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Too much too soon

THE news that Toyota has pulled its test driver Ryan Briscoe out of Formula 3000 is not really a surprise. The highly-rated Australian has not shown well in the series and although Toyota dressed up the move to say that it was in order for Briscoe to be used more on the F1 program the reality is that it looks more a step backwards.

Briscoe started the year being mentioned as a possible favorite for title honors in F3000 but last year's champions Nordic Racing have failed to score a point this year and the 20-year-old Briscoe has made little progress because neither he nor his team mate Zsolt Baumgartner had the experience necessary to develop the new Lola-built chassis. Briscoe, who went straight into F3000 from Formula Renault, will now compete in the second half of the German Formula 3 series where, it is hoped, he will make a better impression.

The dangers of putting drivers too quickly up the ladder in motor racing have been seen many times in the past and Briscoe's story seems to be another version of the same theme. Natural talent is not enough to overcome the complex problems that exist in the machinery and drivers also need to have the right progression to match their mental readiness. There are some, like Jenson Button, who can cope with rapid success but often it is more difficult to cope with failure and the danger is that when that happens the drivers get into a downward spiral of lost confidence and poor performances.

When one considers the current drivers it is interesting to note that those who are considered to be mentally the toughest are all men who had to get to F1 by unconventional means rather than going up an easy route into the sport. The Eddie Irvines, Mika Salo and Mark Webbers have been toughened up by their rise to the top while those who have it too easy have to go through the process once they are in F1.

Thus it is fair to say that if Briscoe responds in a positive way to his demotion to Formula 3 he will probably emerge as a stronger driver as a result...