Some of the recent discussion in the Formula 1 world has been the last-minute driver shifting at Force India and Marussia, respectively. Yet while all the rookies and returnees have been named (there are five rookies and the returning Adrian Sutil), here’s a look at the 2013 prospects for those gone from the 2012 grid.
STILL RACING ELSEWHERE
Bruno Senna: The Brazilian’s competitive drive to want to win races, rather than sit sidelined, has seen a shift back to sports cars after his three-year F1 career, most recently with Williams. Senna competed in an LMP1 class ORECA prototype in 2009, and made his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut. This year, he’ll be running the full FIA World Endurance Championship season in a GT class Aston Martin Vantage.
Timo Glock (right): The German’s departure from Marussia triggered the final seat shifting, first to Luiz Razia and now to Jules Bianchi. After a career spent in single-seaters since 2003, Glock moves to tin tops in the DTM, with BMW. Glock was a BMW Sauber F1 test driver at the same time as Sebastian Vettel, and lost out to Vettel in a one-off outing to replace the injured Robert Kubica at Indianapolis in 2007.
COULD STILL RACE
Kamui Kobayashi: F1’s “Mr. Excitement” for Sauber the last few years has tested a Ferrari F458 Italia for the Italian AF Corse team in the WEC, but the team has not made its driver lineup public. Countryman Kazuki Nakajima, also ex-F1, races in the WEC for the Toyota factory prototype team.
Pedro de la Rosa: It’s a long shot he’ll race in F1 once again, but the option is there as the 42-year-old has a new deal as a test driver for Ferrari. Then again, the Spaniard’s career has spanned parts of nine seasons, in three different stints (1999-2002, ’05-’06, ’10-’12), so there’s always a chance.
Narain Karthikeyan: Like his 2012 HRT teammate, Karthikeyan may turn up again and it could be in IndyCar. Karthikeyan has been linked by multiple media outlets to Dale Coyne’s vacant second seat, a seat that is notoriously late to get filled.
UNLIKELY TO RACE
Heikki Kovalainen, Vitaly Petrov, Jerome D’Ambrosio: The 2012 Caterham pair have only been linked to F1 seats and neither raised enough for them to be viable candidates. D’Ambrosio lost the lead Lotus reserve role to 2012 GP2 champion Davide Valsecchi, who has already tested after Kimi Raikkonen’s food poisoning.
Michael Schumacher: F1’s most statistically successful driver may not be in a competitive championship this year but has already made an appearance in karting. Wherever he shows up this year, the news cycle will follow.
Change can be frightening, but it is often exhilarating and Ken Roczen, a rider in his ninth season on a 450 bike, it was urgently needed.
Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with his worst performance in five years. After finishing outside of the top five in seven of his last eight rounds in the stadium series, well down the points’ standings in ninth, he decided to put that season on hold.
Before 2022, Roczen was a regular challenger for the championship despite being plagued by major accidents that required surgery in 2017 and 2018. On his return, he was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, which presents with symptoms of heavy fatigue, muscle weakness and loss of appetite and last year he tested positive for COVID-19.
Against those odds, he finished second in the outdoor season in 2019 and third in 2020. In the Supercross series, he finished third in 2020 and second in 2021.
But the abbreviated season of 2022 signaled a need for change for Roczen.
“I needed the change urgently,” Roczen said in last week’s post-race press conference at Angel Stadium. “I did a pretty big change in general.”
Those comments came three races into the 2023 with him sitting among the top three finishers for the first time in 10 Supercross rounds. It was the 57th podium of his career, only six behind 10th-place Ryan Villopoto. It was also the first for Suzuki since 2019 when Chad Reed gave them one in Detroit 63 rounds ago.
Taking time off at the end of the Supercross season had the needed effect. He rejoined SuperMotocross in the outdoor season and immediately stood on the podium at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. Two rounds later, he won at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado. The relief was short lived and he would not stand on the podium again until this year.
“I just think change overall made it happen – and these overseas races – it’s really just a snowball,” Roczen said. “You start somewhere and you feel like something works out and I got better and had more fun doing it. Working with the team as well and working on the motorcycle to get better and actually see it paying off. It’s just, it’s just a big boost in general.”
The return to Suzuki at this stage of his career, after nearly a decade of competing on 450 motorcycles, recharged Roczen. He is one of three riders, (along with Cooper Webb and his former Honda teammate Chase Sexton), with a sweep of the top five in the first three rounds of the 2023 Supercross season.
But last week’s podium really drove home how strong he’s been.
“I think we’re all trying to take it all in,” Roczen said. “I wouldn’t say it came out of nowhere really, but before the season starts you think about – or I thought of how my whole last season went – and it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the podium.”
Roczen’s most recent podium prior to Anaheim 2 came at Budds Creek Motocross Park in Mechanicsville, Maryland last August in Round 10 of the outdoor season. His last podium in Supercross was the 2022 season opener that raised expectations so high.
The change Roczen needed was not just a different team and bike. More importantly, he needed the freedom to set his own schedule and control his training schedule.
“It’s long days, but I’m really into it at the moment,” Roczen said. “Overall, I felt [that] throughout this off season and now my health has been really well, really good, so that helps. It’s needed to get to the top. I’m pretty confident that we’re, we’re doing the right thing – that I’m doing the right thing.
“I’m doing all my training on my own and I’m planning out my entire week. And I feel like I have a really good system going right now with recovery and putting in some hard days. Right now, I don’t really have anybody telling me what to do. I’m the best judge of that.
“It’s really hard to talk about how much work we’ve put in, but we’ve been doing some big changes and riding a lot throughout the week, some really, really late days. And they’re paying off right now; we’re heading in the right direction. We’re all pulling on the same string, and that helps me out big time.”