I think Mansell is a very good example. And the best example of 2000s is probably Felipe Massa. Of course his peak form didn't last long, but it is still impressive he got there, because during 2002-2005 he was viewed as a solid midfielder only. A driver worthy of F1 seat, but in the list of best drivers many other guys were put ahead. Then he got the Ferrari seat and gradually grew into his own. Of course, helped by perfect conditions. Mentor Michael Schumacher, perhaps the fastest car of 2006-2008, very good team and support.
The likes of Perez, Kobayashi, di Resta, Maldonado, etc have been in F1 for three years just like Massa after his Sauber years. And all of them were/are viewed not too dissimilarly to how Massa was viewed after his first three seasons - sort of an average midfield driver in F1 context and you wouldn't expect any more from him. Do we believe that any of the above can replicate what Massa did, provided they got excellent conditions? This means a very fast and good car, a good mentor and the team behind him.
I am starting to think that perhaps Grosjean is indeed the "Massa example". Because in the second half of 2013 he indeed had those conditions - team behind him and a very good car. And he excelled. Maldonado was certainly fast in 2012, when the car was fast and he was confident. Confident largely due to large paycheck from PDVSA, so he didn't need to worry about his seat, but the source of confidence doesn't matter - what matters is that confidence exists. The main problem was that he was making lots of mistakes, so he didn't really properly capitalize on an excellent opportunity, and it is still unclear if he can cut them out. Perhaps Perez and Maldonado can also qualify into the "Massa/Grosjean" group. Look average most of the time, but can come to the fore in perfect conditions.
Then again I believe many drivers can excel in so-called perfect conditions. The only problem is that "perfect conditions" happen quite rarely and even then they usually "happen" to brilliant drivers, like Michael Schumacher and dream team of Ferrari in 2000s. It is hard to get the stars align for you and it can happen only to a few drivers at once. But IF they happen, a big if, you can look pretty impressive.
Edited by sopa, 27 December 2013 - 18:26.