Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Next race: Belgian Grand Prix, Spa
Talk on Corners
Christopher Wheelahan

Chris first caught the F1 flu back in 2003 but lost track due to the snooze-fest that was the 2004 season. In 2010 Chris rediscovered the sport and has become enthralled since. He makes no claims to be a superb writer or journalist but only an obsessive follower of motorsport, particularly F1. Nowadays Chris spends his spare time experimenting with cocktails and wasting time with Musical Theatre types. He does not enjoy long walks on the beach… sorry.

Tied up with a messy bow // A potential who's who of the remaining available 2013 seats

Published

With the silly season winding to a close, it is finally becoming a little bit easier to predict who may or may not be driving on Sundays next year. Let's review who has been confirmed, and then look ahead to which drivers might be up for the remaining seats.

2013 Driver Lineup
TeamDriverDriver
Red BullSebastian VettelMark Webber
FerrariFernando AlonsoFelipe Massa
McLarenJenson ButtonSergio Pérez
LotusKimi RäikkönenTBC
MercedesLewis HamiltonNico Rosberg
SauberNico HülkenbergTBC
Force IndiaPaul di RestaTBC
WilliamsTBCTBC
Toro RossoJean-Éric VergneDaniel Ricciardo
MarussiaTimo GlockTBC
CaterhamTBCTBC
HRTPedro de la RosaTBC

Lotus

They’ve confirmed the Iceman for 2013 and he repaid them for it with victory in Abu Dhabi. Further, third in the championship is pretty doggone respectable in a first year back from a break, although Kimi has said he’d rather be in fourth so he doesn’t have to attend the award ceremony. There was also probably some profanity in there too, but I don’t have the exact quote. So who will be driving with the Finn?

Romain Grosjean has a better shot than anybody else. That much is obvious. The question here is whether Éric Boullier is comfortable wrecking another 7 cars next season in exchange for Grosjean’s fairly respectable performances in the other 12 races? Other options on the table include Edoardo Mortara from the DTM series who was testing for the team this week and did a good job, a newly ‘retired’ Michael Schumacher or their current reserve driver: Jérôme D’Ambrosio.

A little something in reserve
A little something in reserveCredit: Andrew Ferraro/LAT

Jérôme has the best shot of the remaining three, having already driven for the team this week and with some decent experience under his belt. Mortara is just as young as Grosjean and can’t legitimately promise anything that Romain can’t. Schumacher is an odd duck in this race. He says he’s retiring, and that he’s done with Grand Prix racing for good, but I can’t help but think he would do another season for a shot with the historic (and promising) Lotus team. Besides, how many times did Brett Favre retire? It’s not unprecedented; though maybe the old Rain-meister is done for good.

If I were running the team, I would wait as long as possible to make that decision so I could see who is on the market by the end of the year. Lotus will take the best driver (not the richest, like some of their rivals may) available at the time they make their decision. If it happens to be Romain, then so be it. I predict that this will be a fairly late announcement from the team; possibly after Brazil.

Sauber

With Sergio Pérez making the move to McLaren, it had opened up one spot at Sauber. Little did we know that both spots were available. The Hulk has been confirmed for next year in Checo’s spot (this is still a mystery to me) but still no word on Kobayashi’s race drive. Given his outstanding performance at Suzuka, I rather expected that he would be confirmed shortly thereafter but apparently Monisha Kaltenborn is not quite as convinced.

Esteban Gutiérrez has been making strides with the team and getting more seat time (what with Sergio’s mystery illness) indicating that the team is leaning towards giving him the Sunday drive. One of the team’s senior engineers Giampaolo Dall’Ara stated,

Obviously we know Esteban a lot better than we knew Robin [Frijns] before yesterday, and he is also quite familiar with the team and the track. This helps for some procedures and communication.

- Giampaolo Dall’Ara

I couldn’t agree more. Esteban has experience with the team and sponsorship to back him up. The drivers with a legitimate shot at the Sauber drive next year are really just Kamui Kobayashi and Esteban Gutiérrez. It’s really a question as to whether they are looking for youth and enthusiasm (and money) or experience in the cockpit. Outside possibilities would include Robin Frijins (but I don’t see what he can bring that Gutiérrez can’t) and Jaime Alguersuari (but I don’t see what he can bring that Kobayashi can’t).

Williams

Currently, neither Williams driver is contracted for a 2013 drive. The rumor mill has been rather quiet about Maldonado’s status with the team, which indicates to me that he’s just bringing in too much money for Toto Wolff to let him go. Also, he is a blindingly quick driver when he’s not shredding carbon fiber against another car. Frankly, I think Pastor Maldonado is safe for a 2013 drive.

The incredible flying Bottas
The incredible flying BottasCredit: Glenn Dunbar/LAT

Bruno Senna on the other hand has had a number of rumors milling about involving him. Quite the opposite of Pastor, this tells me that he may be shifting about next year. What with Valtteri Bottas driving rather quickly on Fridays and Bruno not really impressing the sponsors, the team may choose to go with the young Finn for next year. He’s done very well in GP3 and has enormous potential as a driver. He’s not finished below third in any championship he has competed in! That’s simply incredible. Perhaps we will have a new flying Finn to watch next year.

The team doesn’t need to make this decision soon. Senna is already sniffing out other offers but if he ends up taking one, they have Valtteri to fall back on for the race seat. I don’t think the team is overly enamored of the young Brazilian, despite the sponsorship he is bringing in. He’s a solid mid-pack driver, and that’s not what teams are looking for.

Force India

What with Nico gone, there’s a seat open at the team for someone with experience or cash or both. Just about everybody and their brother has been tied to the Force India seat. Jaime Alguersuari, Kamui Kobayashi, Jules Bianchi, Adrian Sutil, Charles Pic all would love to drive for the team. All the team needs to do is get their ducks in a row and choose a driver. It’s not easy when you have a ton of people knocking down your door.

As I’ve already said in a previous article, Jaime Alguersuari could be a valuable asset to any team he drives for. He’s got knowledge of next year’s tires, experience and a decent chunk of cash... and those eyes. Were I the team principal at Force India, this would be an easy decision for me, but there are certainly other options; options such as Jules Bianchi.

Jules has done well testing for both Force India and Ferrari this year. He, of course, will want to take the prancing stallion out on Sundays but Ferrari has really shown no tangible commitment to him as a driver. They re-signed Felipe Massa, and rumors seem to always be bouncing around about Mark Webber for 2014, so if I were Jules, I’d be anxious to prove myself on-track as soon as possible. He’s also a logical choice since he’s been with the team this year and driven the car.

Of the three drivers which I believe have no more than an outside shot, the most likely would be Kamui Kobayashi. I don’t think it’s a big chance, but Charles Pic doesn’t have all that much money I don’t think and Adrian Sutil has anger management issues, though maybe the team is happy now that he’s cooled his heels for a season. This is by far the hardest prediction to make for 2013 in my opinion due to all the moving parts. It’s also probably the hardest decision to make for the executives at Force India.

Marussia, Caterham and HRT

I’ve grouped all three of these teams into one segment because I think they will be making their decisions all by asking the same question: “Who can bring the most money to the team?” Yes, it’s true that some of these teams have loyalties to their testers and other ties to drivers but these teams are so short on cash that most of the time they do not have the luxury of taking a better driver with less to offer in sponsorship.

Marussia would be smart to keep Charles Pic around. He’s done a good job and the odds are he won’t be going to any other team next year. They’re also still under contract with Timo Glock, but I’m not entirely convinced that it is a sure thing. Other strong possibilities would include Max Chilton and Luiz Razia.

Showing promise at Caterham
Showing promise at CaterhamCredit: Caterham F1

Caterham was rather disappointing this year. They looked so good at the end of 2011 and promised to be fighting with the mid-field this year but apart from a brilliant drive by Heikki Kovalainen at Monaco and a few other star moments this season, the team has rather fallen flat. Rumor has it that Vitaly Petrov is out of money and can’t afford his seat next year, and I sort of get the feeling that Heikki is in the same boat. Luckily they have a stable of drivers who have tested for them and look promising. Luiz Razia tested this year, Giedo van der Garde, Rodolfo González and Alexander Rossi are the team’s official development drivers so Caterham are spoiled for choice. It’s just a matter of who has the most cash on hand.

HRT is still under contract with Pedro de la Rosa for 2013 but that is much the same situation as Timo Glock. Who knows if he’s sticking around? Narain Karthikeyan is not under contract and hasn’t done much for the team this year. At least Pedro can offer some kind of experienced tutoring and advice, even if he can’t drive the car into the points. Dani Clos and Tonio Liuzzi are the team’s development drivers but they have as good a shot as any in my opinion.

Final Predictions

This is the section I promised never to write. I don’t want to be held to it and it’s just simply too hard to predict; however, I’ve been brow-beaten and peer-pressured to do it, so here are my predictions for next year. Each driver also has a number on a scale of 0-10 indicating how confident I am of my prediction. This was the concession my friends made, since I was so concerned about my reputation. Now, at least, I can say ‘hey, I said I wasn’t totally sure’. Okay… here goes:

2013 Driver Lineup Predictions
TeamDriverDriver
Red BullSebastian VettelMark Webber
FerrariFernando AlonsoFelipe Massa
McLarenJenson ButtonSergio Pérez
LotusKimi RäikkönenRomain Grosjean (8)
MercedesLewis HamiltonNico Rosberg
SauberNico HülkenbergEsteban Gutiérrez (7)
Force IndiaPaul di RestaJaime Alguersuari (5)
WilliamsPastor Maldonado (8)Valtteri Bottas (7)
Toro RossoJean-Éric VergneDaniel Ricciardo
MarussiaTimo Glock (6)Charles Pic (5)
CaterhamBruno Senna (3)Giedo van der Garde (5)
HRTPedro de la Rosa (4)Kamui Kobayashi (7)



Buy from Amazon - Pocket F1 Handbook: Guide to the 2015 Grand Prix Season

365 F1 stories

Which driver took his first F1 win for Ferrari, and for himself, at the German GP, held on this day in 2000?

F1 team launches
McLaren HondaOnline29 Jan
Sauber F1 TeamOnline30 Jan
Scuderia FerrariOnline30 Jan
Scuderia Toro RossoJerez, Spain31 Jan
Infiniti Red Bull RacingJerez, Spain1 Feb
Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 TeamJerez, Spain1 Feb
Williams Martini RacingJerez, Spain1 Feb
Lotus F1 TeamJerez, Spain2 Feb
Sahara Force India F1 TeamOnline25 Feb
F1 test schedule
Circuito de JerezSpain1 Feb
Circuito de JerezSpain2 Feb
Circuito de JerezSpain3 Feb
Circuito de JerezSpain4 Feb
Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain19 Feb
Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain20 Feb
Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain21 Feb
Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain22 Feb
Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain26 Feb
Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain27 Feb
Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain28 Feb
Circuit de Barcelona-CatalunyaSpain1 Mar

An Aside with Joe