With the 2013 Formula 1 season half way through, we can now look at the possible driver movements for next year. The departure of Mark Webber from Red Bull Racing to Porsche Motorsports at the end of the season, frees up a seat in the most successful team this decade. There are speculations that Daniel Ricciardo of Scuderia Toro Rosso (B team of Red Bull Racing) is the prime candidate to be Sebastian’s number 2. Ricciardo is an Australian who has been in Formula 1 since 2011. He has shown flashes of brilliance in more than a few races, and, his demeanour both on and off the track is a gold mine for the teams’ public relations.
Another name thrown into the mix was that of Fernando Alonso. The two times World Drivers Champion, who still has a contract with Ferrari, was reported to have made his displeasure towards the team’s lack of progress, known to the world media. While all teams would welcome Fernando on board, in my opinion, he would not fit well in the Red Bull team structure. RBR have made Sebastian their golden boy, and, Alonso would not fancy playing second fiddle to anyone. (Remember McLaren 2007-2008?)
Kimi Raikkonen, the ever stoic Finn, has also been mentioned to be in the short list for the RBR seat. While Kimi might well be friends with Sebastian, a lot of pundits have thumbed down the idea. Lotus will not voluntarily give up Kimi, despite his contract expiring at seasons end. Lotus will fight with all they have got to keep the 2007 world drivers champion happy. Eric Boullier Lotus F1 Team Principal, said on the August edition of JA on F1 podcast; “I’m very optimistic. There is a lot of discussion in the press, most of it is irrelevant. It is all about making Kimi comfortable enough to stay and happy to stay. Part of it is done.”
Add to this the corporate structure in RBR will probably not suit the happy go lucky, vodka drinking lifestyle that Kimi has long been known to prefer over any media appearance and sponsor events.
McLaren have both their drivers locked in to a multi-year contract. Jenson Button and Sergio Perez will not be moving anytime soon. Although with the team’s current progress, Jenson might wish otherwise.
Lewis Hamilton, contracted until 2015 and Nico Rosberg who has a multi-year deal in place with the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team are likewise staying put.
The drivers whose contracts expire at the end of this year are Felipe Massa of Ferrari, Paul De Resta and Adrian Sutil of Force India-Mercedes. While Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez of Sauber-Ferrari were signed this year, the length of the contracts were kept secret. The same can be said for Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas of Williams-Renault, Jean Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso, Geido van der Garde and Charles Pic of Catherham-Renault and finally Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi of Marussia. This does not necessarily mean that they have their 2014 drives; any one of them can be cut to usher in an up and coming rookie or even a returning F1 driver.
2014 could also see the youngest driver to start an F1 race, Russian teenager Sergey Sirotkin. He was linked to a Sauber seat and has certainly raised a few eyebrows up and down the paddock because of his age. Cash strapped Sauber is now banking on lightning striking twice of being the team to find the next great F1 driver. Sauber, back in 2001, gave a young Kimi Raikkonen his big break.
So if Ricciardo does move on to Red Bull Racing, then all the teams would in all probability maintain their line-up, but should either Alonso or Kimi jump ship, all bets are off and a bidding war would definitely ensue.
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