Rumour has it Luiz Razia has signed for Marussia and it should be confirmed later today. Razia brings quite a bit of sponsorship from Brazil as there seems to be a real push to revive Brazilian interest in F1 recently, probably because the departure of Rubens Barrichello, the failure of Bruno Senna and the tough start to 2012 for Felipe Massa made it look possible there could be no Brazilian’s in the sport.
I worry though for the press Razia will get especially from Britain’s Fleet Street. Assuming Marussia do not make a significant step forward then Razia could be in real trouble. Luiz showed in GP2 this year that he is a stellar racer and can mix out and out pace with amazing overtaking. Although great in wheel to wheel combat his weakness is in qualifying which is where he often gave his main title rival Davide Valsecchi breathing space by underpreforming.
By contrast Max Chilton showed in his GP2 career that he is fantastic over one lap and can really hook up a lap in qualifying. In races however Chilton has shown to be too tentative, not taking enough risks and often not the best in wheel to wheel combat. Because we can not judge the drivers in the “new teams” based on points, as they can’t score any, the drivers tend to have been judged based on their qualifying performances.
The reason people think Kovalainen, Glock and De la Rosa out-preformed their team-mates is not because of race results but because they out-qualified them. In fact when looking at it on race day Petrov brought home the results for Caterham and yet he wasn’t considered the better driver.
If a driver is out-qualified by his teammate but scores more points then he is judged to have done the better job, ideally he would like to out-score and out-qualify his teammate but that isn’t always possible.
If Marussia therefore cannot build a car capable of scoring points the two drivers will likely be judged on their qualifying head-to-head. For Luiz the prospects do not look good. Max is considered a star qualifier while Luiz struggles and the stats from their GP2 seasons last year speak volumes.
Their head to head in GP2 in qualifying would be 9-3 in Chilton’s favour. Since the car performance in GP2 is so close as teams have the same chassis it’s fair to compare the two in different cars. Most notably all three occasions Razia was ahead of Chilton it was only but about a tenth of a second. A lot of the time Chilton was ahead it was by more than that. Chilton also managed to secure two poles in the season while the man who finished second in the championship got none!
So you would expect Chilton will win the qualifying battle between the two and if Marussia are not quick enough to score points like the last 3 years that’s the stat everyone will care about. The pressure will then be on Razia as questions will surely be asked about how he brought in funding and replaced the superbly talented Timo Glock. Surely Razia will have the label of ‘pay driver” on his shoulders.
Chilton brings in money too, this is no secret but I imagine whoever ends up the better of the two will not be labeled a pay driver while the other will – think of Pastor Maldonado losing his pay driver status over the past year while Bruno Senna gained his.
Although Razia might not be able to out-qualify Chilton he can outrace him which he clearly did last year with some amazing drives on Sundays. However if points aren’t available Luiz will have little to show for his efforts. If Marussia can score points throughout the year though that will be where the battle between the teammates is fought and the qualifying record wont matter as much.
I do hope though that if points aren’t available the press don’t turn on Razia because he replaced Glock and won’t be seen as good enough just for not out-qualifying Chilton.
Of course I might be totally wrong he might thrash Chilton in qualifying and of course at the time of writing the deal hasn’t been officially confirmed so they might not even be teammates.