Analysis: Webber Makes Pizzonia Look Bad

Mark Webber was bad news for Malaysian Alex Yoong in 2002 and he has just about shredded Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia's reputation after a mere four appearances this year.

Analysis: Webber Makes Pizzonia Look Bad

Mark Webber was bad news for Malaysian Alex Yoong in 2002 and he has just about shredded Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia's reputation after a mere four appearances this year.

The Australian, winner of Formula One's rookie of the year award last season, bears no malice. He has simply made his teammates look slow.

Yoong, his attentions now turned to CART, was replaced for two races at Minardi in 2002 to allow him to regain his confidence before being ditched for good.

Pizzonia, in his first season with Jaguar, is in a different league to Yoong as a driver yet could suffer the same disappointment.

He too, with one exception in Malaysia, has struggled to get close to the Australian in qualifying and is now fighting for his future, even if the team insist they still have an open mind.

The Brazilian, one of four Formula One newcomers this year, could find himself the first casualty of the season unless he can convince his masters in Barcelona next week that he deserves his drive.

He certainly knows the Catalunya circuit well enough, having clocked up thousands of test miles there, and the Spanish Grand Prix should allow a true display of his talent.

If not, Webber could be facing his fourth teammate in little more than 20 races.

Real Benchmark

You cannot blame the Australian - one of the most down-to-earth and approachable drivers in the Grand Prix paddock - for doing what he is paid to do. In Formula One, the man wearing the same overalls and driving a similar car is the man to beat as the best benchmark for a driver's form.

Having a less experienced colleague is potentially a poisoned chalice, as nobody expects much from the rookie but they notice if the newcomer beats the familiar name - particularly if the car is good.

The jury may soon reach a verdict on Pizzonia, but it is still out on the other rookies - although Ralph Firman at Jordan and Briton Justin Wilson at Minardi have had little chance to shine.

None have scored a point but they have not been an embarrassment either, and Wilson in particular has impressed team insiders with his attitude.

So too has Cristiano da Matta at Toyota, who, as reigning CART champion, would be expected to keep highly-experienced Frenchman Olivier Panis on his toes and should be the front runner for rookie of the year.

Pizzonia, after a year testing for Williams, was expected to at least hold his own with Webber in the least experienced line-up on the grid. The 22-year-old has a car with clear potential and secured his job on merit rather than money alongside a driver with only one full season behind him.

The big danger for Webber - the only newcomer to survive from 2002 as Briton Allan McNish, Brazilian Felipe Massa and Japan's Takuma Sato lost their drives - was that Pizzonia could have made him look ordinary.

Perfect Job

Instead the opposite has happened. The Australian has qualified third and fifth in his last two outings. At the same time, Pizzonia has been 17th and 15th.

"Webber's doing a perfect job," said former Jaguar team principal Niki Lauda, who signed the Australian from Minardi, at the weekend.

There is no doubt that Pizzonia has talent and can be quick in the right car. The problem is tapping it before it is too late.

"I don't think Webber is one second a lap quicker," said Frank Williams, for whom Pizzonia was testing last year with great success. "It's not as black and white as that. I am sure he is a bit psyched-out by the difference, isn't controlling his mind to make the car better and is making the odd mistake. It is called youth and inexperience."

Juan Pablo Montoya, who worked with the Brazilian at Williams, said he just needed to relax.

"Pizzonia is tail-spinning," said the Colombian last weekend. "He is just trying too hard. When he goes across the kerbs he is hitting the chassis and it is just throwing him up. If he backed down a little bit he would go a lot quicker."

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