Friday, April 11, 2008

Who Can the Drivers Be?

One important question that looms in on us is, who's going to partner Adrian Sutil at Force India. This is a tricky one. On the one one hand, the fledgling Indian outfit would want to have an experienced driver who can pave the development path effectively. At the same time, the presence of a mere experienced driver isn't going to do much good. Experience can handle adversity better and be less demanding on the team. But then, this is not the only thing you want in a young team. What's also most importantly needed is that raw speed of a driver that pushes the car beyond its limit. Only when the car is taken to its limit can the engineers look at better ways of eeking out the last drop performance from the package. That's why Schumacher, Raikkonen, Button, Alonso and the likes are considered very good development drivers - they can keep the car consistently on its limit. The drivers in this (the experienced) mould currently in the market are, Ralf Schumacher, Giancarlo Fisichella and Pedro de la Rosa. Either of these three might make a good driver at Force India. But, not the best. That's because, none of the three have a reputation for being blindingly fast. And this fact is one that cannot be discounted. If you look at the teams that the above drivers served - Toyota, Renault and McLaren in that order - I'm not sure that the development rate of these teams is largely thanks to them. In Ralf's case, the situation gets even worser; Toyota even with its huge multi-billion dollar, deep corporate pocket couldn't make the remotest of progress (with regards to track position) and that's telling something on Ralf's potential. Of Fisichella and de la Rosa, the former will make a better option. Not the least because, de la Rosa lacks racing miles under his belt. No number of testing miles can substitute racing experience. So, there we have it. Fisichella is a good candidate for Force India - experienced, quick and a good team player.

Is there any other alternative option to Fisichella? It looks like there is. Narain Karthikeyan. Whatever the results of the 2005 season say about Narain, I still consider him to be a very very quick driver. Very bold and extremely aggressive. Ok. I know that the record books show that his then team mate, Tiago Monteiro, got better results during their time together at the (Jordan) team. Results mean nothing here. Heikki Kovalainen who's widely considered to be a super driver literally struggled to get to grips with his Renault at the start of the season. In his own words, he over drove the car. When he started calming down a bit, he became quicker and quicker ultimately to the point of beating his considerably more experienced team mate, Fisichella. What Kovalainen suffered from, earlier on this season, Narain suffered in his debut season. He was over-driving his car that cannot, in a million years, be called a good, predictable car. It's not so much about the pace as it is about the handling. It was appalling. Narain used to be absolutely on the limit trying to go ever faster. But, the Jordan was simply not up to it. It couldn't handle the extraneous inputs of Narain. That's why the results (wrongly) show that he was slower. Had he been driving a better-than-Jordan car that season, he would have looked stunning. The logic is simple. Narain had the ability and the inputs to give to a car to make it go faster. But, the car - that should've had the capability to take it all - didn't have it. People unfortunately don't have the patience to look deep into things. They look at the results - that need not necessarily paint the true picture - and come to conclusions.

Mike Gascoyne, an aero whiz, can, with a decent budget make good cars - he did wonders at Renault and Toyota. With Dr.Vijay Mallya at the helm (hopefully) pouring better cash, Gascoyne refining the aero and two quick drivers (Sutil and Karthikeyan) pushing the car to its limits, progress is definitely there to be made at Force India. Fancy some points for the upcoming season? My money is on it.

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