With the World Championship decided how does a number two driver come back?
There is only one absolute certainty in Formula 1 and that is how you compare to your teammate in an identical car (with the exception of occasional upgrades). Everything else and every other comparison are based on speculation and educated guesswork. There have been numerous conspiracy theories based around the inter-team battles but no serious journalist gives them much credence. There is too much money at stake for a team to do anything to jeopardise their fight in the constructors championship.
This leaves us with the question of where do the underperforming drivers go from here? Some of them, and I will include Nico Rosberg here may still try and convince themselves that they are still in with a chance of challenging their more successful teammate but for the viewers and fans the stark reality is that they simply are not quite good enough. I suspect that if Lewis and Nico were in a midfield team then their results would be slightly more balanced as Lewis thrives on being out in front which in turn makes him more likely to stay there, Did Mark Webber leave Red Bull purely as a result of the multi 21 affair or was he tired of driving in Vettels shadow?
If we look at one interesting figure it is the number of laps that Lewis and Nico have each led during the seasons races. At the point the figures were compiled it reads Lewis led 585 laps against Nico led 233. That figure is more indicative of their performance than the total points score.
Kimi Raikkonen has a World Chamionship under his belt but Sebastian Vettel has outperformed him and he has only managed to score less than half Vettels points at this stage in the season. He is a former champion but is not seeing the success his experience deserves. How much longer will he hold on? He loves racing and few can imagine him to be happy as a number two driver but perhaps it is the best option for him. Perhaps he is looking at his long term future and thinking of his salary rather than focusing on the victories that were within his reach only a few years ago.
On paper the other teams are all fairly equal when measured by their championship points with a few exceptions, Saubers Felipe Nasr outscoring Marcus Ericsson and Force Indias Sergio Perez outperforming Nico Hulkenberg but without examining all the statistics their performances are fairly well matched.
Finally we look at Pastor Maldonado. He has only finished higher than Grosjean twice when both drivers completed the race and reviewing their statistics is made all the harder due to the amount of retirements Lotus have suffered. One thing is for certain and that is that Grosjean is clearly of a higher calibre than his Venezuelan teammate.
It must be easier for a pay driver to accept being slower than his teammate than for a driver who achieved his drive through merit. Psychologically the strain of being an underperforming teammate must weigh extremely heavily on the mind of the driver but we have to consider that Formula 1 drivers are not what we consider normal. Their office is a dangerous, unpredictable and at times unsettled place with uncertainty and no guarantee of a drive for the next season. Formula 1 drivers are often described as the most competitive people on the planet so perhaps it comes as no surprise that some have enough and decide to leave the sport they love. The big question in my mind though is which of the underperformers will be next to hang up their gloves?
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing