Identifying 1 Thing Every Driver Must Prove in F1 This Season
Only one race into the 2014 Formula One season and fans of Formula One are already forming their own opinions of how the year ahead may take shape.
From the early title favourites in their silver steeds to the rookie drivers with everything to prove, every driver on the grid will also be analysing their own performances and making personal notes of where they can improve.
Looking at the 2014 grid, B/R picks out one thing each driver must prove in F1 this season.
Lewis Hamilton: That He Is Not Only a Fast Driver but a Thinking Man’s Driver
There’s no question that Lewis Hamilton is a fast driver and he always has been a master of one-lap qualifying.
Yet one of the major criticisms levelled at the Brit over recent seasons is that his aggressive driving style often costs him the chance of race finishes either through excessive tyre-wear or racing incidents.
With nursing a car to the chequered flag more important than ever with the new regulations, Hamilton must prove he is canny as well as fast, especially against as astute a teammate as Nico Rosberg.
Nico Rosberg: That He Can Improve His One-Lap Qualifying Pace
For Lewis Hamilton, read the opposite for Nico Rosberg. The German is a master tactician and knows when to hold back and when to push. But just as Hamilton needs to hone that part of his game, so Rosberg needs to prove he can best his teammate on Saturday.
Last season, Hamilton won the qualifying battle 11-8, which was closer than many expected. Yet the feeling is that Rosberg must better that mark if he harbours ambitions of a maiden title.
Sebastian Vettel: That He Is a Great Driver Under Pressure
One of the most intriguing stories of the 2014 season will be how Sebastian Vettel will fare when things are not going his way.
Four world titles on the bounce should automatically place Vettel in the F1 Hall of Fame and yet, somewhat incredibly, many critics of the German argue that he can only be classed as a true great if he can win without being in the best car.
And after Renault’s well-publicised teething troubles with the new regulations, this season we may well find out.
Daniel Ricciardo: He Is Not at Red Bull to Make Up the Numbers
Confident Australian Daniel Ricciardo certainly talked a good game after being named as Sebastian Vettel’s teammate for 2014 and yet many saw it as mere bravado.
Few could have predicted the stellar drive he put in to finish second on his home turf with all the pressure that was attached, his subsequent disqualification notwithstanding.
If he can press Vettel for the remainder of the season, it will be a job well done.
Jenson Button: He Can Bounce Back from the Biggest Setback of His Life
Jenson Button was understandably emotional after finishing the Australian Grand Prix in fourth place prior to Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification.
He dedicated the drive to his late father, who passed away suddenly at the beginning of the year. John Button had been Jenson’s rock and inspiration from his early childhood and was a constant source of support in the F1 paddock.
Button has proven he has the qualities of a champion and everyone will be wishing him the very best in 2014.
Kevin Magnussen: That He Can Keep His Head Amongst All the Pressure and Hype
Few casual observers of Formula One had even heard of Kevin Magnussen when he was McLaren’s surprise announcement to replace Sergio Perez before the end of the 2013 season.
But after impressive pre-season testing results and a brilliant drive to an amended second in the Australian Grand Prix, he is now the driver on everyone’s lips.
He seems calm enough on the outside not to let the newfound hype affect him but only time will tell.
Fernando Alonso: He Can Curb His Criticism of Ferrari
Of all the drivers on the Formula One grid, Fernando Alonso possibly has the least to prove. Universally recognised as the most complete driver on the grid, Alonso has yet to taste championship success with Ferrari despite four years of trying.
The only chink in his armour appears to be with his temperament when things are not going his way. Alonso was critical of his car during the 2013 Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, which led to a public rebuke from president Luca Di Montezemolo.
And he has already been at it in 2014, admitting Ferrari were “not happy”, as quoted on BBC Sport. Will Alonso again throw his toys out of the pram or has he learned to bite his tongue?
Kimi Raikkonen: He Can Keep Fernando Alonso Honest
Like Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen was not without his outbursts in 2013 when things were not going as planned and this season will be his biggest test yet against a teammate many see as superior.
He finished eighth to Alonso’s fifth in Australia and quickly needs to show the Spaniard he is a threat to be feared.
Felipe Massa: He Can Be a Force Again with the Right Car Beneath Him
Many questioned the wisdom of Williams to hire a driver whose career seemed on the downward spiral after several disappointing years at Ferrari.
But the early signs are that the Williams is a quicker car than they’ve had for many a year and Massa appears a driver rejuvenated by his new surroundings.
Now is the time for Massa to prove that this is not just a swansong but that he can be a genuine force again.
Valtteri Bottas: He Has Learned from His Melbourne Mistake
Despite the fact that he only finished sixth at the Australian Grand Prix, Valtteri Bottas won the vote of many having charged through the field from 15th on the grid.
Yet the ambitious young Finn was furious with himself at making a mistake at Turn 10 that caused a puncture and hampered his chances of an even higher finish.
"I'm quite mad at myself for the mistake," he is quoted on Autosport. "Not so happy about that. I guess I just need to learn from it. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to do that kind of mistake again.”
Romain Grosjean: He Can Continue the Momentum from 2013
Before the 2013 season, Frenchman Romain Grosjean had gained a reputation as a quick but accident-prone driver.
By the end of the year he had shed that unwanted reputation to gain recognition as a major player for race victories and won over many of his critics.
It appears unlikely that Grosjean will reach the heights of 2013 given the teething problems of his Lotus team but that does not mean he cannot prove himself a great driver in adversity.
Pastor Maldonado: He Can Be a Good Team Player
Maldonado enjoyed flashes of brilliance with Williams, no more so than when he won the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix, but the manner of his exit from the team left a very bitter taste in the mouth.
The Venezuelan accused his own team of sabotaging his car during qualifying, as reported by The Telegraph at the time, before saying he was happy to be leaving.
And despite the obvious cash injection that Maldonado brings with him, Lotus will be wary of what happened at Williams should Romain Grosjean begin to get the upper hand.
Maldonado must quickly show that the past is behind him and that he is a good team player, both for the sake of himself and his new team.
Nico Hulkenberg: Joining Force India Was the Right Move
German Nico Hulkenberg must be thinking he has dodged a bullet in joining Force India rather than Lotus for 2014 given the latter’s well-publicised troubles.
He must now translate that good fortune into results, given that his current package seems well capable of delivering the goods.
Sergio Perez: He Has Curbed His Impetuous Streak
There is no doubting that Perez can be a very quick peddler on his day, but he didn’t exactly kick off life at McLaren on the right foot when he ruffled teammate Jenson Button’s feathers with a wheel-banging challenge for position in Bahrain.
He followed that with an impetuous move on Kimi Raikkonen in Monaco that led the Finn to remark that someone should punch him in the face, as reported on BBC Sport.
He’ll want to prove to his new employers early on that this impetuous streak has gone without losing his competitive edge.
Adrian Sutil: That He Has Improved Markedly from Last Season
That Adrian Sutil still has a drive in Formula One whilst former Force India teammate Paul di Resta faces a life outside dining at the top table seems a little harsh on stats alone.
Di Resta outscored Sutil by 48 points to 29 in 2014 and out-qualified the German 12-7.
Sutil may not have the best equipment beneath him but he may need to crush young Esteban Gutierrez this season to keep his F1 career afloat.
Esteban Gutierrez: That He Has Learned Enough from Last Season to Keep His Seat
Like Sutil, Gutierrez was one driver whose chance of a 2014 drive appeared in danger after a less than impressive season.
What may have saved the Mexican, apart from financial backing, was the fact that it was his debut season.
But he will want to push on markedly from last year to hold onto his drive.
Jean-Eric Vergne: That He Can Finally Dominate a Teammate
Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne appears to be one of those drivers who slips quietly under the radar and goes about his business in a professional manner without really getting noticed.
He certainly has not done much wrong in his battles against Daniel Ricciardo, scoring just seven fewer points in 2013 despite being crushed 15-4 in qualifying.
But if the same kind of stats occur against rookie Daniil Kvyat, he’ll be on his bike.
Daniil Kvyat: It’s Not Just About the Money
It came as something as a surprise when little known Russian teenager Daniil Kvyat replaced Daniel Ricciardo at Toro Rosso rather than favourite Antonio Felix da Costa. Many cynics pointed to the Russian funding Kvyat was bringing with him.
But after becoming the youngest driver ever to score points on his F1 debut, the GP3 champion has already proved he is in on merit and could be a future star in the making.
Jules Bianchi: He’s a Star of the Future
A driver that Daniil Kvyat will want to emulate is Marussia’s Jules Bianchi. The Frenchman impressed to such an extent in his debut season that he was named Autosport’s Rookie of the Year.
He has been earmarked as a Ferrari driver of the future having been the team’s test driver and a part of the Ferrari Driver Academy.
Max Chilton: He’s More Than Just a Finisher
Max Chilton gained the honour of becoming the first rookie ever to finish every race of the season in his debut year for Marussia.
Impressive though that achievement may be, the Englishman was often well off the pace of teammate Jules Bianchi and this year he will need to prove that he can compete in, as well as finish races.
Kamui Kobayashi: Missing a Season out Will Have No Effect
Having missed the 2013 season after being released by former employer Sauber, extrovert Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi endured the wrath of Felipe Massa in his first race back after taking out the Brazilian on the first corner of the Australian Grand Prix.
He’ll quickly want to put that mishap behind him to prove that there are no effects from his year off.
Marcus Ericsson: He Can Stay in Formula One
The biggest challenge facing rookie Marcus Ericsson is to keep his seat for next season.
It won’t be easy in a car that will be racing near the back of the field and the well-funded Swede’s first goal will be to finish a race after his retirement in Australia.