Battle of the F1 'Elders'

Anne DoeCorrespondent IMarch 31, 2009

7 Mar 1999:  The cars in position on the starting grid at the Formula One Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne. \ Mandatory Credit: Michael Cooper /Allsport

The definition of 'elder' in Formula One is hardly the definition shared by us generic human beings. In recent times, many of the rookie drivers have been freshly plucked from high school and strapped in with a racing harness (to be fair, some drivers do look around fifteen).

Still, it is of no consequence that the rookies in Formula One just seem to keep getting younger, because around the paddock, there are still many faces which first appeared more than eight years ago.

Rubens Barrichello, surely is the first driver that comes to mind when I write the word 'F1 Elder.' So far, he holds the record for the most grand prix starts, and is the only current driver ever who first debuted on a track no longer in use by Formula One.

1996 saw the start of Giancarlo Fisichella's Formula One career. Driving for Minardi Ford at the time, he retired from the Australian grand prix after 32 laps, his car suffering from clutch problems.

Jarno Trulli's first taste of F1 came in 1997, at the wheel of a Minardi Hart. Having qualified 17th at the Australian GP, he managed a finishing position of 12th, not bad for a rookie driver.

The Australian Grand Prix of 2000 saw another two new faces pop up. Nick Heidfeld did quite well in his Prost Peugeot to qualify 15th, while Jenson Button is his Williams BMW qualified 21st, before his engine blew up at 46 laps.

Quite a dismal end to his debut.

In 2001, two of our Formula One world champions found themselves in the cockpit. Kimi Raikkonen's debut saw him receive a point in his Sauber, having just 21 car races to his name and under a provisional super licence because of his inexperience.

The second world champion to start driving in 2001 was Fernando Alonso. Having qualified 19th in his Minardi Ford, Alonso worked his way up to finish 12th.

Okay, having digressed so far off my original point, I think a reminder is whats needed. My headline kind of states, but should really ask if there will soon be a Battle between the F1 elders, and an explanation to my theory is probably needed.

After watching the timings during qualifying on Saturday morning (yes, I did get up to watch it, including the third practices) I was rather astonished to see just how close the times were.

Result of the new '09 rules? Probably, but I having seen only what the car can do for so long, I do think it quite refreshing to think that the driver really can have a lot more input.

Don't get me wrong, some cars will be (and no doubt will always be unless F! becomes A1GP) superior to others. No denying it, I thought the Brawn GP's looked pretty nifty whizzing round on Sunday.

The point I'm trying to make is that, come Apr. 14 (when THAT issue is finally solved), I think we may actually be able to see the F1 'Elders' battle it out properly, the margins between the timings being so small.

At not one point in the careers of the aforementioned drivers have they all been in a car similarly able in performance.

We all know that a decent car can do so much for a driver, but I think that now, with the differences being so minuscule, we should actually be able to see once and for all how much time the ability of a driver is worth.