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Five reasons why Di Grassi deserves a drive next season // A plea for an F1 future for the Brazilian racer

Published by Bridget Schuil

Having already made an argument for why Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok should get drives, I'd like to justify why Lucas di Grassi deserves a seat next season. I haven't spent hours poring over figures, like I did with the other two, but that is mostly because the competitors for his seat drive different cars. Thus, there isn't a basis for fair comparison.

Why not?
Why not?Credit: Virgin Racing

Now, I'm not denying that there are times this season when he's made rookie mistakes, but he is a rookie; it happens to the best of them. At the start of the season, he was probably pretty discouraged, knowing that, no matter how well he drove, he was never going to finish the race. Also, the Virgin car hasn't had the best reputation this year for being easy to handle. Nevertheless, I think we've spent enough time on reasons why not, let's talk about why.

1. His driver sympathy is near superpower level

Remember at the beginning of the year when Virgin's fuel tank was too small to get to the end of the race at full tilt (incurring the jokes of motorsport fans the world over)? Well, while Nick Wirth was off scratching his brow trying to work out how to fix the car, Lucas nursed Veronica home in Sepang.

Strangely, nobody cashed in on the very obvious joke about the Virgin finishing for the very first time. Sure, he was four laps behind everyone else, but he saw the checkered flag. He even had enough fuel left in his tank for the stewards to do their tests. That's pretty impressive for a guy who'd never seen the finish line of an F1 race before.

2. He is a brilliant development driver

Now, I know arguing this as a point for him to have a race seat might sound odd, but hear me out. I have a suspicion that half of his lack of pace is due to his sympathy for the car and a lack of confidence to push it past what he thinks it can handle. Thus, if he had the trust in the car, he would be a great racer. He's pretty famous for giving lots of feedback about the car that other drivers don't. Thus, if he was actively involved in the design of the car, he would be able to make the car faster. That would give him the confidence to push harder, and the team would reap the benefits. In theory.

3. He's a financial asset

I understand that rookies get paid very little, but €200,000 is a level of easy-going about salaries that we haven't seen in a long while. The only person in the paddock who he out-earns is Senna (and thus the Hispania pay-drivers. However, they're not earning, so the point is moot). In addition, he comes with a new sponsorship deal with Bombril, and is enthusiastic to play poker against fans on Full Tilt (I'm assured his username is LucasdiGrassi if you feel like challenging him, although I've never been on the site [haven't learned to count cards effectively; thus, don't play poker]). So, in this era where drivers are expected to take the initiative with attracting sponsors and getting attention for the brands they represent, he's a team player.

4. He seems to genuinely care about using his influence for good

Let me explain what I mean. There are some drivers who'll show up for a charity soccer match, and that's pretty much it. Almost immediately after the start of the season, Lucas told us all to follow Smarter Driving, a charity (that's what he called it; I would term it an information service) he initiated that publishes advice (via Twitter and the website) on how to drive in a way that reduces emissions. His new sponsor is an eco-friendly company (well, they’ve brought out an earth-friendly line and are putting money into R&D on more products). He played in the Ante Up for Africa poker tournament. I could go on – modelling for the Amber Lounge/Elton John Foundation fashion show, being a Livestrong representative, etc. – but I sense your attention slipping.

My point is this: he's actually concerned about what's happening outside of his immediate environment. I know it doesn't affect on-track ability, but people are far more likely to support the nice guy. To put it crudely: fan loyalty = sponsor money; being a nice guy = fan loyalty; therefore, being a nice guy = sponsor money.

5. His best solution to being presented with a stuffed llama is to put it on top of his head

This is possibly the most important point. People who take themselves too seriously are dangerous. Hitler is rumoured to have spent half an hour each morning tending to his half-head of hair and that ridiculous moustache of his; this is a very obvious sign of taking oneself too seriously; Hitler declared war on the world. Thus, in a sport where irrational anger expressed at the right moment can cause a six-car pile-up, we want people who know when to concede the fight for dignity. Sometimes taking oneself lightly is a matter of life and death.

In short, he may have struggled with his car, but di Grassi deserves another year in the car. He's pulled his weight in a difficult year for the team – both technically and financially – despite being a rookie. I will concede that it's possible that a fair amount of him holding it together this year is due to the support of the rest of the Brazilian Mafia (if for no other reason than the Massas seem to have no problem being his primary source of food), but isn't that what being in F1 is about – making sure that you're well-connected, well-supported and well-liked? Give the man a decent car, and we’ll see if he can prove his on-track worth.