Tittle-tattle about drivers

The traditional Formula 1 silly season activity has kicked off already, which is not surprising given that some of the big F1 seats are up for grabs in 2017. One driver who has received a great deal of virtual ink is Nico Rosberg, with all manner of suggestions about his future, but the boss of Mercedes Benz Dieter Zetsche says Rosberg is under contract with the team for 2017, and if anyone should know, it is Zetsche.

Thus, any talks that Rosberg is having is for an extension beyond 2017, in other words from 2018 and beyond.

Jenson Button is definitely out of contract at the end of the current season, as is Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. It is not likely that there will be any changes at the two Red Bull teams because the Austrian drinks company does not not have any youngsters read for F1 at the moment. The only plausible candidate would be Pierre Gasly, and he has still not managed to win a race in GP2. In fact, he has not won a race since he was competing in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 in 2013, so there is no guarantee that Red Bull will keep him in the future, unless dramatic things start to happen this year.

Among the others who will be on the market are Romain Grosjean, while Renault will have at least one seat up for grabs. The most competitive car available is thus the second Ferrari and the signs are that Kimi Raikkonen could be retained. He is currently a point ahead of Sebastian Vettel on paper but that is not really a reflection of what has been happening on the race tracks. Ferrari, however, wants stability to help it get more competitive and Raikkonen is experienced and deemed to be “cool” by a percentage of the F1 fans around the world. The available choices are limited, but the names of Bottas, Ricciardo and Grosjean have all been mentioned. Ferrari does not generally take on drivers who have not won races, the last such hiring being Felipe Massa in 2006, and there were other reasons for that. The signs are that Kimi’s charmed F1 career will continue at Maranello.

If we assume stability at Red Bull, the next best cars would be the two Williamses, and these are both up for grabs. There has been talk for some time that Jenson Button might move to Williams to finish his career. In the past the team has generally gone for cheap youngsters and it does not have the budget to bid for the big names, but if a big name driver is willing to work cheaply, in order to stay on in F1, then the team would probably accept him. Bottas has nowhere to go at the moment and thus will probably re-sign with Williams. That could leave Felipe Massa looking for work. The latest suggestions in the Brazilian media is that Massa might be a good recruit for Renault, as his experience might help to build up the battered Enstone operation. It is clear that the team does not have huge amounts of cash, which is why it is doing deals with folk like Sergey Sirotkin, and a man with Massa’s experience might be a good idea.

The next in the pecking order is Force India and no change is envisaged there, beyond any fallout as yet unseen from Vijay Mallya’s messy situation. Toro Rosso was not seem to have many options while McLaren has too many with Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Stoffel Vandoorne all on the books.

63 thoughts on “Tittle-tattle about drivers

  1. Joe: Kimi’s continued employment by Ferrari continues to baffle me. A man who – all other things being equal – is usually *at least* a third of a second a lap slower than his team mate, I cannot understand why they seriously think *nobody* else in the paddock would be a better option – especially when the performance of Ricciardo over Vettel 2 years ago completely destroyed the notion that Sebastian was Senna reincarnated. So my question is, it would appear on the outside, that the main reason Kimi is retained is to keep Seb sweet. Is this how it appears to you? – and thanks once again, for a great, informative blog

    1. I think it serves Ferrari’s purpose. They typically have a number one driver. Vettel is that number one. Kimi is the de facto number two, even if they don’t come out and say it. Kimi is good enough, without being too good. Who else could they put in the car that wouldn’t create internal friction in the team?

      1. Because of that word “team” which you used yourself. F1 is not just about the drivers championship, it’s about the team championship as well. That is a greater priority to the team. Clearly, Raikonnen is not contributing many points towards that title – yet they still retain him. That begs the question – why? Why, when there are clearly some faster drivers out there who would score more points towards the team championship? That to me suggests that Raikonnen is retained for some other reason – that being simply because Vettel wants untroubled No.1 status. More accurately, he demands a soft no.2. Like he didn’t get at Red Bull.

      2. Their conservatism is probably why they haven’t lifted any championships for a while, unlike Red Bull who switched drivers to give them a better shot at both. It’s a more comfortable situation for Seb but lacks any real logic for the team.

    2. He beat Alonso and Hamilton in a worse car 2007. He is aging and is slow in quali yes but he is still a great driver and have the largest fan base.

      Seb and Kimi makes a perfect pairing and creates stability and a positive environment.
      Other driver pairing are like cat and dogs and it drains the teams.

    1. R.Shack
      Baffle? Yes .
      But when you blow away the baffling smoke screen. It’s all about Vettel being the No.1 Driver and the Ferrari team will revolve around him. Just like it did for Schumacher.
      Would Vettel prefer a Racer as a team mate that will give him a run for his money. Scupper his chances to shine…like Ricciardos did at Red Bull ?
      What Vettel wants is another Irvine or Barrichello or Massa (for a while before he turned the tables on Kimi). So better the guy who he sees for Sunday lunch plays Badminton with or generally tows the the Driver No.2 role.

      1. Isn’t it more a case of whether TR want him? After his awful performance at Monaco most would put him out on his ear. He now seems way over his head, and he only has himself to blame.

        1. That seems a bit harsh. I think it’s legitimate to say that Red Bull has destabilized him this year. Yeah, he’s young. He’s rough around the edges. But, we all acknowledge how important psyche and emotional stability is to drivers. It’s hard to blame Kvyat for being less-than-stable in the last couple races.

  2. Do you reckon Williams might take a punt on Alex Lynn alongside Bottas? As much as I love Button, I think he’s well into his twilight, and would much rather see another youngster with potential with a drive…

  3. Bring on the silly season.
    Let the madness bring forth the wild driver choices. Assume the agents of the drivers
    drop hints on muffled phone calls to all the media broadcasters and journalists.
    Reckon their should be an award for the most outlandish team / driver pairing for example
    ‘Jorda to Saucer’
    ‘Maldo to Ferrari’
    ‘Kimi to Renault’ even though he is still owed money from his Lotus contract.

  4. I can’t really see what Williams would gain by replace Massa with Button.
    Both have tons of experience, both are reaching the end of their careers.

    But none of them is likely to race for WDC. If Williams would go for a youngster I could understand, but not what Button has to offer over Massa.

    BTW, I like both of them and will be sad when they hang up their helmet.

    Joe, the Massa leaving Williams talks are getting louder. Do you know if this is a case of Massa wanting to leave or Williams wanting to change?

    Their relationship seems to be OK, so I’m puzzled why Massa would leave.
    And it’s not that Massa underperformed. Well, maybe he has, but then so has Bottas. In fact, Bottas has looked quite average recently. He certainly hasn’t “destroyed” Massa as has been predicted initially.

    So based on this, why would Williams let Massa go but not Bottas too?

    1. Does Massa still bring a pile of Brazilian cash with him? I’d imagine JB is more marketable to the sponsors, but if Williams need money…

      1. Actually, I believe that Massa is very valuable to the team’s sponsors. The only question is whether the economic problems in Brazil will change the situation

  5. Joe, thanks for your insight on this topic.
    May I please mention that I find it hard to reconcile a) the immense stresses reported in the Ferrari camp with b) the desire to retain Raikkonen. The Finn is pretty consistently a tick or two behind Vettel in terms of qualifying times and race pace…and Ricciardo is apparently available and is proven to be as quick or quicker than Vettel. Just a little mysterious to me.
    By the way, for a good laugh, Google “Arrivabene pressure” and you get all kinds of non-denial denials from the relevant parties in northern Italy…

  6. I’d like to see Jensen go back to Williams. There’s a kind of Karma to it, by book ending his career at the same iconic team

  7. Bianchi was said to drive for Ferrari in 2015, so I think, one needs to be a race winner or a Ferrari development driver like Bianchi and Massa who signed with Ferrari before with Sauber in 2001. But Barrichello and Irvine were not race winners when they joined Ferrari either…So Ferrari has changed?

      1. Re Bianchi to Ferrari in 2015
        But who was the decision-maker at Ferrari? Did he choose Jules because of Nicolas?

          1. Yes, it never happened so no-one chose anything. But, it was said that the heads of Ferrari were keen to sign Jules, and you suggested this “plan” was largely because of Nicolas, so why could Nicolas make all the difference in 2014? Friendship? His wife/uncle/… was one of the head?

  8. Frankly there isn’t likely to be much movement as there aren’t enough teams and seats and not enough clear ways for young drivers to emerge as possible stars these days. In the past a team manager could spot a driver in FF1600 or 2000, follow them in F3, maybe assist them to F2, and sign them after a year or two. Now the teams are so cash starved that they just sign up some rich kids in their prams and when they have 4 or 5, they have enough money to run the other 2 pay drivers for half a season before they do it over again! Of course the big teams, Merc, Ferrari, McLaren, RBR don’t need to do that yet, but everyone else seems to. The situation needs cheaper costs to get into F1, and availability of cars for teams to enter as single or multiple entries. Then there would be more seats and more talent would have chances.

  9. I think it’s time for Kimi Massa and Button to be shuffled out of F1. All of them are decent solid and reliable but those are not the qualities F1 should be looking for IMO. There are a number of exciting youngsters who Should be given a shot in one of the top seats. In fact that probably goes for Rosberg too.

    The top drives have become quite stagnant in recent years and it’s time for a freshen up of the podium places.

  10. I’m not sure Vettel has anywhere near as much clout as Alonso or Schumacher had during their times as No.1’s? Unless Seb’s deal was done with the previous management….

    If Ferrari are pandering to Vettel in terms of driver choice when they should be throwing all eyes at the vehicle development then they have not moved forward.

    However in recent years we must accept that the most effective way to run a team has been to have a clear no.1 and no.2. Trouble is, Ferrari currently have a far from effective no.2 and I’m starting to have concerns about their no.1 too..

    Dump Kimi he’s finished and sign 1 of Ricciardo, Grosjean, Sainz or Perez (except they didn’t rate the Mexican strongly enough to stop Mclaren signing him away in 2013 did they? ) Bottas has stagnated, discount both Nico’s as Marchionne can’t have 2 German’s in the team.

    Williams would be bonkers to replace Massa with Button. They would gain nothing in development/performance except a bit more UK press and possibly a new sponsor or two. Ah of course!!

  11. Whats with Perez? He has been driving really good after his McLaren stint, and he wasnt even so bad in McLaren, it was more car than driver that was at fault.

    He outperformed Hulkenberg, who i (used to) rate very highly, so he must be quite good?

  12. Quite why Ferrari continue to retain Raikonnen despite his lack of form just baffles me. Despite the odd flash of the Raikonnen of old he’s quite clearly slowed. Or is it the case that Vettel demands a soft team mate, which he found such difficulty getting whilst at Red Bull?

    1. Have you seen Venezuela on the news recently? Weird things happen in F1 sometimes, but I would be surprised if Pastor still still has access to a huge wad of dollars.

  13. In a more perfect world unencumbered by contracts, I would like to see Pascal Wehrlein and Carlos Sainz, Jr. at Williams next year. I hope that Felipe Massa, a long-time favorite of mine, will wind up in a good situation, as well. But, perhaps it’s time for Felipe to simply spend more time with his obviously-loved family and enjoy life.

  14. You can make your jibes about Kimi being “cool” but you can be sure as night follows day Kimi wouldn’t be seen dead with Justin f’n Beaver. I’ve never been so angry watching F1.

  15. Wonder why a top team does not go for Perez. He is doing a very good job at Fi and tends to manage his tyres well (although it may be a car characteristic which helps too). He has matured since his McLaren days and is beating the Le Mans winner Hulkenberg pretty consistently. Perez at Renault could be interesting. He and KMag.
    A tasty scenario would be Vettel and Rosberg at Ferrari & Lewis and Fernando at Merc with Stoffel and Button at McLaren. Ricciardo & Max at RB. Perez and Grosjean at Renault. Hulk and Pascal at Fi. Sainz & Kvyat at STR. A rebadged Sauber(read Alfa Romeo) with the same drivers. KMag & Ocon at Haas and Alex Lynn & a newcomer at Manor.

    1. Kevin driving for 2 teams at once?! Gosh he’s in demand!
      I’d love to see Lewis and Fernando go at it again. I have a feeling they would be just as close as they were in ’07. It won’t happen though!
      Strange rumour that Checo is going to sign for Ferrari in next few days. Mischievous stuff coming from Mexico.

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