You'll no doubt be aware that it wouldn't be an easy task. And this week we had just the latest cruel rejection of a worthy competitor, that of Jean-Eric Vergne.
|The Abu Dhabi race was indeed the last we'll see |
of Jean-Eric Vergne at Toro Rosso
Photo: Octane Photography
But no. Before we know it we're back where we started, as Vergne himself confirmed on Twitter earlier this week: 'Despite a good season and 22 points, I'll not drive anymore for Toro Rosso in 2015. Thanks for those years. Let's go for another big challenge.'
Instead it appears that one of the latest Bull up-and-comers Alex Lynn or Carlos Sainz Jr will partner Verstappen, with the grapevine having it going to Sainz. The same grapevine has Vergne resurfacing as a Williams reserve.
But still it seems a terrible waste of talent. Moreover it seems comparing Vergne's predicament with where his former team mate and fellow-whipper snapper Daniel Ricciardo is now underlines how the margin between success and misery in modern F1 is often absurdly thin. Worse it seems far from the first time we've been given cause to lament about either phenomenon.
It's odd to think that for most of their time together at Toro Rosso there wasn't a great deal to choose between Vergne and Ricciardo. Indeed word from within the Red Bull camp was that Vergne was the more highly-rated of the two.
|As Toro Rosso team mates there was little to choose|
between Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne
Photo: Octane Photography
Both faced a pitch with bat in hand; Ricciardo took a swing and scored a home run. Vergne left the ball and never got to face another.
But what really shows Vergne in a good light is that essentially the only difference between him and Ricciardo when paired in the same cars was in qualifying in the dry. Indeed in other aspects such as race pace if anything Vergne was slightly the better (though helped by tending to have more fresh tyres as a result of dropping out of quali sooner). And for 2014 Vergne self-admittedly focussed on his weak spot, and it had a clear positive impact as he bagged a succession of top ten qualifying slots, as well as did not give much away to his fast young stable mate Kvyat on Saturdays. So - given how Ricciardo has wowed us in 2014 - you do the maths.
He's also been far the more impressive than Kvyat in races (the latter not really yet having sorted looking after the rear tyres), as evidenced in part by his 22 points in total this year to the Russian's eight. And foul luck - especially early in the year with a series of mechanical failures - stopped him getting a lot more even than that.
But still it seems he rather was on a hiding to nothing. Toro Rosso pilots have a strict three-year lifespan as well as that after being passed over for a step up there apparently usually is no way back, even with his improvement. Vergne in his specific case was likely diddled either way - if Ricciardo did well at Red Bull then there was nowhere for him to go; if he didn't then it would reflect badly on him.
But while we don't often need encouragement to point fingers at Red Bull on the charge of being terribly nasty to its drivers in fact the behaviour isn't confined to it. It is a general phenomenon, and one that has contributed to F1 careers these days being incredibly knife-edge, as Vergne has just found out.
|F1's financial crisis impedes drivers such as Vergne|
Photo: Octane Photography
And see Paul di Resta, Kamui Kobayashi and Heikki Kovalainen as a few recent non-Red Bull examples that conform almost precisely in being good midfielders ditched on that timescale (though the latter two managed to sustain their existences on life support at Caterham for a while afterwards). In Kobayashi's case, in a scenario with some echoes of Ricciardo and Vergne, in 2012 he scored only six points fewer than Sergio Perez as Sauber team mates (66 to 60), but at the season's end Perez got a big break at McLaren while Kobayashi at the very same moment got the heave-ho from F1.
Which brings us nicely to the oft-discussed subject of pay drivers. They have always existed as we know; probably always will too. But F1's financial crisis we know about also, particularly for those teams competing in the midfield downwards, thus drivers with cash are especially welcome to such squads right now. And the effect of this is manifold, in that not only are team bosses more demanding of their drivers and have more of an incentive to ditch them in short order to bring in Mr Moneybags, it also all means that if a driver is dropped they have fewer race seat alternatives in F1 to take refuge at. Indeed I worked out that for next season outside the top five teams (ignoring Toro Rosso which has its own priorities of course) there are a grand total of two drivers that are there primarily on talent and not on helping to balance the books - Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean.
Retaining your place in F1 has always been tough. But the sport's warped ways of lately ensure that right now it is toweringly so.