As the season marches ever closer to its terminus in Brazil (only four races away!) we are beginning to hear more and more about the young driver test to happen at Abu Dhabi right after the weekend there.
All kinds of names are being bandied about as the man to take the helm of one of the current F1 monsters. Only problem is, though, I have no idea who they are. Any of them. At all. No clue.
But that does not mean that these young drivers are not great drivers, nor do I mean to imply that they do not deserve their drives. On the contrary, the young driver test is among the most important in the world of restricted testing in F1.
The young driver test is one of the few chances to give young drivers seat time in a modern F1 car and measure them against their peers, something that is virtually impossible without testing days.
I believe, in fact, that we are seeing the result of young drivers having so little chance to acclimatize themselves to the world of F1 prior to jumping into a race seat. Young drivers have so little chance to prove themselves on the world’s toughest stage that they over extend in their driving, leading to silly accidents, start line calamities and all sorts of other, very rookie, issues.
In this respect, F1 reminds me a lot of baseball. See, a prospect can make it to the majors, but then the prospect must have success to gain confidence. It is only with that confidence that a prospect can live up to their potential. In the world of limited F1 testing, though, prospects have no chance to gain that confidence, and so they continually underperform.
It does not help that F1 seats are commodities, unlike positions on the baseball diamond, that can be bought and sold to the highest bidder rather than reserved for the driver with the best lap times. To many F1 teams, the best F1 driver is a combination of lap time and sponsorship. But no driver wants to think of themselves as a “pay driver” so once they get to F1, they do their best to prove their skills to everyone.
The results have been out there for everyone to see and it is not a nice thing to look at. Hopefully the young guns at Abu Dhabi will be a nice surprise.