THE ROOKIES SO FAR…

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After three races out of twenty-one in the 2019 Formula One Championship, there have been, as expected, surprises and disappointments from the top teams, through the middle pack, and down to the bottom teams. The usual suspects (Lewis, Seb, Valtteri and Max) are still up there and the Big-3 are still a gulf apart from the rest of the field. This season, however have seen the rookie drivers make bold statements as they get their F1 careers off to a good start in their first full season.

McLaren’s Lando Norris is the top rookie driver, 8th on the Drivers’ standings and ahead of experienced hands like Daniel Ricciardo, Sergio Perez and teammate Carlos Sainz. The 2017 FIA Formula 3 European Championship winner’s sixth-place finish in Bahrain earned his team their points haul so far. If not for the first lap tangle involving his teammate and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kyvat, the 19-year old Brit could easily have been in the points in Shanghai. He drives like a veteran as 8-0 against Sainz is no joke. Future champ? Time shall tell.

Thai-British driver Alexander Albon, who was runner-up to Charles Leclerc in 2016 GP3 series season, has outperformed his teammate & former Red Bull driver Daniil Kyvat, bagging valuable points in Bahrain and China. Finishing 10th after starting from the pits is no small feat for the 23-year old Toro Rosso rookie who was Driver of the Day in China and is placed 13th on the Drivers’ standings.

Antonio Giovinazzi of Alfa Romeo may be well behind his illustrious teammate Kimi Raikkonen, but he is holding his own end of the bargain pretty well. The first Italian driver in a full race season since 2011, the 25-year old who had his F1 debut at the 2017 Australian GP has zero points, but no DNFs and placed ahead of the likes of Grosjean and Sainz is good enough for a No. 2 driver on Alfa Romeo’s return to Formula One.

No driver can prove himself in a Williams’ FW42, but 21-year old George Russell is making the most of the opportunity to be in F1. The reigning FIA Formula 2 Champion and the 2017 GP3 Series Champion has outperformed his teammate Robert Kubica in their own mini-championship as the team is well behind others. Though returning to full F1 racing this season after an eight years, the Pole once said he is driving a “completely different car” compared to Russel as he tries to explain why he’s behind the British rookie.

Though still early in the season, it is safe to say that the rookies have held their own, sometimes exceeding expectations. Baku is next, another opportunity to show why their various teams have entrusted their cars to them.

By Ekwonye Osy Ernesto

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