Day one of our new ‘Sunday Driver Ratings’, and we can declare them a success, partially. Remember, all drivers are eligible except Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel. They’ve got something bigger to drive for, and our SDR is designed to keep everyone else interested. So it’s a bit of a shame that the most exciting driver out there by a long way today in free practice was indeed… Fernando Alonso.
Ferrari has brought a lot of new bits to Abu Dhabi. Bits for the front, bits for the back and indeed bits for the middle. Gary Anderson — who’s becoming something of a guilty secret here at the Sunday Afternoon Club — took a long hard look at them and explains them on the BBC website. Never one to use one word where several thousand will do, GA’s view is basically, ‘meh’. In a broad, Irish accent. Consequently, ‘Nando once again had to drive it like he stole it, bouncing it into direction changes and drifting the F2012 around more than one of the bends. He was still 0.8secs off the pace.
Off the pace of…. yeah. You got it. Sebastian Vettel. Practice One was dominated by McLaren and Red Bull genuinely seemed to lacking a bit of fastness, Vettel himself some seven tenths behind Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. And maybe some of the speed has come off; Vettel’s margin over Hamilton this afternoon was just over one-tenth. Lewis was on fire today, despite a repeat of the steering wheel problem he had in India. Maybe’s he’s just enjoying his last few races in a properly quick car, or maybe he’s set his sights on getting the top ranking in the first Sunday Afternoon Club Sunday Driver Ratings come Monday morning. We saw you Lewis, don’t worry.
We also saw Michael Schumacher once again getting in the way of everyone. And we heard Kamui Kobayashi once again complaining that he didn’t like his car much. Kamui, maybe there is just a chance you could still be in F1 next year. Just get in and drive it. That’s what we want to see. Kamui’s team mate Sergio Perez meanwhile had the kind of pit wall near-miss we spookily mentioned in this morning’s announcement of the Sunday Driver Rankings. While this afternoon (actually evening out there in the UAE), Petrov and Karthikeyan tripped in to some unscheduled spins. All this is being noted by the SDR Stewards.
Good today to see a new British face in an F1 car when Max Chilton had his first Friday run in the Marussia. No fireworks, the GP2 racer was strictly data-logging for the team, but he didn’t make a fool of himself. Half the paddock seems to think he will be in one of Marussia’s race seats next year. At the expense of Charles Pic we assume. That would be a shame as the two of them stood together would look like half of One Direction (or is it two fifths?).
So Sunday Afternooners, if you didn’t watch earlier, you can take a look at the BBC’s practice coverage on-line if you don’t have Sky. You can tell us if we’re right in thinking Gary Anderson is the becoming the most interesting pundit in F1. Most importantly tell us who you think is ‘best of the rest’ out there on the track. Only two more days to decide who will top our first Driver Rankings…