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.