5 Formula 1 Drivers Who Are Too Good for Their Current Teams
Despite the plethora of pay drivers hanging around the paddock, the Formula One grid is, by and large, a meritocracy.
The best drivers usually end up at the best teams, while the lesser drivers populate the rear of the field.
But it doesn't always happen that way. A combination of politics, money, timing, misfortune or combinations thereof can stop potential champions achieving their ultimate goals.
Many young drivers never get a proper chance to show what they can do.
Here are five drivers—two youngsters, two established and one megastar—who are too good for their current teams.
A few years ago, Romain Grosjean was one of the most feared drivers on the grid.
It was nothing to do with him being quick. Rather, it was because close proximity to Grosjean often meant being crashed into.
He received a one-race ban for causing an accident at the Belgian Grand Prix in 2012—not the first opening-lap shunt he'd been responsible for that year. Two races later, Mark Webber famously dubbed him "the first-lap nutcase" after being taken out at the first corner of the Japanese Grand Prix.
The Frenchman was lucky to keep his seat for 2013—he probably would have lost it without the financial package he brings from Total. Many fans were expecting another year of chaos and lots of late nights for the Lotus mechanics.
Instead, Grosjean turned over a new leaf.
He began to marry the raw pace he always had with a more sensible, controlled approach, and he ended the year with a run of four podiums in five races.
But the 2014 Lotus is poor. Grosjean should be fighting for wins and podiums, not scraps.
It was clear midway through the 2013 season that Jules Bianchi was good enough to be driving for a better team than Marussia.
Had the midfield not been occupied by a glut of heavily financed, talented drivers—those who bring cash and ability—he'd be in a better car this year. Instead, he's still with Marussia.
The Russian minnows are perennial back-markers, and though they do an incredible job on the budget they have, they've never built a car capable of consistently getting out of Q1.
Bianchi scored the team's first points with an excellent ninth at the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix. This only intensified the praise for the young Frenchman, and talk of him moving up the grid resumed in earnest.
It should happen in 2015.
There's a broken record in the F1 paddock.
For a few years now it has been spinning around, forlornly repeating that Nico Hulkenberg deserves a drive at a front-running team.
The German has performed at a consistently high level for a number of years, often putting himself into battles with the sport's top drivers—and often winning them.
He very nearly got his chance this season, but Ferrari instead opted for Kimi Raikkonen to partner Fernando Alonso. Hulkenberg returned to Force India, a team which usually does well on a quite limited budget.
But they're not likely to become front-runners any time soon, so as the mid-point of the season approaches, the record will again start to play.
Maybe this time, Hulkenberg will get that seat he so richly deserves.
When Daniil Kvyat was announced as Toro Rosso's new driver, many eyebrows were raised.
At just 19, his racing record was short. The highest level at which he had competed was GP3, and though he was in the title hunt when his promotion was confirmed (he later won the title), he seemed far too young and far too inexperienced.
Then he had a go during Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix. In a car he'd previously driven only once for 14 laps at the Young Driver Test earlier in the year, he was instantly on the pace.
At the next race in Brazil, he set the eighth-fastest time on the wet track. He'd never driven an F1 car in the rain before, and many of the fears over his call-up to the big time disappeared.
Kvyat has made a promising start to the 2014 season, with three points finishes. He also became the youngest-ever F1 points scorer, with ninth in his debut race.
It might seem early to say it, but he could well be something very special indeed. He already looks capable of doing a good job for a team a little higher up the grid.
There are some who'd say no driver could ever be too good for Ferrari, and for much of the team's illustrious history they'd be right.
But not in 2014.
Since the significant rule changes of 2009 (including the return of slicks, aerodynamic changes and the introduction of KERS), Ferrari have failed time and time again to produce an exceptional car.
The budget is there and the people are there as well, but it just never quite comes together.
Fernando Alonso is, to many (including a lot of his rivals) the best driver on the grid. But only three times in his career (2005, 2006, 2007) has he had a car capable of challenging on raw pace for the world title.
And he's better now than he was then.
Two titles aren't enough for a driver of Alonso's calibre, and Ferrari's failures are the main reason he doesn't have more.