When some really ‘silly’ news crop up regarding McLaren’s future driver lineup, and a certain former world champion feels the need to tell drivers where to go (and others to just… leave), you know its silly season time. The competitive trends for this season have been set; Mercedes-powered cars have had the rub of the green, Ferrari is not an F1 car you’d want to be seen in, Red Bull have paid dearly for Renault’s ineptitude, and McLaren’s 2013 woes remain unsolved.
Who will be racing in 2015 and where? Because, when you play the game of F1 race seats, you win, or you go racing in DTM / Endurance…
For me, highly unlikely that a driver change occurs here. I don’t see why Nico would leave regardless of what happens this year. He’s been Merc’s golden boy and should remain so by the end of the year. If Lewis wins the championship this year, he’ll most definitely stay too. If he doesn’t, then he’ll probably have a look around, but I think ultimately he’d stay at Mercedes.
How the mighty have fallen. Its dire times for the four-time world champion, most of the time through no fault of his own. For me, a move to Ferrari at this moment in time is career suicide, but options are really running low, I mean where else does he go? I reckon he will stay out the remainder of his contract at Red Bull until 2015, but if their fortunes don’t fair any better, his patience will run out. Daniel Ricciardo has been mightily impressive as acknowledged by the paddock. He revels in dragging a sub-par car around a track, and seeing the way things are going, he should be doing well at Red Bull for the foreseeable future. He’s already leaving his mark in the team, and the team seems to enjoy working with him. Its good times for the Aussie; I don’t see him leaving anytime soon.
Another year, another lacklustre performance from the prancing horse. Time is running out on Fernando Alonso’s title ambitions, and Ferrari aren’t exactly hinting that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. He’s definitely one to watch out for this silly season. Rumours have been circulating that McLaren are interested in a reunion. Fernando’s ‘best friend’ Ron is back at McLaren, but the Honda-McLaren lure could be too much to resist for the Spaniard. As for Kimi Raikkonen, it hasn’t been the season his devoted fans expected. He’s had his bad luck in the first couple of rounds, but generally, he never looked like the Kimi of the McLaren glory days, or even the one that won the championship in his first spell at Ferrari. For me, Ferrari is his terminal destination in his F1 journey, if he leaves the Maranello-based outfit, he’s leaving F1 in its entirety – and this time for good.
They might have not made that jump out of the midfield and into the front-running group just yet, but its been an impressive season for Vijay Mallya’s bunch. Sergio Perez is showing glimpses of his Sauber-self once again, but that after year at McLaren, I think his chances of driving in a front-running car are all but gone. In my opinion, the team could hang on to him for another year. Otherwise, he’s off to either Lotus or Sauber before he signs off his F1 career. As for Nico Hulkenberg, he’s truly in the last chance saloon if he’s to race for a top team. He’s shown his potential for the past couple of years, but his teammate has kept him honest so far this year. Has he left it too late? He certainly isn’t the shining talent that was prominent to all during last season, again – mainly due to having a strong teammate. For me, he’s either at McLaren or Ferrari next season, or else time will really start to run out for the now not-so-young German.
Not quite the glory days yet, but they’re getting there. Valtteri Bottas isn’t doing too bad for himself whatsoever, and if he keeps up the good work, he’ll land a top seat and fight consistently for race wins. Will that happen next year though? I don’t think so, he’s staying at Williams. Felipe Massa’s switch has certainly revived the Brazilian spirit that we know and love. But, I think being in the latter days of his career, and after that famous near miss in 2008, Williams can be justified to question his motivation. He is certainly a reliable, experienced driver that delivers fairly consistently on what his car can achieve, but does he have the hunger of the youth in order to drive a team that’s chasing that top step of the podium? I personally think that 2015 will be the last year in F1 and at Williams. I think the 2008 season, 2009 accident, and the Alonso years have left too many scars inside Felipe, ones that Williams cannot afford to carry around if they are to pursue their vision.
Early days, but it seems like a year to forget for the Macca fans. Ron Dennis is back and has brought Eric Boullier along with him. An instantaneous impact would have been too much to ask, as it often is in F1, but next year they are expected to deliver, especially with the new Honda engines and the recent acquisition of Red Bull aerodynamicist Peter Prodromou. Kevin Magnussen has done a respectable job so far. He has suffered a bit of rookie fever in a few of the races, but the Austrian GP has reaffirmed the initial impressions. McLaren have signed him as an investment in youth, as they did with Hamilton, and I don’t see why they’ll stop short now; he’s staying at McLaren. As for Jenson Button, the clock is ticking on his career. I really don’t see him leaving McLaren for any other team. He’d want to test the waters in 2015 to see if he can pull off another 2009 with the new engine, but I don’t think Ron has the patience for that; Jenson was a Whitmarsh signing after all. Definitely a racing seat to keep an eye on; we could be seeing a Magnussen-Alonso or a Magnussen-Hulkenberg lineup for McLaren next year.
More of the same for Red Bull’s sister team so far, in more ways than one. They’re still languishing in the midfield with no signs of improvement from a team perspective, but they still continue to pump out great driving talents. Algersuari, Ricciardo, Kvyat, and – considering how he he fared against Daniel – JEV, are all highly talented young drivers. Speaking of JEV, it is quite a shame that he might be facing the axe at the end of this season. It’s almost company policy that STR mix up their driver lineup every couple of seasons, and JEV might just get caught up in that process, especially with the likes of Da Costa and Frijns waiting in the wings. I think Kvyat has done a good job so far, so no reason for STR to let him go just yet, but the seat in the other side of garage remains up for grabs in my opinion.
An abysmal year so far for Lotus; they’ve suffered the most from the new engine changes when you look at their 2013 performance. Romain Grosjean isn’t exactly the hottest property on the market right now, which goes to show that a slow/unreliable car can put an end to any driver’s F1 prospects. I don’t see him moving anywhere else. As for the crowd favourite, I think this year’s the last for Pastor. Lotus certainly wouldn’t tolerate his racing antics and the tall repair bill that comes with it, and I don’t see another team that would. I see him replaced by either Sergio Perez or Jules Bianchi.
A better year it seems for Marussia, largely thanks to an eventful Monaco Grand Prix. Jules Bianchi is showing great promise as he as done in his early F1 days, and I could see him moving on to either Force India or Lotus. Max Chilton hasn’t really left an impression since his arrival, and even his race-finishing record has been shattered in Canada. However, I do see his private funding keeping him with the team for another year. As for his teammate, we could be seeing a new F1 entrant, ready to snatch at the Brit’s heels.
Not exactly what Adrian Sutil imagined when he signed for Sauber, seeing them struggling in the dreaded backmarker zone. It could be the last year for the German before he heads off to a touring car series. Esteban Gutierrez’s costly mistake in Monaco will remain fresh in the team’s memory for a while, and the young Mexican hasn’t exactly redeemed himself either. Quite an uncertain situation for both drivers, and we could well see a fresh lineup for 2015.
Tony Fernandes listing the team for sale tells you everything you need to know about Caterham. How an owner can publicly announce such a thing is beyond me, especially when you consider its effect on the team’s morale. But such has been their performance this season that it has become a nonviable business for the Malaysian entrepreneur. Kamui Kobayashi had rallied a lot of fans to fund his drive for this season, but – for me – has failed to repay the faith of his supporters. Marcus Ericsson hasn’t fared any better either, but he has the ‘rookie’ excuse on his side. I see Marcus remain with the team and Kamui dropped for a new entrant.