Surprise Driver of the Year 2011

This weeks debate is on the surprise driver of the year so far. With new rookies joining the grid, elder statesman returning. There was a lot of expectation on the grid in Melbourne but not everyone has lived up to the hype. Today I’m joined by @SebbyHaughtonf1 writer of http://sebastianhaughtonf1.wordpress.com/ to put forward who we think has been the surprise package of the year so far. 

@SebbyHaughtonf1 : In 2011 we have seen some drivers getting into positions where in pre-season testing or based on their previous season, where we just didn’t think they’d ever get to. Some rookie’s impressing immediately with points finishes. However, in my opinion, Renault driver Vitaly Petrov is my biggest surprise of 2011.

Vitaly in 2010 was a let-down in comparison to Robert Kubica in 2010. Robert flew in the Renault R30 but Vitaly wasn’t good enough in 2010 & rumours flew around the paddock about Kimi Raikkonen taking the Russians place. But Renault gave him another chance. But in Pre-season testing he had to deal with Kubica not being his team-mate with his rally crash. Nick Heidfeld was now his team-mate and the pressure was on. If Nick beat him Vitaly would have been out of a job. Because what would have been the point of keeping Vitaly if Nick was better.

However in Australia he stunned us all; he came 3rd & got his first podium in Formula one in only his 20th Grand Prix. Heidfeld finished 13th although in the following race Nick finished 3rd, Vitaly was going to finish 7th until a bump caught him out but was forgiven. Petrov has had ups & downs in the season but at the start of last season it was down all the way until Hungary 2010. A 5th in Canada has put him 1 point ahead of his heavily experienced Nick Heidfeld. The Renault has struggled in some races such as Valencia & Spain. Petrov is still getting better, the fifth in Canada shows he is very good in the rain & has come from a driver regarded as not very good to a good point’s contender in each race. Vitaly Petrov is definitely the biggest surprise of 2011 so far.

@MarshallGP : Yes its fair to say that has done an outstanding job for Renault this year and that he’s surprised many. For me however there can only be one candidate for surprise package of the year, Paul Di Resta.

Paul came into Formula 1 off of the back of four years driving for Mercedes in the German DTM touring car championship, hardly ideal preparation for F1 given GP2 ans WSR are the preferred paths chosen by aspiring Grand Prix drivers. He won the DTM title in 2010 while also performing his duties as test/reserve driver for the Force India team. He impressed the powers that be enough during his outings in FP1 on Fridays to replace Tonio Liuzzi in the second car for the 2011 season.

The first thing any Formula 1 driver has to do is beat his team-mate, the yard stick that all drivers are measured by. This is a tall order for any rookie, but when your up against team stalwart Adrian Sutil you’d be forgiven for not expecting too much too soon. Di Resta however had other Ideas, out qualifying his team-mate at the first attempt in Melbourne ans finishing just behind the German in tenth to pick up a world championship point on his debut.

Everyone knows that there’s no points to be earned on Saturday in qualifying but it is a great opportunity for team mates to get one over on each other. Di Resta certainly has the bragging rights in this department out qualifying Sutil six times out of the eight races so far, finishing ahead of the German four times.

With a Works drive with Mercedes on the cards when (if) Schumacher retires after only 8 F1 races, lets be honest. Who would have expected that at the start of the season?

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