July 15th 2013 (B.Creed/ F1plus).- Speculation has grown over the last few weeks about where certain drivers will find themselves next season. Mark Webber’s announcement he will be leaving F1 at the end of 2013 has started a flurry of rumors surrounding Red Bull next season - and the knock on effect this will have on other teams. With seats potentially up for grabs at Red Bull, Lotus and Ferrari we look at which drivers are in contention.
Prior to Webber’s announcement in June there had been speculation over who would replace him. So many will be unsurprised the name at the top of the list appears to be Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn is capable of winning championships and is known to be friends with potential new teammate Sebastian Vettel. The lure of a team that has won three consecutive driver and constructor titles since 2009 – and could be set to win a fourth this season – may sway him towards the Austrian team.
Current team Lotus knows Raikkonen is not keen on being rushed on where he will race next season. They appear to be prepared to wait and hope the Finn will continue to race with the team in 2014. Yet there must be some doubt since it has become apparent over the last few days talks are being held with other drivers thought to include Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta. Whether these talks are in preparation to replace Raikkonen or current teammate Romain Grosjean it is unknown.
Other drivers thought to be in contention for the Red Bull drive seem to be Toro Rosso drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean Eric Vergne. Between the two of them Ricciardo seems to be leading the battle to land the seat despite Vergne heading the pair in the drivers championship. They are currently separated by just two points. Ricciardo qualified fifth at the British Grand Prix going on to finish eighth whilst there was another impressive performance in Germany where he qualified sixth.
Ricciardo is relatively unknown only in his second season of F1. He may be out-qualifying and out-racing his teammate but this doesn’t necessarily mean he will be able to perform in a top-team. If he can continue to show he can perform and score points he will keep himself in contention. Red Bull plan to make a decision around F1s summer break but with Raikkonen appearing reluctant to commit progress could stall.
Raikkonen’s potential defection to Red Bull would leave a place free at Lotus. However it seems neither driver currently with the team has a secure future. Both Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta are thought to be in contention should a place at Lotus arise. Hulkenberg made the move from Force India to Sauber for this season and things have far from gone to plan. Just seven points from nine races is not quite what he was anticipating. Having look set for a top seat he was overlooked by McLaren last season and his move to Sauber seemed to have more to do with its Ferrari connections. The German has performed extremely well in a car, which is extremely bad. A Lotus seat would allow him to show the flashes of brilliance seen last season in Brazil where he led the race.
Paul di Resta is also said to be in talks with Lotus. The Force India driver is looking to have the better of teammate Adrain Sutil and has amassed 36 points this season. Stand out performances include a four-place finish in Bahrain. Di Resta is also thought to be keen to make a move to Ferrari should a place open up. Also overlooked by McLaren last season he feels he deserves a chance to show he is capable of driving a race-winning car.
At Ferrari Felipe Massa’s recent bad luck has left people questioning if he could find himself without a seat in 2014. The Italian team continues to say they support him. But a number of crashes and with just 57 points to his teammates 123 have people asking whether it is time for Ferrari to look elsewhere. Should they choose to part company with Massa their options could include Hulkenberg and Di Resta but a long term option is thought to be Jules Bianchi. The Frenchman has looked impressive in his rookie season but is not thought to be ready to make the step up to Ferrari. If the team is looking ahead to Bianchi it may spare Massa another season.
Who will end up where in 2014 is a question, which will continue to run. With 10 races left in the season it may not be long before the puzzle pieces being to fall into place but until then expect lots of speculation over silly season 2014. How much of it turns out to be true - only time will tell.