Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

We never change, do we? // The size and shape of a driver is only part of the hiring story

Published by Christine

It’s a rollercoaster ride for Formula 1 drivers at the moment, especially for those who are teetering on the brink of expulsion from their teams. We already know Heidfeld is being observed closely, and with the Alonso-to-BMW rumours getting stronger, he’s probably quite worried right now. Bourdais is also under scrutiny, having been told to shine just that little bit more.

Sébastien Bourdais

Le Seb has hit back, though, and said to his team that there’s no point keeping him if they think he’s going to adapt to a car that he doesn’t like and isn’t working.

If they believe in my potential and my perception of things, which I personally believe can lead to an even better car because it has always been the way I function, then yes, we should definitely give it a try, keep on working and make it better.

It does seem as though Bourdais (despite the luck) has picked up his game, so perhaps the car is working now, and maybe he does like it. Whether that gets him a place for next year, we don’t yet know, but this has made me think. Is it possible for a driver to not suit a car so much that he has to leave?

Restructuring

Some drivers are a bit too tall, aren’t they? Kubica is tall, and Webber has to fold himself in half to get into the car. Wurz has also suffered for his height. In 2005, McLaren designed their car around Räikkönen and Montoya, obviously, and believing third driver Wurz was moving on, they ignored him. He just didn’t fit in the cockpit.

It’s not just about height, either. Kubica (him again) was very vocal about his weight loss at the start of this season, something he undertook specifically to help the balance of the car.

Personality

You don’t have to look very far back at all to find a driver struggling to fit in with his team. Alonso and McLaren in 2007 were just a complete mismatch almost from the word go. Forget about battling with your team mate, if you’re not fitting in with the bosses, then it’s going to be a tough season. If you last the season. Scott Speed saw the harsh realities of this in 2007 as well.

Flavio has never been one to support a driver if he's not pulling his weight, and Kovalainen never seemed to fit in at Renault, whereas he's slipped into the McLaren role very nicely indeed. Räikkönen went the other way, presumably glad to see the back of Mr Dennis, given how relaxed and happy he was donning the red suit instead.

Mechanics

What I’m curious about is a driver just not getting to grips with the car itself. If I remember correctly, Alonso campaigned for McLaren to change his brakes from one supplier to another because they suited him better. Does that mean he would never have been as fast last year if they had refused to budge? How far should a team adapt for their driver, and does it depend on whether they rate his chances or not?

You can imagine Toro Rosso would be willing to tweak their designs slightly for Vettel, but apparently not for Bourdais. Have there been any other examples of this in the past? Does it mean that I’m judging some drivers harshly when really it’s just a bad fit?