The first of the ‘Could Have Been Champions’ series is on Timo Glock the former Jordan, Marussia and Toyota driver. There was another article that was ready to go but I thought since Timo might be out of the sport forever, which is a massive loss, it would be appropriate to analyse him first.
This series aims to analyse the men regarded as possible world champions and tries to answer whether they could have been world champions or not. Glock is a well respected and much admired driver, not only for his speed and race craft but for his attitude to the sport. As Mark Webber pointed out on twitter, Timo was “one of the good guys, and never went to your head”.
Timo was picked up in 2004 by the a man with an incredible eye for young talent – Eddie Jordan. Having impressed with his performance in lower German and European leagues, he was hired to replace Giorgio Pantano for the 2004 Canadian Grand Prix qualifying 16th, nearly a second behind the other Jordan driver the familiar Nick Heidfeld. Glock jumped up to 10th at the start and managed to keep hold of 10th place until the finish line. The disqualification of both Williams and Toyota managed to bump Timo up to 7th ahead of Heidfeld and he scored 2 points on his debut. Pantano retained his seat for the next 7 races before Glock was allowed to contest the last three races of the year. He just couldn’t pull off any more miracles in the slow Jordan. However, Glock had impressed by scoring one point less than Heidfeld throughout the year, despite only racing 4 times while Heidfeld contested the entire season although the more experienced “quick Nick” out-qualified Timo in all 4 races while they were teammates. He also finished higher than Pantano who didn’t score a single point all year.
As Jordan struggled financially Glock couldn’t be retained even though he owed some thanks to sponsorship from Deutsche Post for racing in 2004. Glock decided to move to the Champ Car which was one of two IndyCar series before the re-unification of IndyCar in 2008. Glock impressed in his year on unfamiliar race tracks and the alien American oval tracks with a best result of 2nd in Montreal which was the only track he had driven previously. An 8th place in the championship and the Rookie of the Year trophy was an impressive return.
Glock returned to Europe in the GP2 Series in 2006 and in the first half of the year he had little to show for his efforts. For the Silverstone round Glock switched to the frontrunning team iSport International and took 2nd in the race from fifth on the grid and took 6th place in the sprint race. Glock won the next race which was in France and for the next 8 races was in the top 4 each time taking a fastest lap, another victory and 2 more podiums. He thrashed his teammate Ernesto Viso in the championship who also secured two victories but was 16 points behind Glock despite being at a better team for a half a season. Glock also out-qualified his teammate 4-2 in their 6 races together. Following Glock’s rise with iSport he scored the third highest points with 53, just behind Lewis Hamilton and Nelson Piquet Jr. who scored 64 and 63 points respectively. Glock finished 4th over all that year.
The stats from Glock’s 2007 GP2 season say it all. Most fastest laps – 4, most pole positions – 4, most victories – 5 and most podiums – 10. Glock was the class act of the field in terms of speed and ability with the fight only being so close because of Glock’s five retirements and one DNS.
Despite being the BMW Sauber test driver Glock was sought after by many teams and in the end signed for Toyota. The season went well for Glock in his first full year, every driver ahead of him in the championship had more experience even Vettel with his 2007 BMW and Toro Rosso drives. Timo only finished 6 points behind the more experienced Trulli and although enduring a tough start scored more of the team’s points in the second half on the season. A second place in Hungary and 4th places in Canada and Singapore were the highlights. Trulli thrashed Glock in qualifying with a 14 – 4 head-to-head record but Trulli is regarded as a one-lap specialist. Despite the amount of experience Trulli had over him, Timo was the one who brought home the big results. Trulli was in the points in 10 races compared to 6 for Glock but Timo’s three best results were 2nd, 4th and 4th compared to 3rd, 4th and 5th for Jarno.
The Toyota showed real promise at the beginning of 2009 with Trulli and Glock racing the car from the pit lane to 3rd and 4th in Australia and then Glock secured 3rd ahead of Jarno at Malaysia. At Bahrain, Jarno and Timo locked out the front row with Trulli on pole and there was real hope at Toyota for a championship charge. Timo took an early lead but a poor strategy from Toyota and trouble managing the tyres meant that the Toyotas fell back in the race. For the rest of the season other teams, particularly McLaren and Ferrari, caught up and surpassed Toyota who were going backwards. Glock drove one of the races of his life to secure 2nd place in Singapore in his uncompetitive Toyota. Throughout the season, Glock was again out qualified by Trulli but up untilto his crash in Japan, which took him out of the final three races,he was beating his more experienced teammate by 1.5 points and Trulli would go on to score 10 points in the next three races. It’s impossible to tell who would have finished higher had Timo not crashed but I believe Glock could have edged it.
So Glock had impressed against Trulli and his crash put an end to their battle for the 2009 season. Worse was still to come for Timo as Toyota and BMW followed Honda’s route from a year earlier and pulled out of the sport. Timo ended up at Virgin/Marussia for the next 3 years managing to take his best result of 12th at the Singapore Grand Prix. Glock was impressive at Marussia putting the car in places it didn’t belong but he was hampered by a slow car.
So could Glock have been World Champion? It’s debatable but I think he certainly could have been, had the circumstances been right. If Toyota had stayed in the sport Glock certainly would have had a great chance. Toyota had the most innovative wind tunnel in the sport, with limited testing nowadays that would have been very useful. If he was partnered with Trulli, I think Trulli has shown on countless occasions that he can be outraced by teammates despite his qualifying speed and Glock would have been their best chance for the title. If Trulli had been replaced the most likely candidate may have been Kamui Kobayashi who, although supremely talented, is possibly not championship material.
The fact is, Toyota did pull out of the sport but despite this things didn’t look too bad for Timo at the end of 2009. Timo was still highly regarded and sought after by many teams most notably Renault who would finish 5th in 2010 and 2011 and at Lotus, 4th in 2012. Talk about pairing with Kubica at Renault would undoubtedly have produced a strong partnership. In hindsight, it’s amazing that Glock went to Virgin but you have to remember the context of the situation Renault were in at the end of 2009. Glock had seen most of the large manufacturer teams depart the sport ,Honda, BMW and Toyota, due to the global economic crisis. Renault and Mercedes were the other big manufacturers but Renault’s situation was even moredire than the financial circumstances as the end of 2009 saw the Crashgate scandal come to light. This made Renault’s place in the sport look awfully unstable and Glock didn’t want to risk such an insecure position.
If Glock had gone to Renault he would, in my opinion, have most likely come second to Kubica if they built a championship winning car but after Kubica’s crash in 2011 he would have been number one at the team and looking at how strong Lotus are now you would fancy Glock’s chances at winning a championship. It depends who he would have been partnered with, based on the Grosjean we saw last year he would certainly have a good chance and if it was with Kimi, well that’s less certain…
So, in short, I think certainly Timo Glock could have been World Champion if the circumstances were right but I do think that there are better drivers on the grid who, more often than not, would have beaten him to the title. Certainly he would have come close given a great car but overall I don’t think he would have won the title.
Note: I used F1 Stat Blog for some of the stats on Timo as well as my own research, although non of his pre-F1 stats are on here it was very useful and I would highly recommend the site http://f1statblog.co.uk/2013/01/timo-head-to-heads/