January 24th, 2014 (F1plus/B. Ferreira).- After months of rumours, negotiations and announcements, the 2014 F1 drivers market is finally done. It was a busy time behind the scenes, there are drivers and teams that will start the new season on a high compared to the year before, while on the other hand, others will go onto the 2014 championship on the back foot.
There are obvious cases like Sergio Perez (who had his reputation harmed after his single McLaren year) or Daniel Ricciardo (who grabbed the seat at Red Bull), but there are other examples other than them. Check it out:
The Brazilian driver was basically fired from Ferrari and signed Williams, a team that had a very poor season in 2013. Nevertheless, he’s still one of the winners of the market. This might sound odd, but Massa’s situation turned out to be rewarding one for him.
After four years being outshined by Fernando Alonso, in which he showed apathetic performances in general, Massa will finally have the chance to play the benchmark role at Williams.
The new team and its promising package, with the Mercedes power unit and the key additions to its engineering, won’t give him the chance to win the title – he did not have good chances at Ferrari anyway. However, Williams will be the perfect foundation to his revival as F1 driver, where he can find the joy he didn’t have in his last Ferrari years.
The Indian and Silverstone-based team didn’t have an especially noteworthy year in 2013, but, for the new season, it will have very strong pair of drivers who can be considered as the best possible line-up for a midfielder team.
Less than two years ago, the F1 world was wondering who between Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez would be the perfect replacement to Lewis Hamilton at McLaren. Now, Force India has both drivers on its cockpits.
The German is thirsty to show he’s the real deal, while Perez is keen to rebuild his prestige. That will definitely push the Indian team forward, which can be an even bigger asset on such year as 2014.
Maldonado started the 2013 season on a high after his highlight performances from the year before, when he won Spanish GP and made a good impression with his speed. But his campaign was disappointing: he just scored a point once and finished the year behind his rookie teammate, who also outpaced him in qualifying sessions.
Nevertheless, thanks to his wealthy financial support, Maldonado managed to grab one of the most desired seats, the one left by Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus.
Although the first prognosis indicates that the Enstone team won’t be as strong as it has been in the last few years, Maldonado definitely can’t complain about his position for 2014.
After two strong years, the Enstone team was supposed to start 2014 thinking on nothing but the title. However, Lotus lost in a short time to Ferrari both Kimi Raikkonen and James Allison, two key members on the last few seasons.
Plus, the financial side is not matching the expectations either. The deal with investors Quantum Motorsport never came to reality, so Lotus had to sign the erratic Pastor Maldonado to receive the support from PDVSA.
Nevertheless, the team is the biggest question mark coming to the new season, as they’ll skip the first testing session at Jerez. Although the scenario is quite open, it’s unlikely that Lotus will repeat past two years performances in 2014.
Maybe he’s the most obvious case in the last decade of a driver who should have gotten a top seat, but things didn’t work out well for him. Hulkenberg has been shining in the last two years, but still, that wasn’t enough.
At some point in 2013, he had realistic chances to get into either a Ferrari or Lotus cockpit, but at the end of the day, he had to swallow his pride and come back to Force India. He’s still one of the biggest prospects of the grid and will have in 2014 another opportunity to make a statement to the top teams.
On the last months of his partnership with Lotus, Kimi Raikkonen wasn’t satisfied at all. He had lost some pace thanks to the tweaks on the Pirelli tyres, which put him in trouble even against his teammate, Romain Grosjean Then Lotus financial problems meant Raikkonen paychecks being delayed, which did not help, and there’s always someone with bigger pockets: in this case Ferrari.
However, his decision to return to Ferrari may represent the start of his decline as a top F1 driver. Raikkonen will race again on the team for which he won the title, in 2007, but now Ferrari is in a different situation from seven years ago. Against Fernando Alonso, the Finn will have the toughest opposition possible inside and outside the track.
He’s also not expected to have at Ferrari the same kind of freedom he had at Lotus. On the contrary, he will have to deal again with all the pressure from the tifosi and the several PR events.
It’s not a secret that Raikkonen is not a fan of the media, and that’s why F1 wasn’t mystified when he decided to leave a few years ago. It’s not just about motivation, but it’s also about a good environment to develop the work properly.
Of course, he will still be able to show good performances and win races, but maybe the F1 world will see once again that old Kimi Raikkonen from 2008-2009 in 2014.