Yesterday evening I dug out the 2001 DVD Season Review to watch – I know, I live a crazy life. I have to admit though that it was glorious to hear screaming V10 engines again and see some classic Ferrari/Schumacher dominance.
Being gooey over the “good old days” is not the purpose of this article though. Something struck me whilst I watched. My viewing reached the Hungarian GP, Schumacher taking another win and with it, the world championship. I noticed, however, that both Jenson Button (in his 2nd year in F1 and driving the Benetton) and Fernando Alonso (his rookie year driving a Minardi) both binned their respective cars during the race, with some fairly amateur driving.
This made me think about how all of these Formula 1 drivers endure tough rookie years. Button was essentially where Jolyon Palmer is this season, and Alonso was in Lance Stroll’s position. So are we right to be so critical of these new drivers? World Champions, Button and Alonso, certainly endured tough seasons just like drivers this year are.
Are we too quick to judge drivers such as Stroll and Palmer? I am the first to admit that it is far too easy to criticise some of these drivers. Yes they are supposed to be the cream of the crop, but a learning process has to be adhered to a degree. Rumours have been flying around the F1 world of regarding Palmer’s future but has he not been given enough of a chance? If Button’s ability had been so readily questioned so early on in his career he wouldn’t have had the chance to hone his skills into the world class quality that they are today.
The same applies to Alonso. The Spaniard’s spin into the gravel that I watched on the 2001 review was far more self inflicted and amateurish than some of the crashes that Stroll has been involved in during the course of his 2017 season.
It is true that rookies such as Verstappen and Hamilton in their rookie years were impressive, so why aren’t Stroll and Palmer showing the same kind of form? I think perhaps Verstappen and Hamilton are exceptions to the rule, but it must be noted that they too did make rookie mistakes.
Of course, it was how Alonso and Button learnt from these rookie mistakes that made them into the talented drivers that they are today. The ability to not make the same mistake twice, and combine their speed with consistency is why they are both World Champion. So then maybe its time to lay off the likes of Stroll and Palmer a little. This is not to say that they shouldn’t try and rectify their mistakes, but perhaps we give them a little more time? After all, life’s tough when you’re a rookie.