With nine races gone it is perhaps good time to look at the surprises and disapointments of the first half of the 2008 Formula 1 season. Here are my picks:
Kazuki Nakajima – It is probably fair to say that without Williams’ engine deal with Toyota it would be unlikely for Nakajima to get a race drive alongside Nico Rosberg for 2008 season. Before the start of this season Kazuki Nakajima had only one Grand Prix under his belt. Although he did not do too bad in Brazil last year most F1 fans will remember his race debut for running over his pit crew. The expectations were not too high and few people have expected Kazuki Nakajima to match the pace of his highly rated team mate Nico Rosberg. Well, if we still can consider Nakajima a rookie after racing one race last year, I would rate him as a rookie of the year, I may not be the only one. Although he has been outqualified 7 to 2 by Rosberg and is yet to make it to the podium, he scored points in four races (Rosberg only in 3) and his total after nine races is 8 points, same as his team mate. But it is not only about the points. He seems to be maturing too (if that can be said after only his 10th F1 race) as his drive in the tricky wet Silverstone may suggest.
Rubens Barrichello – While only Piquet and Bourdais have less F1 racing experience than Nakajima, Rubens Barrichello on the other hand has recently become the most experienced F1 driver ever. The reunion with Ross Brawn seems to be doing miracles. After scoring zero points for the first time in his career in 2007, he is now on 11 points, with 3rd, 6th and 7th place to his name. His point tally could have been even higher if not for the red light mistake in Australia … Honda still has an uncompetitive car but unlike Button, Barrichello this season seems to be ready to capitalize on opportunity everytime it presents itself.
Robert Kubica – I am not surprised that Kubica is doing well. But to see him sitting at 4th place at drivers standings after 9 races and only 2 points away from the lead that sure is a surprise. I mean how many experts, punters or fans would have predicted this back in March ?
Nelson Piquet – Not much to add here. He is the disappointment of the year and unless we witness some dramatic turnaround in his fortunes this may be Piquet’s first and also last racing season in F1.
Sebastien Bourdais – To be fair to him he expected troubles himself following his move from Champ Cars to Formula 1. But still, one would hope to see some fighting spirit from the Champ Car champ especially now, when the Toro Rosso package seems to be quite competitive.
Adrian Sutil – OK, there was Monaco and Sutil almost finished 4th there. But other than that, we haven’t seen too much from him. Trailing at the back of the grid sure isn’t fun but this is a guy whom many were connecting with the McLaren vacancy last winter. Now however he struggles to match the “Renault outcast” Giancarlo Fisichella …
Photos: Williams / LAT