Felipe Massa, who has been a Ferrari driver for 8 seasons, announced on his Twitter account that he won’t be driving for Ferrari from the 2014 season. On the next day as expected, Ferrari announced Kimi Räikkönen to be Fernando Alonso’s team mate for the next two seasons. This leaves Felipe Massa without a drive and leaves an empty seat at Lotus for the 2014 season.
There are many big questions on the air as the silly season is literally going silly. Plenty of drivers are interested in the Lotus drive, and Felipe Massa himself has stated that he wants to continue his career in a competitive car, so he could fight for victories and championship titles. Lotus seems to be the only realistic chance for Massa in a competitive car as there are no seats to be filled on the bigger teams. Red Bull has chosen Daniel Ricciardo to replace Mark Webber, while Mercedes seems to be happy with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg duo. McLaren would be a possible option as the team has always bounced back to the top after difficult times and the team has expressed their interest in Massa in the past, but everything depends on Jenson Button’s and Sergio Perez’s future. Button has indicated many times that he will continue with McLaren, but there has been rumors around suggesting that Button wants to take a year off from F1. Button himself seems to be motivated, and it seems Perez will also continue with the team for another year. Force India could be another possible place for Massa as the car is often quite competitive, but Force India is a team yet to win a race. It can also be difficult for Massa to enter Lotus as the team needs money and Massa won’t be a cheap driver and most probably he is not going to bring big sponsors to the team. If Massa can’t find a competitive drive in F1, the move for another series is possible. The Brazilian has also indicated that the DTM series could be a possible option for his future.
Another driver who will certainly be looking for the Lotus drive is Nico Hülkenberg. Lotus’ team principal Eric Boullier has admitted the team is in talks with both Massa and Hülkenberg and basically with “all the drivers available”. Hülkenberg was very close to get the Ferrari drive and the German would have been the choice for the Italian team if Räikkönen’s decision was different. Hülkenberg will leave Sauber after the end of the season, as the team is in a financial trouble and is going to promote a young Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin for the race drive, if the youngster can obtain a super licence. Hülkenberg is a very talented driver, but is also someone who seems to have a tough luck with his (Team) choices and he is certainly looking for a team where he can be sure about competitiveness and for getting paid on time. If the German can’t get the Lotus seat, it wouldn’t be impossible for him to go back to Force India where he spent two years, before his much debated move to Sauber. Esteban Gutierrez meanwhile is likely to continue with the Sauber team for another year as he has important Mexican sponsorships behind him.
Massa and Hülkenberg are both competitive options for Lotus, but there are plenty of other choices too. Even though Lotus’ big star Kimi Räikkönen moves back to Ferrari for the next season, there is still something Räikkönen’s manager Steve Robertson could bring to the team for help. Lotus needs money, and a young driver with talent and sponsorships would be an answer. Robertson has this answer, as Brazilian Felipe Nasr who competes in the GP2 Series this season is part of his management. Nasr has showed maturity during his career and he rarely makes mistakes. He would be a good choice for Lotus as he has plenty of big sponsors from Brazil, including Banco do Brasil, SKY and OGX. Banco do Brasil and SKY seem to be ready to help Nasr move forward in his career. Nasr has got support from Bernie Ecclestone’s side too, as Ecclestone really would like to see Nasr in Formula 1 and has stated that he needs a Brazilian driver to the series. It would be very smart from Robertson if he manages to bring Nasr to Lotus for a couple of reasons, He moved his star driver back to Ferrari and that way he could make space for his rising star. Robertson’s contacts with Lotus are very high, so it could be possible to get the drive for Nasr if the team is interested in a young and talented driver.
It seems very likely that Lotus will continue with Romain Grosjean for another season and the French driver will be important for the team in the future, if Renault is going to make a stronger partnership with Lotus for the next season. It would surely please Renault if there was a French driver in the team, and keeping Grosjean would also keep the French oil company Total with the team. Lotus’ third driver, Italian GP2 champion Davide Valsecchi is still a question mark and could be another possible choice for the second Lotus drive. The minus side is that there isn’t much testing possibilities available these days, and Valsecchi has basically spent a year without racing, which means it can be difficult to get into the car. On the other hand, the rule changes for 2014 mean that there will be something new to learn for all the drivers on the grid.
In general Steve Robertson has played fair play with Räikkönen’s new Ferrari deal. When Räikkönen was out from the talks with Red Bull (and when Red Bull basically made their decision to promote Ricciardo for the available seat), Robertson admitted honestly that Red Bull is not an option anymore. Finnish F1 commentator and journalist Oskari Saari also revealed on Finnish TV that in order to get in talks with Kimi, Luca di Montezemolo had to apologize personally to the Finn for what happened back in 2009. Fair play, and now Ferrari is going to have the strongest line up on the Formula 1 grid with two world champions who have been rivals for years.
We are living in interesting times now in Formula 1 as the driver market will still continue crazy, even though Räikkönen’s Ferrari move was finally confirmed. It’s possible we need to wait for some driver decisions for months, and it will be very difficult for teams to make their decisions as there are plenty of drivers available, not to forget that there are also some drivers from GP2 and Formula Renault 3.5 who are looking forward to get a possible seat from F1. Also, Ferrari’s new line up will certainly be one of the most interesting things to look forward in the 2014 season.
How will Räikkönen and Alonso get along in a same team?
Both are professional racing drivers and the challenge will be huge for both of them. It’s quite a new situation for both, but if something is sure, Räikkönen and Alonso will get the best out of each other, because both are probably the best racing drivers to exist today.
by: Sini Salminen