Bottas, Ferrari and falling dominoes

There are some pretty credible reports  coming out of Italy suggesting that Valtteri Bottas has been signed to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari in 2016. The move has been rumoured for some time and the well-connected Corriere dello Sport says it will be announced after the end of July, which is the date at which Raikkonen’s 2016 option would need to be taken up. If confirmed, the deal will mean a big financial boost for Williams as the team had a five-year contract with Bottas, of which this season is the fourth. That would mean Bottas would have to buy his way out of the Williams contract – with Ferrari presumably providing the cash. While on paper the move is not really logical for Bottas, the future of Ferrari is more clearly defined than the future at Williams, as the Grove team is still not back in the ranks of F1’s big spenders. Such a windfall will do the Williams team no harm at all. This is likely to get the F1 driver market moving and it will be interesting to see what Williams will do, although a deal with Nico Hulkenberg would be the obvious step, as the German has already been a Williams driver, back in 2010. He was not retained in 2011 because the team needed Pastor Maldonado’s money and had already had a deal with Rubens Barrichello. Hulkenberg had been hoping for a chance at Ferrari but if Bottas is confirmed, his best option is Williams. The other man who Williams might like is Daniel Ricciardo. His contractual status is not entirely clear as he’s not keen on giving detailed answers, so it is safe to assume he’s not completely locked in for 2016. One other option that might be possible would be for McLaren to pay for Williams to take one of its youngsters, to help them out developing into future stars. There is even the possibility that Jenson Button might return to the team where his career started 15 years ago. In recent days Jenson has been making it quite clear that his future at McLaren is not certain and that was probably sending a message to Williams. This would be a neat bookend to his F1 career and would help McLaren open the way for Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne to both move up the ladder.

124 thoughts on “Bottas, Ferrari and falling dominoes

  1. Poor old Hulk. He wins Le Man’s and he’s still ignored in favour of Bottas. Frankly, if I were him, I’d leave the sport.

    1. No you wouldn’t. What would you do instead, go and race taxis 6 times a year or whenever it is that the WEC is on?

      1. I would give my career a boost and join Porsche full time, especially if a Ferrari or Williams deal didn’t come up within the next few months. F1 will never do anything for him at this rate except make him look like a b-grade driver, which I don’t believe he is. I believe he is as good if not better than the top drivers in F1.

  2. As a tifoso, this is good news. I really rate Bottas. That said, I don’t mind Kimi at all, but I think Bottas will work harder to prove himself.

    What really makes me sad is the “related links” under this article include “Plotting a course for Jules Bianchi”. He should have been at Ferrari himself. I still can’t think about his situation without a lump in my throat.

  3. Assuming it’s true, as a Williams fan, I’d be gutted if he left, largely as he’s a talent the team’s developed for so long and he often provides exciting racing. On the other hand, Massa’s got a lot closer – and sometimes outperformed him, of late and so it’s possible that he’s peaked anyway.

    I suspect money wouldn’t go to waste and having Button in the car would be an excellent option. Sponsors and fans like him too, which wouldn’t do any harm, and it may even help with the holy grail of a works engine deal.

  4. Joe

    I would hate to see Williams being used as a training ground for McLaren drivers, just as the team is recovering from its troubles.

    Jenson? A nice payday for a driver at the end of his career? For me, no. Sorry Jenson.

    So, Hulkenberg or Ricciardo please.

    Martin

  5. Hello Joe,

    I have also heard some rumblings about Felipe Nasr being a strong candidate for the Williams seat should Bottas indeed leave. He has a history with the team, strong financial support and some strong performances this year to back him up. Do you see him as a likely candidate?

    Many thanks!

    1. Certainly has shown that he is more of a match to Ferdie thus far than Kimi ever was and Kimi is closer to Vettel than he was Ferdie.

      I’m sure that isn’t lost on Ferrari…

  6. Can’t understand why Ferrari would opt for Bottas apart from the buyout cost he hasn’t been that convincing in his speed after all Massa has been just as competitive, Ricciardo on the other hand we “know” is quicker than Vettel and would be so much cheaper

              1. Sorry. Why do you hope Vettel doesn’t have Ricciardo as a team mate? Or did I read that wrong and you hope that Vettel has no say in who is his team mate?

    1. One wonders how much say Vettel would have. Does he want a driver who has already proved that he is faster than him in the same car??

      1. Vettel has no say. Ricciardo is contracted to RBR, though. He’s not available. Remember Mateschitz is a true racer, he would never sell a driver to an opponent for a hand full of dollars. Even though if 12m sounds like a lot.

          1. I can refer to Marko who says Ric has a watertight contract with RBR and will be in their car next year as well. I believe the man is right.

            As for Ferrari paying 12m of $ to release Bottas, that’s a lot of money. Why would they not keep Kimi for a gap year and wait ’till next year when Bot will become a free agent?

            Wouldn’t it be much wiser to spend the 12m of $ on car development instead?

            Or sign the hulk for one year and see how he goes? And then keep him on if he’s doing well and if not change him for Bot in 2017 without paying Williams 12m$.

            What do you think, guys?

            As for Bottas, he’s certainly fast but he’s not the next Schumacher I believe.

      2. An energized and excited Ricciardo proved that he was faster than an exhausted and depressed Vettel (remember Michael Schumacher had his accident), in an RB10.

        That does not mean he is going to be faster than Seb in any car. It does not work that way. Hopefully you get that F1 and driver comparisons are not that simple.

    2. “Ricciardo on the other hand we “know” is quicker than Vettel”

      I am glad you put that “know” part in quotes, because we actually do not know that at all. We only know that he was quicker in 2014, under those specific circumstances. You cannot realistically assume that he would be quicker than Seb in a 2016 Ferrari.

      He could be, but that is not for sure.

      In any case, as James Allen notes; Ferrari (and all teams for that matter) have access to more data than we do. They can make a better analysis than we can, and the fact that they would prefer to spend the money to buy out Bottas vs taking on Ricciardo or Hulkenberg mean that they obviously think he is the superior choice.

      1. Is that the same expert Ferrari data that helped them select Luca Baoder in 2009? Driver decisions are rarely based on pure talent. Nationality, personality, potential, politics, and financial backing all have an influence, even to a mega team like Ferrari.

      1. Massa is the most under rated driver in F1. Look at his record against Schumacher who had a clear team preference in every way, strategy, engine and chassis upgrades, the lot, a bit like poor Mark at RedBullshit. OK it took a while for Massa to recover from his horrific accident but if I look at Massa’s record that enhances Bottas’s performance. Bottas does look like a potential Champ! but I fear he will struggle to get equal treatment against Vettel who has a proven record of wrapping the team around him.

        1. “Look at his record against Schumacher who had a clear team preference in every way, strategy, engine and chassis upgrades, the lot, a bit like poor Mark at RedBullshit.”

          What record? MSC won 7 races to FM’s 2, and scored 121 points to 80.

          And “poor Mark” had an equal chassis, engine, strategy, everything. He just wasn’t as talented, and wasn’t able to adapt to the EBD.

  7. Would it not, though, mean that whatever WIlliams gain would be with Bottas being bought out would be offset into having to buy out Riccardo’s contract that HM maintains is watertight with RB?

    Personally I would love to see JB go back to Williams, I have always felt that if JB had been allowed to stay at Williams first time round he would be a multiple World Champion by now.

  8. Button back at Williams would be a great end to the story.Brawn all over again? One can only hope.

  9. Bottas is odd signing, it safe to say Massa has matched him and him covered the last few races, the same Massa that Ferrari dropped for not being quick enough. My thoughts are Ferrari need to been to be doing something about Kimi, but don’t want to someone who’s to quick and potential to upset their star signing Vettel. As the Italian press have said, speed wise, Massa would be the logical choice not Bottas.

    From what I’ve read Frank and Jenson still get on well, I’d love to see him back at Williams. He doesn’t seem to of lost any of his speed, plus if it rains, Williams would know they’d been with a shout of a win. I think he’s quicker and more consistent than Massa or Bottas, but that’s just my opinion. From what I’ve read Massa’s seat isn’t guaranteed for next year, and he’s waiting for Williams to take up the option, so maybe a Hulkenberg/Button line, now that’d be a strong line-up, possibly stronger that what they have now. But I think Massa brings Sponsorship with him, so that might have a little to do with it.

  10. I remain to be totally convinced about Bottas. I hope I’m wrong as he seems a great guy but can’t help feel that he is getting noticed because of his cars performance. My reasoning is I think he should have done more against Massa. That being said he would be a very good no2 and that is maybe what Ferrari wishes.

    1. Yes I thought this as well, Bottas is a quick 2nd driver for Ferrari just as Irvine and Rubens before. Had he forced his way past Massa ( like vettel on Webber) then it’s a good move for him to Ferrari – right now it looks like a good move for Vettel. Pity that.

        1. Not from where I was sitting. He can’t expect a driver of Massa’s quality and experience to move over or make a mistake then drive past. If he can’t force one Williams past another like Vettel. Alonso or Hamilton would have done maybe Ferrari next year is too soon for him.

          1. So, Bottas should’ve been able to force his identical Williams past Massa? You mean the same way Hamilton was able to force his superior Mercedes past Bottas on the same track at the same time?

            1. No need – every laptop on the pit wall would be telling Mercedes to pit Lewis 1st and he could jump both Williams nice and clean no risk. And crucially full points towards both championships. Lewis was never racing the Williams he was always racing Nico.

  11. As much as it wil be a sad day when kimi has to stop racing, it will be interesting to see Bottas at Ferrari and all the mentioned replacements at Williams sounds very interesting too. I also think it would be funny if Williams can develop a Ferrari beating car with the help of Ferrari’s cash.

  12. It would not really be logical to drop Kimi, as the Ferrari isn’t a regular Merc beater at present, nor near to being one. Bottas might find himself compared badly to Vettel, who is undoubtedly the Ferrari sweetheart now, and who is almost so ingrained there that one could forget all his RBR years and titles!

    JB at Williams would be a smart move however, as he is still motivated, and could get wins with them. Massa is, for me, coasting to retirement, and Bottas is too timid to really upstage him. For me, Bottas is the faster guy, but he doesn’t want to rock the boat, and until he does, why would another team want him, unless, like Ferrari they just want a cheaper option to ride as No2, and not cause Vettel any bother?

    The Hulk? Better for him to go to WEC with Porsche and win a Driver’s Title, as he won’t ever get the chance to win one in F1, and I rather wonder if he is that bothered about being an F1 driver now?

  13. I can’t really understand why Jenson is sticking to F1 that vigorously. Probably there are more than one manufacturer in WEC who would like to see him in their car as a full-time driver. He could more than likely be a World Champion in sports cars, whereas it is next to impossible for him in F1 already.

      1. … the money might be something to do with it too. If it was only about the racing, they’d be happy to accept “average” salaries. What was it Lauda said when he and Marlene got a lift that day? “I drive fast if I’m paid to”; says it all really

        1. Absolute rubbish. You still need to show that you have value. If you’re talented at something you deserve to be compensated for it.

          If nothing else do a perferormanced based contract where you earn money for every point of something but driving for free would seriously devalue his services

    1. “He could more than likely be a World Champion in sports cars”
      The talent does not necessary transfer to another field.

      1. Of course it does.Talent is talent. It is rare that an F1 driver cannot be good in other championships.

          1. Agreed. However I think series such as WEC (most circuit race disciplines) are much closer to F1 than rally. Before anyone takes me to task I am NOT saying WEC is as good as, as fast as, or the same as F1, I’m just saying the skill transfer between the two would be greater than between F1 and rally. There is a long history of successful (or not so successful) F1 drivers getting good results or winning in WEC/sports cars – I can’t think of any who managed success in rally, although I dare say there will be a story or two of a Hill or Clark who banged a Lotus Cortina or such around some forest stage. Happy to be corrected.

            Rally seems a pretty particular skillset. You don’t get to do lap after lap of the same track for a start. Apologies if I’m stating the bleeding obvious, not taking your comment to task, just discussing it, as I thought it an interesting point.

            Speaking of which how did Kimi handle having a navigator, maybe this was his problem in rally….
            “Sharp right, quick left, straight ahead 200”
            “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing”
            “Yeh but I’m your navigator Kimi”
            “Shut up I am driving”

            I should look at how Jacques has fared in Rallycross as this appears to have some elements of circuit racing. I like Jacques, would like to see him win LeMans one day, but that bird may have already flown.

        1. And the other way round too Joe. As Mario said, ” if you can drive, you can drive” doesn’t matter which discipline in the sport one is in, if you have talent it will out. For a prime example, Loeb could have cut the mustard in F1, despite no single seater background, he’d have needed track time, but even so if he’d been let loose in an F1 car, I’d think he’d have been mid field immediately. Rossi is another example, and going back, Big John Surtees and Mike Hawthorn were other fine examples.
          The current problem is that F1 is too remote from motorsport, and does not have anywhere enough teams, as well as having a funding crisis, which prevents quality drivers from getting into the series. Many good drivers are now being lost to Indycar & WEC and other domestic series, which is another by product of the short term outlook of F1.

      1. Why did he not what to do? Are you accusing Raikkonen of lacking motivation following his 2007? Also in hindsight Joe should Kimi have retired from F1 his stint with lotus in had finished at the end of 2013?

        1. I am not accusing anyone of anything. I was asked for an observation about his career. That was my observation. He won the title, lost the plot. Went off rallying and playing at NASCAR, came back, did well but did not have the focus of some of his rivals.

      2. That is an interesting assessment of Raikkonen, Joe.
        But I dare say most serious fans of F1 would grant him a touch more praise. I cite the recent gpda survey which gave him the most support among fans .

        1. Fans support him because he’s not a robot and like his quirkiness. Talent-wise, I am not sure Kimi even rates in the top 6 drivers at the moment.

          1. Mike, some fans may support a driver because he is ‘quirky’, but the majority would want rather more than that!!! We’re talking about passionate F1 fans, not viewers of a bogus tv reality show 🙂

      3. I think it’s a very fair assessment that recognises his ability as a World Drivers champ, but also his inconsistency in the latter stages of his career. I say inconsistency but I’m cautious, I don’t want to undermine his raw talent. Great natural talent, lacks focus?

        1. maybe, Adam. Misses out that he could and should be a triple champ, for example. Joe has mentioned on occassion Massa almost winning a title. By this measure 2003 and certainly 2005 Kimi did more than enough by a long way to take both titles.
          People talk of focus, loss of focus, etc,
          I would relate loss of focus to the McLaren team. The dnfs of those two years were not always down to Newey’s design solutions, though often enough. For example, Indy 2003 the diffuser flew off because it came with a hair line crack that was not detected before the race. I call that loss of focus by the team, not the designer or the driver. Remember he lost to Schumacher at his peak by something like 2 points or 3.
          2005 Raikkonen dominated without having a 2015 merc with a second or more in hand. Dnfs robbed him and gifted the title to another.

          There is a lot more to say about KR than we will hear from the people putting out the F1 message to the world. He deserves but will not get a fair assessment in the blogs or the press. Why that is is a seperate article I’m sure.
          Fascinating driver, speed and precision rarely matched if ever in F1.
          Why that did not often come through in recent years has not been addressed by the prophets of F1. Longish reply, sorry if still inadequate…. 🙂

    1. I’d love for Renault to buy Lotus and give Romain a top car, though I guess the latter bit would depend on Renault getting its PU in order. Gro can really drive and would represent Renault well.

  14. Seems an odd choice if he does go. Bottas was clearly not impressed with Williams’ use of team orders at Silverstone so I doubt he’d enjoy being #2 to Vettel.

  15. I agree with leblase. Grosjean doesn’t seem to be on the radar which seems odd from my (armchair) persective

    1. I think he is on the radar for many teams, but the blips not quite as bright as some of the others. That may not be fair because he has been driving very well for some years now.

  16. Joe – Assuming some of the elder statesmen could be without a drive, eg RAI, BUT even MAS could you envisage any taking a risk with Haas as an experienced driver. I recall Kimi saying Ferrari or nothing but Jenson could do with leaving on a high and whilst I believe Honda / McL will improve he isnt guaranteed the drive. Would anyone risk the Haas / Ferrari link ?

    1. I think a Gutierrez or a Vergne would be a very good bet for Haas, both have decent F1 experience and both have Ferrari connections, but there are others with more experience (Sutil, for example). I could imagine that Haas might also take Alex Rossi, because he is the only American who is in the right place, with a proper Euro-centric preparation for F1 and a proper understanding of what is required. He is obviously good enough to be an F1 driver (if not on the pace of Stoffel Vandoorne – but, who is?) and he’s a very good ambassador. I’d say he fits the bill well, although if I remember correctly he and Gutierrez have a bit of previous and are not exactly bosom buddies…

        1. An exciting name like Kimi or even Button would be a bigger draw to Americans than a persona non grata like Rossi who also has only shown middling speed. Americans are more worldly than they get credit for and they’d get behind an American team w/an exciting non-American driver with character and speed wayyyy before they’d get behind them w/a no name driver just because he’s American. If they were to hire an American for domestic publicity, they’d do it w/a female driver that would bring in massive press.

          Too bad Williams want a pay driver. It’d be great to see Kimi at Williams. He might thrive under the lesser pressure and to rebuild his reputation after losing his drive at Ferrari.

    2. I would like to think that the all-round skills of JB could be useful to Hass. He has raced against the best and so can help to define the level of the Ferrari shoe-in.

      Plus he has the PR skills that could be of great help to an ambitious team in their first year, particularly if they find themselves in adversity, like McHonda this year.

  17. I must not be paying enough attention lately, because I don’t understand any of this. Why Ferrari wants Bottas (he can’t beat Massa) … why not Hulkenberg (too German?) …why Ricciardo to Williams (surely Red Bull is still a better option) … why Hulkenberg or Button to Williams (both been there, done that).

  18. What do you think of Alex Lynn’s chance for the Williams seat, Joe? GP3 champion, driving fairly well in GP2 for a rookie and already the team’s development driver.

  19. I’m surpirsed. Massa has had the better of Bottas but Alonso completely dominated Massa at Ferrari. Did they pick Bottas instead of Ricciardo because Seb would be unsettled by the smiling predator?

    1. While Dan would not be Seb’s choice, if Dan got the drive then from Seb’s point of view it would be time to set the record straight.

  20. I’m a Button fan (as is my wife, for different reasons) but I’m more concerned with Williams progressing than a lovely Button story and I have to think that Hulk coming back would provide continued progress and a nice (if not as romantic) coming home narrative. I rate Hulk as highly as Bottas and he has much more time left behind an F1 wheel. Ricciardo would be great as well but would Red Bull be so daft as to let him go?
    Whatever happens, I will admit it’s nice that going to Williams at this point is seen as a solid move for quality drivers.

  21. Joe, why would Williams consider taking on a rookie (from McLaren’s stable) even if they’re well compensated? They’re a comfortable 3rd fastest team that needs drivers capable of maximizing points. I’m not sure a rookie could be expected to do that (even if Lewis Hamilton did so in 2007).

    1. Because Williams has a long tradition of taking cheap young rookies and making them stars… This goes back to the likes of Nigel Mansell, Keke Rosberg, Damon Hill, David Coulthard, Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg, Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas

      1. I don’t think Rookie would be a correct word to use in the case of either Rosberg Snr or Mansell, as Nige already had 3 years of Lotus behind him when Frank took him on, and had proven himself having led races and scored points. As for Keke, when he joined Williams he was a hardened professional race car driver, having driven all sorts of cars and championship series. His boast at the time was that he didn’t drive anything without getting well paid for the job. His 1982 season with Frank was a sublime case of right person, right team, right timing! It doesn’t happen often in life or in motorsport!

  22. Would have thought Mercedes might want to park one of their young drivers with Williams in exchange for a bit of a discount on engines. Makes more sense than doing McLaren a favour.

    1. Maybe. But it is all rather speculative at the moment. Yes, perhaps Pascal Wehrlein – if he can get a Superlicence

  23. Jenson to Williams would be a nice conclusion/fit on many fronts, but would they part with the sort of cash that Jenson would demand Joe?

      1. Jenson has done a creditable job for McLaren and he is not expensive why would they replace him in this development period. To me it makes more sense to keep him next year.

        1. If you are building up a stock of great young drivers behind the older folks, you will lose some of them if you do not open the way…

    1. I don’t think Jensen is concerned about cash at this point in his career, he just loves racing.

  24. I like all of that.

    I have thoroughly enjoyed the careers of Kimi, Jenson, and also Felipe, but would be happy at this stage to see them doing other things and freeing up the grid for younger talent. Maybe WEC for these guys, Jenson in an Aston, Jag or even a Toyota given his connection with Japan…

    I mean no disrespect to any of the drivers named, am a fan of each of them, and am not saying they can’t still cut it. I felt Kimi and Jenson were deserved Drivers Champions, and I thought Felipe was close enough to be regarded as a potential WDC, for a few seconds I thought he was WDC – i know its not old school but what an amazing and emotional finish all round that season.

    I feel the time is right though, this year, or next, for todays old guard to move on.

    1. What’s all this ageism about? Jensen Button is a supreme athlete, more experienced and fitter then 90% of the other drivers. He’s at the top of his game and has proved that by matching Alonso the best driver in F1 this year. i would remind younger fans that the great Graham Hill who won two world championships, Le Mans and the Indy 500 didn’t step into a F1 car until he was 30 years old. The young drivers may be quick, but experience and wisdom in any profession leads to success.

      1. By my reckoning (and I may have missed someone) in the last 30 years there have been 10 drivers who have won GPs when over 35 – and just one over 40. It is not ageism, it’s statistics…

        1. 10 over 35. That’s a lot better than I imagined. A check mark for Jenson if anything. However, I think Williams can do better than Jenson. As you said, he’s perfect for the task at hand for McLaren though. If McLaren is plagued with a slow and/or unreliable car next season, I think it could stunt a rookie driver’s growth by shaking his confidence. On the flip side, a low performing team could also mean less pressure for strong results and therefore less pressure on the driver.

  25. Funny, at the last Grand Prix it was made out that Ricciardo was the front runner for the red seat. Bottas would be a good choice (although the Hulk would be at least equally good, I think). He is a little underwhelming next to Massa, speedwise, but I don’t think Felipe’s outright speed was ever in question. He was more or less equal to Fernando in that respect, he just tends to lose his nerve during the races – I watched the F1 rewind before the British GP and I could still remember the 2008 race where Lewis shone and Felipe had more spins than a roulette table. Bottas seems a lot more unflappable. Then again, Ferrari can be incredibly conservative with their drivers, so I wouldn’t bet against another year of Kimi.

    I do wonder what will happen to Ricciardo if Red Bull don’t improve (or even find some way to quit without breaking the terms of their Golden Goose deal with Bernie). It’s a crowded market out there and he might run he risk of becoming one of those “if only” stories. Do you know if he’s on the radar besides Red Bull?

  26. Ok, what the chance of Nico Hulkenberg going to Gene Haas’ team? For that matter are the any personnel making a move there as well?

  27. RIP Jules.

    Sad day. Up early and just heard the news.

    Hopefully his family can grieve and move on now. Thinking about it I read an article a few days ago where his father talked about his potential passing and said it would be a mercy in a way, so I guess they expected this.

    In any case a sad end to a sad chapter. What a horrible loss 😦

  28. RIP Jules

    As to the silly season- very thoughts discussion Gents.

    My 2 cents is as follows; the Hulk is the dark horse to win the beauty pagaent to mix my metaphors. He’s been waiting a long time for a competitive seat, $12 million is a lot of clams to shell out for Bottas especially when he’s a free agent the year after and frankly I think the Hulk is better fit with Vettel. Ferrari has fielded all French driver teams in the past so 2 Germans is not big deal. Joe says his insider dish gives the nod to Bottas- the end of the month is nye so let’s see- as to Kimi I always loved his truculent personality but was never a fan of his driving and Vettel has been eating his lunch all season.

  29. If had a say Bottas should stay at Williams, you never know Merc seat may become available. Ferrari should go for Grosjean, Lotus give Palmer the seat.
    For Haas F1(mini Ferrari) Guiterriez and Marciello. Hulk should stick with ForceIndia for 2016 and add another Lemans win

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