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…
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.
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.
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.
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: