New balls, please

The rules in F1 have stayed pretty much as they were for this year, with the notable and very welcome exception of the vanity panels that enable F1 cars to look like F1 cars and not four wheeled porpoises. 

But one non-regulated change that grabs the attention is the number of brave young men that are coming into the sport for the first time in 2013. 

The last couple of seasons have seen a somewhat retrospective atmosphere in F1, with teams often looking to drivers that have been out of the sport for several years to spearhead the campaign for them. This meant that we had the likes of Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan being signed up for HRT and Michael Schumacher driving for Mercedes-Benz.

 I’m not sure why this would be – the first thing I can think of is that in these financially constrained times the last things teams want is their employees throwing the thing off the road and into the advertising boards within ten seconds of the pitlane exit opening. But then some of them obviously remembered that, while they might be saving money by not having crash-prone drivers, they weren’t actually earning any either if the guy sitting in the cockpit was demanding cheques rather than getting his sponsors to write them. 

In the case of the two HRT boys, leaving F1 was not a choice they made themselves as their team’s implosion did the trick instead, but in Schumacher’s case he was indirectly hogging a seat that a new and hungry talent could have had, and after eighteen full seasons he had certainly had his time in the limelight. 

Now, Schumacher was still a very capable racing driver (when he stayed away from the back of other cars) but it was obvious that his ability was on the wane. How are we going to discover the next Senna or (1991-2006) Schumacher if the 2010-2012 model was warming a seat that some firebrand young superstar should have had instead? Thankfully Merc made the decision for him by signing Lewis Hamilton, which freed up a place for Sergio Perez, who in turn left his seat at rookie-loving Sauber for new boy Esteban Gutierrez. 

Elsewhere the relatively old hands that have given way to new blood are Timo Glock, Heikki Kovalainen, Kamui Kobayashi, Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna. We now have a huge influx of rookies, with five confirmed newcomers (Gutierrez, Luiz Razia, Max Chilton, Giedo van der Garde and Valterri Bottas) and a very possible sixth in the shape of Jules Bianchi at Force India. It’s great to see – although Glock and Kovalainen weren’t exactly old farts at the ages of 30 and 31 respectively, and it wasn’t lack of talent that got them the boot either. 

But lest we forget that hackneyed but true story about a certain buck-toothed Austrian who had to get himself into stupendous personal debt to be able to pay for his March drive in 1971. He didn’t turn out too badly. And do you think Ayrton Senna would have got to where he was if his businessman father wasn’t buying the best equipment for him? Of course not. Sadly, F1 doesn’t do bursaries – even if you’re brilliant, you still need the banknotes.

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