Category Archives: News Articles

Who should replace Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus?

The unfortunate news that Kimi Raikkonen is to undergo back surgery has opened up an interesting source of debate in the F1 paddock.

With such few races left on the calendar, there are a raft of drivers who are desperate to get into a competitive race seat. Some of these are current F1 drivers, while some were out of luck for 2013. Let’s have a look at some of Lotus’ options for Austin and Interlagos…

Davide Valsecchi

Valsecchi is the go-to choice for Kimi’s replacement. As reserve driver of Lotus, he knows the team well, and would be more comfortable than anyone else in the garage.

As well as this, he has never actually been given the chance to properly race an F1 car, despite winning last year’s GP2 title. The fact that he was immediately signed to Lotus surely means they recognise his talents.

However, the aforementioned lack of F1 experience means that the chances of him doing well in Austin and Interlagos are pitiful. If he were to be recruited, it would be for the sake of testing him for a 2014 seat – and with Hulkenberg and Maldonado knocking at Lotus’ door, that looks unlikely.

Nico Hulkenberg

Desperate for a competitive drive for next year, Hulkenberg would surely be willing to drop Sauber’s uncompetitive C32 for an E21, even for just two weeks.

The fact that he currently drives for the Hinwil squad is not an issue, oddly enough. His contract with the team expired in the summer, and has been racing for them since without any legal agreements tying him to the team. This means that he has the option of jumping ship at any time.

The disadvantage to that is that if Nico is rejected for a 2014 seat by Lotus or Force India, then he may find himself out of luck trying to reapply to Sauber. Despite the obvious opportunity ahead of him, Hulkenberg would to well to play it safe.

Pastor Maldonado

Fans will cringe at this option, but if this is the situation for Hulkenberg, then it is the same for Pastor Maldonado.

The Venezuelan brings up to $30m in petrodollars, which is nothing to be sniffed at by a team with visible financial troubles. While this applies mostly to next season, PDVSA may be willing to pay Lotus forward (partially) if they trial him at Austin. While this is only speculation, you can’t deny that this isn’t an option for the firm.

On the other hand, Maldonado is known for his lack of technical expertise, which would hurt a team that is still developing its car to fight for 2nd in the constructor’s championship.

I doubt many want to see money take priority over driver talent, but with the dire financial situation Formula 1 finds itself in, it would be wrong of us to ignore the issue.

Heikki Kovalainen

A surprise nomination for some, but the Finn may bring benefits to Lotus that no other driver does.

Kovalainen obviously brings many years of F1 experience to the table, which puts him ahead of Davide Valsecchi in that depertment. In fact, he has raced for this very team before, back in 2007 when they were still known as Renault.

The issue with Hulkenberg and Maldonado is that both carry the “expectation” of a 2014 seat if they perform well in the next two races. Heikki carries no such burden – just 2 solid races, and he’s back off to harass Caterham for the second year running. He’s not exactly a slouch either, so he would be a solid bet if Lotus were to prioritise the constructor’s championship.

Who do you think should have the Lotus race seat? Over to you:

Surgery rules Raikkonen out of final two races of 2013 season

Kimi Raikkonen is to miss the final 2 races of the 2013 season due to a back injury, his management have confirmed today.

The Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat have reported the news today, and was soon confirmed by Sky Sports. Raikkonen previously complained of back pain during the Singapore Grand Prix, due to the bumpy nature of the track.

This means that his appearance for Lotus at last week’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was his last for the team. Unfortunately, it ended at the first corner, in a clash with Giedo van der Garde.

He will undergo an operation on his injury next week. Is is currently unknown who his replacement will be, although reserve driver and 2012 GP2 champion Davide Valsecchi is the current favourite.

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…

New Jersey, Mexico and Sochi all on 22-race 2014 provisional calendar

The latest version of the 2014 F1 calendar has been released by the FIA. Most notable is the inclusion of the New Jersey Grand Prix, which had previously been dropped due to financial issues.

A highly anticipated return to Mexico appears to still be on the cards, with the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez looking set to host a race from next year onwards. However, veteran fans will be disappointed to see that the legendary Curva Peraltada corner will not be run in its original glory, with a slower entry to the banked curve being planned. Regardless, the Mexcian race looks set to take place on the 14th-16th November, serving as the penultimate race to the 2014 season.

The more controversial Russian Grand Prix is also penned in, for the 3rd-5th of October. Costs have spiralled at the Sochi circuit, though, inflating from €140m to €260m.

Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz will be pleased to see the Red Bull Ring – formerly the A1 Ring, or Österreichring before that – serving as the starting point for the second half of the European season. The first half, featuring Catalunya and Monaco, are pushed back due to the inclusion of the North American section of the calendar, featuring New Jersey and Canada.

Despite huge concerns over the pit lane being too small, the New Jersey race is still on, according to the FIA and FOM at least, Finally, it should be noted that the Korean Grand Prix is listed as being “provisional”, seeing as it has failed to attract as much interest in the region as anticipated.

Provisional F1 calendar 2014:

16th March – Melbourne, Australia
30th March – Sepang, Malaysia
6th April – Sakhir, Bahrain
20th April – Shanghai, China
27th April – Yeongham, Korea (provisional)
11th May – Circuit de Catalunya, Spain
25th May – Monaco
1st June – New Jersey (provisional + *)
8th June – Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Canada
22nd June – Red Bull Ring, Austria
6th July – Silverstone, Britain
20th July – Hockenheimring, Germany
27th July – Hungaroring, Hungary
24th August – Spa, Belgium
7th September – Monza, Italy
21st September – Singapore
5th October – Sochi, Russia
12th October -Suzuka, Japan
26th October – Abu Dhabi
9th November – Circuit of the Americas, Austin
16th November – Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico (provisional + *)
30th November – Interlagos, Brazil

* = Subject to circuit approval by Charlie Whiting and FIA

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.

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.

Daniel Ricciardo set to be confirmed for Red Bull at Spa

It is almost certain that Daniel Ricciardo will be confirmed as Red Bull’s replacement for Mark Webber next season.

In the last few days, Kimi Raikkonen’s manager, Steve Robertson, has stated that negotiations with Red Bull ended some time ago, and were not successful. As well as this, Sport Bild are reporting that Riccardo has been selected as Sebastian Vettel’s teammate for next season.

Both Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso were both in the running for the last Red Bull seat, but negotiations with Kimi fell through, while it is still unclear what the situation is with Fernando.

With both world champion drivers out of the running, all we wait for now is the confirmation of Riccardo’s arrival. Motorsport chief Helmut Marko has said that no statement will be made until the Belgian Grand Prix weekend: “We will make no announcement until Spa. I cannot say anymore on this.”

2013 half-way driver rankings: 22nd – 14th

As I do every 6 months, I rank this year’s F1 drivers and their performances so far this season.

This first part will rank the drivers from 22nd place all the way up to 14th. Let’s start with a driver who has had more than a few moments of criticism:

22nd – Max Chilton

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote: N/A

Perhaps it’s a little unfair to view Chilton as only a pay driver – some decent wins in GP2 confirm that he’s a competent driver, but at this level he is simply outperformed week after week.

In all instances where both Marussia cars finish a race, Max is beaten by Jules Bianchi on every occasion. He is more than half a second off his teammate in qualifying, and rarely shows any promise in the races.

It is extremely difficult for Caterham and Marussia drivers to show talent in their own little tussle at the back of the field, but it’s still clear that there are many drivers waiting in the wings that are better than Chilton.

21st – Esteban Gutierrez

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote: N/A

Many fans were disappointed to see Kamui Kobayashi forced out of a Sauber drive, and weren’t any less pleased when they saw his replacement. So far, Esteban Gutierrez hasn’t shown a single commendable performance so far in his F1 career.

I don’t expect him to outperform Nico Hulkenberg on many occasions, but the only time he has done so – the Spanish Grand Prix – was when Hulkenberg was forced to pit six times. Aside from this, Esteban has failed to score a single point, and is almost a second slower in terms of qualifying lap times.

Considering how much Nico struggles in the 2013 Sauber, it is unlikely that we will see drastic improvement from Gutierrez any time soon. But that could call time on his F1 career rather quickly – Robin Frijns is threatening to break onto the F1 scene, and if he can amass some decent finance, Esteban will be out of a job before he knows it.

20th – Felipe Massa

Previous ranking: 8th

Previous quote: “In the last few races, Massa has been superb. 10 points-scoring finishes in a row is well deserved.”

Sometimes I feel that praising Massa is pointless – every time he performs well for a few weeks, he promptly falls off a cliff and crashes into anything solid for months to come. For Ferrari to hold onto him for 2014 would be a travesty for potential world champions across the F1 grid.

His two retirements this year have been not only his fault, but embarrassing to watch as well. After two similar shunts into the wall at Monaco, he somehow managed to spin away from the first corner at the Nurburgring, on only lap 4 of the race. Much like the other drivers at the back end of the rankings, he has failed to beat his teammate in a single race in 2013.

There is absolutely no reason for him to be retained at one of the top Formula 1 teams. There is a cavalcade of drivers – Hulkenberg, Riccardo, Perez, Sutil, Grosjean, Bottas, Bianchi, Frijns, Da Costa, Vandoorne – that would be able to perform a supporting role to Fernando Alonso better than what Felipe is currently doing.

It seems that both Massa and his dwindling number of supporters are still living in the past, convincing themselves that the 2008 season can be repeated. But the sport has moved on, and so should Ferrari.

19th – Giedo van der Garde

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote: N/A

Faced with the unpopular stigma of bringing sponsorship money to secure his F1 drive, Giedo van der Garde has performed decently enough in a car miles off the midfield pace.

Qualifying an excellent 15th on the grid for Monaco, and finishing there, did his reputation no problems whatsoever. Another 14th-placed finish in Hungary is Caterham’s joint best finishing position so far in 2013. Having said that, his teammate Charles Pic certainly has the overall edge on the Dutchman. Pic has out-qualified and out-raced Giedo more often this year, and therefore Van der Garde is looking less likely to hold his seat into 2014.

Another few performances like Monaco would more than likely secure his drive for next year. But that’s easier said than done – the Caterham is increasingly slow compared to teams like Williams and Toro Rosso, and breaking into Q2 looks less and less likely after every race weekend. Van der Garde certainly has a challenge on his hands.

18th – Pastor Maldonado

Previous ranking: 15th

Previous quote: “A brilliant win in Spain was marred by needless collisions and constant penalties [later in 2012]. After that, a 9-race streak without points fuelled rumours that Pastor wasn’t fast without aggression.”

Aside from a spin in Melbourne, Pastor’s crashing record in 2013 is surprisingly clear. But unfortunately there isn’t much else to say about his year, as he’s struggling to hold off rookie teammate Valtteri Bottas.

A single points-scoring finish isn’t much to report about either, since it came from the late retirement of Nico Rosberg in Hungary. Compared to Bottas, their performances are relatively close – Maldonado is beaten in terms of qualifying positions, but certainly has the edge in the races.

Considering the massive paychecks that PDVSA are throwing at Williams every year, Maldonado’s drives aren’t exactly setting the world on fire. But they could do a lot worse in terms of driver-picking, and now that he seems to have settled down a little, an interesting fight with Bottas is on the cards for the rest of 2013.

17th – Charles Pic

Previous ranking: 16th

Previous quote: “Pic is definitely a driver to look out for in the future.”

Considering that his move from Marussia to Caterham looks increasingly like a sideways step, Charles Pic hasn’t done too bad a job in 2013.

More often than not, he leads Giedo van der Garde in qualifying and races, and has a decent 14th-placed finish in Malaysia as well. There’s not too much to be said after that – Pic and Van der Garde can only drive so well with such a slow car. Still, Pic certainly deserves to be retained for 2014, if he can keep up his current form.

16th – Jules Bianchi

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote: N/A

After cutting short Luiz Razia’s 0-race F1 career out of sheer luck, Jules Bianchi has performed superbly well in 2013 with the sub-par machinery he is dealt with.

As expected, he has crushed Max Chilton in every qualifying session and race where possible. A 13th-placed finish in Malaysia is Marussia’s best finish of 2013, and is even able to out-drive Giedo van der Garde when the car lets him.

Such is his commendable performances that Ferrari are eyeing him up, not for a jump to the Scuderia just yet, but to have him mature in a midfield team before having him possibly partner Fernando Alonso. In fact, Bianchi’s drives this year are almost comparable to Alonso’s year with Minardi in 2001. All Jules needs is a brilliant performance in Suzuka, and his career’s all set to take off.

15th – Valtteri Bottas

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote: N/A

As much as I was pleased by his excellent qualifying in Canada, there haven’t been many other brilliant drives from Valtteri Bottas so far this year. But when you consider he’s only 10 races into his Formula 1 career, his out-driving of Pastor Maldonado is all the more impressive.

Taking 3rd on the Canadian Grand Prix grid, only behind Vettel and Hamilton, cannot be understated. Unfortunately, the Williams car gave him no pace that Sunday, and not a single point has been earned by the young Finn so far in 2013. Much of it is down to the car, as seen by Maldonado only scraping a single point out of good luck in Hungary.

The question is how much more Bottas can improve before hitting the limit of the Williams team. It remains to be seen how much the Fw35 can improve over the summer break, and this may make or break Valtteri’s 2013 campaign. Despite what many would like to believe, drivers can only do so much when they are held back by sub-par machinery.

But at the very least, Bottas has been a competent and superior replacement to Bruno Senna. That much is enough to earn him praise.

14th – Romain Grosjean

Previous ranking: 14th

Previous quote: “Three decent podiums, as well as nearly winning a race, shows that he is talented enough to mix it at the front. The issue is whether he has the confidence to do that any more.”

I’d have loved to be able to praise Grosjean’s excellent Hungarian Grand Prix win, laud him as a future world champion, and leave it at that. Unfortunately, this is Romain Grosjean, and a screw-up was almost mandatory. After botching a probable win, Romain has some serious explaining to do if he is to remain at Lotus for 2013.

There’s no doubt that Romain hasn’t shaken off the “crash kid” stigma just yet. A needless clash with Jenson Button in Hungary showed that after almost three years in F1, he still hasn’t learned the dimensions of his own car, never mind how to navigate it around someone else’s. With someone like Kimi Raikkonen as a teammate, Lotus need to sit back and judge whether having someone like Grosjean as a teammate is even necessary. While the Finn has 134 points to his name, Romain has only 49, as a result of his own incompetentness.

He has extremely good pace when he’s on form, we already know this. Both the Bahrain and German Grands Prix saw calculated, cool driving from the Frenchman, and combined with some searing pace from the Lotus E21, earned him two well-deserved podiums. But his atrocious spatial awareness does his reputation no good whatsoever – just look at his hilariously bad Monaco Grand Prix weekend to see what I’m on about.

Yes, he’s a fast driver, but that means absolutely nothing without the mental capacity to not bin the car every second race. As I said before, Lotus need to have a good long think about whether a driver like Grosjean is required for a team that’s aiming for consistent finishes and the constructor’s championship.

Austrian Grand Prix set to return to 2014 F1 calendar

The Austrian Grand Prix is set to make a return to the F1 scene after a 10-year absence, after a deal was announced between the circuit and FOM today.

The Red Bull Ring, which formerly went under the name of A1 Ring, and previously the Osterreichring (in a different layout), is set to take place on the 6th of July 2014. The circuit was only reopened in 2011, after it was bought out and renovated by Red Bull.

It is reported that an agreement has been reached between Bernie Ecclestone and Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz to host the Grand Prix next year, although it is unclear for how many years the race will run for.

The track in its current layout is 4.3km long, but only has 10 corners. It is believed that there will not be any extensions to the circuit, meaning that it will almost certainly be the quickest lap on the F1 calendar next year.

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