Man Friday


Leave me alone I'm on Smoko
2009 was a revolutionary year in F1 for many reasons with the new regs coming in and the biggest shake up of the front running teams in decades but it was also a year a problem was exposed with modern F1 and this was exposed by an injury to Fellipe Massa. Ferrari needed a reaplacement driver and quick and when the Schumi thing fell through they fell back on trusty test driver Luca Badoer who promptly came in and sat slowly at the back of the field. Thats because he's rubbish said the press! bring in someone good! So they did in the form of good old Fisichella who promptly sat at the back in his Ferrari and ended his career on a massive low. Well the Ferrari was difficult to drive I hear you cry. Nop. Toro Rosso drop Bourdais and Alguersauri comes in and sits at the back. Piquet is ermmmm sacked and in comes Grosjean and he's at the back. The only one it didn't happen to was Liuzzi at Force India. So what was the problem? Well the testing ban of course and suddenly it dawned on teams that they needed to have a third driver who was familliar with the car just in case they needed to boot out or replace one of their main 2 which of course led to the invention of the Friday driver and whilst its been slowly developinits 2012 when the Friday driver has exploded into life making P1 a must watch for team managers and fans with an eye on the future.

Whilst the 3 front teams of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mclaren aren't playing when it comes to the Friday driver Red Bull and Ferrari have made sure if they needed cover that their first reserve will at least be having P1 session elsewhere. The other teams though have all made promises to their reserve drivers and it goes as follows.

Mercedes - Sam Bird - Whilst people talk up Hulkenberg and Di Resta as the next Merc driver thier actually prodigy is Brit Sammy Bird. Bird didn't have a brilliant GP2 year last year he has shown promise and looks like a front runner. This year he's changed catogry to drive in Formula Renault 3.5 with the main reason being this will free him up to spend more time with the Merc F1 team on GP weekends and will inable him to do some Friday running. Which GPs he'll be in Friday P1 has not been announced but I should imagine it will be some of the European one's and it being another Brit in and F1 car that you'll def hear about it!

Lotus - Jerome D'ambrosio - Jerome has the strange situation of having more recent F1 experience that the 2 main drivers in the team. After a steady but decent year in the Marussia team I think its fair to say that most people thought D'ambrosio was a little unlucky to lose his seat and therefore I was very happy to see him get this role at the Lotus team. whilst I think he'll have to wait until near the end of the season to get his P1 running due to Grosjean and Kimi needing the time at the min I have no doubt we'll see him because he's in Eric Boullier's stable and he'll want to show him off to get him in a seat fir next season. Also a good back up for if Kimi or Big Jean blow it!

Force India - Jules Bianchi - Force India have been great advocats of the Friday driver system and it looks like they'll continue to do so with Bianchi in the squad. Force India's thrid driver for the last 3 season has ended up as main driver the year after in the shape of Liuzzi, Di Resta and Hulkenberg and I wouldn't be surprised is the trend didn't continue but only if Nico and/or Paul move up in the world. To be honest Bianchi blew what was suppose to be his glory year in GP2 last year otherwise he'd have been driving in F1 proper this season and I'm pretty sure this 3rd driver at Force India role has been secured by Ferrari in order to get their acadamy star back on track. I imagine he'll get plenty of Friday running and we'll hear Hulkenberg moan about it the same way Di Resta moaned about it in 2011 despite the fact they both had the same situation to advantage themselves. Also its handy for Ferrari to keep Bianchi F1 sharp in case Massa really does tune in and drop out.

Sauber - Esteban Gutierrez - Despite not being taken along to Canada when Perez was still doubtful as reserve Sauber have always been lining up Gutierrez as their next driver. They have major Mexican sponsorship and if Perez was to leave to go to Ferrari as is suspected Gutierrez would be ideal to fill the seat in order to hold on to that deal. To be fair to Gutierrez he has shown a lot of potential and speed and as he's only 20 years of age its no surprise Sauber didn't run him on Fridays last year. This year is a different kettle of fish though and I'm sure during the European races we are likely to see him in most P1 session annoying the hell out of Kobyashi and Perez by making them sit on the sidelines. To me this is the most likely of the Friday drivers to be a Sunday driver in 2013.

Toro Rosso - Sebastian Buemi - Whilst they billed it as Buemi being Red Bull's 3rd driverin order to apeise him after being dropped from the race seat its well known that Red Bull and Toro Rosso share the same 3rd driver. In my view Buemi has been installed as a back up to the youngsters they have at Toro Rosso and would not be surprised at all to see him running Friday P1 session in order to help with the set up for Red Bull's Junior team.

Williams - Valtteri Bottas - In days of yore the young Finn would have been in the Williams a-squad but in the dark days of Williams slide and financial problems he's had to settle for the 3rd spot whilst the south americans with the big sponsors sit ahead of him. at 22 Bottas already has 3 years worth of test experience for Williams and was the buzz of the Abu Dhabi young drivers test last year. Bottas looks very quick and seems to know his way around a set up so I would not be surprised to see him running most Friday P1 session or even to see him squeezed into a race seat near the end of the seasonn.

Caterham - Giedo Van Der Garde - The 26 year old Dutchmen was once part of the Mclaren development programme and has been making noises about getting into F1 since about 2007 now. Highly financially back with a reported 6 Million Euros backing him up his link to Caterham seems to have fufilled Tony Fernadez wish that the team becomes more self sufficent. The only way to secure that cash is to give the boy some Friday running though and it will be interesting to see how he performs finally given the chance as he was consistantly on the podium in GP2 last year even if he didn't score a win.

HRT - Dani Clos - After the crazy driver line up HRT announced when they revealed that Dani Clos was to be their 3rd driver who would run in Friday sessions most of us concluded that in reality this is the driver HRT want to run but can't justify turning down the funds from elsewhere to put him in. Clos is well known as quick and at one point was heading Grosjean for the GP2 title last year but then dropped form. Well knowns as quick in quali although I don't think we'll get to see that with him in HRT. I think Clos is def sitting on the sidelines waiting for Karthakeyen's money to run out or De La Rosa to decide he wants to retire.

So thats this years Friday contenders - what a weird session it'll be if they're all in at once. Anyone got an opinon on this new Friday trend as to whether its a good thing or a bad thing? and what about the drivers in line for it? Anyone you want to say we must have an eye on?
I think Williams have given Bottas a firm commitment to run him in 15 Friday sessions this season, which is admirable.

It's always difficult to know how much attention to pay to headline Friday times, when all the same arguments about testing can be levelled: different programmes, different tyres, fuel loads etc. Going flat-out and risking a crash, or failing to follow the team's instructions, isn't a very clever policy in the long-run.

As far as talents are concerned, Bianchi, Gutierrez and Bottas all have looked strong in their junior series, but that doesn't always translate perfectly to F1 as we know. I don't imagine d'Ambrosio will get a huge amount of running given the race drivers' need to get reacclimatised, as you have said, and I don't know how keen Michael Schumacher will be to give up his car for a session either.

Dani Clos' reputation might be best served by doing as little running for HRT as possible.
Dani Clos' reputation might be best served by doing as little running for HRT as possible.

Quite possible! Although having said that his reputation might be boosted if he comes in on Friday P1 sessions and blows away the two main drivers and if those drivers are De La Rosa and Karthakeyen then he has to stand a chance!
I think that both Bottas and Clos suffer from the main drivers in their teams not necessarily being all that highly rated.

If Dani is faster than Pedro and Narain, my response will not be one of surprise or admiration, put it that way.

If Pic can beat Glock, or van der Garde beat Kovalainen, that will surely count for a lot more.
Ok so we had 3 of our Man Fridays in the P1 at China this morning.

Bottas - second time he's jumped in that Williams for P1 and the second time he's been faster than Maldonado - once in a wet session and once in a dry - not by masses but when you think how much more car time Maldonado has had then it starts to become impressive. Galahad stated at the begining of the season that beating Maldonado and Senna wouldn't count for much and whilst I still don't think it does after the 2 of them have had decent drives in Australia and Malaysia respectively it does make you wonder what Bottas could do given the chance. Certainly standing out as a Man Friday in these early stages just as he did at the Young Driver Test at Abu Dhabi

Bianchi - So Jules jumps into the Force India for the first time and has a shortened wet session to deal with but once again this highly rated youngster doesn't look to be living up to the hype at nearly a full 4 seconds slower than Hulkenberg. It is his first time in the Force India (although not in an F1 car due to his Ferrari time) so we won't knock him just yet - and he is up against Hulkenberg and Di Resta! - but you have to say that as a year and a half ago this chappie was being rated as the next world beater Seb Vettel meets Lewis Hamilton type you'd expect him to look a bit quicker.

Van Der Garde - No one really expected big things from the dutchman and we didn't get them with him being a second and a half slower than Kovi and a few tenths down on brown troussered Timo Glock in the Marussia. Its a steady start for Van Der Garde that he probably won't have too much oppotunity to imporve on as he's running in GP2 this year meaning he won't be able to get much Friday time in. Alexander Rossi could be the chap doing the Friday running but we'll see.

Just as a footnote it will be interesting to find out when we'll get to see a glimpse of our Woman Friday - this of course being Maria de Villota who is reserve driver at Marussia and is expected to get some Friday running. I don't expect her to set the world on fire but I'm sure she'll get some media attention.
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