Monday, February 16, 2009

Danica to F1! Yeah!.....or not

New rumor concerning the USF1 team that I wrote about last week: Danica Patrick is going to drive! Holy crap! She’ll be the first female F1 driver since the esteemed Giovanna Amati!

Let’s slow down for a minute, shall we?

While this breathless conjecture is sort of fun to think about, I can’t imagine that it’s anywhere near reality. First off, Danica has not won a road course race since…well…uh, the Toyota Pro-Am race at Long Beach in 2002. She’s not exactly the #1 American road racer these days. In fact, I don’t even think that her results in an IndyCar on road courses would place her in the top-10 on such a list. Second, I’m sure that she’s looking to get paid, and would not be willing to drive for such an effort for a reduced price. As other folks have pointed out, any retainer that you’d have to pay her to drive for you would be that much less money that you could spend on your new-from-scratch F1 car. Not a good idea right now.

I can’t believe that hardly anybody has floated my favorite “obvious” pick for an American driver for the USF1 team: Graham Rahal. I don’t know what the terms of his contract with N/H/L look like, but if he’s on a 3-year deal, then that’s done at the end of this year. Even if it’s not, I can’t imagine that his retainer is anywhere close to Danica’s, so he’d be far easier to buy out. He’s only a couple of years older than Connor Daly or Josef Newgarden (two other rumored USF1 drivers), has some pretty extensive experience in high HP/downforce cars (those other guys have none), and he has actually shown some interest in going to F1, which Danica has not and Scott Speed has said is long gone for him.

Other drivers don’t quite make sense for me, either. Bryan Herta, I think, is a tad too old to take on a completely different style of car and driving. Ryan Hunter-Reay, while quite competent on road courses, has not shown the sort of dominant form that one would expect of a serious F1 candidate, even back in his Atlantic days. He’s just fine in an IndyCar, but going up against Kimi and Lewis and Felipe and Fernando? I’m not seeing it.

As I mentioned in my last post, the other guy I’d go with would be Jonathon Summerton. Of all the people who have driven for the US in A1GP (Marco included), he’s had by far the best results, including a win in a feature race last year. Literally no other American has had any sort of international single-seater success in the last 10 years, except for maybe Patrick Long. However, Pat has probably been out of a single seater for too long now and picked up too many tin-top habits to truly be an F1 aspirant any more. Anyway, why roll the dice with any of these other folks, when Graham and Jonathon are basically ready to go right now?

This Danica thing absolutely has to be a publicity stunt to get people interested in the concept of an American F1 team. Either that, or they are hoping that some sponsor (or sponsors) will cough up $50 million on the condition that Danica is one of the drivers. In that case, an USF1 team with a sub-world class driver would be better than no USF1 team, but maybe not by much. Nice try, Ken Anderson, but I don’t think anybody’s buying it.


Too Much Racing said...

I think the point is they wouldn't be racing Hamilton, Alonso, Massa and the like in year one. They'd struggle to be doing so in year two.

That's not because they are American but because any new F1 team takes three or four years to get up to a midfield pace. Now that might change with the budget rules coming in.. but I don't think it'll change by much.

Ref. Herta - he's a good tester, I'd have him testing this year but probably not put him in the race seat next year. You can't throw two rookies into a brand new project, they'd get completely lost.

The SpeedGeek said...

Point taken on who they'd be racing for the first year or two. It's basically Super Aguri Mk. II, right?

I do agree wholeheartedly that Herta is a good test and development driver (AGR IRL and ALMS programs proved this), but I'd think that an F1 car, and one designed from scratch at that, might be a bridge too far. He's got no experience in such a sophisticated car, and I don't know if he'd have enough of a reference point to get the car up to snuff. If only we could get Alex Wurz or Marc Gene a quickie green card or something... ;)

Pezzolo said...

I don´t believe in Danica in F1!
Hi from Brazil!

Mike said...

New to your site here...hope you don't mind me chipping in a comment.

Herta would be a great tester. As a racer, watching him through the years, it seemed there was something missing in his 'will to win' or something...after Indy Lights (when it was the CART feeder series) championship, he just didn't really produce much. Dominant at Laguna Seca (minus "the pass"), but not much to show for so much seeming potential.

Your comment about "a USF1 team with a sub world class driver is better than no USF1 team", the jury is kind of out on that one still. The F1 world seems to turn their collective nose up at American put a petulant sub-par driver like Danica in the (alleged) pinnacle of motorsport in the world as a representative of the US' best? Talk about losing stock least that's how I see it.