It is pretty quiet in F1 circles at the moment apart from a little spat between Luca Montezemolo and Bernie Ecclestone, which does not amount to much. It is not the first time the pair have abused one another publicly and all part of the day-to-day game of F1 politics. Elsewhere there is some holidaying going on, but a number of drives are still be settled, notably the second Force India and the second Caterham. Some are still talking about the second Lotus but there does not seem to be any realistic option. It would be daft for the team to dump Romain Grosjean having invested for a learning year for the youngster. He has proved that he is quick and has shown that he is capable of fighting at the top level but he lost confidence after banned for a race after caused the crash at Spa. Logically, he will have learned from his mistakes and will be a better driver in 2013. If not then would be the moment to drop him. There has been some talk, mainly wishful thinking, that Kamui Kobayashi could be a replacement for Grosjean. He is a known quantity but that did not convince Sauber to keep him in 2013, despite the fact that he was a match for Sergio Perez on most occasions. There is little chance that Bruno Senna would go back to the team after his previous experiences there and none of the other choices are really any better than Grosjean. It seems increasingly likely that Vitaly Petrov will be retained by Caterham as he saved the team $10 million with his efforts in Brazil and has around $12 million in support behind him. There are others with money, but the Russian seems to have more.
Thus Senna’s only real option in F1, unlike he wants to settle for a test driver role again, is to join Force India. It is a tough call to know whether this would be a good move. The team has done well this year, despite dropping a place in the Constructors’ Championship, but there are still some worries about funding because of the financial troubles of the owners. Vijay Mallya says that he is planning to invest in the infrastructure of the team so that it no longer has to rely on the technology of others, notably McLaren, but this is going to take time and a lot of money. For now, however, the McLaren relationship continues and logically the cars should remain competitive enough, although the Woking team might have second thoughts after what happened in Brazil where Nico Hulkenberg knocked Lewis Hamilton out of the race, depriving McLaren of points and costing it around $10 million in prize money. One hopes that Force India is paying McLaren more than the money lost… There is a strategic element in the relationship, of course, with the cynics in F1 suggesting that McLaren wants Force India to beat Mercedes-Benz’s own team and thus convince the management in Germany that running its own operation is not a good idea, which would probably mean reviving the McLaren alliance. At the moment there is no real engine option for the Woking team, as Renault already has its hands full and it is inconceivable that a McLaren would run with Ferrari engines.
Among the other names that have been mentioned for Force India are names such as Jules Bianchi, Kobayashi, Adrian Sutil, Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastien Buemi and anyone with any money. The team says that money is not important but that is slightly daft as a good driver with money is more useful that a good driver without money. Heikki Kovalainen might also be considered as he is at a loose end as well. The choice will be interesting.
The only other seat available is Marussia and that looks like being a battle of the bucks.