|25. Lucas di Grassi – Virgin Racing
One of two Brazilian debutants in 2010, Lucas di Grassi has been on the verge of F1 for several years, having been a Renault test driver since 2005, and also having a test stint with Honda.
He finally achieves his chance with the new Virgin Racing team after four seasons’ slogging in the feeder GP2 series. He has had a lengthy association with the team’s boss, John Booth, having raced under the Manor F3 banner in British F3. Booth made no secret of his desire to secure the Brazilian’s services in his F1 team from the outset.
Now with the drive in his pocket, will he prove that he deserves the appointment after years of toil in the feeder categories, or will he join the all-too-long list of South American hopefuls who crash and burn on the F1 stage?
Lucas’ pre-F1 career has been largely supported by Renault, which signed him to its young driver development scheme after promising results in the Brazilian junior racing series.
Placed in British F3 in 2004, he finished 8th in the championship with two race victories. He also scored a podium finish at the season-ending Macau F3 race.
Di Grassi moved to the F3 Euroseries championship with Manor Motorsport, impressing team boss John Booth with his resolve against the near-unstoppable duo of Lewis Hamilton and Adrian Sutil in the factory-backed ASM team. He finished a distant third in the championship standings, but crucially took victory at his second attempt at Macau.
GP2 was the next port of call, but placed at the Durango team, he could do little in their uncompetitive car, although he did improve as the season wore on.
It was enough to land him a sear with ART in 2007, and with the title being his goal, his campaign fell a little flat against his team-mate and eventual title winner, Timo Glock. He could do little more than rack up podiums while Timo surged ahead, but a run of misfortune mid-season saw Lucas’ chances improve and he finally took a win at Istanbul. Although he managed to push Timo right to the final round, the German still took the spoils.
His involvement as Renault’s test and reserve driver in 2008 meant he stayed away from competition racing, but he was telegraphed into the Campos GP2 team mid-season, and succeeded in turning the team’s mediocre form into some solid results with three wins and six podiums en route to a fine 3rd in the standings.
He stayed on for a fourth GP2 season – this time with Racing Engineering – and was duly expected to dominate the championship on the basis of his form the previous year. At the end of the year, he finished 3rd in the standings behind Vitaly Petrov, and both were miles behind the dominant Nico Hülkenberg.
- Lots of testing mileage with Renault and Honda should mean he is well-accustomed to the rigours of F1 driving, and will be among the most experienced of the rookies in terms of time in an F1 cockpit.
- He’s raced competitively with many of the current crop of F1 drivers, such as Glock, Hülkenberg, Petrov, Sutil and Hamilton
- There are question marks as to whether he is the genuine article – surely he would have won a GP2 title by now and been picked up by an F1 team sooner?
- Won’t be helped by Virgin’s poor reliability in pre-season testing – he needs more miles in the VR-01.
What defines success in 2010?
- Prove the nay-sayers wrong by running at Glock’s pace
- Get plenty of mileage for Virgin – points will be a pipedream
[Images via StatsF1]