F1 2010 season preview: The rookies

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The Senna name is back in F1 for the first time since 1994, courtesy of Bruno

The likes of Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton are always going to command the most attention in F1.

But we shouldn’t overlook the rookie field of 2010, which is one of the most promising we’ve seen in years.

And it includes the return of a name which is even more famous than those three.

Nico Hulkenberg

2009 form: GP2 champion, 100 points, five wins

If there is such a thing as a textbook route into F1, Nico Hulkenberg demonstrated it.

His 2006-07 A1 Grand Prix campaign for Team Germany was a tour de force – he was never seriously rivalled on his way to the championship. He went on to mimic Lewis Hamilton’s feat of winning the F3 Euroseries and GP2 championships in successive seasons with the crack ART squad.

Williams have had him under their wing for some time. He shook down the FW31 last year and got some extra running at the end of the season in the young drivers’ training days.

He’s got the most experienced F1 driver ever alongside him to learn from and perhaps, eventually, beat. Speaking to him during F1 testing he felt Rubens Barrichello’s F1 experience would come into play for him once the season get started and the pair are out on-track together.

There’s not much more you could ask from his preparation for F1. The question now is whether Hulkenberg can translate his obvious potential into F1 results.

Vitaly Petrov

2009 form: second in GP2, 75 points, two wins

The deal which brought Vitaly Petrov to Renault was something of a surprise in spite of a solid 2009 campaign which saw Petrov finish runner-up to Hulkenberg in GP2.

Being the first driver from a country which has never had an F1 driver before his CV is rather different from the usual karts/F3/GP2 fare – few if any other F1 drivers have raced in championships for Ladas.

Petrov has been steady if unspectacular and he’s up against a very highly-rated team mate in Robert Kubica in a team that’s been through some turbulent times. It could be a tricky debut season for the first Russian in F1.

Lucas di Grassi

2009 form: third in GP2, 63 points, one win

Arguably the GP2 title should have gone to Lucas di Grassi in 2007. He inherited the ART car which Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had won the title with in the previous two seasons, yet fell short.

He was beaten to the crown by Timo Glock, his team mate at Virgin this year, despite the German driver suffering reliability problems.

Di Grassi rescued his reputation in 2008 when he managed to finish third in the championship despite not contesting the first six races. But in 2009 he once again had the previous champions’ car and, once again, no title.

I spoke to him at Jerez a couple of times last month and his excitement at getting his F1 break was clearly tempered by concern over how little running the team were able to get done in between car problems and the rain.

Bruno Senna

2009 form: 16th in Le Mans Series, 12 points

If Hulkenberg got his F1 graduation spot-on, Bruno Senna has been dogged by problems and false starts.

His family halted his first attempt at a motor racing career after the death of his uncle Ayrton. He eventually persuaded them to let him back on the track and quickly caught up to his rivals. His last British F3 season in 2006 saw him place third overall, his season disrupted by an enormous crash at Snetteron where he came frighteningly close to hitting the bridge on the Revett straight.

He moved up to GP2 but lost out to Giorgio Pantano in the 2008 title battle. Honda sized him up for a 2009 drive alongside Jenson Button before they pulled out, leaving him in limbo last year.

Senna appeared in four sports car races, including the Le Mans 24 Hours, but other than those appearances, and with no testing in the HRT, he’s not been in the cockpit much over the last 12 months. For the time being, living up to his uncle’s reputation is out of the question.

Karun Chandhok

2009 form: 18th in GP2, ten points

Karun Chandhok had good results in Asian national championships against weaker opposition but has only won a few races since moving into higher racing formulae.

The popular Indian driver, only the second native of his country to get into F1, drove alongside Senna at iSport in 2008 and was out-scored by his team mate. That may well be the case at HRT this year but the performance of the untried car is a greater concern in the immediate future.

The almost-rookies

Two drivers who were drafted in to F1 teams last year will start their first full seasons in 2010.

When Jaime Alguersuari became the youngest ever F1 driver at last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix there were complaints from some quarters that his inexperience would make him a danger on the track. That never proved to be the case, although he did suffer a large crash at Suzuka.

With more experience and more time in the car we should get a better impression of what he can do this year.

The two starts Kamui Kobayashi made for Toyota last year propelled him into the headlines as he duelled with Button and gave no quarter. At times he looked a bit too uncomprising and there were complaints from his rivals.

But a mature drive at Yas Island including a careful defence from Kimi Raikkonen on the opening lap brought him an excellent sixth place. His pass on Button in that race was voted overtaking move of the year on this site.

He impressed Peter Sauber enough to get a drive at his team in 2010. Though we had grown used to seeing Japanese F1 drivers always with Japanese-engined teams, that is not the case with Kobayashi this year, which is a significant indicator of his talent.

Over to you

Who do you expect to be top rookie in 2010? Have your say in the comments.

See all the articles in the F1 Fanatic 2010 Season Preview

2010 F1 season

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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41 comments on “F1 2010 season preview: The rookies”

  1. The Hulk even tried out working with the pit crew (I think ti was either the lollipop or tyres) and spent a lot of time at Williams. That shows dedication. I think he’ll be the naturally quickest rookie, Petrov the most solid and Kobayashi the wildest.

    1. senna is very poor you will see that

  2. I’d say of the five literal rookies, Hulkenberg should turn out the best in terms of points. I’m not sure what to expect of Petrov and a lot will depend on how good the Renault turns out to be… obviously the three guys in the new teams will be judged on different standards…

    For Jaime, I think given STR’s history, being in the car at the end of the year will be a big achivement…

    Kamui – I hope he does well and doesn’t end up the same as Sato… he needs to keep his aggression but temper it to avoid too many crashes

    Will be interesting to see if we see any mid-year debutants this year too, and if so whether they can upstage the ‘full year rookies’ like Kamui did last year

  3. Is Kobayashi actually the first Japanese driver not to be propelled by a Japanese engine?

    1. Toshio Suzuki raced for Larrousse Lamborghini in 93, and Naoki Hattori drove for Coloni Ford in 1991.

    2. no
      Nakajima Snr and Aguri Suzuki both drove cars powered by Cosworths, as well as a few assorted others (eg Lamborghini at Larousse for Suzuki)

      1. Don’t forget Ukyo Katayama either – he also drove for Larrouse Lamborghini (in 1992) and then finished his career with Minardi’s powered by Hart in 1997.

        1. Sakon Yamamoto was 2007 at Spyker Ferrari and Shinji Nakano 1998 Minardi-Ford

          1. Before Yamamoto it would probably have been Tora Takagi was powered by Arrows engines (remember them?!) in 1999

    3. Kazuyoshi Hoshino and Masahiro Hasemi were both driving Cosworth engine cars in the Japanese GP in 1976. Hoshino was on an old Tyrrell and Hasemi on a locally built Kojima which got the fastest lap during the (soaked) race.

  4. I’d expect Kobayashi to score the highest out of this selection, as he has more experience than most and, for my money, the best equipment to start with compared with the others.

    I’d expect Hulkenburg to do well as well though. Like Kobayashi, he has had a fair amount of testing in F1 (Winter tests of 09). Hulkenburg boasts a strong CV of good results too.

    1. I dont think Kobayashi will be consistent enough compared with The Hulk.

      1. Kobayashi probably wont score as consistently as The Hulk, but I can see Kobayashi scoring more highly

  5. Let’s hope the guys in the new teams get a chance to show what they can do, it would be a shame if their F1 careers are hampered by the car they are driving.

    On a more positive note, it’s great to see so many new drivers with such great potential!

  6. Mainly due to the cars they are driving but out of all the rookies I expect Hulkenberg to finish the season with the most points, then Kobayashi and then Algersuari.

    Depending on how the Renault performs Petrov may score some points but I don’t expect any of the rookies in the new teams to score points unless due to a fluke result.

  7. Hulkenberg already got my vote of confidence since he was in A1 GP. Kobayashi’s surprising performance in Brazil and Abu Dhabi really showed some promise to me. So both of them will shine in 2010 i think, in respect their car’s performance.

  8. I think Hulkenberg is a surefire bet to be the best out of this lot. Petrov could pleasantly surprise as well, providing the Renault is half decent.

  9. Kobayashi by far, then Hulk and Petrov in no specific order. I can see Renault and Williams as equals so it’s all up to drivers.

  10. Probably Hulkenberg, although I wouldn’t be surprised if Kobayashi ran him close.

    Senna and Chandhok will be compromised at the beginning of the season because of HRT’s lack of running in preseason.

  11. Hulk.
    As a semi-rookie I absolutely quote Kobayashi. I was definitely astonished with his last races last year.

  12. I think that Hulkenberg will be the best rookie and will follow in the footsteps of Hamilton in case of speed, but Williams is not a top team so he won’t probably fight for champcrown in his first year. P.S. I hope that next year one of the rookies will be my compatiot Kazimieras Vasiliauskas. Keith, I hope you will write an article about himone day.

    1. Can we call him Kazi Vasili?

  13. Hulkenburg: expect him to top the rookies and maybe, just maybe, to win a tipsy-turvy race.

    Kobayashi: I think he will carry on being an exciting driver, will score a few points and maybe a lucky podium.

    Petrov: haven’t read anything about him to suggest he will be any good or a complete dud.

    di Grassi: will have a Buemi-like season but be overshadowed by Hulkenberg and Kobayashi.

    Senna: will I think prove the hype was premature, but still be competent. Will suffer being in the HRT.

    Chandhok: expect him to come last, and not hopeful of him scoring any points.

    It’s still bleak out there in the economy, but I hope next year those who are there more for their money and/or nationality than their talent will write themselves out of having a seat next year, if they fail to live up to expectations. A grid that has Chandhok and Petrov but no Paffet it Heidfeld (yes, I know why not him specifically, but I mean someone of his talent) by monetary necessity is a small blow in Formula 1. Still, I hope to be proven wrong and see good racing from all!

    1. Hulkenberg has been truly impressive in A1GP and GP2 and Williams is the perfect outfit to start in F1. So my money is on him. But Kobayashi has been astonishing last year for his debuts with Toyota. As for the rest of the rookie field none of them looks like the stuff heroes are made of…

  14. Poor Senna. HRT is the great joke of 2010 season!

  15. “At times he looked a bit too uncompromising and there were complaints from his rivals”

    Drivers always b!tch if someone gives them a hard time, I think Kobayashi did well.

  16. I expect most from Hulkenberg. He’s just been a solid performer. He could be right up there with Hamilton and Rosberg.

    Still unsure about Kobayashi. At Abu Dhabi he drove well in that fast Toyota, but Interlagos was perhaps exciting, but as a race it was really bad (slow and overly agressive)

    I have no hopes at all for the other rookies. I hope one can surprise us, but in GP2 none of them really made an impresion on me either.

  17. My favorites are Kamui Kobayashi & Nico Hülkenberg. but all the nest for the rest of the guys.

  18. For me Kobayashi is the best.Coming into a season for the penultimate race and battling the top drivers,this guy is full of confidence.I think he’s got the full package.

    I also beleive in Hulkenberg.He’s an awesome driver.I think he’ll do well but will be even better if he can beat Barrichello.

    The rest is something to be seen though.

  19. I think Kobayashi will be on top this year. He looks to have the best car this year, out of the rookies.

  20. Eje Gustafsson
    10th March 2010, 19:33

    I don’t understand how Karun Chandhok got a drive? He did nothing exceptional last year in GP2 and it is many years back in lower series that he had any greater success.
    His team mate did better IMO and a driver like Pastor Maldonado is more deserving of a drive then Karun. The rest of the ones I find nothing wrong with but he sticks out like a sore thumb.

  21. Kamui kobayashi will be rookie of the year, he may even win a grand prix.

    1. Prisoner Monkeys
      10th March 2010, 21:19

      Doubt it. The only way he could win a race would be if everyne else falls by the wayside. His pass on Button in Abu Dhabi might have been voted the best of 2009, but Button had only just come out of the pits and Kobayashi was at he end of his stint. Even I could have passed Button under those conditions.

      1. PM, that is a ridiculous comment. We know the circumstances of that particular overtake but to suggest that “even” you could have pulled that off!

  22. Hülkenberg is huge favourite for Rookie of the year. I really wonder how he’s going to do up against the most experienced F1 driver ever. One think is for sure, he dominated every championship he participated in at some point (GP2 and A1 in his rookie year) so he’s definetly not in F1 to loose. He might well be the next Schumacher, but we’ll have to wait and see! The Williams looked like a good car last year. I think he’ll struggle the first 4 or 5 races but I expect him to do well.

    Kobayashi is great, just worried about his consistency. He has an agressive driving style which is certainly easy on the eyes! The other rookies well.. poor Petrov! I see him going down the same road Grosjean did. If one of the other rookies does well in only one race they can be very happy. Alguersuari seemed OK last year, not impressive though.

  23. Kobi and Hulk, for me. I agree with WasiF1.

    This season should be more exciting than a two-four and game of frisbee golf!

    For an olde man, I am on tenter-hooks regarding this upcoming battle. Bruno and Karun should be the biggest flops. Vitaly will not be far behind.

    Bring on Bahrain, the season, and the new drivers! Can’t wait. One day and nine hours!

    It is my opinion that Kobi shall provide the greatest results and most exciting watching of all the rookies in the upcoming season.


  24. The question is, would Nico Hulkenberg be challenging for the title if he was put in Mclaren? If he was, we would be hailing him as the greatest driver ever, just like the world did when Hamilton came into the picture.

    Or..you can end up in a Williams and do a Nico Rosberg.

    The Hulks future reputation solely depends on the car he’s going to get for the next couple years. Look and Rosberg, he came in with so much potential, now, he’s sort a forgotten person since the arrival Schumi at Mercedes. It looks to me that he’s just considered as an also ran now, with no chance of beating Schumi, bit like the Lewis-Kovi match up.

    Kobi will go great guns, who cares if he isn’t consistent, he’s all or nothing driver and thats what I love about, raw speed and ball of steel! He will produce some great drives this season and the car looks up to it as well.

    Senna and Chandhok have a gargantuan task ahead of them. I just get the feeling that Karun may prove us wrong, I dont think he’s as bad as his CV suggests. I have a good feeling about him, but HRT will still finish last.

    1. ook and Rosberg, he came in with so much potential, now, he’s sort a forgotten person since the arrival Schumi at Mercedes.

      It’s not all down to the car and Rosberg is proof of that. He should have had a big result at Singapore last year – his mistakes in the race was the reason why he didn’t.

  25. Nico Hulkenberg will be rookie of the year with Kamui Kobayashi the overall greatest point scorer if we’re counting ‘almost’ rookies. I predict KK will get on the podium at least once this year.

  26. Good luck to all the new boys…

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