The fight at the back - Albers v Sutil 08 Jun 2007
While the headlines may have focused on the growing rivalry between McLaren team mates Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, there is an equally epic struggle for supremacy raging at the back of the grid. Down in the Spyker garage, Christijan Albers, a veteran of three seasons, is finding his rookie team mate Adrian Sutil just as tough to manage as Alonso is finding Hamilton.
Firm friends since competing together in F3, it seems as though both Hamilton and Sutil have thrown down the gauntlet and caught their more-experienced colleagues off guard. But while double world champion Alonso has no fears of losing his McLaren seat, Dutchman Albers is likely to be feeling increasingly hot under the collar at Spyker. With Hollands media already speculating over his possible replacement - veteran compatriot Jos Verstappen is getting plenty of mentions - Albers is certainly being portrayed as a man under pressure as the team heads to Canada.
Rookie Sutil was understandably eager to make an impression and from the first race in Australia, the young German made it clear he wouldnt be a pushover. Though unable to leapfrog the other teams at the back of the grid, Sutil successfully trounced his team mate in Melbourne qualifying, clocking a lap over one and a half seconds faster. Though Albers fought back and resigned the rookie to the back of the grid in Malaysia, in the three subsequent races, Sutil has had the edge.
Similarly in each of the duos Sunday outings, Sutil has consistently clocked the fastest race laps in the F8-VII, despite the fact he had only driven on two of the five circuits previously. Even around Monacos notoriously tricky layout the 24 year-old was the dominant driver, almost a second quicker than Albers, before crashing out at Massenet on lap 53. But arguably the biggest blow Sutil has dealt his team mate so far was when he triumphantly topped the timesheets during a wet final practice session in Monte Carlo. Though in part due to fortuitous timing, his achievement was much admired and won Spyker some highly-prized exposure.
Of course, there have been mistakes. Indeed, during his brief Formula One career to date, Sutil has committed more than his fair share of gaffes. From receiving two penalties in Australia to crashing out on the first lap in Malaysia, Sutils learning curve has been steep and his errors have undoubtedly cost the team. Albers, in contrast, whilst struggling to adjust to Bridgestones 2007 tyres and set-up the F8-VII for his driving style, has made very few mistakes and the benefit of his experience should not be underestimated.
The 28 year-old, who has been with Spyker - and the squads earlier incarnations - for 23 of his 42 Grands Prix starts, is a tried and tested talent. In fact, he represents one of the few constants in a team, which has undergone countless changes in recent years - and if Spyker are set on proving their worth and hauling up themselves up to the mid-field, stability is a requisite ingredient. But in the competitive world Formula One racing nothing is a certainty and with Sutil seemingly a quick learner, Albers knows he must up his game if he is to stop his new team mate making him look like old news.