Is Charles the Pic of the bunch for Marussia?


Charles Pic entered Formula at the start of the 2012 season; driving for the Marussia team. As with many drivers making their first foray into the sport, not much is known about them by the majority of the viewing audience. So who exactly is Charles Pic?

In both 2008 and 2009 the young Frenchman raced in the Formula Renault 3.5 series, achieving final positions of 6th and 3rd in the respective seasons. Along the way he won 4 races and only failed to finish in a handful of events. This relatively quick success saw Pic move up the ladder to the GP2 series; widely regarded as the best feeder series for drivers to get into Formula 1. He made an instant impact upon arriving in GP2 by winning the season opener. Unfortunately Pic would only go on to finish on the podium once more that season; ending up 10th after the season finale. In 2011 he switched teams and quickly saw an upturn in speed and results. This time round he took two race victories and finished a further three times on the podium. This haul of strong results, along with only a few retirements, saw Pic jump from 10th in 2010 to 4th by the end of the 2011 campaign. Out of the 38 GP2 races he took part in, the talented Frenchman only retired from 6 (plus one disqualification). Marussia obviously liked what they saw and decided to snap him up for the 2012 season, replacing Belgian driver Jerome D'Ambrosio.

Pic arrived at the team to partner the experienced Timo Glock; a man who's achieved several podium finishes from his Toyota days. The knowledge and know-how that Glock has amassed over the years can only be of benefit to new boy Pic. If he can take any of it on board, then he should. Experience like Glock's is priceless and the Frenchman will need to pick up and take in as much as he possibly can over the course of the year. It'll be a big and thorough test for Pic this year; so how does he stand up so far?

Time for some facts and figures. At the season opener in Australia, Pic finished just one place behind team mate Glock in both qualifying and the race. The following week in Malaysia he qualified just 0.3 seconds behind the German, but struggled in the race and finished a lap behind. Again Pic qualified just one place and half a second behind his vastly more experienced team mate; following that up by finishing just behind him in the race. Bahrain was the first time in which the Frenchman out-qualified Glock; not just by 0.3 seconds but a whole two places ahead on the grid. Unfortunately his engine blew part way through the race, meaning he failed to finish for the first time of his career to date. The fifth round of the championship in Spain represented a very similar weekend to that of the previous race in Bahrain. Again Pic out qualified Glock, this time by half a second, but again retired in the race. Monaco wasn't the best weekend; he finished two places and half a second behind his team mate and again retired from the race, his third in a row, this time because of electrical issues. So out of the first six races Pic had out qualified Glock on two occasions, but failed to finish ahead of him come race day itself. So what did the next five races have install for the 22-year-old from Montelimar, France?

The seventh round in Canada saw Pic again qualify just 0.3 behind Glock, but for the first time he also failed to out qualify the HRT of Pedro de la Rosa. Glock retired from the race with a brake issue, presenting Pic with his first higher finish of the season (saying that he did finish last, so maybe it wasn't all good). Valencia was a tough weekend all round for the team. Glock didn't take part through illness, leaving the team with just one driver for the race on Sunday. A crazy and incident packed race, in which Pic finished 15th, helped the Frenchman take his best result of his career, despite the car being the least competitive it had been all season. Due to the tricky conditions at Silverstone, he failed to qualify within 107% of the fastest time of that session, but was allowed to race because of the practice times he did. Again he finished just one place behind the German.

Time for Glock's home race; Hockenheim in Germany. This is really where Pic began to show his talent and speed. For the first time since Barcelona Pic started ahead of Glock on the grid (excluding Valencia). He then went to back this up with by not only crossing the line ahead of Glock, but comprehensively beating him on his home track and finishing a lap ahead. The Hungarian Grand Prix though for me really did put Charles Pic on the Formula 1 map. For the second race in a row he qualified ahead of his team mate and would again go on to beat him in the race. It wasn't so much the fact that he finished ahead, but instead the way in which he did it. He showed strong, consistent pace throughout the weekend, something that really came to fruition in the race itself. He finished a full lap ahead of the experienced German, a fact that seemed to pass many by.

Overall, on qualifying and race performances, I would have to say that Pic has been a pretty even match for his much more experienced team mate Glock. He's managed to out qualify him on four occasions, finished ahead three times (twice when they both completed the race) and has only failed to finish when the car has let him down. You'd have to class that as a fairly successful start to a Formula 1 career, especially in a smaller team against an experienced and campaigned racer like Glock.

So how does he compare to Jerome d'Ambrosio; another young man that drove for the team last season? In my opinion the Belgian was unlucky to lose his seat and like Pic, impressed for much of the season. He achieved two 14th place finishes over the course of the season; one place higher than Glock ever managed. He also only failed to finish on three occasions all season.

d'Ambrosio's record in his GP2 days are remarkably similar to that of Pic. He achieved just one win, but was also on the podium several more times over the three years. He was generally a consistent finisher, retiring from very few races, but never really showed outstanding pace on too many occasions.

He's now moved on to Lotus, taking up the role as test driver. For me it's a good move; it keeps him in and around the sport in a team that continues to make huge strides forward. The way that Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean are driving though suggests that he won't get a look in for a while; unless Kimi moves on?

d'Ambrosio did a very solid job for me and impressed for large parts of the season. Given the car he had at his disposal, could he have done a lot more? What does seem clear though is that the 2012 car is less competitive than the 2011 one was. Instead of making progress towards Caterham, the team have seen themselves dropping back towards HRT on more occasions than not. For me that's why I think Pic has done a very good job so far. The car is not as quick, not as competitive as it was, yet Pic is managing to pull out some impressive pace and performances.

If I was the boss and had to pick who to drive for me in 2013; I'd certainly stick with the pairing of Glock and Pic. With the team now having a GP2 outfit, they do have competition for places. Max Chilton and Rio Haryanto are the drivers in question, but both need more time to develop and fine tune their skills and race craft before making a possible step up. Chilton in particular has financial backing, but in my opinion needs a further season in the feeder series to take a few more wins and podium finishes. I'd stick with Pic (apologies for the rhyme); and then decide at the end of the 2013 season as for who to go with.

Young drivers need to be given time in the sport; and although being at the back of the grid may not always be best for results, it is a great place to develop and enhance your racing skills. Look at the likes of Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber. Both started out at Minardi, the perennial back markers of the Formula 1 grid. Both impressed hugely in their debut seasons and through that were given the chance to move on to bigger and better things; at Renault and Jaguar respectively. Now look at them. Alonso is a double world champion, possibly heading for a third. Webber is a multiple race winner, racing for the top team and challenging for the championship.

If these drivers weren't given a chance after racing for a smaller team, then would they be there now? Probably not. Young drivers need to be given a chance. It's not just about results at the back; it's about performances relative to your team mate and cars around you, and if you pick up some top results along the way then that can only help.

Charles Pic has achieved this. Compared to team mate Glock he's performed well, both in qualifying and the races. I think Pic has done enough to merit a place on the 2013 Formula 1 grid. Whether that is for Marussia or not remains to be seen. Other teams such as Williams are rumoured to be looking at the young Frenchman. If I was them? I'd go for him and take a chance. What would you do?

So I ask; is Charles the 'Pic' of the bunch for Marussia? Simply put; yes. Formula 1 needs young, bright and talented drivers to be given the chance to become the next stars of the future.

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