United Open Wheel Word Butchers Question of the Week:
If Lewis Hamilton and Scott Dixon switched places for the 2009 season, how would each driver fare in the other’s league? Who would be more successful in 2009?
Dixon would have a year much like Raikkonen’s 2008. F1 cars are not easy to get your head around because they are much more ‘knife-edge’ in terms of setup and driving style than any other car. I’m not doubting he has the talent to be a successful F1 driver because he clearly does, I’m just saying it’ll take time and F1 cars can be notoriously finicky things to learn. If you don’t get the car right or it inherently doesn’t suit your driving style you’re nowhere – again see Bourdais who was driving better in the STR2 early in the season than he was in the STR3 for most of the rest of the year. And how else do you explain Kimi’s lacklustre season?
So if he dials it in, and the car suits him, he would do very well. I think he’d end up on the middle road with an ‘average’ but respectable first season before stepping up in performance in 2010. He’d probably win a race in that first season. This assumes McLaren are still a top team in 2009!
The same would be true of Hamilton in the Dallara, he’d have the same kind of year as Dixon in F1. But he wouldn’t be properly up to a Ganassi-level of performance until after the huge mileage they do at Indy over those few weeks. Jumping directly into two street fights at St Pete and Long Beach is going to be a challenge for all the newcomers this year! And then on to the ovals. There isn’t what he’d know as a ‘normal’ track until the Glen in July, so he’d have to completely relearn how to race. And I include the street races on purpose here, American street tracks are not like Monaco, Melbourne or even Montreal, they have to be treated differently.
Again he’s with a top team so a win isn’t out of the question. Ganassi’s guys certainly know how to use strategy to get him there and you have to assume they and Penske will remain top dogs in ’09.
I do think the Dallara would be the easier car to learn but the tracks the IRL races on are a lot tougher, more rough and ready, more physical. F1 drivers are quite pampered when it comes to race track surfaces and run-off areas, so Hamilton would have to mentally adjust himself. Meanwhile Dixon could let it all hang out without fear of hitting much of anything.
There are so many variables which could affect the performances, not least of which is how much pre-season testing they do. There isn’t any doubt though – they’d both get there eventually.