Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

The 2012 silly season is not about the drivers // Engineers and the design teams take centre stage

Published by Christine

Mark Webber has agreed a contract extension with Red Bull for 2012. Tony Fernandes let slip that both of his drivers would remain at Lotus next season. It's all but been confirmed that Jenson Button will be with McLaren for yet another year. Silly season has never been so boring. Yet, with the drivers all remaining so very loyal from one year to the next, it falls to the team personnel to provide us with the silly season we are missing. Who knew that those behind the scenes would be so interesting?

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Turning circles

Sam Michael was part of the restructuring at Williams that took place earlier this year - the team unhappy with their worst ever start to a championship campaign. Not really a scapegoat, but more of a willing volunteer, Sam Michael admitted he would go if the team needed new blood. They've brought in Mike Coughlan, who can't really be classed as new blood, but even so, Michael got the chop.

Yesterday, it was confirmed that he'll be popping up in the McLaren motorhome instead. From one long-running team to another, it will be very odd to see Sam in colours other than blue. He's hoping for rocket red, of course, and given McLaren are teetering on the edge of championship competitiveness again, Michael may either tip them over or drag them down.

It also recently emerged that former Ferrari technical chief Aldo Costa is on the move. He was put on gardening leave from the Scuderia after taking the fall for missing out on the 2010 World Championship with a dodgy strategy in Abu Dhabi. Now he'll team up with his old colleague Ross Brawn to provide some of his knowledge (and probably not strategies!) at Mercedes. Again, it's going to be strange seeing Costa in anything other than red.

Degree of engineering

Meanwhile, it's not just employees in the top positions that are playing musical chairs. Peter Bonnington was recently moved to become Michael Schumacher's race engineer - a voice on the radio we're used to hearing elsewhere. Felipe Massa's engineer Rob Smedley has also hinted at coming to the end of his useful life on the pit wall, and hopes Ferrari have bigger and better things for him.

Some light-hearted speculation in the comments over the Italian race weekend saw us promote him to boss of all things Ferrari. Clearly, with Luca di Montezemolo keen on a career in non-motorsport politics, there is room from Stefano Domenicali to move up and leave a Team Principal shaped seat behind him.

Speculate to accumulate

I wonder if there is something more to the rise in team movements. Is it just that with no driver swaps, there is more attention to the engineering team instead? Or has there always been this much movement and it's just that I've been paying more attention?

Perhaps these things come in circles, and it is the team personnel's turn to take centre stage. At the end of next year, we might see more driver speculation, with the silly season proper coming back into full swing.