The F1 paddock is currently enjoying a three week break following the opening rounds in Asia and Australia. The European leg begins next week in Spain, and a trip to Monaco a fortnight after. With this relatively tranquil time in the season, it’s a chance to check how well the rookies have fared since joining the sport.
Carlos Sainz Jr – Toro Rosso
It’s never easy coming into motor racing when your father is a double World Rally Champion, but Carlos Sainz Jr has settled in well at Toro Rosso. Much of the spotlight has been on his younger team-mate Max Verstappen, and that seems to have suited Sainz. He finished 9th on his debut in Australia and followed that with an 8th in Malaysia. Pre-season testing suggested he may struggle to keep up with Verstappen, but it’s been fairly equal in terms of performance in the opening rounds. Sainz has made it into Q3 in both Australia and Bahrain, while finishing 8th in Malaysia despite qualifying a poor 15th has shown the Spanish driver’s fine pedigree. A solid start.
Max Verstappen – Toro Rosso
Like his team-mate Sainz, Max Verstappen also comes from a racing family. His father Jos found little F1 success in the nineties for various mid-table teams, though he did manage two podium finishes in his debut season in 1994 for Benetton Ford. Despite being the youngest ever F1 driver at 17, Verstappen has been a revelation in the opening four grand prix. The media scrutiny has seemingly given the Dutch driver more impetus to prove himself, with only poor reliability on the Toro Rosso preventing him from scoring points in every round. A superb overtake on Daniel Ricciardo in Malaysia showed everyone what he was capable of, while in China his magnificent manoeuvres on Marcus Ericsson and Sergio Perez were the only highlights of a dull race. Without a doubt, Verstappen has a very bright future.
Felipe Nasr – Sauber
Coming off a third place finish in GP2 last year, there was much talk during pre-season that Felipe Nasr was a real star in the making. The naysayers will point to his huge financial backing from Brazil – clearly seen on the Sauber’s beautiful new livery – as the reason he found a seat at the Swiss team, but four rounds into the season and Nasr has shown himself to be more than capable behind the wheel. The Brazilian is comprehensively beating his more experienced team-mate Ericsson, with a strong 5th on his debut in Australia and a respectable 8th in China. Sauber have the improving Ferrari engine to help them this season, and with that in mind, Nasr will be hoping for many more points in 2015.
Will Stevens & Roberto Mehri – Manor Marussia
The back of the grid will be a regular place for the lonely Manor team this year. They will finally unleash their 2015 car in August, though it will doubtfully improve their pace enough to battle anyone else. As it is, Will Stevens and Roberto Mehri will be content to fight it out amongst themselves, though so far the fight has been decidedly one-sided. Stevens has shown himself to be much quicker than Mehri in both qualifying and on race day, and with Mehri’s deal only short-term, it’s likely Stevens will have a new team-mate much sooner than expected. Steady race-pace and few mistakes have been Steven’s main attributes, and although he isn’t technically a rookie (he drove for Caterham in the final 2014 race) it would be interesting to see how well he would do for a team in the midfield.
Image: By Morio (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons