2014: A Game of Adaptation (part 2)

2014: A Game of Adaptation (part 2)

Earlier, I took a look at four drivers who I think possess the innate qualities that will help them succeed in what is to be an ever-evolving season of Formula One in 2014. Not all drivers are destined for success, however, and in this post, I will discuss three drivers who I think could, and probably will, have their work cut out for them this season.

Hamilton at the 2013 Belgian Grand Prix

Hamilton at the 2013 Belgian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton:

Shock! Can it be? Will Lewis struggle this season? No one can really know at this point, but I get the sense that life at Mercedes isn’t about to get any easier in 2014.

We already saw last year that Nico Rosberg is a force to be reckoned with. On far more than one occasion, the talented German had the best of the 2008 world champion, much to the surprise of the watching world. Many thought Lewis would dominate his former karting teammate, but the opposite proved true.

Some of this can be attributed to Lewis’s new surroundings that season. The transition between one team to another is never easy, especially when the one you’re vacating is the place you’ve called home since you were 13 years old. Nevertheless, Lewis proved without any doubt that no matter where he resides, you can always count on him to be at the sharp end of the grid.

However, there were times when Lewis’s weaknesses came to the fore, perhaps more starkly than anticipated. There was hardly a race weekend where you didn’t hear Lewis asking, even pleading with the pits to give him more information, only to backtrack and berate the same people for following that request. It was a common occurrence this past season, and one that could spell trouble in 2014.

With the new regulations only set to complicate the task of driving, allied to the multitude of systems that will need to be monitored both in and out of the car, pit-to-driver communications will need to be seamless and without tension. The fate of a race could, and probably will, depend on a calm relationship between Lewis and his engineers.

Another issue that could rear its ugly head is his lack of technical prowess. I mentioned the same thing about Nico Rosberg in the previous post, however I was praising it rather that worrying about it. Nico’s strengths come from his ability to know exactly what is happening in the garage and applying it to the track. While Lewis may have the upper hand in natural ability, this tends to lend itself to a more aggressive style of driving, one that may not be conducive to the initial restraints of the virgin technology set to be introduced in the coming season.

Kimi at the 2013 Belgian Grand Prix

Kimi at the 2013 Belgian Grand Prix

Kimi Raikkonen:

Another shock? Well, my reasoning for this choice stems from the man’s personality.

In the cockpit there will be a lot of things going on. I couldn’t begin to name the nuances of all the new systems, software and technologies, but I can tell you that it will make the task of driving the car much more complicated. Kimi won’t really bother himself with trying to understand said nuances (something Alonso will probably use to his advantage); he would rather turn up at the track and drive, regardless of how plausible it is to do so. He also refuses to use the simulator, which deprives him of further opportunities to get used to the complicated machines. This could hamper the Kimi’s ability to exploit his natural talent behind the wheel.

Kimi’s laid-back approach to the sport will need to be addressed this season, for Ferrari can’t sit back and let another title slip away. Fernando won’t sit around for another teammate to race behind him, not taking points off his competitors. While we all expect Kimi to do a better job than Felipe, his tendencies regarding his preparation to the sport could put him at risk of not reaching his potential.

Should the Ferrari prove a match for Red Bull, in all likelihood Kimi will be fighting for the title. But the fact that there is a slight risk of that not happen should worry some at Ferrari.

Maldonado at the 2013 Belgian Grand Prix

Maldonado at the 2013 Belgian Grand Prix

Pastor Maldonado:

Perhaps not much of a shock here.

Pastor has proven car control. The way he wrestled the slightly wayward Williams to the front row in Singapore in 2012 was the highest demonstration of that fact. However, this slightly wayward nature is what bit him in the butt in 2013. Overcompensating in an already bad car isn’t the best idea. It worked reasonably in Williams’ competitive 2012 challenger, but in the 2013 machine, he was all over the place and nowhere near he should have been.

Just as Valtteri leapt at the opportunity to shine with his improved car in Austin, so did Pastor fail to do so. His underperformance that race was epic, and demonstrated why he doesn’t have the potential of his contemporaries like Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez and Romain Grosjean.

His chance with Lotus is his career litmus test. Even with the team skipping the first pre-season test at Jerez, the E22 chassis is bound to be relatively competitive. Even the radical overhaul the regulations can’t shake the momentum the team had at the end of the season, particularly in the hands of Grosjean. Should Pastor’s erratic behavior subside at Lotus, then it may come as a pleasant surprise to many.

But do we really expect that to happen? This will be his fourth year in F1. The kinks should have been fixed by now, which they haven’t. This, along with the multitude of other factors concerning the new regulations, could be what holds Pastor back this season.

 

Images courtesy of Octane Photographic