There is no doubt in my mind who is the rookie of the season. If you can put an uncompetitive car fifth on the grid and not only maintain that position but improve on it, then you are a top driver. Not only this, but to also come back from a weak start to the season to averaging a point a race then surely that is worth commending. That man is, of course, Timo Glock.
Glock is an unusual rookie. He has experience of F1. Indeed, only two rookies came into F1 this year without experience of F1 action, and it tells that teams are increasingly looking for experienced, top-notch drivers rather than untested novices.
Timo's earlier experience comes from the Canadian GP in 2004, after Giorgio Pantano was dropped from the lineup when his flow of sponsorship money was temporarily stemmed. This allowed Timo Glock, or Tim O'Glock, as the Irish Eddie Jordan called him to step into the breach.
He certainly made an impact. Timo qualified in 16th, just one place behind Nick Heidfeld in the No. 1 Jordan, a feat in itself although the best was yet to came. Timo was not only able to beat his teammate but also score two points in an amazing seventh, after both Williams and Toyotas' had been disqualified when brake duct irregularities were found on all four cars.
While the points haul was fortuitous, the biggest impact Glock had made was finishing ahead of Nick Heidfeld. The high-flying Heidfeld had generally been impressive in a truly uncompetitive car, scoring two points in Monaco and finishing 10th in Europe. Everybody knew how good Nick was, and for Glock to beat him was quite a shock.
While Pantano retook his seat for the US GP, it was obvious that Timo had left a lasting impression. Indeed he subbed again for Giorgio after the Italian failed to inspire. Timo drove in the last three races, finishing 15th in all.
This less-than-impressive run meant he was not recalled for 2005, although he still remained on the radar. He joined the GP2 series, pushing Hamilton for the championship in 2006 and winning the series in 2007. He came into 2008 as an established name, signing for Toyota.
However, his 2008 season did not start well, crashing out in Australia and losing a likely points haul and then spinning in Malaysia on the first lap. It looked possibly that Glock had overcooked his return, that he would be too erratic and aggressive, something that has afflicted rookies before (such as Massa), an aspect of a driver which shows a lack of confidence and lack of maturity.
Indeed, up until Canada, Timo looked out of sorts. He spun twice in Monaco, qualified only 15th in Turkey, and could only finish 11th in Spain, a race which saw a lot of attrition, beating only David Coulthard and Takuma Sato.
But Canada changed everything. Timo showed on the track that saw his blistering debut that he had lost none of his speed and consistency. He managed to dodge the wrecking cars and the crumbling track to take fourth. He was the last to pit on lap 42 and fuelled the car to the finish.
Timo was able to manage his tyres and brakes in a similar vein to Alex Wurz in 2007. This result put him ahead of his team mate and also outraced Felipe Massa, holding him off to finish just 1.3 seconds in front.
This is an area which has benefited Timo greatly, the one-stop strategy. Like Piquet, he used his qualifying pace to his advantage running a long one-stop strategy and managing the car better than his rivals. In all, bar Hungary, he has run a one-stop strategy and scored points. Like Piquet, it allowed Glock to improve his understanding of the car and grow in confidence. This was definitely evident in the races to come.
Hungary, for example, is a race which possibly could define Glock's career. He was able to qualify an unbelievable fifth on the grid. Many pointed to a Glock probably having a low fuel load, as Trulli had only qualified ninth and had not matched the pace of Glock.
True, Glock did run a two-stop strategy. However, he pitted on lap 20, two laps after Massa and pole sitter Lewis Hamilton. The fact that he was just 0.5 seconds behind pole with two extra laps of fuel showed just how good his pace was in Hungary.
While he obviously capitalised from Hamilton's puncture and Massa's blown engine, there is no doubt that he had speed to race the front runners and actually improve on his grid position, irrespective of the problems that Hamilton and Massa encountered. Glock was able to take second, his best result to date.
What really stood out was that Glock broke the curve of convention. While in earlier years, Trulli had placed the Toyota at the front of the grid and then gone backwards, Timo went forwards and this showed his obvious pace. Bar Vettel's win in Italy, this was surely the drive of the season.
Glock is also one of most the improved drivers, maybe only behind Alonso and Piquet. While in the first six races he averaged 13th on the grid, and 11th in the race, he has improved tremendously in the last six races of the season. From Europe onwards, he has averaged 10th in qualifying and eighth on Sunday.
Glock has scored consistently in the second half of the season, taking 17 points from the last seven races, in a midfield car that is pretty good going.
So, Timo Glock has my pick for Rookie of the Year. While having a sticky start to 2008, he has improved in leaps and bounds. Glock has shown that not only can he master the pit-stop strategy, so key to modern F1, but also take the fight to the top guns in overall pace.
Surely, the glimmer that many saw in 2004 is no longer a small and insignificant reflection of talent but a fully fledged spark of potential. Certainly, he is one of the best drivers that has come out of the lower series in many a year and one only hopes that Toyota give him the car to challenge the top guns for 2009.
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