OllieF1
Does Danica Deserve An F1 Drive?

Does Danica Deserve An F1 Drive?

Formula One’s potentially newest team, USF1, is set to make a grand announcement on February 24th about their plans to enter the sport for the 2010 season. Much talk has already been made of the new squad, basing themselves in North Carolina but also having a factory in Spain for convenience purposes. Much talk has also been made of the apparent process the team will employee in deciding their drivers. And already one name has been mentioned more than others.

Danica Patrick entered the IndyCar scene in 2005 and while she is yet to really set the track alight with skill vastly superior to that of her rivals, the young driver has certainly caused many tongues to wag up and down the various pitlanes around the world. While Danica may not be considered the greatest driver to have raced, perhaps not even the greatest female driver to have entered the sport, the Wisconsin-born lass is certainly an attraction for the media. This is what Ken Anderson, one half of the management team behind the USF1 project had to say on Patrick…

She’s great. She gets a lot of press. Tony George would probably be pretty mad with me if I took her out of the IRL but we’ll see. I don’t know if it’s something she wants to do. We’d certainly love to test her and go from there. Ken Anderson.

After Danica finally had the opportunity to lift a ridiculously large trophy on the top step of the podium last year, her name was being mentioned in association with HondaF1. At the time, the Brackley outfit stated that while no discussions had taken place, Honda would be happy for the Danica to test for them. Of course, since then Honda have withdrawn from the sport and the current set of available seats appear to be sewn up for the moment. Aside that is, from USF1.

So what about USF1? It was mentioned last week that the new team, should they actually make it as far as the grid in 2010, would like to showcase American talent. That however poses a bit of a problem. The last American to race in Formula One was Scott Speed, and he was fired (or left before he was fired) after an argument with the team’s management.

Aside from Speed though, who else is there? No one else on the IndyCar grid has any real Formula One experience*, and NASCAR appears to be the place where drivers who used to race in Formula One end up at the moment. While a racing driver is still a racing driver no matter where in the world you happen to be, turning up to a grand prix where both the pilots in your cars do not know the circuit is surely adding an unnecessary headache. Therefore, maybe Speed would be a good bet for one of the seats.

In the comments to my last post about USF1, Gman mentioned Jonathan Summerton, one of A1GP’s Team USA drivers. Summerton has a little more experience of Formula One circuits than many of his counterparts, having raced in the A1GP series and the Formula Three Euroseries. However, the experience garnered from these series is still somewhat limited and at the age of 21, the Florida-born racer is perhaps a little too young still. If you read on though, you may realise that Jonathan is perhaps a solution to USF1’s long term goal, assuming of course they have one.

So back to Ms Patrick… Danica would surely bring a lot of media attention to the team, and this could play very nicely into the hands of the team (and Formula One as a whole) when USF1 go looking for sponsorship money. Patrick would bring the novelty of a female racer to Formula One and I for one wouldn’t mind seeing a fresh face in the paddock when I tune in to watch a grand prix!

But does Patrick deserve the chance to race in Formula One? That’s the question, and I think if we base the answer purely on her results in IndyCar, well, it isn’t an immediate “yes!” for me. Team mate Tony Kanaan finished in third place overall in the two previous IRL IndyCar seasons, while Patrick only managed seventh and sixth in the same car.

For me, the real answer is for USF1 to realise that perhaps by limiting their choice of drivers to one nation only they are in fact considerably limit the results they can achieve. While I am sure that there are plenty of American drivers who could thrive in Formula One, there are also plenty of French, British, Australian [et al] drivers. By turning USF1 into a more grown up A1GP team is wrong for all sorts of reasons, and this is perhaps why I have grown to respect Vijay Mallya.

Although Mallya would undoubtedly love to see an Indian driver in one of his Force India cars, the man is also aware that right now, there is no real Indian talent worthy of a drive in Formula One. In time, maybe Vijay Mallya will able to realise his dream much in the way Ron Dennis did with Lewis Hamilton, nurturing and developing a driver from a young age. Perhaps this is the approach Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor should be taking with the squad.

The last time I wrote about Danica (at the time when the association with HondaF1 was first mooted), opinion was divided. Let’s see if it has changed at all…

What do you think? Do you believe that if given the chance Danica could shine in Formula One, or is the lass just a pinup for teenage petrolheads the world over?

*There is Justin Wilson, but he appears to be finding better luck Stateside at the moment.

[poll id=”33″]

Oliver White

17 comments

  • This is a hard one. I haven’t seen much of Patrick racing, but from all accounts she is good, but not spectacular.

    But then, the same could be said about quite a few F1 drivers from over the years who got drives *NOT* based on their talent and I think we’ll know we are moving further towards equality when women who are only mediocre can reach the same dizzying heights as mediocre men.

    But therein lies the rub. If Patrick is a bit crap, well all other women racers (for a while anyway) will be compared to her, and might find themselves judged on the talent of one woman alone. And don’t say that won’t happen – how often do you hear of someone disparaging Asian drivers for example? Sure some are rubbish, but not all are. People love to judge, and people love to generalise (did I just generalise then with that statement?;) )

    And if a woman got a full time F1 seat who was amazing, then it would be hard for other women to live up to that example – again they would find their talent judged on the results of another. Not a problem which would ever hinder a man from getting a drive, methinks.

    Personally, although I would dearly love to see a woman (maybe more than one)in the F1 field I don’t think it will happen until a woman of Alonso or Hamiltons calibre comes along – for the sad fact remains for woman to be promoted over men they have to be outstanding, not just good. Therefore, that seems to disqualify Patrick from the seat.

    However, we all know money talks, so for the undoubted $$$ benefits we may see her there yet. So I voted yes. Who knows – she might open the floodgates !

  • If I was running USF1 I wouls be looking for a couple of experienced drivers who are well known in America. Dario Franchitti is an obvious choice as is Bourdais.

    I am sure they would like and American driver but there is not a stand out character. Danica would be great for their sponsors but she is not an F1 driver. Mario Andretti reckons that Marco Andretti could be a successful F1 driver but I am not so sure.

    The only young American driver I have seen in Europe who may be F1 material is Richard Antinucci.

  • If Patrick is a bit crap, well all other women racers (for a while anyway) will be compared to her, and might find themselves judged on the talent of one woman alone.

    That is, in part, the problem of both Patrick herself and any female racers wanting to follow in her footsteps.

    Danica herself has said she wouldn’t make the move unless the team were competitive – she doesn’t want the performance of the car to create headlines like “Danica cannot handle F1”. Which is entirely understandable. In my opinion false (on the part of the headline creators), but understandable nonetheless.

    But then, Alonso didn’t want headlines like “Alonso finishes last, again” when he drive for Minardi, but he put up with them knowing that his self-belief was strong enough to see him get a drive with a top team. And it worked.

    Of course, there is the flip side, which you mention, Pink. Other female racers like Legge who might want to make the jump, but wouldn’t want to be compared to Patrick, regardless of how she may or may not do in the sport.

    Unfortunately, comparison is inevitable. How many articles were posted in the mainstream motorsport media last year titled “Who’s the greatest driver of all – we compare and tell you” or similar?

    It’s a shame, but wanting to succeed vs. not wanting false appraisal (either way, given the IRL weight issue recently) could hinder the forward movement of the sport in this area.

    Mario Andretti reckons that Marco Andretti could be a successful F1 driver but I am not so sure.

    I’m not so sure either. He rubbed Ron Dennis up the wrong way last year and while I try not to judge on one singular comment alone, he appears to have a bit of Speed’s attitude about him. That isn’t to suggest that because Ron is a Briton I would automatically support him. It was a case of Marco’s comments simply weren’t intelligent – the young Andretti was whining, unnecessarily as well.

    The only young American driver I have seen in Europe who may be F1 material is Richard Antinucci.

    I’ve heard that name before, but can’t quite remember where. *Ollie goes off to read…*

  • Just dug up that article I wrote on Marco getting upset with his father’s relationship with McLaren all those years ago.

    I don’t have any other mentality other than to go over there [Europe, F1] and win. Because I think it’s a bigger story if I go over there and fail, really. It really is. Because that’s what people are waiting for, to be honest, over there. Marco Andretti.

    Really, Marco? Really…? I know us Brits can seem a bit pessimistic at times, but please understand it is mostly to do with our weather. I promise you, the world spins on its axis and revolves around the sun. Nothing else. I suggest that if you want to succeed in IndyCar and F1, you might want to improve your outlook a little and become a bit more positive. Digging up the past, whether you be right or wrong, only distracts from the main cause – the present. Oliver White

    I was obviously feeling feisty that day! 🙂

  • Thanks for the mention, amigo 🙂 I must say this is perhaps the best topic for discussion (among many fantastic ones) that I have seen on here, so if permitted I will address Danica and Marco in two seperate posts.

    Having gotten into F1 after growing up on more traditional American sports, I can agree that there is perhaps no better PR tactic for USF1 than for them to at least test Danica. She’s obviously quite popular with young adult males- one of F1’s key demographics- and she’s arguably the best-known racing driver on this side of the pond. If they are serious about signing her, she’s got tremendous personal sponsorship, helping to fill the coffers in this difficult economic era.

    However, there are multiple major problems with this tactic. First, I believe there are many other drivers more capable of an F1 drive. As I said during a debate on another site, print out Danica’s career results without her name on the document, look at the results, and tell me if the driver is worthy of an F1 drive. Plus, she’s far better on the ovals than the road courses in the IndyCar series, meaning she’s got a long way to go to catch up on the F1 circuits. As a result, she’s probably be running at the tail end of the pack for some time…

    Which leads me to my next point. If she “earns” a race seat, it’s going to be a media circus from day one. And if she is less than competent, we’re going to have every talking head in the sports world in America bashing the F1 establishment about why “our girl” is being put at a disadvantage by the arrogant F1 people. It will create a blowup 1’000 times the size of the Scott Speed mess, and further setback the efforts of both USF1 and American F1 fans in general.

    Lastly, she’s most likely going to demand mega-dollars to sign, and that may create a problem for the limited budget of USF1. I’ve said before that one of the hidden pluses of going with new drivers is that they will be relatively cheap to sign, and Danica doesn’t fit that model.

  • Now, as for Marco….

    Ollie, you were 100% right in my view to bash the third-generation Andretti on his very poor PR form. Marco was in no position to make an educated statement on those events, and even if he was, they would have no effect on his career- just shut up and drive if you want to prove you belong in F1! I think Marco has promise, but he needs to show a bit more results if he wants to prove worthy of F1, and his bad remarks may have done some permanent damage to any F1 chances he may have had.

    The thing I hate about this situations is that after comments like Marco’s, many F1 fans re-discover their bad taste for American talent. Instead of hoping a prospective American talent is the next coming of Mario Andretti- or at least the next Eddie Cheever, for starters-they automatically paint them as the next Speed or Michael Andretti. While some fans know better, I believe that many others don’t, and this hurts the chances of Americans for success outside of the USF1-type operation.

    Honestly, the “Americans-only” driver line-up is the one thing I don’t like about this deal. I fully endorse Summerton and believe he can compete in F1, and if it were up to me I would pair him up with Anthony Davidson, or Bourdais if I could get him. But looking at things as they stand, I would say Summerton and Charlie Kimball or Antinucci.

  • I’m going to say yes.

    USF1 have said they want to use American drivers which limits their pool of potential drivers anyway so I can’t see why they wouldn’t at least test Patrick. Whether she can win in F1 after winning in IndyCar is less certain. Bourdais did spectacularly well in Champ Cars but almost didn’t get signed for a second season with Toro Rosso.

    But Danica is certainly one of the most well known American drivers and the publicity and sponsorship she could bring to the team would be hard to ignore.

  • Obviously, Danica doesn’t deserve a drive in F1 yet – she hasn’t even had a test yet. But equally obviously, she’s a sponsor magnet and worth serious consideration by any team that needs a bit more cash. The best strategy would be to get her in the car and then sign a good race and development driver with F1 experience – and if he/she has to be American, the only option is Speed.

    It’s a long subject, however, and I am excited about an up-and-coming young American driver that I have been meaning to write about, so I’ll write a post for F1 Insight today that more fully answers this business of drivers for USF1, Ollie.

  • Hmmm, something wrong with your editing facility there, Ollie. The comment went in fine the first time but I spotted a necessary edit and, when I posted the second time, all these %20s appeared. They won’t go away on subsequent edits either. Let me see if I can edit the comment elsewhere and re-post…

  • Clive has written an excellent post titled “An American Dream” – it is very much worth a read.

    Obviously, Danica doesn’t deserve a drive in F1 yet – she hasn’t even had a test yet. But equally obviously, she’s a sponsor magnet and worth serious consideration by any team that needs a bit more cash.

    That does appear to be the general consensus so far. I hope Danica does get a test though, and at a circuit where other F1 pilots are driving as well.

    Hmmm, something wrong with your editing facility there, Ollie.

    It’s been playing up a bit recently, so my apologies. I’ll try re-installing the plugin later to see if that helps. Thanks for letting me know.

    But Danica is certainly one of the most well known American drivers and the publicity and sponsorship she could bring to the team would be hard to ignore.

    It would be hard for the team to ignore, no doubt. It’s interesting that no other F1 teams have shown any serious interest though. Well, not that we know of anyway.

    if it were up to me I would pair him [Marco Andretti] up with Anthony Davidson, or Bourdais if I could get him.

    Interesting line-up. Davidson would be great, I believe, and he knows how to develop a car. And of course, Bourdais would appeal to the American fans having already made a name for himself over yonder.

    @Anthony Davidson: Go get yourself a voice coach – you need an American accent. 🙂

    As I said during a debate on another site, print out Danica’s career results without her name on the document, look at the results, and tell me if the driver is worthy of an F1 drive.

    That’s the crux, isn’t it. I briefly touched upon this in the post – Danica just hasn’t achieved that much in IndyCar yet. Not like when Jacques Villeneuve arrived at Williams after winning the title and the 500. Or even Bourdais, the most successful driver in Champ Car history, I believe. And look where they both ended up. Bourdais struggled to retain his drive, and Villeneuve did fantastic to begin with, although partly thanks to a dominant car, but then faded into obscurity at BAR and Sauber/BMW Sauber.

  • Four years. One win. Three poles. High-profile run-ins with fellow competitors who can’t exactly retaliate. That doesn’t sound qualified to me.

    I think, given an equal budget, Sarah Fisher is a better driver.

    Summerton would be a good choice, if paired with a good coach. Say, like that organization Windsor runs. At 21, he’s actually getting a little old, not young.

  • I voted yes. I have been impressed with Patrick’s driving when I have watched it, and she is certainly very passionate about the sport and her driving. I think she will take it very seriously and do her best to win.

    Will she win – probably not, but I am going to guess that nobody in a USF1 car has much chance of winning much in the first few years of running. So why not pull over a driver with some potential and let her develop, rather than trying to find a driver ready to win in F1?

    She will draw a huge amount of fans to the sport (at a time when sponsors are in short supply), and that has got to be a good thing. Plus, more GoDaddy.com commercials on UK TV!

    Greg

  • On performance alone, not yet as Danica has yet to establish herself as a top driver in IRL. But in terms of marketability I would say yes.

    I guess the best way to judge their overall performance is to give Danica a test and assess her performance and her ability to work with race engineers to develop an F1 car.

    USF1 could employ the Alex Wurx and Anthony Davidson to drive for the team. Both of them have worlds of experience to test and race an F1 car. At the same time, Danica could be the third/reserve driver and perhaps learn from Wurz and Davidson on how best to maximize the car’s performance. Driving an F1 car is one thing, developing it and provide technical feedback to the engineers is another thing.

  • Don’t know a lot about Danica’s current achievements, but I would like to add that, if she has the physical endurance to drive a F1, her weight gives her an advantage on today’s F1 cars. She is like 10-15kg lighter that anybody else.

  • I just can’t get my head round why people rate Anthony Davidson. What has the guy done to justify all that belief? I have never been remotely impressed with him since he was in F3. He looked a reasonable prospect there. Definitely no better than reasonable. He lost the championship to his team mate which is not something great drivers ever do. His team mate was called Takuma Sato.

  • I just can’t get my head round why people rate Anthony Davidson.

    The canny Sato has been given two or three chances to prove himself in Formula One, why hasn’t Davidson? He spent so many years being loyal to BAR and Honda, helping develop their car and standing in on occasion. Davidson seems like a real trouper, yet all his hard work just seemed to be forgotten about.

    I guess it it really is a case of the survival of the fittest. But I really think the man deserves a chance to race in a reliable midfield car for a year. Just so we can all say either “wow”, or “okay, back to the commentary box, Ant”.

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