Why F1 drivers’ roles aren’t at all times so simple as ‘primary’ and ‘quantity two’ · RaceFans

The Method 1 driver line-up for the 2023 season is edging nearer to completion, and it’s already clear a number of new partnerships will likely be fashioned.

McLaren will accomplice newcomer Oscar Piastri with Lando Norris, having dropped Daniel Ricciardo. Fernando Alonso was confirmed as Sebastian Vettel’s alternative at Aston Martin alongside Lance Stroll. Esteban Ocon will due to this fact have a brand new group mate at Alpine, as will Alexander Albon at Williams, as Nicholas Latifi has been proven the door.

As group mates chop and alter, how will the brand new pairings match up towards one another? The battle for supremacy inside every group is essential, as it might probably usually decide who receives the higher technique and the newer components – and who’s relegated to a “quantity two” function.

In fact F1 bosses are adamant they don’t got down to bestow preferential remedy on both driver.
Talking at Mercedes’ launch earlier this yr, group principal Toto Wolff mentioned the preparations for Lewis Hamilton and new group mate George Russell, who arrived rather than Valtteri Bottas.

Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Sochi Autodrom, 2018
Bottas handed Hamilton victory at Sochi in 2018

“We by no means had a state of affairs of a ‘one’ and ‘two’,” mentioned Wolff. “That they had equal alternatives and similar and the identical automotive.

“This yr, the attention-grabbing state of affairs is we have now in George the up-and-coming star [in one seat], and undoubtedly the perfect Method 1 driver ever within the different seat. So the dynamic is new and clearly it’s one thing that we are going to attempt to steer in a course that has probably the most constructive impact on growing the automotive and making us total aggressive.”

Hamilton and Bottas had the identical automotive, and the identical alternatives. Bottas was usually out-scored by his seven-time world champion group mate, and on greater than as soon as event the group gave Hamilton preferential remedy in his endeavours to win the title.

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At Purple Bull, Sergio Perez needed to tackle the quantity two function early within the yr. Through the Spanish Grand Prix he was instructed on two separate events to maneuver apart for group mate Max Verstappen, who went on to win the race. “That’s very unfair, however okay” Perez reluctantly agreed. Talking to the media afterwards he mentioned there have been “a number of issues that we are going to talk about internally” on the group.

Perez needed to give approach twice to Verstappen in Spain

Purple Bull group principal Christian Horner defended his choice, saying Verstappen had vital tyre benefit and the group wanted to capitalise on the retirement of Charles Leclerc, who arrived on the race within the lead of the championship. “Each drivers labored collectively as a group and to get the utmost factors was massively essential when Ferrari had a problem,” mentioned Horner.

On the very subsequent race Perez reminded everybody he was able to taking wins for himself, claiming victory in Monaco. On the race after, he made approach for Verstappen once more. Purple Bull have arguably been faster to lean on Perez to assist Verstappen than, for instance, Ferrari has been when Leclerc has discovered himself behind Carlos Sainz Jnr.

Some drivers, nevertheless, really feel the significance of ‘primary’ and ‘quantity two’ roles inside groups is usually exaggerated. Lando Norris, who will race alongside a rookie for the primary time in his profession subsequent season, says McLaren deal with him and Ricciardo equally.

“I like when individuals suppose that they know what they’re speaking about when truly they’ve received no concept and it’s generally the exact opposite,” he started. “Particularly, from my perspective, each single weekend earlier than the race we have now a little bit assembly going by means of how we will work properly as a group and the way we don’t work as ‘primary’ and ‘quantity two’ and methods of me serving to Daniel in sure situations and Daniel serving to me in sure situations.

“Actually the alternative approach of getting a primary and quantity two. It’s extra how can we work higher as one to have a greater end result by the top of the day. There’s no precedence. I’ll have precedence one weekend, then Daniel may have precedence the following weekend. It’s fully honest.”

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Ocon, who’s but to be taught who his group mate will likely be subsequent season, and is at the moment up towards one of many grid’s best drivers in Alonso, mentioned a lot the identical.

McLaren’s operation is ‘the alternative to having a primary’

“I’m already main my group when it comes to improvement on how the automotive feels,” the Alpine driver defined. “I’m simply guiding the group to deliver the following updates and which space they should deal with, if it’s the rears or the entrance or the journey. We’re fairly agency, me and Fernando, on what the automotive does however more often than not we have now very comparable feedback on how the automotive feels.

“However relating to subsequent yr I would be the most skilled driver within the group. So it’s attention-grabbing. And I’m able to take that function if that’s the case.”

There’ll at all times be events when circumstances dictate a group has to place one driver first, similar to after they solely have one instance of a significant improve. Haas fitted Kevin Magnussen’s automotive with its improve a race forward of Mick Schumacher. Equally Williams upgraded Albon’s automotive earlier than Latifi’s.

Even the highest groups endure from such complications. Purple Bull have been operating totally different flooring on Verstappen and Perez’s automotive for the previous couple of races, which the group defined was partly right down to the necessity to reduce prices to fulfill the funds cap.

Groups could got down to deal with each drivers equally however there’ll at all times be situations the place they’ve to decide on between one or the opposite. The pressures of a championship battle make that extra doubtless, as we noticed a number of instances final yr, and the funds cap could make such choices extra frequent sooner or later.

When that occurs, as historical past exhibits, it’s normally the driving force’s efficiency that swings the choice on who will get what. In F1 the state of affairs is straightforward: Both show you’re the primary or threat being designated the quantity two.

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