2012 Preview – My Other Pic for the Season

6 Mar

With FP1 in Melbourne just 10 days away, I wanted to take some time to write about who I’ll be watching this season, and why.

It goes without saying that I’ll be supporting Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Heikki Kovalainen (and as I wrote before, I’ll be focussing more on Schumi and Heikki this season). I think everyone will be watching Kimi Raikkonen’s return closely, myself included, but there is one other driver I will be rooting for: Charles Pic.

Rookie comparison

The 2012 grid features a couple of rookie drivers: Pic and Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne. Both are young, French drivers who have progressed through similar racing formulas. Vergne is a product of the Red Bull Junior Team, while Pic has progressed independently (albeit with some influential mentoring from former driver Olivier Panis). Some are also classifying Romain Grosjean and Daniel Ricciardo as rookies, as they are embarking on their first full seasons in F1, but I don’t classify them as such because they already have race experience.

Both Pic and Vergne will face a challenge to retain their seats in F1 for 2013.

Vergne faces the intimidating prospect of meeting the incredibly high standards of Red Bull head honcho’s Horner, Marko and Mateschitz. This will be particularly prominent in the minds of the F1 media, given the shock sacking of both Sebastian Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari for not being up to standard, and I predict a number of articles mid-season about whether Vergne and his team-mate Ricciardo cut the Red Bull mustard.

Why Charles Pic?

Pic, meanwhile, is starting in possibly the worst circumstances. He is in arguably the weakest car on the grid, and apart from a few laps at Silverstone yesterday for the Marussia launch and shakedown, Pic and Glock haven’t driven their 2012 car. The team did give him 3 days of driving during pre-season tests to try out the new Pirelli tyres, but on the 2011 car. It will inevitably take a few races for the team to find their feet, assuming that they pass the 107% rule in the first race (which can’t be guaranteed after no winter testing).

For three years on the trot the team have hired rookies, and neither of Pic’s predecessors (Lucas di Grassi and Jerome D’Ambrosio) managed to retain drives within F1.

So, with a less than wonderful car in a team with a history of not hanging on to its rookie drivers, why focus any energy on this young driver? Well… I am British, and yes I am conforming to the national stereotype of rooting for the underdog. But it isn’t just that.

I’ve been reading up on Pic ever since his signing with Marussia was announced, having not really heard of him before, as well as following him on twitter. He is enthusiastic, charming, and I’ve been really impressed with the way he has interacted with his twitter followers. Having not followed his career previously I don’t have much to go on, but this young man just seems to have a bit of  ‘je ne sais quoi’ about him.

Also, I was a bit of an Olivier Panis fan back in the day, so his role in Pic’s career has also been a factor.

I really hope that Charles Pic manages to shine in 2012, and light up the back of the grid with some impressive racing moves against his team-mate, Timo Glock, and the two HRT drivers, Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan.

Bonne chance Charles!


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