Lotus’ driver duo looks set to survive beyond the 2012 season, but Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne and Kamui Kobayashi at Sauber could be in trouble.
At Lotus, Romain Grosjean has looked quick on his return to F1 following his abortive 2009 debut, but the reigning GP2 champion has also faced criticism for getting involved in too many incidents. Kimi Raikkonen, meanwhile, initially impressed in 2012 after two years off the grid, but more recently he has struggled, is reportedly at odds with his engineers over the E20’s steering, and according to Jacques Villeneuve even risks being “dropped”.
But team owner Gerard Lopez is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport: “We have the perfect pair of drivers.”
Meanwhile, the same German publication said Japanese Kobayashi has been inconsistent in 2012 while his teammate Sergio Perez has been on the podium twice so far. When asked by Switzerland’s Blick if the spectacular Kobayashi has been a weak point in 2012, team boss Peter Sauber admitted: “A difficult question. Kobayashi is a great guy. I love his attitude and he will have success with us.”
Nevertheless, Auto Motor und Sport named Heikki Kovalainen and Nico Hulkenberg as potential replacements for the 25-year-old. Also potentially in trouble for 2013 is the French rookie Jean-Eric Vergne, who was drafted in this year after Toro Rosso ousted Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari at the end of last season.
Vergne has been outqualified by his only-slightly-more-experienced teammate Daniel Ricciardo six times out of seven attempts so far in 2012, while his mistakes have earned a rebuke by Red Bull’s driver supremo Dr Helmut Marko.
“Vergne is too wild. There’s nothing wrong with aggressiveness, but in his case we need to drive out the wildness,” said the Austrian.
With even worse qualifying records than Vergne so far in 2012, however, are Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, McLaren’s Jenson Button and HRT’s Narain Karthikeyan, who have not even once outqualified their teammates this year. Vitaly Petrov, meanwhile, has been outqualified by Caterham’s Kovalainen 6 times out of 7.