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Adaptability

Yes that wonderful word that seems to sweepingly take Formula 1 these days in a climate where adapting to your surroundings is just as important as being fast.

The US GP failed to live up to the hype of last year. Pirelli’s continued ultra-conservative route still being taken and the lack of Sebastian Vettel looking vulnerable in any situation. Some interesting points did come from the US GP though if you look a little deeper.

For the first time in a good while we saw some of the rawness of drivers and not just their media fronts. This was firstly noticeable with the brash statement of Pastor Maldonado claiming that the mechanics of his number sixteen Williams were tampering with his car. In any circumstance or situation, even if you are leaving, you do not make such comments or statements. It is hardly an appealing factor to any new employee that you may be going to. In this case it looks like Lotus unless Quantum Motorsports cough up some money and, rightly, take Nico Hulkenberg.

We then have other examples of drivers just simply not adapting. Lewis Hamilton was contradicting himself for fun from what we heard of the team radio messages between himself and his engineer. Firstly claiming he knew what he was doing with the tyres, followed up by wanting to know a plethora of information, massive respect to Peter Bonnington for having the patience of a Buddhist monk. Hamilton once again showing he has speed but not the full package.

When we look at the performances of the second half the season it is clear to see that Red Bull have regained their advantage from last season with the 2012 Pirelli tyre construction being brought back. Even when the 2013 tyres were on the car, Vettel still won Malaysia, Bahrain and Canada. This reflects how he is able to adapt to the car and tyres given to him. Arguably, Fernando Alonso is doing an even better job considering the lack lustre Ferrari he has two wins to his name. But what Alonso portrays is firstly confidence and ability within him but also the mental capacity to be able to adapt. The car is not as good as the Red Bull but he is extracting everything from the Ferrari and has now finished runner-up to Vettel. He learns how the tyres work during the race and uses that to his advantage.

Jenson Button is loved by many in the paddock and many fans, but I am not one. Even during his 2009 championship campaign there was this snide character to Button that came across. Button moans about any given situation with the car. He does not understand or learn what the car is doing; he immediately proclaims something is wrong. McLaren have opted to release Sergio Perez from his contract. Over time it will come out if this is on performance or the Telmex money drying up. Have McLaren released the wrong man? No. Both need to go.

Perez in the second half of the season has done a better job than Button. He has understood the team, his engineers and also the simulator and McLaren are now seeing the rewards. I do not believe Perez is the ultimate driver but he is certainly more adaptable than Button. With Kevin Magnussen now joining the team, I believe in 2014 Button is going to get over shadowed by his young Danish team mate. Experience is a tremendous trait to have, if you know how to use it.

The driver that has been impressing most of late is Romain Grosjean. In 2012 he was erratic, reckless and arguably dangerous at times. In 2013 he has calmed down a lot by seeing a psychologist and learning more about himself. I am not a father but they say fatherhood changes you and while he claims it has not changed him, subconsciously I suspect a change has taken place. I have no end of respect for Grosjean to even mention the fact he sees a psychologist. In modern day sport that could be viewed as a sign of weakness to some. He and Lotus identified the issue and dealt with it. Grosjean has learnt the car and the tyres and is now beating one of the Red Bull’s, mighty impressive.

So where does this leave 2014? Currently you would say on driving adaptability alone the title fight will be between Vettel, Alonso, Raikkonen and even Grosjean. With the amount of changes Formula 1 will go through in 2014 it is vital to be able to adapt. But for me Nico Hulkenberg is the star of the future as long as he gets a drive. He is a driver of raw talent, adaptability and speed. I first saw him in A1GP and knew then he was on for greatness.

If Britain has any hope in Formula 1 in the future, it is coming from lower categories. The current crop of drivers are near write-offs.

Follow me on twitter: @nico888

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