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“A short story about a most ridiculous young man”

July 9, 2018

Silverstone brought back some memories of a driver self-destructive wrapped up in paranoia and conspiracy. It served as a reminder that careers can be set on fire with the fiery thoughts and the turn of a tongue.

It would be very easy to bite one’s lip hard when the lights went out, signing the start of another Formula 3 and later GP3 race. In recent years, one could probably look to the middle of the pack and find a young chap who had, again, qualified lower than his talent or car warranted.

This chap – an American lad, followed and propelled by his parental entourage – had entered Formula 3 the previous year and was largely overshadowed by the now celebrated competitors by those at the front, but come the following year had moved teams and was pushing to establish himself.
This is something that should be encouraged of course, but in this instance, the results were slow to come. So slow that they never really actually came at all.

Qualifying pace was always an issue and one that never quite the issue of the car and often left the young man lingering around the 15th-20th mark on the grid. As a racer, the young man was very aggressive and uncompromising, which in some situations worked and in others really didn’t. While he had little issue pulling off overtaking manoeuvres on some of the lesser talented drivers in the field, there lacked a real finesse as to how he did his business.

For example, when one looks at Daniel Ricciardo’s overtaking methodology, the Red Bull man pulls off some extraordinary moves that seem to come from nowhere while carrying far too much speed.
Yet Ricciardo rarely extends his machine beyond the physics of a track’s conditions at any given time and often manages to still unload the energy from the inside front tyre without significant locking or fuss. The same can also be said of the likes of Max Verstappen or Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel when push comes to shove and want becomes need.

Yet this is where the young chap falters for the first time. His overtakes in the past have often amounted to little more than dive-bombs down the inside line into a corner, that force the issue in a “let me through or be crashed” kind of way – and it works when those lower placed drivers either jump out of the way or carry so little pace into or out of corners that they become easy meat on the following straight. These were also the occasions when shoving competitors almost off the track became a norm if required; the forcefulness became expected.

However the young man often began to struggle when approaching drivers more in sync with his natural pace. In these situations, he would occasionally get stuck – no great shakes there – but in these situations, he had also been known to attempt outlandish moves on his newer/quicker opposition, only to discover that they do not fall out of the way and / or are less inclined to on-track intimidation.
Ayrton Senna may have been able to pull that off, but he had the skill and nuance to do so. And a bright yellow helmet. The young man had none of this in his favour.

Thus the damage mounted up and the excuses began – and this was where the young man’s second, and more significant, issue lay. Every week, it would be something different. Following difficult weekends, the range of excuses would become long and tiresome and the burning of bridges would begin in earnest, but the novelty would never really get old.
Anything and everything, such as;

  • “The team are favouring all of my teammates over me”;
  • “My engineer deliberately sabotaged my session, by giving me the wrong wing/damper/etc. settings”;
  • “The team gave me the wrong tyre pressures to ensure everyone else in the team was ahead”;
  • So on, so forth…

    The pinnacle came when the young man felt he was blocked in a qualifying session by a teammate, so he decided to bypass the team completely and personally report the issues to the stewards in an effort to get a penalty for his teammate. Those bridges that were lightly burning earlier were now fully ablaze.
    There were other complaints and accusations too – almost too many to mention – that revolved around people who disliked him because of his nationality and his nature, but as a colleague once said, “isn’t amazing how all of these incidents seem to revolve around a single person…”
    To this day I have no idea how much was paranoia, spite or even a mixture of both.

    Amidst all this, the young man and his single entourage lamented the fact that they had passed on a seat at Van Amersfoort, as they felt they were quicker and more talented than a young Monegasque driver who is currently doing very well in Formula One. Alas, the young man is not as talented as the Monegasque star – not even close.

    To be fair, his lack of results in the years up to now meant he was always going to fall a long way short in terms of super licence points, but circumstances means he may never have the opportunity to compare himself to Leclerc on the world stage.

    Oh well.
    His loss, not ours.

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