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Loeb will not make F1 debut in Abu Dhabi
Loeb will not make F1 debut in Abu Dhabi
Posted By: James Allen  |  20 Oct 2009   |  11:42 pm GMT  |  94 comments

Rally champion Sebastien Loeb will not appear behind the wheel of a Toro Rosso next weekend in the F1 season finale in Abu Dhabi, it has been announced.

Picture 26
According to colleagues in the French media, Loeb has not been able to get a superlicence and so cannot race.

Despite being a five times world rally champion and a competitor in the Le Mans 24 hours, Loeb has not fulfilled the criteria for qualification, such as victories in GP2 or success in a national F3 series. This seems a little unfair given that F1 drivers like Kimi Raikkonen are allowed to go the other way and take part in world championship rallies.

The news was broken by Marie-Pierre Rossi of the Citroen press department, but it seems odd that Loeb would have let things get this far before finding himself with no licence.

However other drivers have managed to get into F1 without fulfilling those criteria, most notably Raikkonen, who came to F1 from Formula Renault and was approved by the superlicence judging panel of the time, which was made up of Max Mosley, Ron Dennis and Jean Todt. Loeb could have taken his case to their successors, but appears to have opted not to.

“It is absolutely impossible to perform just like that on a circuit you don’t know when you’ve been a rally driver your whole career,” said four times world champion Alain Prost yesterday. “These are completely different disciplines. That takes nothing away from his talent.”

The connections to make the transfer were strong, especially on the commercial side; Loeb is backed by Red Bull, the owner of Toro Rosso and Abu Dhabi are big backers of the WRC. Loeb has tested for Toro Rosso last winter and spent time in their simulator. Through the summer he was very keen on the idea of having a go in the final race, after the rally season has ended.

Earlier this month he took part in the GP2 test at Jerez and afterwards denied that the test was a warm-up for Abu Dhabi,
“”I’m just doing this because I have the chance. I would like to do the [F1] race, but nothing has changed – it’s the same every day.”

Loeb was not particularly competitive in the test and may have decided that, although it might be fun to race in F1, he would be likely to trail some way behind the field. This season has been one of the toughest ever for drivers coming in to F1 with no testing and in cars which are much more tricky for rookies to drive than the F1 cars of a year ago with grooved tyres and more downforce.

Look at how Grosjean and Alguersuari have got on, let alone more experienced drivers like Bourdais and Piquet. And then there was Luca Badoer…

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Hi James,

Which is more difficult? Winning an f1 drivers championship or wrc drivers championship?

Jonn Foster


Hi James,

Can Seb Leob make it 7 world titles in a row in 2010? Can you see Red Bull giving him another f1 test if he keeps winning?

Jonn Foster


Why not? Never say never


Hello James,

Toyota have now pulled out of f1 racing and Renault may do the same shortly. Do you think this will weaken the championship status and the 2010 f1 champion will have less value?

Regards Jonn Foster


Sebastien Leob takes his sixth wrc drivers championship in a row. This is supreme achievement in any world class sport. Its a pitty he’s not taking part in f1 this weekend. But due to limited f1 testing rules of 2009 I’m glad Sebastien is not giving it a go and its quite obvious that Michael Schumacher opted out for the same reasons.

It would look bad to see both these world class drivers stuggle at the back of the grid and race. Maybe if the FIA changed the rules a bit to allow talented drivers to gain testing experience we could see a more exciting f1 emerging in 2010. I have been dissapointed this year by f1 when you hear great names coming into the sport and then hearing of their withdrawel again at the last minute.

James could you give me your views on this?

Sean Lorinyenko


Hi James, I think it will be difficult for any new or past drivers to come into f1 with limited testing. Do you believe Loeb responce that he’s misted his chance to come into f1?

Regards, Sean Lorinyenko


I do think it will be difficult, yes.


Hi James,

I keeping asking myself every year will Michael Schumacher ever race or test again in f1?

What you think of his chances of returning for that 8th title?

Sean Lorinyenko


Montezemolo has been saying he’d like to see it next year in a third car if the new teams fail


Good point Sean, like Schumacher you mean? It’s not as if the sport needed any injections of drama this season!


I’d love to know how much the rather sad GP2 test affected Seb’s thoughts on the subject… after all he could have done what Kimi did and go to the panel as, let’s face it, he needed special dispensation as he didn’t have the automatic qualification…

It’s also weird that Toro Rosso suggested they hadn’t been asked to give Seb a drive (even though he has the right name!)….


Never never ASSUME one can be in F1 just like that. Yes Kobayashi did well for his first race, there’s more to it than one race as we all know. FIA must allow more testing, unless they want a circus full of clowns. Those who think and feel they’re a cut for F1, better be careful if your wish comes true as it can BACKFIRE BIGTIME. In all motoracing F1 cars behave rather TWITCHY most times, easy to crash than keeping in line. Hope to see an improvement in 2010.


So Loeb doesn’t make a guest appearance in F1 – who cares anyway? Amazing rally driver, but just as uninteresting as K.R..

Rossi in F1, now that would have been something to get excited about. Shame it that won’t happen….


It’s a shame he can’t compete in formula one, he would do alright. On the driver market I’m keen to see which way Nico Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen go. Each driver will end up at Brawn or Mclaren, just a question of which one where. Be good to see Kimi in a Brawn or Mclaren either way.


Seems like a lost opportunity to expand the spotlight on motorsports, let alone the promotional aspect for key partner Red Bull. All because of red tape / and FIA bureaucracy. For the good of the sport, they need to change so that these types of events are welcomed.

The Kitchen Cynic

surely we’re not suggesting that the need to keep Toyota in the sport, which in turn needs a successful Japanese driver, led to any shenanigans?

Will it be convenient, in a year or so, for the FIA to remember that it knew something was afoot a la Renault?


I find it very hard to believe that whoever was orchestrating this move really thought that Loeb had any chance of being granted a Super Licence for Abu Dhabi. I’d very much like to see how a rally driver of Loeb’s calibre would fare in F1 (and the same applies to Valentino Rossi, for that matter), but there’s no way a driver from another discipline is going to be granted a Super Licence for a race weekend without extensive testing experience in current F1 machinery.

If Toro Rosso are serious about this, they need to get Seb involved in their winter testing programme. Hopefully the FIA will figure out an arrangement whereby limited tests can be run for new drivers, perhaps by restricting new part during new driver tests or not counting their testing mileage to their permitted total.

I suspect the FIA may still be reluctant to grant Loeb a Super Licence though, as his circuit racing experience is extremely limited. Testing will allow him to get to grips with F1 cars, but is there any substitute for years of karting and racing in lower open wheel formulae when it comes to developing a racer’s instincts?


Sorry for sending this message in a comments section, your email address does not seem to work.


Great Site! Thank you for your insight over the course of the year. Long may it continue!

I don’t think I’m the only one confused by the engine situation for next year, I was hoping you might be able to provide some insight into the situation.

Firstly, does anyone know if the Cosworth engine is going to be any good?

Secondly, in recent news on F1 websites it has been published that Red Bull are considering the use of the Cosworth Engine for next year because the FIA have not confirmed if Mercedes will be permitted to supply more than 3 teams. This doesn’t really add up to me, Cosworth have been confirmed as engine supplier for the 4 new teams for next year and potentially Williams as well. Assuming all the teams actually make the grid they could be supplying 5 teams in total. How come Cosworth don’t have the same restrictions as Mercedes? I assume this is because they have been awarded the deal as supplier for the standard engine, but is this really the direction the sport should be taking? If the Cosworth engine is better than Renault or Toyota next year and we still have a year of engine development freeze. What incentive is there for either manufacturer to remain in the sport? They could be classified 12th & 13th rather than 5th & 6th .

Thirdly and slightly off the topic of Engines, Toro Rosso was for sale at the beginning of the year, why don’t QadBak Sauber buy their place on the grid? Since Red Bull will be focusing even more on the A team next year surely now would be the right time to sell?


damn, i was looking forward to seeing another sebastien on the grid.


Hi James

Absolutely the right decision in my view. No rally driver should be allowed to step into an F1 racing car and race it (with 19 other open wheel cars around them on the grid) when they have only competed alone against the clock or in a couple of endurance LM appearances in sports cars (ie. closed wheels). A couple of F3 and two further GP2 type races should be the absolute minimum in my view. No doubting his driving ability at all, he is fantastic and could be good in racing one day, but race craft at a high and fast open wheel level is something he doesn’t have yet. Rally drivers have succesfully switched before – Vic Elford for example, but lots of saloon car and sports car racing experience first, not just two LM appearances.

Kimi going the other way is totally different. Rallying is all about the driver and car against the conditions and the clock. No cars to race wheel to wheel with, all he endangers is himself and co-driver. That is the ultimate test of pure driving skill and a totally different discipline, not racing.


“all he endangers is himself and co-driver.”

erm don’t forget the fans!


Kobyashi appears to have managed it. How much running has he had this year before he raced ?


A lot in GP2, but you are right, he did well. That said, it was just one event and a rather odd one at that. I’d be interested to see whether he could keep that up race after race.


toyota seem to be curiously dowplaying his long stint pace – assume this is for the sole benefit of the board to increase the offer to kimi?


not really, if you look where he started and finished, and how many people ahead of him crashed out…

i was a fan of his driving, but it wasn’t particularly fast.


James, how could you ! I thought Luca Badoer’s reputation had been largely repaired by Fisichellas results in the same second Ferrari.

Joking aside, there is some truth in that ? This season has been such an up and down experience for every single team out there, as a die hard F1 nut, even I am not trully sure where half the drivers come out of it.

Does Lewis now stand tall as the best car developer there is ? The transformation of the McLaren has been the most dramatic of years ? Yes, I know so much is the team and the computers, but we will never have to listen to any Alonso fans drivel on that subject again…

The field has been close, like those years when it tightens up due to the same regulations being enforced for a while, yet we just saw the biggest changes for ages.


He drives Best whatever McLaren Offers him. Given the weird how the season panned out due to lack of in-season testing “Development” skills are not demonstrated, rather ability to drive anything given to him is established. The Parallel you can draw with how Kimi picked up Ferrari’s season after Massa’s freak accident at Hungary. Kimi has pretty much done the same.

And as some one who is not Alonso Fan, One thing that differentiates Alonso and Lewis is Monza’09 last Lap. An Alonso would play smart and bring car home in points for team unlike some one with pure racing instinct who went chasing the car in front like a blind bat and binned the car. Lewis is more in Mould of JPM only difference is Lewis has complete confidence that his team will back whatever he does on the track, unfortunately the Colombian didn’t have that luxury. And that last ingredient of Confidence in Team can make or break the career of the driver and results that the driver can give his team…


Lewis also has a world championship to his name. How anyone could mention his name in the same sentence as JPM without it reading ‘JPM, he was alright in the beginning but he’s no Lewis Hamilton’ is beyond me!

There was a time I thought Juan Pablo would get a championship to his name but if he ever gets one now, I’m sorry, but I don’t rate driving in circles.


He barely chooses his own race strategy!

put that on maclaren account, please!

Stephen Pattenden

Off to the rally in Wales tonight – can’t wait!

James, can i please ask you three non-related questions:

1 – Why are you not doing the drivers press conferences any more? Who is?

2 – Why are Williams, supposedly, the only team objecting to an increase in break disc width for next season?

3 – What’s the situation with KERS for next season?

Great website as ever, keep up the good work!

PS – Any chance of you writing an autobiography of your time in F1 anytime soon? What about Allen on Button, just like Allen on Mansell!?


In a way I’m happy that Red Bull didn’t get away with this one: a blatant PR stunt that suggests drivers are somehow interchangeable assets and not elite talented sportsmen. Not that I don’t trust Loeb’s chances to adapt himself to single seaters, it’s only natural that he could acieve it via testing… But putting him in the grid in Abu Dhabi would be a stunt that certainly has nothing to do with what this sport needs to be better.


I feel this is probably for the best. I expect Loeb (for lack of time in an F1 car) would have struggled and embarrassed himself and Torro Rosso.


Yes James, but look at Kamui Kobayashi this weekend. Apart from some dodgy weaving, he performed excellently and to see him finished a credible 9th was impressive.

Not all the new boys have been bad.


And Giancarlo Fisichella!! Okay he wasn’t a rookie but even he admits by his own admission it wasnt the switch he was hoping for.

James have you had any conversations with Rob Smedley over the GP’s I bet he’s frustrated..


I have, it’s been a tough year, but he’s very happy that Felipe is fit and well and that’s the main thing


James, with that answer you should be a politician.


You might think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment!


Would have been interesting to see him in F1, although like you say, with no testing I imagine he would have struggled.


I think Seb and Red Bull realise as well that a poor performance will devalue the Red Bull brand.

This year with the F1 and WRC Reb Bull has been, as a brand, at the forefront of both sporting events with a very good team performance and most of all attracting a broader spectrum of people to the sport, especially to the WRC.

The superlicense issue is a mimor problem for F1 if they wanted to have Loeb driving the last GP of the season when the titles are already decided.


Don’t forget Red Bull Racing have a team in NASCAR too!!


I’m still gobsmacked by Kobayashi’s rookie performance!

Also, something that I feel deserves a mention is Buemi’s performance on Sunday. Great drive to pop the TR in 7th when his team mate trailed home last.


While Kobayashi rocks up and drives a barn stormer.

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