TCF Team Pick: Driver Of The Year


In the first of series of articles to bring in the new year, some of theCheckeredFlag.co.uk regulars pick some their top performers (on two wheels and four) from the last 12 months. Their choices include five new champions, including a few record breakers, as well as one of the great racing talents lost over the course of 2013.

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Peter AllenKevin Magnussen
While Sebastian Vettel was in a league of his own in Formula 1, Magnussen was the star of the junior single-seater scene. The Dane came out on top in the battle for the Formula Renault 3.5 title, seeing off fellow McLaren young driver Stoffel Vandoorne and Red Bull ace Antonio Felix da Costa. Key to his campaign were consistent podium finishes after early wins at Motorland Aragon and Spa-Francorchamps, but he was able to push for wins at the end of the year when he wished. Perhaps the greatest sign of his ability came at Paul Ricard where, after a minor technical infringement led to him losing his race one win and saw his points lead slashed with three races left, he bounced back to take another dominant win from pole on the Sunday. After sealing the title with a double victory in Barcelona, McLaren promoted him to an F1 race seat for 2014, believing he’s better than Sergio Perez after being left impressed by his approach in the Silverstone test in the middle of the year.

Magnussen was the class of FR3.5 in 2013, and will join the F1 circus for '14 (Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd)
Magnussen was the class of FR3.5 in 2013, and will join the F1 circus for ’14 (Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd)

James BroomheadSean Edwards
What made Edwards’ tragic death – aged just 26 – in October all the worse was that he was in the middle of a season that should have moved him from a simple ‘sportscar regular’ to a member of one of the top most echelon of endurance drivers. Victory in Dubai in January started off the year before the back-to-back wins at the beginning of a Porsche Carrera Supercup campaign that put him comfortably in the lead of the championship with just the final weekend of the championship remaining. In the middle of it all came a fantastic win in a wet and wild Nurburgring 24 Hours, when – in the absence of Nicki Thiim and Jeroen Bleekemolen, after the latter had left to be at the birth of his child – he and Bernd Schnieder, led the Black Falcon team to a first win for Mercedes in the race. His success would have made him one of the very best to coach a young driver behind the wheel, a task which sadly comes with its own dangers.

Read the full race report from the Nurburgring 24 Hours – HERE

Edwards took two 24 hour victories and held the supercup lead before tragedy in Queensland (Credit: Porsche)
Edwards took two 24 hour victories and held the supercup lead before tragedy in Queensland (Credit: Porsche)

James CharmanMichael Dunlop
Dunlop has been one to watch over the last few years, but 2013 saw him really come to the forefront of Road Racing. Taking four out of five wins at the Isle of Man TT Races will be how people remember Dunlop’s 2013 season, but in addition to his Snaefell Mountain Course dominance, Dunlop took two wins at the Southern 100, as well as wins at the North West 200 & Ulster Grand Prix. Throw in a few more podiums at each of the events and it’s impossible to not rate Dunlop as rider of the year.

Four wins on the Mountain Course were a highlight of Dunlop's 2013 (Credit: Isle of Man TT)
Four wins on the Mountain Course were a highlight of Dunlop’s 2013 (Credit: Isle of Man TT)

Alex GoldschmidtMike Rockenfeller
I could go with what a lot of people would potentially pick, but four-time F1 World Champion, Sebastian Vettel, deserves a credible mention in this case. However, I would say for me it would have to be DTM’s newest “Meister,” Audi Sport’s Mike Rockenfeller.

Bearing in mind that “Rocky” had been combining both efforts in LMP1 and DTM over the last few years, which may have divided his focus in seasons, the choice to wholly concentrate on the latter this season has paid dividends with the ultimate reward, as his consistent form and cool demeanour have paved the way to Audi Sport and Team Phoenix’s second drivers’ titles in three years in the very same colours, especially with some great strategic calls along the way to secure points at every race apart from the Hockenheim finale. I’m looking forward to seeing this man defend his well-earned title next year…

Read Alex’s interview with ‘Rocky’ click – HERE

Joe HudsonSam Bird
Desperately unlucky to miss out on the GP2 championship, the Brit should have been in line for a 2014 F1 seat but a lack of finance following a GP2 campaign with a team – Russian Time – that did not need drivers with budgets meant that he is looking around for something to do in 2014.

More success in the sprint races than the longer feature races is probably something that has to be polished down but he could have easily done a job somewhere like Sauber, Marussia or Caterham where the consistency he showed in the lower formula would have done any team a brilliant job.

Maybe the best thing for Bird is another season in GP2 or a move across to Formula Renault 3.5 and have another season honing his craft. Or even step across to sportscars and go the Alex Brundle route.

Whatever happens, Bird is a talent that shouldn’t be ignored, and while this year is an early gem surely only better things can happen.

Read the race report of Bird’s dominant Singapore Sprint Race win – HERE

Bird was Britain's best in GP2, helping his Russian Time team to a title (Credit: Sam Bloxham/LAT Photographic)
Bird was Britain’s best in GP2, helping his Russian Time team to a title (Credit: Sam Bloxham/LAT Photographic)

Dan Mason – Andrew Jordan (behind Sebastian Vettel)
A forgone conclusion really, as Sebastian Vettel was frighteningly sublime during his record-breaking fourth consecutive Formula 1 title-winning season, worthy of the accolades and respect gained from his achievements.

But Vettel aside, to me the standout superstar in 2013 was the newest British Touring Car Championship title winner, Andrew Jordan.

Previously tipped as a future BTCC champion following a plethora of exuberant performances during previous seasons, this was the season when Jordan modified himself into a consistent driver, not just a rapid young talent behind the wheel.

He coped with the pressure around him when his more experienced rivals thought he would wilt, the opposite occurring as he caught his rivals on the back foot himself to claim the title for himself and the Independent Pirtek Racing team earlier than even they would have expected.

Having mingled within the centre of the BTCC action during 2013, it was abundantly clear to me that Jordan was a popular champion during the very poignant scenes in the pits after he clinched an emotional maiden crown at a damp Brands Hatch circuit in October.

Read the season review of Jordan’s championship season – HERE

Taking the title for his family team Jordan was a popula champion (Credit: btcc.net)
Taking the title for his family team Jordan was a popula champion (Credit: btcc.net)

Simon PaiceDan Cammish
As I put when I awarded Cammish top spot in my top ten UK single-seater drivers of the year countdown, “his and JTR’s achievements cannot be understated, a remarkable achievement.” For a driver to go the whole season unbeaten, winning 24 consecutive races, is incredible.

The 24 year old was only headed in three of the races, leading 396 racing laps out of 415, and alongside the 24 wins he carded 22 pole positions and 19 fastest laps. People often say ‘the statistics don’t tell the whole story,’ but when it comes to Formula Ford GB 2013, they certainly do. Cammish re-wrote the record books and was simply in a league of his own.

Read the TCF review of the Formula Ford season – HERE

James SingletonMarc Marquez
It’s hard to overlook Sebastian Vettel, but my driver of the year is in fact a rider. I prefer cars to bikes, but even I have not failed to marvel in what Marc Marquez has achieved this year in MotoGP. It’s hard to think of a rookie in recent history that’s had such an immediate impact in any form of racing, with the possible exception being Lewis Hamilton. Sure, like Hamilton had in 2007, Marquez has had the best equipment at his disposable. But you can’t say he hasn’t made the most of it, and just like Vettel has done in F1, he’s well on his way to rewriting the history books even further in the coming years.

Marquez became the youngest Moto GP champion with the title in his rookie year (Credit: MotoGP.com)
Marquez became the youngest Moto GP champion with the title in his rookie year (Credit: MotoGP.com)

Louis SuddabyMarc Marquez
The bare facts of Marquez’s season don’t come close to doing his achievement justice. The 20 year old took to MotoGP like a duck to water, winning from pole position on just his second outing in the premier class, and he never looked back from there. His dominance at the Circuit of the Americas was a strong statement of intent with everyone starting from zero, rendering his lack of experience a non-issue. The result was astonishing as the Spaniard wiped the floor with the cream of Grand Prix racing, many with multiple world titles to their name.

After handing the initiative to Marc mid-season, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa were banking on Marquez’s inexperience leading to rookie mistakes but they never came. His team did their best to complicate matters with their bizarre strategy cock-up in Australia but that aside, Marquez closed out his rookie championship with remarkable maturity.

The patriotic side of me desperately wanted to give this award to Tom Sykes, Britain’s first World Superbike Champion for six years, but I’ve gone with my head rather than my heart and Marquez is my rider of the year for the second season running.

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Feature image credits (top-bottom, left-right); Chris Gurton Photography, Ryan Smith, Jakob Ebrey Photography, Paul Gilham/Getty Images, btcc.net, Jakob Ebrey Photography, DTM Media, MotoGP.com, Francois Flamand/DPPI, Chris Trotman/Getty Images, Jakob Ebrey Photography, Alastair Staley/GP2 Media Service.