It must be getting into the Silly Season already. We have had a lot of stories of late about Sebastian Vettel perhaps moving to Ferrari in 2014, after Mark Webber has spent a year in the Italian team. That does not sound right to me. At the start of 2011 Vettel signed a deal for 2011 on the basis that if he finished in the top 3 in the World Championship and won two races he would automatically stay with the team in 2012. His salary was $11 million, rising to $13.8 million in 2012. At the time the word was that Red Bull was offering Sebastian a $13.8 million retainer for 2013 with further performance-based options that would win him $16.5 million in 2014. The general consensus is therefore that he will not be on the market until 2015 and will lock himself into his 2014 contract with his performances in 2013. Obviously, these things can be negotiated away, but my feeling is that Vettel will not be screwing Red Bull because they have supported his career since 1998 and that he seems to be a decent guy. Let us not forget also that (at the moment) Red Bull is also offering him the chance to win rather more races than he would at Ferrari and presumably he would like to see how things develop in Italy before committing himself. It is always possible that he has signed something conditional on this and that, so that he has all his bases covered. In 2015 Vettel will be 27, turning 28 in the midseason. Fernando Alonso will be 33, turning 34, and the idea that the two will go together at Ferrari is a risk for the Italians, Alonso got very wobbly when he was teamed with Lewis Hamilton at McLaren in 2007 and while he is now older and wiser, there are no guarantees that he would not react in the same way again. Who can say? More likely, Vettel is discussing with Red Bull how to push the relationship further into the future, as they seem to like to have things squared away two years ahead of time.
Elsewhere in the paddock there are mumblings about Kimi Raikkonen and the Lotus F1 Team.The suggestion is that they are not getting along very well. I disagree. Yes, Kimi is different to handle than most drivers and it is good if he is happy in his work. At the moment he is not 100 percent happy with his car, which is not a surprise given that the rookie Romain Grosjean is going faster than him. However, at the moment Raikkonen is sixth in the World Championship, with 55 points; Grosjean is seventh with 53. They are both ahead of Jenson Button and are the two best-placed drivers not to have won a race so far. It seems quite likely that the team will win a race sooner or later and there has been a fair bit of disappointment thus far. Bear in mind too that Lotus is stonking along in third place in the Constructors’ Championship, ahead of Ferrari and Mercedes, both of which are (effectively) one car teams at the moment as Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa have both underperformed in terms of puttings points on the board.
The tittle-tattle all seems to emanate from comments made in Montreal by Jacques Villeneuve, who thinks that the Lotus is a great car and with a top driver it would be leading the championship. It is an interesting reflection, but then again the definition of a top driver is also a matter of opinion. When all is said and done top drivers are decided upon by their points scores…
It is true that Kimi has not been happy with the steering of the Lotus and that there is still a certain amount of sharp-edge knocking needed to get the relationship smooth, but one cannot fault what Kimi has achieved thus far. Maybe he does not have the raw speed that once he did, but he knows that winning championships is about scoring points and he is doing that very well.