Silly season this year has been somewhat strange.
I say strange because there are not many seats up for grabs. Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull, and MGP all have their lineups solidified through 2011.
But of course, this means nothing. In Formula 1, a contract is barely worth the paper it’s printed on.
The big news has been around Robert Kubica, who has been pegged as a future Ferrari driver. If you believe what you read in the press, then this might happen in 2011.
The belief is that he and Felipe Massa will swap spots.
I, for one, can’t see this happening. Massa (unfortunately) appears to have settled into a No. 2 role at Ferrari. Kubica is young, hungry, and has the ability to take mid-pack cars to places they’ve never been before. Some would put Kubica on the same page as Lewis Hamilton.
Could you see Fernando Alonso partnering with another Hamilton? I don’t think he would let the Ferrari brass make such a move.
Coincidentally, that rumour has now cooled.
In its place, a new one about how Kimi Raikkonen will take over Vitaly Petrov’s seat has popped up. Raikkonen proactively approached Renault, which was convenient for them, as it gave them leverage in sponsor negotiations with Petrov.
But now Raikkonen has now announced that he was never really interested in the seat and that reports in the press about his connection to Renault were exaggerated.
Oh really? And what will next year hold if Raikkonen doesn’t go to Renault? A mid-pack seat with a Formula 1 team (if they can afford him), or perhaps a chance to keep flipping Citroen C4s like he did in the Rally of Mexico?
Nice defence, but I’m going to stick with Eric Boullier's story on the matter.
However, if you believe that this was a commercial strategy, then it has obviously worked. Apart from signing a new Russian shipping sponsor just before Singapore, Renault will also be backed by Flagman Vodka. Yes, you guessed right. They are also Russian.
Cheers, Petrov, on saving your ride.
Nick Heidfeld’s situation is just downright silly. In the last 12 months he has driven four different cars, with four different engines, on two different sets of tires.
The only other people who can make this claim are billionaire thrill-seekers who pay to drive 10-year-old Formula 1 cars (probably the old MasterCard Lola) in "driving experiences" on their weekends off.
This time last year Heidfeld was racing for BMW Sauber. He started 2010 as MGP’s test driver before leaving the team to become the official Pirelli test driver, which carried out its tests in last year’s Toyota. This lasted for only a brief period, as he jumped back into the BMW Sauber seat vacated by Pedro De La Rosa. Did I mention that it's powered by a Ferrari engine?
Heidfeld had hoped to parlay this into a competitive seat with Sauber for 2011, but after only one race it was announced that Mexican GP2 driver Sergio Perez would be joining the team alongside Kamui Kobayashi. He’s a talented driver, currently sitting second in points. He’s also talented with sponsors, bringing with him backing from Mexican telecom giant Telmex.
I predict Heidfeld will land with Force India. All signs point to Vitantonio Liuzzi not returning, and I would expect that Adrian Sutil would pair well with a fellow countryman. I’m not sure if it means much to the team, but he would also bring with him (albeit brief) experience running Mercedes engines and Pirelli tires.
Williams looks set to keep both Nico Hulkenberg and Rubens Barrichello. I agree with this move, as both drivers have done a tremendous job to regularly crack the top 10 in the latter part of the season.
Toro Rosso I cannot predict. If history tells us anything, they’ll announce their first driver before Christmas and their second driver before opening practice in Bahrain.
As for the three new teams—the only thing Virgin Racing has announced is that corporate Virgin support will be returning. This is a good thing, not only because it secures the team for 2011, but because it saves the team from having to go 12 rounds with the FIA on naming bureaucracy if the Virgin brand were to disappear. Just ask the Ferrari-powered BMW Sauber team about that.
Lotus has had a number of signings, but none of them have to do with drivers. Technical director Mike Gascoyne will be back, which is a good thing because he’s a talented individual and great person to follow on Twitter—especially while watching a Grand Prix. Lotus also announced that they will be using parts from Red Bull, and they're all but confirmed on a switch to Renault engines.
Who will be their drivers? To be honest, I’d like to throw my name in the ring. With the back end of the team stacking up the way it is, how could they not move forward?
Hispania should change their name to "Hysteria," because I imagine that’s what ensues week in and week out at their shop. If they are on the grid next season, then expect them to sign whichever drivers bring the bullion.