In the paddock: Kevin Turner
Mclaren Autosport BRDC Award winner Dan Ticktum deserves his chance, along with a group of exciting young British drivers
IT REALLY IS TIME TO MOVE ON. YES, DAN TICKTUM was banned for driving into championship rival Ricky Collard behind the safety car in an MSA Formula race at Silverstone in 2015. Yes, it was unacceptable and deserved censure. But no, it doesn’t mean he should never be allowed on a race track again.
For a start, how many 16-year-olds make stupid decisions? Lots. And most of their errors aren’t broadcast live on national television.
There would also be tremendous inconsistency and hypocrisy if the Red Bull junior was to pay for his crime with anything more than his year out of the sport. In the past, we’ve had experienced drivers deliberately collide with rivals at racing speed in order to win the F1 world championship, with varying degrees of success, and none of them so much as missed a race as a result. Just this season, a 29-year-old, four-time world champion lost his rag following a perceived injustice and drove into the race leader behind a safety car. He served a 10-second penalty and finished that race fourth.
Ticktum has worked hard to get his career back on track, repay Red Bull’s faith in him and show that he has learned his lesson. This year has really provided evidence of what many in the MSA Formula (now British F4) paddock already knew: that Ticktum is one of the most exciting young talents out there.
The Silverstone tests for the Mclaren Autosport BRDC Award are always fascinating and every now and again produce a special moment, such as Jenson Button’s run in a Super Touring Nissan Primera in 1998 or Alexander Sims’s
DTM performance 10 years later.
This year, it was a session on a damp-but-drying Silverstone Grand Prix circuit in the Motorsport Vision-run Formula 2 cars on slicks. Ticktum was first on the road, normally a disadvantage, but his commitment and pace were extraordinary and he ended the session well clear of the other finalists.
Ticktum’s old MSA Formula rival and predecessor as Award winner Lando Norris was not surprised – it’s an ability he has seen before. That run was not the only reason Ticktum won the Award, but it’s a performance that will stick in the minds of those who witnessed it.
Ticktum is an intense, confident personality. He doesn’t have the quiet, understated polish of Mclaren protege Norris, or the easy charm of 2014 Mclaren Autosport BRDC Award winner and GP3 champion George Russell. But he is an engaging character – the sort many fans say they want – and, most importantly, he is fast.
The future of British representation in F1 should be safe. Russell is affiliated to Mercedes, Norris to Mclaren and Ticktum to Red Bull. All three have shown the potential to not just get to F1 but make a real impact once they are there. If you’re an athletics fan, it could be likened to the Steve
Ovett, Sebastian Coe and Steve Cram trio of the 1980s.
There’s a little bit of healthy needle between the young Brits too. Each knows the others are threats, and are a little less effusive than they might be if they weren’t pretty convinced they’ll be racing each other at ever-higher levels over the next few seasons. And let’s not forget Ferrari Driver Academy member Callum Ilott, who will be one of the favourites in GP3 next year now that he has been confirmed at leading squad ART.
Norris and Russell will go head to head for the first time in cars in F2 next year, hoping to take on Prema’s dominance of the category, while Ticktum will try to repeat Norris’s successful rookie campaign in European F3. Ticktum will drive with Motopark, which took Joel Eriksson to the runner-up spot this year. And not just because he won the Macau Grand
Prix with Timo Rumpfkeil’s squad last month.
“I did some testing with him when I was banned, and Timo’s one of those guys who always trusted in me,” said Ticktum last Sunday.
“He’s seen some wonderful drivers, like Valtteri Bottas, and he was ringing me and wanted me. We’ll have to assess the goals for 2018 once we’ve done some testing. I’ll still be a rookie but right now I’d love to be winning.”
Like Norris this year, Ticktum will also dovetail his F3 campaign with F1 simulator support over grand prix weekends. He’ll be running in Red Bull’s advanced sim, performing the same sort of role for Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo as Norris did for Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne at Mclaren in 2017. That’s how much trust Red Bull and Helmut Marko have placed in him.
As ever with Red Bull’s drivers, Ticktum will have to deliver, but he does not seem the sort of guy to lift off the gas. Ever. As long as he continues to learn and add experience to his obvious abilities, there’s no reason to think he won’t continue his rise.
Ticktum has served his time and responded. Now it’s time to start enjoying what he can do alongside Britain’s other young motorsport stars.
“Ticktum is one of the most exciting young talents out there”