Silly season starts early courtesy of Robert Doornboss


Silly season maybe our favorite time of the year in F1.  For those new to the sport, it tends to kick off around the British Grand Prix in July when teams start looking towards the following season and we start seeing the most ridiculous stories being printed.  Most of it is made up but there is a fair degree of this ‘news’ being spun by ambitious or insecure drivers and teams.    This year, silly season 2016 has arrived even before a lap has been complete in anger courtesy of ex F1 driver Robert Doornboss.

Now when we saw our timeline filled with comments from the Dutchman we really had to think about it.   If put on the spot, we were sure we could recall him being a motor-racing driver. We have pretty solid knowledge of F1 in the past twenty years so it took some serious memory jogging to recall him being a F1 driver.   This is not a slight on Doornboss as if he had been really bad we would have remembered him instantly.    So for those new to the sport here is a brief history of Robert Doornboss’s F1 career.

After a solid but unspectacular rise through the junior formula’s Dornboss made his F1 debut as test driver with Jordan in 2004 running in the practice sessions of the final few races of that year.  From there he moved onto back markers Minardi where he where he was a team mate to his fellow Dutchman Christian Albers, who we do recall for all the wrong reasons and competed in 8 Grand Prix’s.  Let’s just say Dornboss did not exactly dominate the distinctly average Albers.   He then became a test driver for Red Bull in 2006.  This is not the Red Bull of today nor the 4 times World Champions but a team stuck in the midfield at the start of their journey to the top of F1.   After Christian Klein was dropped by the team, Dornboss competed in the final 3 races of the year for the team.   His best placing was 12th.   From there he has since competed in IndyCar and A1GP with varying degrees of success.

All in all, a unremarkable spell in F1.  However, getting to F1 is tough so he achieved a lot more than many so when he makes observations he is probably a lot more qualified to talk on the subject that many others, including humble blogger fan-boys like us.   Then again, it seems even those have competed in F1 seem to have no idea about the sport.   Let’s check out the comments Robert made about Manor’s Rio Haryanto this morning.

Speaking to the Dutch media today he said:

“Haryanto is in the car for the usual reasons: the money he brings and to be a sort of ambassador for Indonesia. We will have to see if he can always qualify within the 107%.”

Now not being a world class F1 driver does not disqualify you from being a very good pundit as Martin Brundle shows.  However, being a one time F1 driver does not allow you to make ridiculous comments like that without being held to account.

Let’s us start with the 107% comment.    Last season, with two average GP3 drivers at the wheel of a slow 2014 car,  Manor managed to be under the 107% rule in every Grand Prix it participated in last season.  This season with a new 2016 car and Mercedes engine the team will be 2-3 seconds clear of the 107% at a minimum. Absolutely nothing from pre-season testing suggests otherwise.  Given Rio Haryanto’s superior junior formula record compared to last years pilots, we really can’t see where he gets that idea from.   It so ill informed that we would expect to read it on Twitter from someone with the Twitter handle @L3w1sHam4ever.

It’s the first comment that we find most interesting, the reference of Haryanto only being there because of money.   As we have pointed out already,  Rio is one of many drivers who if it was not for money, would not be on the grid. If it was not for pay-drivers half the teams in F1 would be struggling to make the grid in Melbourne.  We share Roberts dismay at this situation but why single Rio out?    Is there a personal issue there?  Maybe a friend lost out to Rio? Or perhaps he knows how much attention anything to do with Rio Haryanto gets in Indonesia and thought “I’ll have a piece of that!”

The remarks are even more laughable when you look back at Doornboss’s own time in F1.  He drove for Jordan at the very end of its spell in F1. Toward the end it was in a dire financial position and was sold soon after Dornboss departed.   Before the end, they had endless pay-drivers in their team.   In fact, Doornboss only got his chance in F1 because when Giorgi Pantano ran out of funds and we severely doubt that given the teams financial state, Eddie Jordan let Robert Dornboss into one of his cars out of the goodness of his heart as his team was going to the wall.  He then moved to Minardi where someone undoubtedly had to pay for this seat.

Robert Doornboss was an out and out pay-driver back in his day.  Now his time has past, he suddenly thinks a driver providing funding to a team is a bad thing.

You do make us laugh Robert.