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The F1 rookie class of 2013


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#1 Brian O Flaherty

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 14:40

I broached the subject in the Silly Season thread but I think it is more relevant in a thread of its own.

As of right now we have 3 confirmed rookies on the grid.

23 year old Finn, Valtteri Bottas (Williams).
21 year old Mexican, Esteban Gutiérrez (Sauber).
21 year old Englishman, Max Chilton (Marussia).

While there are still technically 3 empty seats on the grid, it is probable that we'll see a maximum of one more rookie being added to the field if Bianchi beats Sutil to partner (the still unconfirmed) Paul di Resta at Force India.

But I digress. Let's concentrate on what we know.

I've done a bit of reading up on these guys and I have to say none of them particularly strike me as having the kind of C.V. that suggests they're going to come in and shake things up - even allowing for the relatively modest equipment they'll probably have at their disposal.

From what I can see, Bottas is probably the pick of the bunch at this stage. 2008 Formula Renault 2.0 Champion, 2009 3rd in F3 Euro and F3 Master champion, 2010 3rd in F3 Euro and F3 Master champion, 2011 GP3 champion and 2012 concentrated solely on testing for Williams. At 23 years of age he seems to have the best combination of results and experience to do well from the off and has at least achieved something in each of the past few years showing that he's at least not a flash in the pan.

Gutiérrez could go either way. His career to date seems very up and down. BMW Europe champion in 2008, GP3 champion in 2010 and 3rd in GP2 in 2012 are the only results of note. 2009 & '11 are best forgotten. He's still young, but that won't matter on the grid. Maybe someone can elaborate on this guy's potential.

Chilton in particular doesn't appear to have done anything of note. Ever. He has won no junior formula or even come top 3 in anything other than T-Cars which was at the start of his junior racing career. Is he the pay-driver that I think he is?

Obviously I hope someone in here will tell me that they're all (or even one is) going to be brilliant and that I've misread the situation. But as of right now I see 3 rookies whose team-mates could wipe the floor with them next season. The minor exception being Bottas who will probably benefit from Maldonado's consistent inconsistency.


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#2 BackmarkerUK

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 15:41

Esteban Gutiérrez is certainly no slouch, having been the first ever GP3 champion, which he achieved ahead of Robert Wickens. GP2 has probably been a little disappointing for him, as he should have been able to put together a more substantial title challenge in 2012, but to offer some defence, the drivers who beat him were firstly far more experienced in GP2, and specifically had experience of racing at the Asian tracks, which he didn't. He's very quick at times, but there have been times when he's just looked a bit bored. So while he has decent ability, I think that over the course of the season in a Sauber against Hulkenberg, there's a risk he'll be anonymous.

Max Chilton's career in motorsport has been firmly backed up by daddy's money. That's not to say he's atrocious, far worse drivers have made it to F1. While I don't personally rate him, he should be credited for his two wins in GP2 this season, and he did manage to string together a good chain of point-scoring finishes. I don't think he's much more of a waste of an F1 car than Jerome d'Ambrosio and Charles Pic were at the time they made it.

#3 Jimisgod

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 17:51

Bottas will run well, match Pastor on speed by the end of the year. Williams should be up around 5th or 6th fastest car.

The Guitar will be disappointing and get in lots of oopsies. Sauber was falling back after Monza, and Hulkenberg is fast and consistent.

Chilton will be solid if unspectacular. Think he will turn out like Pic.

#4 BackmarkerUK

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 18:10

The Guitar will be disappointing and get in lots of oopsies. Sauber was falling back after Monza, and Hulkenberg is fast and consistent.


Gutierrez hasn't been too oopsy prone in his junior career - only two retirements in twenty-four races last season. I think Hulkenberg will sweep the floor with him, but I think he's able to avoid embarassing himself.

#5 Collective

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 21:11

Gutiérrez has the curse of having a fast, reliable and somewhat experienced teammate when he is just a rookie, but also the blessing that no one is expecting him to challenge Nico, and if for some reason he manages to keep it somewhat close, it will be great for his career. Time will tell. It would have been great for him to have more mileage as a Sauber test driver, but it is what it is.

Chilton has a tough package. Pic did a very decent job vs Glock as a rookie. That will be his yardstick.

I think Bottas will be very quick from the beginning. He had very good mileage in 2012 (unlike Esteban) and his practice times were mostly on Maldonado's league. Not looking like missing GP2 or WSbR will affect him.

#6 Szoelloe

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 21:22

Bottas shows some promise. The other two will prove to be cannon fodder. Or not. But I tend towards the former. So cannon fodder.

#7 Brian O Flaherty

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 11:40

Gutiérrez has the curse of having a fast, reliable and somewhat experienced teammate when he is just a rookie, but also the blessing that no one is expecting him to challenge Nico, and if for some reason he manages to keep it somewhat close, it will be great for his career. Time will tell. It would have been great for him to have more mileage as a Sauber test driver, but it is what it is.

I agree although the one thing in Gutiérrez's favour versus his team-mate that neither Chilton nor Bottas have is that Nico is new to the car too. You're right in that no-one will expect Gutiérrez to challenge Nico but if the new car levels the playing field then the (perhaps incorrect) perception might be that he's keeping the fight closer than was expected and is better than expected. But only if he manages to come in and do well himself.

#8 noikeee

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 13:00

I think Bottas is the most talented of the 3 confirmed so far, and will be helped by an inconsistent - albeit blisteringly quick - team-mate. Wouldn't be shocked to watch him beat Pastor on points.

Gutierrez is a fairly promising driver too and I expect some flashes of talent but he didn't back his hype fully in GP2, and has a tough task in Hulk as team-mate, I expect him to be the inconsistent one in Sauber.

Chilton has developed into a competent driver by now but I don't think the natural ability is there by default. Not-being-hopeless isn't good enough qualifications to shine in F1, given the level of everyone else around you can easily be made to look pretty bad. My analogy is he's the new English Karthikeyan, Karthikeyan was hardly hopelessly slow, never that many tenths below his team-mates and indeed had decent results in his junior career, but still was the worst driver in the grid last year because of how good everyone else was. I expect Chilton to fall into the same position, and be slightly slower than the previous Glock team-mates at Marussia (di Grassi, d'Ambrosio and Pic).

Bianchi if he still makes it into a seat is an interesting one, because the hype has now rightly died due to his failings to win the GP2 and WSR titles for the past 3 seasons, yet it's worth noting despite this he's been thereabouts at the front of the grid every year at every level of his career. He may not have the "new Schumacher" tag slapped on him anymore, but there's a reason Ferrari haven't given up on him yet. If he gets the seat I think he can run di Resta close, apart from the 1 or 2 inevitable crashes (but he must be getting more consistent by now).

So Chilton to be poor, the other 3 (including Bianchi if he makes it) to be mildly promising with perhaps Bottas in the best position to shine.

It's interesting in 2009 Bianchi Bottas and Gutierrez were the 3 of them team-mates in ART in F3 Euroseries. Bianchi was champion, Bottas 3rd, Gutierrez only 9th - but Bianchi had more experience than both of them who were F3 rookies at that point, and Gutierrez bounced back from that year more convincingly than Bottas the next season (Bottas did not improve with another 3rd in the Euroseries, Gutierrez won the GP3 title). So I don't think the debate's settled between them at all.

#9 Risil

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 19:42

Has Britain ever had as obvious a paydriver as Chilton?

#10 midgrid

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 19:48

Has Britain ever had as obvious a paydriver as Chilton?


Johnny Dumfries (who was admittedly a champion at F3 level)? Plus a lot of wealthy amateurs up until the 1970s.


#11 Les

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 21:42

All three seem to have a steep mountain to climb (but who coming into F1 doesn't?). Bottas has a lot of hype to live up to. He would appear to have real talent though. If he can match/beat Maldonado's speed then he could be set for a stellar career, if he does't then his reputation could take a nose dive pretty quickly. Who knows but I predict he has the talent to do it.

Gutiérrez has a very hard time being placed alongside Hulkenburg but the positive thing for him is that not too many people will be expecting him to beat Nico H. He has to avoid being too slow, race well and not get stuck in Q1 though.

Chilton will have a tough time avoiding the pay-driver tag. Its hard to ignore though. He's not terrible but not exciting either and I'm sure Glock isn't having any nightmares. Indeed it may have been better for Glock if he was going to be tested by a tougher team-mate.

#12 Garagiste

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 22:05

Has Britain ever had as obvious a paydriver as Chilton?


Depends on whether or not you count Irish-licenced Ralph Firman or not.

#13 Risil

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 22:34

Depends on whether or not you count Irish-licenced Ralph Firman or not.


He was very successful in British F3 in 1995 and 1996, against drivers like Montoya, Minassian and Castroneves, along with some talented Brits like Jonny Kane and Oliver Gavin. Plus an asterisked Macau GP win and a Formula Nippon title. Much stronger record than Chilton.

#14 michaelmyers

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 23:00

The last time that Mika suggested someone for a seat was Kimi back in the day. I trust his judgement and thus I'm fairly confident. Bottas also has got good merits in smaller classes plus the experience in F1 testing for Williams. He really showed some good times in FP3 even beating Maldonado (who is, need I say, really fast yet unreliable) a few times. It seems to me that he has got everything it takes to become a top class F1 driver. I just hope Williams makes a good car.

What comes to the Gutiérrez, I don't really know what to expect. In my opinion he could turn out either way. Can't really get a grip of that guy.
Chilton will probably just be an other pay driver whose name we won't even remember after a few years. Needless to say I'm not expecting much of him.

Edited by michaelmyers, 24 January 2013 - 23:01.