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Parc Ferme: Dimpled darlings

Parc Ferme: Formula 1’s Dimpled darlings

Parc Ferme: Dimpled darlings

The Formula 1 season of 2023 has welcomed three new and one “old new”, full-time drivers to the fray. This week, Parc Ferme considers how they have performed to date playing with big boys versus initial expectations.

Despite the apparent bravado, it’s never easy for a noob to dive into the F1 piranha pool for the first time. Sure, it was feisty in Formula 2, but you weren’t on the world stage. Now you are, and everyone is watching, judging your performance week in and week out, sometimes under a microscope.

Waltzing Matilda

Let’s start with a positive; Oscar Piastri. The young Australian’s entry into F1 was not the most auspicious. Caught up in a contractual tussle between McLaren & Alpine, he was being touted as the new F1 Messiah.

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Yes, he had won Formula 3 & Formula 2 Championships back-to-back, but those series are to some degree, a bit of a lottery for the front runners. He only just scraped in to win the F3 title, although his F2 championship was significantly more definitive, the rest of his career is relatively bland compared to the Schumachers, Verstappens, and Hamiltons of this world.

Piastri off

Carrying the cross of such high expectations and faced with a teammate who had just seen off Daniel Ricciardo, his prospects didn’t look good. However, the 22-year-old has demonstrated a level of resilience to pressure that some more mature new arrivals may envy.

It appears the gap to his teammate is also coming down – only a tenth separated them in qualifying at Miami. Still, it’s important to understand that Lando Norris is resigned to driving a car that he knows he can’t compete in. Whereas young Piastri is still all “Jack Russell” to be in any car in F1. Either way, impressive and relief, no doubt, for Zak Brown… he got one right!

OmegaTauri

De Vries out, Ricciardo in?

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum sits a man that was expected to kick the doors in from the get-go; Nyck De Vries.

In terms of disappointment, they don’t come much bigger. In 2022, a superlative performance in the Williams at Monza girded the “good doctor” into offering the then Mercedes reserve driver a seat in the AT04. However, what looked like a dream come true now appears to be a poisoned chalice.

The track barriers seem to be operating a magnetic attraction on Nycks car and surprisingly, one of repulsion on Yuki Tsunoda’s. Until Miami, his teammate was a minimum of two-tenths quicker in qualifying and in terms of race position finishes, it’s best we don’t go there.

Wat is er aan de hand?

It’s difficult to pinpoint why the 28-year-old Dutchman is struggling. The reported financial problems with an earlier sponsor? A teammate that’s faster than him? If all this wasn’t enough, the “Good Doctor” has apparently reminded him of the “Jog on” clause in his contract, indicating that he may be considering Liam Lawson or another of Red Bull’s reserve drivers to replace him if he fails to pick up the pace.

However, it is unlikely that any of them will fare much better against Tsunoda, a driver who seems to have retained his speed potential and expletive-ridden pit messages from 2022 while losing his propensity to stick it in the wall or another driver. Maybe the planned major upgrades for Imola can turn it around for him, especially the brakes!

Ice, Ice, baby…

logan sargeant f1 bahrain grand prix review

Logan Sargent, Williams’s new American sponsor magnet signing, was relatively unknown in the US prior to Miami. Following his performance at the Hard Rock Stadium, he is still able to walk the streets without bodyguards.

For a man from whom little was expected, he is on target to deliver. The gap between him and Alex Albon is huge, particularly in the race.

The only thing that keeps him off the very back of the grid after qualifying is imposed penalties for other drivers. There is an air of “Vanilla” about the young American charge so far.

Momma said knock you out…

nico hulkenberg haas seat fitting f1 2023

If we thought Kevin Magnussen made a spectacular return to F1 in 2022, then Nico Hulkenberg would appear to have just redefined it. He currently lies eleventh in the Championship to “Kmags” seventeenth, and it’s well known that there’s no bromantic relationship here.

However, while the German tends to qualify ahead of him, the Danish driver has consistently outperformed him in the races. Magnussen has scored points twice (two tenth-place finishes), whereas Hulkenberg has only done it once. Its was a fortuitous seventh in Melbourne that explains the current disparity in the points. However, there’s no detracting from what he’s delivering. Guenther Steiner’s rationale to avoid “F2 noobs” seems to work well. Don’t call it a comeback…

 Rain tyres?

imola track f1 wet flooding grand prix

Finally, we were heading to Imola this weekend with more upgrades than you can shake a soiled stick at, a new qualifying format and a reduction in the rubber allocation.

Coming up next is the grid draw: a new type of qualifying where the drivers pull out their starting position numbers from a hat. Then, at the following round, this process will be delivered by a fan vote on “twitbook”. It’s a joke of course, I think.

Either way, the originally planned dog and pony show will have to wait.  It’s been decided that the good people of Emilia Romagna should be spared these shenanigans following the deluge that has now flooded the region as well as the facility. My thoughts are with them, and I wish them all the best in recovering from such a terrible ordeal.