The curious case of Danica Patrick
If you’ve listened to the inaugural F1 Fans Podcast you will have heard my tongue wagging like Pavlov’s dog over Danica Patrick.
We all know she’s good looking and that she’s likely header for a long and possibly successful career in NASCAR but let’s allow ourselves the luxury of seeing how well she might translate to the world of F1.
Firstly she’s a sponsors dream; she’s young, beautiful and female. She’s quite happy to get down to her underwear for a photo shoot and she’s American. There has been a few small bits of dissent about the scantily clad photo shoots but that’s hardly likely to be a problem in the male dominated world of F1. Patrick even received the 2008 Kids Choice Award for favourite female athlete so there are no questions on Danica outside the cockpit.
Inside the cockpit however is where we have to start asking the questions. After five seasons in the IRL, three with the top Andretti Green Racing team she has a sum total of one win and three poles. Her lone victory came in the 2008 Indy Japan 300. She was rookie of the year in 2005 and has a highest championship finish of fifth last year.
Patrick is quick on ovals and seems to have made a decent start to life in NASCAR but that’s not of much use when considering her for an F1 drive so lets look at her 2009 IRL road course results:
- Apr 5th, St. Petersburg 19th – retired after accident with Raphael Matos
- Apr 19th, Long Beach 4th
- July 5th, Watkins Glen 11th
- August 23rd, Sonoma 16th (1 lap down)
- July 12th, Toronto 6th
- July 26th, Edmonton, 11th, (1 lap down)
- August 9th, Mid-Ohio, 19th (2 laps down and final finisher)
Now of course looking solely at the results I don’t know the exact circumstances of all Patrick’s finishes. There may have been punctures, pit stop problems or a multitude of other problems. That said across seven races in a top car she didn’t see the podium once and finished a lap or more down three times with a retirement from an accident on top of that.
In the same races during that period long ago F1 reject and longtime Stateside racer Justin Wilson finished 3rd, retired, 1st, 5th, 8th, 13th and 7th in a Dale Coyne car much less competitive than Patrick’s Andretti Green.
Of course Wilson served his racing education in Europe and is expected to go well on the road courses but if Patrick was to stand a chance of competing in F1 she’d need to look as good as she does in a bikini on the road courses and she simply doesn’t.
You have to bear in mind this was Patrick’s fifth year in the IRL; she’s got plenty of road course experience and a great car; based on those results in cars that are all the same can you see her coming and mixing it with the best open wheel road racers in the world?
From the evidence I can find it seems like Patrick is a good but not great oval racer and decidedly average road circuit driver. Anyone bringing her to F1 would seem to be bringing her over for the media exposure and sponsorship it would bring and not because she would be a contender in F1.
Although her F1 ship would seem to have sailed with light of her nascent NASCAR career it’s interesting to consider the “what if” factor but ultimately her career so far indicates that she’s made the correct decision to stay on her side of the Atlantic.
I think that’s a shame and I think it will be good for F1 when the day comes that a competitive female driver comes through the ranks and can really mix it with the big boys. It would seem that female is not Danica Patrick but lets hope whoever it is comes along before Bernie retires. I couldn’t bear to miss out on those quotes.