So here we are. Ten years into the new millennium and Autosport still requires you to massacre your issue, before undertaking a masterclass in origami and then running the Royal Mail gauntlet to vote in their end-of-season awards ceremony.
For a publication that has (finally) grasped the convenience of the Internet with the magazine now available in digital format, and relaying the latest news by an iPhone app, the voting process does seem rather archaic.
I’m sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation behind it, but erm, I’m struggling to think of one. Especially since you can cast your vote in this year’s ‘Rookie of the Year’ category online (here in fact) – so why not the rest of them, eh?
Old-school voting methods aside, they’ve selected ten drivers for us to choose from and I’m going to try and make your decision process that little bit easier by insisting that you select this year’s British Formula 3 winner: Jean-Eric Vergne.
Driving for the championship’s top team Carlin Motorsport, Vergne emerged as the pre-season favourite despite his rookie status. The Frenchman didn’t fail to disappoint as he was the class of the field from the first race of the season and clinched the title with six races to spare, becoming the first ever French driver to win the series.
Most title-winning seasons are founded on a strong start and Vergne’s was no different. He was out of the traps like a greyhound scoring a brilliant double win at Oulton Park, which was followed by a couple of below par performances at Silverstone and Magny-Cours. But under pressure (having received a stern warning from his boss), Vergne stepped up a gear and completely dominated the rest of the season.
Some may question the 99-point margin by which he clinched the title and that his runaway success in the series was due to a lack of competition from the rest of the field. But the figures speak for themselves. 13 wins, 11 poles, 13 fastest laps and 20 podiums – you really can’t take anything away from Vergne being consistently good at his trade. If anything, it was up to his rivals to improve and to work hard to try and catch him – and they failed.
There really wasn’t anybody who could match the 20-year-old’s relentless pace this season, despite the best efforts of Carlin team-mates James Calado and Adrian Buzaid, or Fortec’s Oli Webb. These three took 10 wins between them – Vergne bagged three more.
Calado looked capable of beating Vergne at times, especially in the rain, but made life hard for himself by being off the pace too often in qualifying. Same for fellow Brit Webb, who tended to lack the knack of improving as the grip levels increased over the course of a race weekend. Neither could hold a candle to Vergne who was simply a class apart.
Does his dominance in the British F3 series make him any more worthy than the other nominees in the ‘Rookie of the Year’ category? Well I think he just about pips Dean Stoneman who enjoyed an impressive season during which he showed an abundance of speed and consistency to clinch the F2 title.
The difficulty here is always going to be trying to compare drivers from different racing categories, but while Stoneman doesn’t have much experience of driving for an established racing team, his only real rival this season was Jolyon Palmer – on a good day.
Vergne’s achievements this year shouldn’t be understated. He drove one of the most dominant campaigns in the British F3 history. His impressive raw speed and excellent temperament, coupled with his Red Bull backing, means the Frenchman is destined for bigger and better things (a post-season F1 test with Toro Rosso beckons) and winning Autosport’s ‘Rookie of the Year’ category would top-off an amazing year for him, giving him the recognition he fully deserves.