F1 – The Battle of the Rookies
The future of Formula 1 is always exciting, and the current batch of rookies has been no exception. Drivers such as Alex Albon, Lando Norris, and George Russell have made headlines in recent years, and this year’s newcomers have generated considerable interest. With three races under their belts, it’s time to evaluate the trio’s performance and see where they stand.
The current batch of Formula 1 rookies is generating considerable interest, much like the 2019 newcomers comprising Alex Albon, Lando Norris and George Russell. After completing three races, and with a break before the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, it’s time to evaluate the trio’s performance. Although the top performer may be expected, another driver has shown more promise than their results imply, making it a close call. Let’s examine where they stand and what they need to improve.
Piastri’s arrival in F1 was embroiled in controversy as both Alpine and McLaren vied for his services, making him one of the most disputed rookies in F1 history. Eventually, McLaren secured his signature, as it emerged that Alpine had not signed Piastri as it had thought. At the start of the season, when McLaren was struggling and Alpine was more competitive, there were some snide remarks. However, Piastri silenced his critics with a confident drive to eighth place in Australia, securing his first points in F1. He has also demonstrated impressive speed, particularly in Jeddah, where he appeared to match Norris’s pace but was unable to prove it in qualifying due to Norris’s accident. Despite this setback, reaching Q3 is a testament to his speed.
Piastri has generally matched Norris’s pace in single-lap speed. According to team principal Andrea Stella, Piastri has been “almost as fast as Lando in most corners.” The only notable difference was in Bahrain where Piastri made an error at Turn 1, running deep, and ended up 0.449 seconds slower in Q1. Similarly, in Australia, he lost most of the 0.274 seconds deficit due to a mistake in the Turn 11 right-hander. In terms of the races, Piastri has experienced mixed results. An electrical problem cut his race short in Bahrain, and in Jeddah, his race was ruined after contact with Pierre Gasly’s Alpine caused wing damage, leading to debris that affected Norris’s race as well.
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To clarify, it was Gasly who squeezed Piastri in the incident that ruined both their races, although it was treated as a racing incident. Nevertheless, Piastri was mature enough to acknowledge that he could have avoided the risky situation. He admitted, “I probably could have done a few things differently and maybe kept myself out of trouble a bit better.” After the incident, he drove solidly and showed promising signs. However, in Australia, he got stuck behind Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri for a prolonged period, and even after overtaking, he couldn’t match Norris’s pace. Nonetheless, he kept a clean race and secured the first significant result of his F1 career.
Sargeant’s F1 season so far has been one of unrealized potential. While Alex Albon has been grabbing headlines for Williams, the 22-year-old American driver has displayed glimpses of impressive pace and strong racecraft. However, he has yet to deliver a complete weekend that would translate into impressive results on paper.
The story of his three Q1 sessions is quite similar. In Bahrain, Sargeant was caught off guard by sudden changes in wind conditions, resulting in him losing time at the start of his lap. Despite this, he still managed to set a time that was quick enough for Q2. Unfortunately, he missed out on a place in Q2 because Lando Norris had set an identical time earlier in the session.
Sargeant has also demonstrated the pace required to reach Q2, even in Jeddah, where he claimed to have had a “perfect weekend” before things went awry in Q1. He made a mistake on his second and third runs after his first flying lap was deleted due to exceeding track limits. In Australia, he showed glimpses of Q2 speed, though not at the same level as Albon, but a mistake in the penultimate corner cost him. Despite this, he had the pace to outqualify Albon, indicating that he possesses the speed required to compete. If he had qualified well, Sargeant might have had an opportunity to score points since Williams was strong in the race. However, he finished 16th and managed to fend off Norris, who was recovering from an earlier incident.
Unfortunately, Sargeant’s race in Australia was ruined due to misjudging the cold tyres and brakes during the final standing restart, resulting in a collision with De Vries. However, he had his best race in Bahrain, where he finished 12th after an impressive first lap.
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Although Sargeant’s performance has been far from perfect, he still has room for improvement, particularly in fast corners, where he has yet to match Albon’s confidence, despite having traditionally excelled in high-speed turns. However, if he can connect the dots of his promising performances, he has the potential to become a formidable driver.
De Vries was undoubtedly the most prepared of the 2023 rookie class. Not only did he score points on his F1 debut at Monza last year, but he also has significant experience as a title-winning Formula E driver for a manufacturer. His first association with an F1 team dates back to 2010 when he was still karting, and he was affiliated with McLaren. De Vries is undoubtedly the rookie with the most experience both inside and outside an F1 car.
However, he faces the disadvantage of driving the weakest car of the three rookies. The AlphaTauri AT04 has not only lacked pace but has also proven to be challenging to extract the best performance from. As a result, De Vries has posed the least threat to his teammate out of the three rookies. He has also appeared to be less comfortable pushing the car to its limits compared to his teammate.
It is worth noting that Tsunoda has outqualified De Vries in all three events so far, but it’s also true that De Vries could have done better on all three occasions. In Bahrain, he was seven tenths off after a final lap that started to get away from him when he experienced some wheelspin during the transition from Turn 1 into Turn 2. In Jeddah, the gap was three tenths, but this was exaggerated by De Vries’s battery recharge issue, which cost him a couple of tenths. In Australia, the gap was 0.236s after De Vries made a mistake at Turn 1 on his final lap. It’s worth noting that only De Vries was running the new-specification AlphaTauri floor, estimated to be worth 0.15-0.2s in lower-speed corners, since Tsunoda damaged his during Friday practice.
On average, De Vries’s deficit to Tsunoda is 0.477%, which is not flattering for De Vries, given that he has shown better underlying pace than that.
De Vries’s race pace in Bahrain was decent, although he was caught out by the AlphaTauri split strategy when he was left out under the safety car. He finished in 14th place, which was a little lower than he deserved, even though he was not going to score any points. In Saudi Arabia, a poor first lap and tyre-management issues while trying to make gains resulted in another 14th-place finish.
The Australian Grand Prix was frustrating for De Vries, as he sustained light front wing damage in a clash with Esteban Ocon, making it more challenging to manage the tyres. Starting on hard tyres and switching to mediums under the early red flag made for a particularly challenging stint. He was classified 15th after being rear-ended by Sargeant at the final standing restart.
F1 Battle of Rookies Assessing the Performance of Piastri, Sargeant, and De Vries in Formula 1 F1 Battle of Rookies Assessing the Performance of Piastri, Sargeant, and De Vries in Formula 1 F1 Battle of Rookies Assessing the Performance of Piastri, Sargeant, and De Vries in Formula 1 F1 Battle of Rookies Assessing the Performance of Piastri, Sargeant, and De Vries in Formula 1
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