Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Thursday Thoughts - Nathan's ideal team // A double champion, a single champion and a new Spaniard in reserve

Published by Nathan

Following on from Journeyer's Thursday Thoughts question this morning, Nathan has already examined the potential candidates in great detail, and come up with his ideal team, which we will share with you now.

Intriguing. I'm trying - very hard - to keep personal bias out of this, and I think I can.

It's almost too difficult in some ways, the idea of having an unlimited budget can warp things somewhat, like football "dream teams", the most successful teams don't necessarily have a star-studded lineup.

My immediate answer to the question was quite simple - the two best drivers in F1 right now, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. However, anyone who had the privilege of seeing the 2007 season will know this didn't play out too well, despite the obvious talents of both. The rivalry was complicated by the political wrangling between the FIA president at the time, Max Mosley, and the McLaren/Ferrari teams, concerning the leaked Ferrari papers which found their way into the McLaren team. It's often difficult to decipher who was to blame and why, and relationships between Alonso and Hamilton fans are still fractious, if slightly more amiable, given that both drivers seem to acknowledge and respect each other's abilities.

Yet the idea of pairing these two behemoths of F1 together is still extremely tempting - Hamilton's raw pace and ballsy attitude combined with his considerable marketability makes him an exciting prospect for every team and fan alike. Meanwhile Alonso's consistent brilliance and ferocity often makes him a force of nature during races, being able to come up with the right strategy calls or delivering a series of perfect laps makes him a very desirable driver to have in any garage, and you get the feeling every team owner on the grid would give their right arm to have him.

So who are the other contenders, realistically? I'll say this now - Schumacher would not be my choice, if I was a team principal. He brings too much baggage with him in terms of his past, and although he would bring considerable experience and a fantastic attitude, he's not one for the future, either.

How about the others then? Massa has proven himself capable of incredible pace at the right times, yet you get the overhanging feeling there are still mistakes within his driving that are liable to surface at any point. For this reason I'm leaving him out, but he would still be a great choice overall. Jenson Button, perhaps? Well, despite being last year's WDC (and yes, he did deserve it), personally I feel a lack of total conviction, perhaps this is just the way he presents himself, but I don't feel the same raw, instinctive desire to win that I do from Schumacher, Alonso, Hamilton or even Vettel.

I think there are only two choices left. Of course, it would be nice to have Kimi Räikkönen back in the fold, as a motivated KR of 2005 would no doubt be a contender for a seat. So here we have Vettel and Robert Kubica. Kubica may surprise many, and given that he has only won the single race - somewhat fortunately - he is perhaps the weakest of all the contenders so far. Yet I have a feeling about Kubica. A very special feeling, the same that I feel and see in Alonso, in Hamilton, and in Schumacher. He has the talent, and the pace, no doubt about it, but one questions his ability to drive "around" a bad car, as he struggled considerably in 2009, until he put a fantastic drive in at Interlagos, which impressed many. I don't feel he would be ready in my "dream team" lineup, and he's unlikely to accept a 3rd driver role! But I would definitely be keeping an eye on him for the long term.

So - one person left to look at, Sebastian Vettel. Perhaps along with Hamilton, Massa and Räikkönen, one of the quickest drivers around in terms of raw pace. And he's still incredibly young, he's shown great maturity over the past couple of seasons. Yet he makes mistakes, and that cost him his WDC last year. I also question his ability to "make things happen", take a look at 2009 in Turkey, when he had to overtake Button to make his strategy work, his inability to make it happen cost him badly. Of course, it is difficult to overtake in F1, but you get the sense that one of MSC, LH and FA would have made it happen, no matter what. In fact, the previous year, when Hamilton had to do the same, he managed to overtake Felipe Massa to make his strategy work.

So, after what seems like an eternity pondering these things, I feel I've come full circle. Who are really the best drivers in F1 now? Well, of course people have different opinions, but I genuinely believe that Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton occupy the top 2 seats of the table, and if I was a team principal, I would be doing everything within my power to get them. I don't think there would be particular problems between them, provided they solved any on the track. Consistent, fast and marketable. What more can a team owner wish for?

As for my reserve driver, my knowledge of the young drivers in the lower formulae is not great, so I'm going to have to plump for a current F1 driver, and for this task, it's between Rubens Barrichello and Jaime Alguesuari. Barrichello has shown he has pace, the ability to set a car up, and the most experience of any F1 driver ever. Yet he showed in 2009 he still makes mistakes, some of which are reckless and can prove costly.

You may do a double-take at the mention of Jaime. So why have I mentioned him? Hmm. Well, last year, at the age of 19, he showed a lot of promise, in my opinion. Yes, he crashed the car an awful lot. Yes, he did not make full use of the car he was given. But still, during the practice sessions on the radio, we could clearly hear him talking eloquently and articulately to his engineers, explaining calmly and maturely. He took his first "year" easily, just making sure he got used to the car and the team. Consider also that he had absolutely no F1 testing, a ludicrous situation when you think about it, and had only just been in his first season of the World Series by Renault.

With some clarity and and objectivity, you can make a case for him to be a very solid long term prospect, and I consider him so. In my team, I would be willing to give him several years worth of development in other series', and hope that testing regulations are loosened slightly to allow him access to more experience. This is the only way his career will work out in the real world, if STR stick with him for several years, to let him blossom.