Now that Kimi Raikkonen's manager, Steve Robertson, has confirmed, per Sky Sports, the Finnish driver will miss the final two races of the 2013 season, who is going to replace him? Lotus has promised an announcement soon, according to ESPN F1, but there are only two plausible choices: reserve driver Jerome d'Ambrosio and third driver Davide Valsecchi.
Both could make a reasonable argument for why the race seat should theirs. D'Ambrosio has race experience, starting all 19 races of the 2011 season for Marussia. He also raced for Lotus at the 2012 Italian Grand Prix, filling in during Romain Grosjean's one-race ban.
Valsecchi has not raced in Formula One, but he does have experience driving this year's Lotus car, the E21, which d'Ambrosio does not. Valsecchi was in the cockpit for 16 laps at the second Barcelona pre-season test and for 91 laps on the second day of the 2013 Young Driver Test at Silverstone. He was particularly impressive there, putting in faster times that Pastor Maldonado, Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta, among others.
The 26-year-old Italian is also the Lotus team's official third driver. He has been with the team at all grand prix weekends this season and was ready to step in for Raikonen at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix when the Finn did not arrive at the circuit on time.
The fact that Lotus did not immediately announce which driver will replace Raikkonen in the United States and Brazil indicates that they are considering their options. Given the drivers' current roles with the team and Valsecchi's experience with the E21, he is the most likely choice.
If Valsecchi is chosen, he will be the first Italian to start a grand prix since Jarno Trulli and Vitantonio Liuzzi at the 2011 Brazilian Grand Prix. The current drought for Italian drivers is the longest in F1 history. In fact, 2012 is the only season since the beginning of the championship in 1950 where no Italian drivers took part in a race.