibly two seats remain to be decided, at Williams and HRT. Speculation continues that some confirmed drivers may yet face competition for their drives, but all rumours for the moment remain precisely that.
At Williams, the frontrunners appear to be Rubens Barrichello and Bruno Senna – while Adrian Sutil has also been linked with the seat alongside Pastor Maldonado.
Less has been said about HRT meanwhile, although Jaime Alguersuari could profit from the team’s Hispanic ambitions following his departure from Toro Rosso.
The quarter are part of a number of drivers from 2011 now looking for a seat in this year’s F1 world championship, following a busy off-season which has implications in the Castrol EDGE Rankings.
Russia’s Vitaly Petrov is a case in point. The 27-year-old rose as high as 45th during a triumphant GP2 campaign in 2010, and continued to climb the Rankings at Renault, ending 2011 in 38th. He now looks to have been cut adrift of the F1 fraternity however.
The effect of competing in F1 is pronounced in terms of Rankings positions, with 17 of the 2011 regulars inside the top 100. As Petrov faces up to an uncertain future, he therefore also faces up to a potential slide back down the Rankings tables.
A similar fate could meet a number of drivers from the 2011 F1 grid, even when discounting Alguersuari, Barrichello, Senna and Sutil.
Sebastien Buemi (65), Nick Heidfeld (119), Jerome D’Ambrosio (126) and Vitantonio Liuzzi (185) all look likely to miss out entirely in 2012, while Narain Karthikeyan (569) and Karun Chandhok’s (1444) occasional appearances look the best they might hope for in 2012.
As that group faces a Rankings fall, others can therefore expect to rise up the Castrol EDGE Rankings order.
Nico Hulkenberg is the shining example, having dropped to 2555th following a season on the sidelines.
The 24-year-old, GP2 champion in 2009 and a polesitter for Williams in 2010, has an all-time high of 26th but plummeted as a result of inactivity this season.
With an undoubted talent proven at every level he can reasonably expect to come close to, or even better, team-mate Paul di Resta next year, and can therefore aspire to somewhere around the Scot’s current ranking of 36th.
Charles Pic, Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean could also rise, but while Hulkenberg’s progress is guaranteed, theirs will be far more dependent on results.
Pic for example currently sits 95th – a position he will be hard pushed to maintain at Virgin, who are yet to score a championship point. Grosjean is in a similar situation – Renault may be more competitive, but a superb year in GP2 saw him climb to 34th, a difficult position to defend.
Raikkonen lies 205th after a spell in the WRC which was frequently interrupted by retirements. A solid season for Renault should therefore be enough to return him to the top 100, a ranking he has not troubled since October 2010.