Along with the three rookies, there will be three young men heading into their second full seasons in Formula 1 this year: Daniel Ricciardo, his Toro Rosso sidekick Jean-Eric Vergne, and Charles Pic. What should we expect from them with a year’s racing under their belts?
Daniel Ricciardo: Can Grinners Be Winners?
They say winners are grinners, but if it worked the other way around 23-year-old Dan would be in front all the time. His presence at his first home Grand Prix in 2012 made a major contribution to the feel-good factor around the whole race weekend and the West Australian has managed to keep smiling most of the time since then.
He finished only 18th, and last of the points-scoring drivers in the Championship with 10 points overall, but he achieved another significant coup.
Famous British Grand Prix annual Autocourse elevated Ricciardo to its coveted Top 10, which compatriot Mark Webber has graced for several years now, and Dan’s nomination gave the country its first-ever double entry in that elite group.
His 11 races with HRT in 2011 had yielded no points, but Ricciardo duly opened his account at Albert Park last year with a last-lap burst to ninth place.
He had to wait until round 12 in Belgium for his next two but his late-season pace improved markedly with five points-scoring places in the last nine rounds of the year.
Toro Rosso can be an unforgiving environment, so Ricciardo will need to be on his mettle right from the start of his second full year at the top.
Jean-Eric Vergne: Building On A Solid Start
‘JEV’ was outdone by teammate Ricciardo on debut at Albert Park but made amends with his maiden World Championship points next time out in Malaysia, where the 22-year-old Frenchman finished eighth.
That was his highest placing for the season – but he repeated it three more times to amass 16 points and finish ahead of the Aussie in 17th place overall. One of those three was at Spa-Francorchamps, the ultimate test of a Grand Prix driver, so there is clearly good material to work with.
On the debit side, Vergne was frequently out-qualified by his teammate, and it was the qualifying session in Japan that got him on the wrong side of the race stewards for allegedly blocking an irate Bruno Senna in the Williams.
But this will be JEV’s third season in the team colours – he was their test driver in 2011 – and he has been making all the right noises about working with the engineers, learning about being an F1 driver in and out of the car, and building on his first season as a more experienced man.
Like Dan, he will need to do all that and more if he is not to go the same way as other promising young drivers in the Toro Rosso camp before him.
Charles Pic: Frying Pan To Fire?
“I am very excited about starting my second year in F1 with a team that has so much potential. Caterham F1 Team has everything in place to help it move into a position to fight with a number of teams ahead.”
So said Charles Pic back in November when it was announced he would join Caterham on a multi-year contract at the end of his rookie F1 year with Marussia.
Pic, 22, didn’t score a point in that maiden F1 season but caught the eye mainly because he was a thorn in the flesh of the Caterham drivers as they strove to secure the cash-paying 10th place overall in the Constructors’ Championship.
Marussia just missed out in the end, but Pic’s 12th place in the final Grand Prix in Brazil summed up a season of admirable commitment.
Pic’s career is overseen by French champion, Olivier Panis, winner of the Monaco race back in 1996. Pic himself has been a winner on the fabled Monaco course in Formula Renault.
That relationship suggests he understands the need to consolidate on a sound beginning and help a team with strong French connections itself to make much-needed headway.
French team principal Cyril Abiteboul has no doubt Pic can do just that: “We are all looking forward to working with a young driver who has clearly shown in his first season in F1 that he has the pace, racecraft and demeanour to help us achieve our goals,” he said.