Perhaps the two common household names of the 2013 Formula 1 season are Bianchi and Hulkenberg. The ‘Rookie of the Year’ Bianchi has made an amazing entry into Formula 1, while Hulkenberg has once again impressed one and all in what is actually his third season in Formula 1 as a ‘driver’. Age is definitely on their side, and they are destined to be a ‘Champion’. It would be highly disappointing, if they turn out to be another Mark Webber or Nick Heidfeld of the next era. Bianchi will continue to drive for Marussia, while Hulkenberg has made his return to Force India after failing to find a seat elsewhere. Their career path has been so far different until this point of time, but their aspirations are quite clear, and their career paths could eventually come to a cross in 2015?
Use logic instead of emotions to make important decisions - Sonya Parker
The logic in Hulk’s Sauber decision is perhaps understandable, but looking at it now, emotional decision could have prevailed. It was no surprise that Force India never expected their 2012 drivers to leave the team, and it was shocking when Hulkenberg side-stepped to the Sauber team. The decision could have looked even more terrible, if Sauber didn’t lift their form towards the later half of the European rounds. It was amazing to see how Hulkenberg kept his motivation high even after the team’s dismal performances, and worse of all, to see his former team consistently outperform the midfield. It’s now revealed that Vijay Mallya has been in touch with Hulkenberg from the Round 2 of the 2013 season. The Anglo-Indian Team wanted this fierce German, and wasn’t bothered about his weight or the abysmal finances that he brings to a team.
Looking back at the Hulkenberg’s career, he was destined to be among the great’s of the Motorsports. One of his most memorable performances was at the A1GP 2006-07 season when he alone won the Championship for A1 Team Germany. That season of A1GP featured many of the prominent names of Motorsports, including the likes of his 2014 teammate Sergio Perez, and others including Sébastien Buemi, Narain Karthikeyan, and Alex Yoong. Hulkenberg dominated the Championship and won 9 of the 18 rounds that he competed in his stint. Hulkenberg further went onto win the Formula 3, and the GP2 Championships in the following years. It’s always amazing to see someone win a Championship is his first stint in the series, and that’s when you realise the driver’s potential and his talent. His stint in Formula 1 has been impressive ever since his first season at Williams, although he wasn’t able to totally outclass his experienced teammate over the course of that season. In his other two stints at the pinnacle of the Motorsports, he showed his class and dominated his teammates. That has been the level of his performance, so much so that he was a common household name, and never in the recent years of Formula 1 that many people wanted a particular driver to desperately drive for a Top Team.
Perhaps, the career of Hulkenberg could have been slightly better if he could have stayed at one particular team. But then, Sutil stayed all along at Force India/Midland/Jordan and that never helped his career, and towards the end of 2011 season, Sutil was looking lost and never found a team in need of his services. (Sutil’s comeback story wasn’t so heroic, but he never showed any rustiness in his driving skills, and looked just as sharp as ever. Sutil’s stint at Sauber could be really interesting, as it would be his first new team in his whole career. If Sutil can adapt to his new challenge, and push the team towards podium finishes, maybe he would end up on the radar of a top team)
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Jules Bianchi. ‘The Intellectual Saviour’ of Marussia and whose incredible performances have put an end to Razia’s sympathy. Jules Bianchi, the grandson of Mauro Bianchi who is the former ‘Three Time World Champion’ in the GT Category, was drafted as a replacement of Luiz Razia at Marussia in the Eleventh Hour of pre-season testing. Bianchi was tipped to be the replacement of Nico Hulkenberg at Force India for the 2013 season, after having spent the 2012 season extensively testing for the team, but was overlooked by the Anglo-Indian Squad in favor of Adrian Sutil. Bianchi never looked stranger to the new conditions that was put forward to him, and despite Chilton driving extensively in the pre-season testing, Bianchi out qualified the Brit in the majority of the 2013 qualifying sessions (16-3). On many occasions, Bianchi was three-quarters of a second quicker than his teammate, and had an average qualifying position of 19 compared to Chilton’s 21. In Race conditions, Bianchi excelled his teammate with a score of 14-5. Bianchi’s career is as comparable to that of Hulkenberg. Needless to say, Bianchi is part of Ferrari’s Young Driver’s Academy, and they have offered him a one day test session at this weekend’s Pirelli Test at Bahrain.
2014 will be a real challenge for both these drivers. With all the rule changes, there isn’t a clear favorite for the Championships. Both Force India and Marussia have invested a lot of resources as possible to their might for the development of their 2014 challenger, and these two drivers would be hoping for the luck to go in favor of them.
Marussia would be making a switch to the Ferrari Engines and the deal includes a further collaboration for Gearbox and other related systems. Marussia also has a Technical Partnership with McLaren Applied Technologies which grants them access to various McLaren’s facilities like the use of Test Rigs, Wind tunnel, Simulator and other Computer Technologies. With access to such a huge range of facilities, Marussia should immensely stand to gain with regards to the development of their 2014 challenger, as compared to its nearest rival. However, they have lost a major impulse in the name of Pat Symonds who should be credited for the team’s performance this year. Pat Symonds had created a proper structure within this Young team, and it should be seen if they could cope up with this loss. Nevertheless, the ultimate goal for Bianchi should be to outperform his teammate who most likely should be Chilton. 2014 would be the best chance for this team to score that elusive point or two and Bianchi should be hoping that he would remain the juggernaut of this team.
Meanwhile, Hulkenberg’s task is a bit more steep. Force India have started working on their 2014 challenger from May 2013, and it’s one of the reasons for the team’s form to dive down as the season progressed, and most importantly after the change of tyre compounds from Pirelli. In most likelihood, Force India should be a regular Top 10 finisher for the 2014 season, and they are aiming to finish fifth in the constructor’s standings. It would be a treat for the Force India drivers if Mercedes Powertrain emerge as the best of the rest, as it would give additional momentum to the team’s progress. But the real story for Force India is the competition within the team. As McLaren took a long time to reveal the identity of the replacement for Lewis Hamilton, lots of people wanted Hulkenberg to partner Jenson Button for the 2013 season, and as it turned out, Sergio Perez was picked on a ‘multi year’ deal, and the team ended up sacking the young Mexican. Sergio Perez would be itching to prove himself after a dismal season, and would be keen to impress the Top Teams, and he has already hinted at the idea of moving beyond the Force India for the 2015 season and beyond. On the other hand, Hulkenberg is already highly regarded by the peers, and the F1 Universe, and he would be looking forward to the 2014 season to score some consistent points, and would be very eager to make a statement of his own by outclassing his Mexican teammate.
If a seat opens up for the 2015 season at Ferrari, as per the talks of Alonso-McLaren saga, Bianchi is looking as a firm contender. Bianchi is already under the radar of Ferrari, and his test session with Ferrari at Bahrain would be used as a demonstration of his progress over the course of the 2013 season. Hulkenberg has a very tough task ahead, having lost a Ferrari contract by a few notches, and with the Lotus team also overlooking his efforts, his life is still struck at the midfield. To add to his woes, his teammate was a ex-member of the Ferrari Young Driver’s Academy, and is coming from a top team with his own agenda.
It would be really interesting to see the progress of Hulkenberg and Bianchi as they embark on their fresh challenges. With their current form, both the drivers deserve a top seat. Ferrari can make amends to Hulkenberg’s career by offering him a seat for 2015, if at all the slot opens up. However, Ferrari has successfully groomed a driver in the name of Bianchi, and surely, Bianchi deserves the promotion for all the hard work that he has done in his short career.