On the driver market…

The F1 driver market is bubbling along in Sao Paulo, with the word on the avenida in Sao Paulo being that the Williams talks with Kimi Raikkonen have ended in disarray with the Finn now trying his luck with Lotus Renault GP, which is believed to be showing only luke warm interest in the 2007 World Champion because of questions over his motivation and the fact that he and his management seem to think that he has a value rather more elevated than the going rate in the post-economic crisis F1 world.

Williams is rumoured to have decided that its test driver Valtteri Bottas (22) is better value for money and is planning to give the younger Finn a drive next year. Bottas dominated Formula Renault in Europe in 2008 and then raced in the Formula 3 Euroseries in 2009 with ART Grand Prix. He finished third in the championship and then repeated that performance last year. This year he won the GP3 title with ART.

The team’s second driver will stay with Pastor Maldonado, if the Venezuelan money continues to arrive from PDVSA. There have been some questions about the funding because President Hugo Chaves’s opponents have questioned whether the deal is legal, but as long as Chaves remains in power, the deal is probably safe. Chaves has been suffering from cancer since the summer and is facing a presidential election in October 2012.

At Renault the thinking has shifted away from Robert Kubica and seems to have boiled down to four or five candidates. Kimi Raikkonen would like the drive and has offered his services. Vitaly Petrov will probably stay, despite his recent media remarks in Russia, which suggested that he needs to get out more. Romain Grosjean is looking quite likely, but Bruno Senna and Rubens Barrichello would like the drive. There are also more obscure possibilities, including (amazingly) Adrian Sutil. The team needs a fast and experienced driver and there are not many of them on the market. Sutil is one and it seems that Lotus Renault GP partner Eric Lux might be willing to swallow his pride, about the unpleasant altercation that occurred between the two men in Shanghai. There has also been some interest paid in Heikki Kovalainen, but he seems to be nailed into his deal at Team Lotus.

Force India boss Vijay Mallya had said that he would name the team’s drivers before Brazil, but failed to deliver on that promise, leaving Adrian Sutil, Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta to wonder whether their positions are really safe. There has some talk that the new partner in the team Roy Sahara would like an Indian driver. Scuderia Toro Rosso remains confused with Red Bull still fiddling about with its driver, trying to keep them hungry. The latest suggestion I have heard is that Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari might survive next year and Red Bull will place Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne elsewhere and thus would have four choices as Mark Webber’s replacement in 2013. With Red Bull seemingly having no end of money to spend, there are drives available…

Jerome d’Ambrosio seems likely to miss out at Virgin as Charles Pic will join Timo Glock, which is not really fair given that the Belgian has done a good job this year. He has some money behind him and may be able to get a drive in one of the poorer teams. The other man who could struggle is Tonio Liuzzi, who has a contract with HRT but is not a pay-driver. The Spanish have gone for Pedro de la Rosa and will presumably sell the second seat to the highest bidder. Watch out too for Giedo Van der Garde, the Dutchman who has been in GP2 for rather too long now and needs to move up or ship out to the States. He is supposed to have plenty of money behind him, but he is going to need that if he is to secure a ride.

24 thoughts on “On the driver market…

  1. Very interesting turn of events at Toro Rosso, I think. I always assumed that Jaime and Sebastien were relatively safe, since they both improved over the season. Then the rumours that Vergne and Ricciardo were taking over their seast emerged and I felt sorry for Jaime in particular, since I think he´s the one who has grown the most.
    But if they stay, I applaud that decision. But it just doesn´t solve the Vergne and Ricciardo seats….

  2. I’m surprised Williams are leaning towards Bottas. Does he bring money to the team? What are the chances of Sutil ending up at Williams?

    Also, might we have a surprise at Lotus assuming Kubica does not return to the team? What are the chances of an experienced driver like Glock ending up there?

    1. Paul,

      Sutil could end up there, but he is not famous for his technical feedback. Sutil/Maldonado is not a great combination for engineering.

  3. Joe I just had a thought. D’Ambrosio has done a decent job this year and has had tests with Renault in the past. Why aren’t they mentioning him as well as Grosjean in connection with a seat?

  4. Joe, would you please comment on Robt.Wickens F-1 future..?

    He’s at least as quick as many mentioned for Rides, has found his way to numerous Winner’s Circles in an assortment of Series, he’s young enough…..so why is Red Bull not interested in pushing him farther up the food chain..?

  5. Williams to sign Bottas? I have a sense of deja-vu, and particularly unpleasant kind. It seems 2007-2009 situation is likely to repeat itself. They got rid of uncompetitve Cosworth in 2006 and, cheering renewed link-up with major engine manufacturer (Toyota then), staked their fortunes on inexperienced Rosberg/Nakajima line-up who actually led them to nowhere on car development front.

  6. I am no expert nor do I have 1st hand knowledge. Assuming the breakdown is due to salary demands why would – Kimi not take a a low base salary with point’s bonuses. I believed Piquet did this some years ago?

    But perhaps, sponsors were not forthcoming to provide additional support for the team.

    Williams is the best match for Kimi. This is a team that does not coddle it’s drivers.

    Isn’t taking drivers that bring a budget – communicating that your team has lost value?

  7. I see many people comments up here, and except for maybe Mr. Saward dont seem to be very acquainted with the young categories drivers. If we had to choose a pool of the most talented kids out there, most of the experts and fans would pick a list that would include Grosjean, Bianchi, Merhi, Mortara, Vergne, Wickens and Bottas, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg as the top notch of young and talented F1 future drivers. Basically all these guys are very talented, some have better qualities than others but basically, they are all potential GP winners. Unfortunately, except for the Red Bull drivers, the rest struggle to get the necessary backing to make into and F1 in spite of their great talent.

    Seb Grosjean was unlucky to be paired alongside Alonso in 2009 after the Piquetgate scandal, fortunately he has come back thanks to Gravity and it seems he could be back in the grid with Lotus next year.
    Jules Bianchi has an influential manager (Nicola Todt) and the French Federation has been supporting him quite strongly in the last few years, i believe he is very quick and could be an interesting prospect for F1
    Edo Mortara is a great driver, a very talented and mature kid that deserves a ride in F1, however as a Volkswagen Driver his natural path is DTM
    Roberto Merhi, this kid looks like a “Lewis Hamilton” human clon, his driving style is extremely agressive and fun to watch, I am a big fun, Mercedes seems to be keen to bring him to DTM next year and let him follow Paul di Resta´s footsteps, coming from Spain could be a problem for him to find sponsors as long as Red Bull continues to back Spanish Drivers (Alguersuari, Sainz jr) for political, family and commercial reasons (Spain is the second largest Red Bull Market in the world).
    Jean Eric Vergne has got Red Bull´s backing which nowadays seems to be the best way to make it into F1.
    Robert Wickens is a complete package, his Canadian background could be good, I believe he would do a very good job at any team
    Valteri Bottas is Mr Wolf protege so sooner or later Williams will give him the chance to drive one of its cars.
    Daniel Ricciardo is already an F1 driver, he is very constant and will perform regardless of the team he drives for.
    Finally we have Nico Hulkenberg, his story summarizes, how big of a joke F1 has turn into, undoubtedly an amazing talent he was forced to step down due to petrodollars issues, unbelievable….. hopefully he ll be back in the grid next year.

    I believe all the F1 fans should be aware that we are being cheated by the current F1 business models where most of the young drivers who make it into F1, as either regular drivers, third drivers or even as young test drivers (Chandok, Senna, Karthikeyan, Alguersuari, Ceccon, Cecotto, Bortollotti, Chilton, Charouz, Maldonado, Perez, Razia, Colletti, Bird, Turvey, Gonzalez, Clos, Berthon, etc….) manage to drive a car due to their family or sponsor money and not really because of their natural raw speed.

    Best

    R

  8. I cannot understand WIlliams considering Bottas as a team mate to Maldonado. A replacement certainly but not a team mate.

    They have major changes in their engineering team so desperately need a known benchmark on their driver strength. Raikkonen for all his faults would extract everything from the car so at least they would know where their performance was. Alternatively they could go for a driver who would be a little slower than Kimi but who is technically good and consistent. But to have Maldonado as the more experienced driver given what we have seen this season is a recipe for disaster. I understand the need they have for the money he supplies but he should be a clear number two to a lead driver. If they wanted a young driver pairing surely they would have dropped Barrichello at the end of last season and kept Hulkenberg rather than opt for a season of Rubens followed by an unknown quantity.

  9. Fact that Patrick is leaving Frank must indicates that Williams are in disarray about everything, not just Raikkonen. To rely on a bad driver with cash and a total novice doesn’t sound like the decision of a team principal who in his own words, wants to act like a “businessman worth his salt”.
    Sadly, Boullier does not inspire any more confidence as a team leader than Frank.
    So all who would like to see Kimi back on the grid will be deeply disappointed.

    Joe, do you think there’s a serious threat of Maldonado having to quit before start of 2012?

  10. This is the grid I’d like to see (based on current “availability and viability):

    RBR: Vettel/Webber
    MCLAREN: Button/Hamilton
    FERRARI: Alonso/Massa (Kubica joins Ferrari for rehab, replaces Massa in 2013 if fit (if not maybe Perez?))
    MGP: Schumacher/Rosberg (Di Resta to replace MSC when he retires?, also maybe Sam Bird for a few FP1’s?)
    LOTUS GP: Petrov/Grosjean (Senna as FP1 driver?)
    FORCE INDIA: Di Resta/Hulkenberg (Chandhok as FP1 driver?)
    TORO ROSSO: Ricciardo/Alguersuari (Buemi as FP1 driver?)
    SAUBER: Kobayashi/Perez (Maybe Gutierrez getting the odd FP1?)
    WILLIAMS: Maldonado/Sutil
    CATERHAM: Kovalainen/Barrichello (would be great for development, then Razia to take over in 2013)
    MARUSSIA: Glock/Pic
    HRT: De La Rosa/Vergne

  11. So there’s no interest in Timo Glock from Renault?

    He seems to fit all of their criteria, and also I think you said previously he could get out of his contract with an offer from a bigger team.

  12. Any chances of Barichello staying @ Williams. Would prefer Barichello and Bottas/Bianchi/Sutil. Maldonado hasnt impressed me this season.

  13. Given HRT have already taken RB money before, and that they are trying to build a Spanish team, I think you could see a Jamie/Daniel swap.

  14. This is what I d love to see:

    RBR: Vettel/Ricciardo
    MCLAREN: Button/Hamilton
    FERRARI: Alonso/Bianchi
    MGP: Di Resta/Merhi
    LOTUS GP: Kubica/Grosjean
    FORCE INDIA: Rosberg/Hulkenberg
    TORO ROSSO: Vergne/Alguersuari
    SAUBER: Kobayashi/Wickens
    WILLIAMS: Weber/Sutil
    CATERHAM: Kovalainen/Wickens
    MARUSSIA: Glock/Pic
    HRT: Mortara/Wittmann

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