With the 2023 season almost upon us, many armchair Formula 1 enthusiasts will be turning their thoughts to whom they will include in their Fantasy F1 league line-up.
In this Parc Ferme, and rather than pick drivers and teams, I thought I’d look at building a driver, combining the superpowers of individuals currently populating the grid.
Before I make the case, I want to point out that for each characteristic I identify a specific driver possessing. I’m not suggesting it’s their only talent. Just the one thing they seem to have over and above their peers.
No GOAT’S just GITT’S
I’ve purposely focussed on the current grid as I have a problem with this GOAT business. Whilst I feel the talent muscle requirements for being a top racing driver have never changed. The machinery and its functionality have. The art of heel and toe would be a good example.
In the 60s, 70s, and 80s this was a required bread-and-butter skill. A driver who had this technique as a superpower would have had an advantage over those who were merely competent. Few, if any, budding F1 drivers would probably not even know what I’m talking about, let alone be able to do it.
What I will settle with is “Greatest In Their Time”. With that put to bed, we can now consider the different qualities we would select and the drivers who own them in abundance.
Everyone needs it. And race drivers normally possess more than most. When drivers are separated by tenths, it’s the one defining factor that partitions winners from losers, and victors from the vanquished. But what is the source of such confidence?
I’m being rhetorical here, of course, it’s self-belief. It’s simply the driver who believes he can and should win over and above the next guy.
Unfortunately, that level of self-belief is not always consistent. For some it ebbs and flows, it is there some days and on others it’s not. Sometimes a driver can have it for years and then find themselves abandoned. There were some on the grid last year who fit this description.
However, there are two drivers who regularly display this level of self-belief but of the two I chose Max Verstappen. Where others think it, Max knows it. It’s a crushing level of self-confidence that is as certain as night follows day. The last time we saw this level of self-belief was when Schumacher sat on the grid – Michael not Mick that is.
If you’re looking for a driver to pull their shit together and blow the competition away over one lap. Then look no further than Monsieur Charles Leclerc.
The Monegasque has the ability to gather it all together for that crucial moment of pressure and defy Max’s self-belief for a lap or maybe three. Unfortunately, not for sixty.
Leclerc’s one-lap pace is awesome and his ability to crank it up a notch when it counts is his standout ability. Sadly, Charles is living proof of the old adage: the candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long.
I think it’s important to define this one. What I’m talking about here is the ability to out-think, out-maneuver, and misdirect other competitors in a dice.
There are two on the grid that sit head and shoulders above the rest: Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. Ironically, they are not the best of buddies but boy do they know how to sucker punch or see and exploit another driver’s weakness.
From the track to inside the pit garage, you don’t want to be their teammate. There can be only one dog here and I’m giving it to Hamilton because when they were together at McLaren, Lewis came out on top.
Most drivers on the grid tend to follow blindly the directions of the pit box. A few of them may argue but end up doing what they are told.
However, only one is directing strategy from the car, stand up Carlos Sainz. In 2022, he repeatedly told the pits how it was going to be, and oh so politely.
If Charles Leclerc had grown a pair and done the same he may well have enjoyed a better year. Instead, he chose to be a victim of Ferrari’s amateur night strategy plans. Bad enough on its own, but then blaming them when things didn’t work out, tsk tsk.
Lucky for Charles there’s a new guy in the house for 2023! Meanwhile, I’ll thank Mr. Sainz, and take his superpower here.
Adaptability to the car
Cars don’t understeer, the drivers do. Every vehicle has its limits, and they can only be improved upon by design or setup. A driver’s job is to maximize its potential by operating it in a manner that gets the best out of it.
There are two drivers on the grid who I believe have exceptional ability in this area: Lando Norris and George Russell. Both these drivers managed to propel their respective charges around the track better than their teammates.
George’s captain was off his game for half the season, but Lando’s co-pilot ended up bowing out. Grim reading for McLaren’s new young charge.
They all have balls, but no one has the boulder-sized minerals of Kevin Magnussen. The only problem here is that they’re sometimes over-employe, resulting in a trip to the scenery or even someone else’s cockpit.
The best drivers know when to pull them out and put them away, Magnussen tends to have them out at times when he really should have them tucked up inside. Alas, tis the nature of the beast. I’ll take his balls, in the biblical sense of course.
So I present to you, my ideal driver put together from the different strengths amongst the current crop. No doubt there will be some conjecture as to who is best at what.
What would F1 be without it? Maybe the coming season will vindicate or disavow my selection.