Category Archives: Drivers and Teams

Toro Rosso sign Daniil Kvyat for 2014 season

In a surprise move, it has been announced that GP3 racer Daniil Kvyat will join Jean-Eric Vergne at the Toro Rosso team next season.

Only 19 years old, Kvyat has impressed in his debut year in GP3, so much so that he is only 7 points off the lead with one race weekend to go. His move to Toro Rosso appears to be a snub towards Antonio da Felix Costa, who was widely tipped to take the seat.

Also in contention was Carlos Sainz Jr, whose agents were seen in negotiations with Red Bull’s squad in recent months. However, the decision has been made to sign what will be the youngest driver in F1 history, unless Sergey Sirotkin races with Sauber next season.

Kvyat has previously performed well in Formula Renault 2.0 championships and this year’s European F3 series, but many would feel that he needs another year in GP3 or Formula Renault 3.5 to get used to top-tier motorsport. Nevertheless, it will be hugely interesting to see how such a young driver fares in a Red Bull-sponsored car. The last driver to do this with this much controversy over his age was Kimi Raikkonen…

Jules Bianchi to stay at Marussia for 2014 season

Jules Bianchi will continue to drive for the Marussia team in the 2014 season, the team confirmed today.

The Frenchman was tipped to be in contention for a Force India or Sauber drive, but has instead opted to stay put. He is only the second Marussia/Virgin driver not to be dropped in their first year since the team was formed in 2010.

He remains part of the Ferrari development programme, and seeing as Marussia will switch to Ferrari engines next year, Bianchi staying on board seemed to be a done deal.

Jules today praised the team, and stated he was hopeful for improvements into 2014:

"I couldn’t have wished for a more supportive environment in which to make my F1 
debut and from the very beginning I have always felt completely at home with the team.

We started the season very well and while the challenge has increased as the season 
has developed, we have learned important lessons together that will place us in a 
much stronger position next year when there are a lot of changes for the sport and 
the team to get used to."

 

Kimi Raikkonen to rejoin Ferrari in 2014

After months of speculation, it has finally been announced that Kimi Raikkonen is to rejoin the Ferrari team for the 2014 season.

The Finn has reportedly signed a 2-year contract, and will partner Fernando Alonso in the 2014 and 2015 campaigns. He replaces Felipe Massa, who served an 8-year stint with the team.

Despite being uncerimoniously booted out of the Scuderia 4 years ago, this move appeared to be inevitable over the last few days. With Massa’s departure yesterday, the stage was set for two world champions to be driving for Ferrari at the same time since Alberto Ascari and Nino Farina in 1953.

It is also understood that the Finn holds a 12-month “break” option in his contract, which may be used if his return to Ferrari doesn’t go as well as expected…

Felipe Massa confirms his departure from Ferrari

Felipe Massa has announced that he will not be driving for Ferrari after this season.

The Brazilian made his statement on his Twitter page this evening, all but confirming that Kimi Raikkonen is set to join the Scuderia, after departing in awkward circumstances back in 2009.

Massa has spent 8 years with the squad, serving as a supporting driver to Michael Schumacher in 2006, before partnering Raikkonen from 2007 onwards. In 2008 he mounted an impressive title challenge, but several unforced errors throughout the year saw him  pipped to the post at the very last race by Lewis Hamilton.

2009 saw his infamous accident at the Hungaroring, and he has never been the same since. A harsh team order at the Hockenheimring a year later crushed his morale further.

It is unknown what Massa will do now that he has left a top team. If he wishes to stay in F1, he may make a drop to a midfield team, like Sauber, who he made his debut with back in 2002.

2014 driver market: A look at the remaining places

Even with Daniel Ricciardo’s signing to Red Bull, the F1 2014 silly season hasn’t gotten any less silly. With the most unpredictable driver movements in years, I’m fully expecting more surprises to come before the end of this year.

It’s astoundingly early for me to be writing something like this, but with so many changes around the corner, it seems that the teams want everything to be sorted prior to the chaotic 2014 season. Let’s have a look at the teams and their driver choices (or options) for next year:

Red Bull

Certain: Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo

Is Red Bull’s new driver a breath of fresh air, or another failed attempt to rival Sebastian Vettel? The on-track and politics play will be fascinating to watch, as both drivers will be pushed to prove themselves.

Ricciardo expects to be performing close to Vettel by “mid-season” next year. It’s a brave statement, but with the pace we’ve seen in the last 3 years, it’s not out of the question.

Sebastian, meanwhile, will be doing his best to rally the team around him, to ensure his status as 3 (or 4)-time champion will be respected. I can’t see anyone other than Vettel doing better next year, so it’s just a matter of what margin is between them.

Ferrari

(Almost) certain: Fernando Alonso

Possible: Nico Hulkenberg, Kamui Kobayashi, Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa

Outside chance: Jules Bianchi

It would be a huge shock if Fernando Alonso were to move teams, but rumours of a switch with Kimi Raikkonen are still doing the rounds. But this is extremely unlikely – he has all the support he needs at the Scuderia, the only variable is their technical proficiency for their 2014 car.

His future teammate provokes a much more interesting debate though. Hulkenberg and Kobayashi both possess capable speed, and also would not be able to threaten Alonso’s #1 status, to his relief. Felipe Massa is the safer option, but if Ferrari ever want to even challenge for the constructor’s championship, they’ll have to do better than a has-been.

Running Kimi Raikkonen has been predicted by many, but this would go against Ferrari’s long-standing tradition of having one top driver, and one supporting driver. Having Kimi and Fernando on the same team risks destabilising the team, and I don’t think it’s worth the (potential) rewards.

Jules Bianchi is undoubtedly making noises at their upper management, but it doesn’t make sense for him to be racing at a top team just yet. One year in a team like Sauber or Force India would be better for his development.

Mercedes

Certain: Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg

Is Mercedes’ line-up the strongest on the grid? It seems to be the case this year, but depending on Ferrari’s or Lotus’ movements, it may not be the case in 2014.

There’s not too much else to say – Hamilton seems to have the edge on Rosberg, but both seem to be keeping good relations with each other, which is excellent for team stability. I doubt we’ll see any driver changes here for a few years.

Lotus

Possible: Kimi Raikkonen, Romain Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg, Paul di Resta, Adrian Sutil, Valtteri Bottas,

Outside chance: Pastor Maldonado, Sergio Perez, Jules Bianchi

Many of you will be surprised I named so many drivers, but there’s a reason for each of them being there. Much of it depends on the decision of Kimi Raikkonen.

If he stays, Lotus are free to choose whatever up-and-coming driver they like, with few issues. There’s plenty to be nominated here – Hulkenberg, the Force India drivers, Bottas, or maybe even Jules Bianchi. Take your pick.

If he leaves, the team will require someone new with technical knowledge and experience. Hulkenberg, Di Resta and Sutil are again nominations here, but there’s a vast range of older drivers that can be chosen, and way too many to be listed here.

However, it must also be noted that Lotus have overspent in recent years, with not enough FIA prize money to make up the difference. If this proves to be a problem, Pastor Maldonado’s massive paycheck may turn out to be the deciding factor. It must be said though, lining him up with Romain Grosjean would be a disaster for Turn 1 marshals everywhere.

McLaren

Probable: Jenson Button, Sergio Perez

Outside chance: Nico Hulkenberg, Paul di Resta

While both Jenson Button and Sergio Perez are contracted through to 2014, both they and the team hold options to cancel the contract. It is unlikely either driver will execute this – Button has little to no chance of moving to a faster team, while Perez surely wishes to develop more at the team.

In the strange scenario where either driver left, a promising midfield driver would be waiting to take their place. Hulkenberg and Di Resta are the standard choices here.

Sauber

Probable: Sergey Sirtokin

Possible: Jules Bianchi, Robin Frijns, Stoffel Vandoorne, Kevin Magnussen

I don’t approve of Sirtokin being promoted to F1 this early, but it’s not my call to make. Sauber have gained financial stability with this deal, and if it keeps them afloat, then in the long run it’s the correct call for the team. Sergey’s drive still depends on an FIA superlicense, but this shouldn’t prove to be an issue.

Their choice of second driver gives them plenty of options. McLaren may push their two young drivers – Magnussen and Vandoorne – through the ranks of F1, and it wouldn’t harm the Hinwil-based squad, seeing as they are so highly rated.

Otherwise, Robin Frijns is still hounding teams for an F1 seat, but his sponsor issues will cause massive issues with a team like Sauber. Other GP2 drivers like Marcus Ericsson are an option, but we haven’t heard any rumours yet. Again, Jules Bianchi may make a step up the ladder, more than likely tied into a Ferrari engine deal as part of a package deal.

Force India

Probable: James Calado, Paul di Resta, Adrian Sutil

Possible: Robin Frijns, Sam Bird

While Di Resta and Sutil are reliable options, the hiring of James Calado for FP1 sessions this year is surely a statement of intent from Force India. Which of these three gets the two race seats is subject to much speculation.

It must also be noted that Force India and Mercedes are continuing their technical partnership, and this may possibly involve drivers as well. Sam Bird tested for Mercedes previously, and he may make the step up to F1 through FI.

Toro Rosso

Possible: Antonio Felix da Costa, Carlos Sainz Jr, Jean-Eric Vergne

Outside chance: Stefano Coletti

While Vergne has been promised a drive by Toro Rosso for next year, he would do well to not trust this – see Jaime Alguersuari for more information.

Antonio Felix da Costa and Carlos Sainz Jr. are both highly rated youngsters, either of which would make a fine addition to the squad. Both drivers have been seen in negotiations with the team, and I expect to see at least one of them in F1 in 2014.

Stefano Coletti is a former member of the Red Bull young driver programme, and his current GP2 performances might convince Toro Rosso to hire him, but it’s a long shot.

Williams

Probable: Valtteri Bottas

Possible: Pastor Maldonado,  Daniel Juncadella

Outside chance: Robin Frijns

While Bottas has impressed me massively in his debut year so far, it makes no sense for him to move up the ladder this early. Another year of development with Williams is the most sensible option for the Finn.

Pastor Maldonado’s future depends on an ivory checkbook as usual, and whether PDVSA will continue to fund his racing is still unclear at this point. His main rival for the seat would be Daniel Juncadella, who tested for the team last year. What sponsorship he brings to the table is unknown.

Caterham

Probable: Charles Pic, Alexander Rossi, Heikki Kovalainen

Possible: Giedo van der Garde, Will Stevens

Despite being a backmarker team, Caterham are spending an unusually large of money to move up the field, so drivers bringing sponsorship are to be expected at this point.

Heikki Kovalainen’s refusal to become a pay driver may hurt his chances, but he’s still a solid driving talent. Otherwise, Alexander Rossi might move up from the Caterham GP2 team, or Will Stevens might impress the team enough from his performances in FR3.5.

Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde may be kept on, but all cards are still on the table at this point.

Marussia

Possible: Jules Bianchi, Robert Wickens, Tio Ellinas, many GP2 drivers

Outside chance: Max Chilton, Rodolfo Gonzalez, Raffaele Marciello, Daniel Zampieri, Mirko Bortolotti

For Jules Bianchi to stay at Marussia for another year would be a disappointment, but if he can’t find another drive, it’ll have to do. Test drivers Robert Wickens and Tio Ellinas may also be considered for a drive, and these rumours have been further encouraged by their participation at the Young Drivers Test for Marussia.

Of course, slower pay drivers may be required to keep the team afloat. If this is the case, Max Chilton may be called upon again for a second year, or he may be switched out for Rodolfo Gonzalez, although his performances in GP2 last year don’t inspire much confidence. Many of the drivers in GP2 this year may be able to muster up some sponsorship, depending on how well they perform in the last 3 races of their season.

With an engine deal with Ferrari in place, they may opt to tie in a driver as part of their deal. Raffaele Marciello, Daniel Zampieri and Mirko Bortolotti are all nominations here, seeing as they are all part of Ferrari’s promising young driver academy, although Marcielli is probably too young for a seat at this stage.

Daniel Ricciardo confirmed as Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull teammate for 2014

After months of speculation, Red Bull have finally unveilved Daniel Ricciardo as the man to partner Sebastian Vettel next year.

This means that the Red Bull team fully consists of drivers that have been nurtured through their own driver programme. Vettel joined the team after success with Toro Rosso in 2007 and 2008, and Ricciardo will be under huge pressure to deliver similar results.

Daniel’s contract with the team has only been described as a “multi-year deal”. Regardless, team principal Christian Horner has expressed his pleasure at signing the young Australian:

"It's fantastic to confirm Daniel as the team’s race driver for 2014. He’s a very 
talented youngster, he’s committed, he’s got a great attitude and in the end it 
was a very logical choice for us to choose Daniel. He joined the Red Bull Junior 
Team in 2008 and we’ve seen in his junior career in Formula 3 and Renault World 
Series that he’s capable of winning races and championships. He’s stood out in 
each of these categories and we’ve followed his progress with great interest. 
He’s got all the attributes that are required to drive for our team: he’s got a 
great natural ability, he’s a good personality and a great guy to work with. 
Daniel knows what the team expects from him; he’ll learn quickly and it’s very 
much a medium to long term view that we’re taking in developing him. The seat 
within the team is a wonderful opportunity and I think he’s going to be a big 
star of the future."

Ricciardo managed to fend off world champions Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen to the most hotly-contested race seat of the 2014 season, despite having only joined the sport less than 3 years ago, as a draft-in driver for the defunct HRT squad.

Webber’s departure is disappointing but inevitable – and the WEC suits him perfectly

Mark Webber’s departure from Formula 1 will leave many fans disappointed. His honesty and frankness are rarely seen by drivers these days, and he will leave big shoes to fill in the Red Bull garage. But it would be naive to say we didn’t see this coming – Webber’s growing animosity towards Red Bull, and F1 as a whole, has been steadily growing for several years now.

While he can occasionally decimate the entire field, in far too many races this year has Mark been lacklustre and generally poor compared to teammate Sebastian Vettel. He has been the subject of favouritism arguments with both team boss Christian Horner and Helmut Marko across the years, often stemming from him and Sebastian’s on-track antics. This year’s Malaysian Grand Prix debacle only distanced himself further from management, who the Ausssie has always felt has shown more support towards the other side of the garage.

It is clear that Webber dislikes Vettel as a teammate – overlooking the pace issue, Mark must be psychologically hurt from the preferential treatment that Sebastian has received over the years. With this, departure from Red Bull was always a certainty, it was just a matter of when.

Unfortunately, it is also apparent that the current formula of F1 does not cater to the 35-year-old. Strategic, tactical racing and planning has been the name of the game in recent years, which is a huge contrast compared to fuel-dependent power runs when Webber first entered the sport. One style of racing isn’t intrinsically better than the other, but we all know which suits him better.

To make matters worse, even if next year’s tech changes suit Mark’s style of driving more, there would be little purpose to it. After 13 years in the sport, it is likely that he has grown tired of playing second fiddle – intentionally or by sheer pace – and there would be no point to spending another year doing exactly what he did in the previous seasons.

Moving to another team for a single team was out of the question as well. Mercedes, McLaren and probably Ferrari are full up for next year, so Webber would have had to take a huge drop down the grid to keep racing. After so many seasons, what would have been the point?

With this in mind, the World Endurance Championship seems right down his street. Racing stints are decided not by tyre degradation or tactical positioning, they are decided by raw pace and sheer bravery. Not to say that F1 doesn’t have these qualities, but it’s reflected more in modern endurance racing.

Webber will be joining a team with massive historical presence in endurance racing, not least 16 victories in the glorious Le Mans race. Porsche will suit Mark to the bone – no inter-team squabbles, just clean, proper racing like he’s always wanted. I’ll be watching the WEC next year with huge interest next year, knowing that we might just see the Mark Webber of old.

Mark Webber to leave F1 for Porsche WEC programme in 2014

2013 will be Red Bull driver Mark Webber’s final year in the sport, as he moves to Porsche’s World Endurance Championship squad for the 2014 season.

The Australian has struggled relative to teammate Sebastian Vettel in recent years, frequently citing favouritism as a catalyst for conflict within the team. Several spats between the two drivers have emerged – most recently being the Malaysian Grand Prix debacle – and Webber has decided to give up on the sport without a world championship in hand.

Regarding his move to Porsche, Webber has said:

"It’s an honour for me to join Porsche at its return to the top category in Le Mans 
and in the sports car World Endurance Championship and be part of the team. Porsche 
has written racing history as a manufacturer and stands for outstanding technology 
and performance at the highest level. I’m very much looking forward to this new 
challenge after my time in Formula 1.

Porsche will undoubtedly set itself very high goals. I can hardly wait to pilot 
one of the fastest sports cars in the world."

Interestingly, no quotes from Red Bull have been supplied from the team just yet.

Mark previously raced in the Le Mans race of 1999 with Mercedes, but a spectacular flip and crash resulted in him pulling out and switching to Formula 1.

He has spent the last few years in the fastest car on the F1 grid, but a cavalcade of problems – poor starts, KERS issues, team conflicts, as well as a general dislike for where the sport is moving – meant that his departure was an inevitability.

Regardless of his disappointments in recent years, the F1 paddock will sorely miss Mark. His straight-forwardness attitude won him many fans over the years, and the sport now lacks a driver who is always willing to speak his mind.

It also opens the floodgates of rumours about who will take his place at Red Bull for next year. Without trying to get into too much speculation at this early stage, I would suggest that Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg would be the initial candidates.

Heikki Kovalainen to drive for Caterham in Bahrain and Spain practice sessions

After only 3 races out of the cockpit, former Caterham driver Heikki Kovalainen will drive for the team in the next two race weekends in the practice sessions.

He will take the place of Alexander Rossi, who was originally set to drive in these sessions. Kovalainen will drive in Giedo van der Garde’s car for FP1 and possibly FP2 for both race weekends.

Caterham say the reason for the switch is because of Rossi’s move to the Caterham GP2 team, replacing Ma Qing Hua. However, seeing as Heikki was originally dropped because of financial reasons, rumours are growing that the Finn is preparing a comeback with his former team.

Bianchi ousts Razia at Marussia for 2013

In a surprise move, it has been announced that Luiz Razia has already been dropped by the Marussia team for the 2013 season, despite not having even turned a wheel in the new car.

It appears as if one of Razia’s sponsors failed to come through on a payment to the Marussia team, and after over a week of hushed rumours around the paddock, Luiz has been ousted before the season has even begun. The young Brazilian had completed 23 days on his contract before today.

He has been replaced by Jules Bianchi, who only yesterday had lost out to Adrian Sutil on the Force India second driver seat. Bianchi comes with Ferrari backing, meaning that Marussia are in a good position to receive Ferrari engines for the 2014 season, if Cosworth do not renew their contract.

Despite the shock move, Razia was adamant that he deserved his spot in the team, and valiantly vowed to fight his way back into F1:

"I'm in a kind of shock, because you expect to be in F1, you are there, announced, 
testing, and then you are out - and not because of a driver fault. I did everything 
right in what I could do, but it was really just a circumstantial thing that happened, 
and that was it.

But I still am here. My career is still shining and I can overcome this difficult 
situation. It is just something that has happened to me. Sometimes life does this 
to you.

My main goal is to be in F1, so all my effort is there. I am now without any grounds, 
but I will go with my family, and we will be sad for a while, but I will get back to 
the category."

 

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