With practice well underway for 2015, and lineups set, I figured this would be a good time to talk about my favorite driver pairings for the coming Formula 1 season:
Fernando Alonso & Jenson Button
This is definitely the trendy pick this year, but I like this lineup for more than the obvious superficial reasons. When I was first getting in to F1 I was a big BAR-Honda fan (big surprise, I chose the Honda team, right?). Jenson Button was still young and looking for his first win with the team. I liked his pluckiness and determination, as well as his driving style. When he won his first, in Hungary in ’06, even though it was with some rain-soaked luck, I was thrilled. When Brawn bought the Honda team in ’09 I was skeptical, but thrilled again when Button drove that car to the title. I genuinely like the guy and I think he has the talent and ability to push Alonso more than some seem to think.
Speaking of Alonso, he’s another one I’ve always liked to watch. His talent, ability and passion are undeniable, both in and out of the car. Even in a boring race, he is usually interesting to watch. He’s been held back by a number of factors since his last title (some of his own doing, some of circumstance, naturally), but I expect this season to be an indicator of where the rest of his career is destined to go. Whatever the case, his presence makes McLaren a much more interesting team than they have been in the last couple years.
So, I like both drivers, I like the pairing and I like that Honda and McLaren are back together. That’s why Alonso and Button are my favorite tandem. I hope they can produce to match the expectations.
Kimi Raikkonen & Sebastian Vettel
Let’s be clear here: I don’t really like Ferrari. But this isn’t an article about which teams I like, it’s about my favorite driver tandems. Here’s the other thing, though: I also don’t much like Vettel. I found him boring to watch as a driver and difficult to identify with as a person.
So how can I still like the lineup? Well, my own genealogy is a big part. Since a large part of me is Finn, I tend to get behind drivers from that country, no matter the team. Kimi, though, is a character that fascinates me as well. It’s hard to imagine a “Finnish playboy,” but he is probably the closest thing, renowned for being both a little bit wild and Finnish-ly stoic. Oh, and he tends to win a lot, which is always fun to watch. Last year’s debacle could well have been down to discomfort with the car, or an omen of things to come. Hopefully, improvements made to the team structure will see him back to form.
As I said above, I’ve never much liked Vettel. I thought he was fast and talented, but having the best car on track highlighted his strengths. That he never seemed to make winning look interesting, to me, is telling. Also telling is how far off he was in a sub-par car, which was magnified by Daniel Ricciardo’s performance in the same chassis. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, though. Maybe a passionate team like Ferrari will bring out his inner non-German.
I suspect not, but putting him next to one of my favorite Finns was enough to make me want to watch this tandem in the coming month.
Honorable Mention: None
Honestly, there isn’t another team on which I like the lineup. I like the Williams team and I think their driver tandem is talented and well balanced, but I don’t like Felipe Massa — I can’t put my finger on why, exactly, but I never have. I like Daniel Ricciardo, but I don’t know anything about the Russian they’ve put next to him and, frankly, I’m still sick of hearing about Red Bull. I guess if a gun were put to my head, I would have to pick Lotus. I like where the team is headed and I don’t dislike Romain Grosjean, but Pastor Maldonado crashes out too much, and someone who puts the other drivers at risk is hard to get behind. I guess it’s not really an honorable mention, per se, just a mention.
What is your favorite lineup for this season?