Formula 1 Latest Rumours and Talk: Hulkenberg, Di Resta and More
This week, news of Felipe Massa's departure from Ferrari and the confirmation of 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen as his replacement ended the speculation over Formula One's most coveted 2014 seat.
With the Finn returning to the Scuderia, with which he spent three seasons, that does leave another attractive opening for those seeking pastures new.
The F1 driver merry-go-round is a fickle thing. Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta know that, having been widely tipped for McLaren as Lewis Hamilton's replacement before they announced Sergio Perez.
So, what's the gossip on the hunt for a drive at Lotus—and elsewhere?
Hulkenberg Favourite to Partner Grosjean
According to Autosport, Sauber racer Hulkenberg was on Lotus' radar for 2014 even before the team knew of Raikkonen's move away from Enstone.
Team Principal Eric Boullier said post-Monza that there was a plan B in place if Raikkonen left, and it looks like the German, who qualified third and raced home to fifth in Italy, is the man at the centre of it.
He had a good weekend and we know Nico is quite a good driver and fast. I have known him for a long time, since he was in Formula BMW. So we all have plans, if the first one [Raikkonen] is removed, there will be a b-plan."
Next moves in the #F1 driver market? Hulkenberg to Lotus and Bianchi to Sauber would be nice. Both deserve a step up in machinery— Glenn Freeman (@glenn_autosport) September 11, 2013
Di Resta Also in the Frame?
Disconcertingly for Di Resta, his Force India is suffering a dip in form right at the stage of the season he needs to impress most.
It was the same story last season, as Hulkenberg appeared to overshadow the Scot emphatically while Di Resta struggled with a chassis problem.
He was known to be seeking a Ferrari drive, as reported by Chris Hockley of The Sun earlier in the year, but that ship has clearly sailed.
Nonetheless, Di Resta had an impressive opening half of the season, and while he's not as well-rounded as Hulkenberg, he is an attractive prospect in terms of his ability.
Bianchi Set for Sauber?
The signs point to Jules Bianchi filling Hulkenberg's Sauber seat next year, and that is down to one reason: Ferrari.
That's not to suggest the Frenchman's not talented enough to warrant the drive; far from it. But the team, despite recent Russian investment, is embattled, and it remains to be seen if it can choose just one of Esteban Gutierrez's Mexican millions or Sergey Sirotkin's eastern money.
The fact is, that partnership would be mighty unappealing on the grounds of experience and the likelihood of success. Yes, Bianchi has the same level of experience as Gutierrez, but he does have a lot more F1 testing under his belt.
Sauber is Ferrari's satellite team, and the suggestion is the Scuderia wants to place Bianchi there. Only pound, dollar or euro signs seem to stand in the way. Such is F1...
And Where Does That Leave Massa?
The question we should be asking is will Ferrari promote Jules Bianchi to Sauber or hand Felipe Massa a leaving gift of a seat there? #F1— Jarvis (@JarvoB) September 11, 2013
At Lotus, or out of F1, most likely. Although the Brazilian remains defiant. He has a good relationship with Sauber and that, as well as Lotus, has been touted as his likeliest destination.
That seat will likely come down to Bianchi vs. the Brazilian; Ferrari family member vs. Ferrari family member and potential vs. experience.
Would Massa be too proud to drop any lower? Racer.com's Edd Straw mulled over the potential of a straight swap with Raikkonen, recalling (hypothetical) comments from Boullier earlier in the year:
Does Massa Deserve To Be In F1 Next Year?
Since F1 stopped testing, it's difficult for a young driver to step in. Maybe if Romain doesn't deliver, I would prefer to go with an experienced driver like Mark Webber or Felipe Massa rather than go with a youngster.
Whatever the outcome, Massa is convinced he will be in F1. As Straw recounts his attitude post-Monza, before the Raikkonen decision was announced:
I have shown enough what I can do. I have shown how well I work with the team and everything, but I have shown enough to the other teams as well.
David Coulthard: Kimi Raikkonen/Fernando Alonso Not a Problem
In his web column for The Telegraph, 2001 world championship runner-up David Coulthard reckons a Raikkonen/Alonso partnership will not rock the Ferrari boat next season.
Instead, the Scot feels the talented Finn will be a success in his second coming with the Scuderia, and that he will galvanise the squad:
Like Felipe Massa at the moment, Kimi will get on with the job at hand and not rock the boat. He did not rock the boat in 2008 and 2009 when Felipe started to get on top of him.
Clive Mason/Getty Images
Kimi’s ice-cool demeanour should not be mistaken for a lack of desire, though. He did not leave Ferrari on the best of terms in 2010, having lost his way somewhat, but he is older and wiser now after two years out in the World Rally Championship. And he is still extremely quick.
The question is will Fernando Alonso rock the boat if Kimi starts to push him close, or even beat him? I don’t think so.
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