In Formula 1 there have been many forgettable drivers. Kazuki Nakajima was the latest addition to a long list of drivers who during their time in the sport achieved very little in the way of points, performance or reputation – Luca Badoer or Giorgio Pantano anyone?!
After a disastrous 2009 season at the hands of a Williams, Nakajima seemingly ended any chances of a further career as he became the only driver to start the season and finish it without a single point to his name.
If it were not for Nico Rosberg’s impressive tally of points the Williams team would have been left trailing the rest of the field, with only Force India as company at the foot of the standings.
So it was not surprising that of the thirteen teams initiated for the 2010 season, none of them provided the Japanese driver to further what looked at most to be an average career. This was until Kazuki was thrown an unlikely yet now plausible lifeline which could see him partner former winner Ralf Schumacher at the team Stefan GP.
With both the Campos and US F1 teams stuttering towards Bahrain Serbian outfit Stefan GP are looking to pounce upon a position in the field of twenty-six if it turns out that either of the rookie teams fails to establish themselves in the sport. They have continued development of a race car even though they have no place in the field at this moment in time, but would be willing to partake in the season if given the opportunity.
However we do then have to wonder, does the sport really need a returning Nakajima? Or was his lacklustre last season a wake up call for a driver who may best belong in the lower tiers of the motor racing world?
Kazuki is not the slowest driver ever to grace a race track, but sadly for him he’s not far off being considered the worst. With only a tiny batch of points finishes to his name, none higher than this lucky sixth placed finish at the 2008 Australian Grand Prix, the driver has given little to prove himself worthy of a stable position on the grid.
He has made a variety of mistakes making him a certain liability at times. His overshooting of his pitbox in his first race for example put mechanics into hospital and then his crash in the pitlane in the Canadian Grand Prix in 2008 also portrayed a reckless driver who may not be confident or able enough to compete.
To be fair to the driver though these errors became less frequent in his second season, but then it was his lack of race pace and presence that cost him any fans he may have had after a start to his career that did indeed show a early signs of promising speed.
His only hope of sustaining a career will be in looking at former drivers who had suffered similar openings to their careers; those who overturned their critics opinions and elevated themselves to credible results.
Felipe Massa for example was considered destructive and clumsy at Sauber, and Ferrari’s decision to employ the unpredictable youngster was rightfully met with responses of astonishment rather than replies of of acknowledgement and expectation.
Yet once the Brazilian settled down into his new team the results began to come and he redefined his credentials and enforced a reputation of a driver capable of beautiful scenes on the race track. He still sometimes showed the fateful elements that hindered his early career but the good most certainly outweighed the bad. We felt sorry for his loss of the 2008 title after a season where he produced a stunning array of results.
Kazuki’s first two seasons do therefore echo Massa’s introduction into the sport.
Kazuki also has the added bonus of actually seeming to be more level headed and controlled behind the wheel. He appears more comfortable and stable in the race seat.
If Stefan GP were given the opportunity to appear in the 2010 season they would of course need to produce a monster of a car for Kazuki to get results. This is going on the assumption that his demeanour and potential matches that of his first two seasons. No-one would expect that in the months since the end of last season that he would have improved a huge amount, but we can always live in hope if his opportunity comes.
After all for any Formula 1 fan we want to see a competition, and not drivers elected by their teams who then show little in the way of determination and a competitive edge.
Kazuki if he were to return needs to overcome our current visions of his capabilities as a driver. He is required to start producing the sort of results needed to be capable of warranting himself a drive that defers any opinions that his inception is more financially motivated than talent related.