Time was when the summer break in Formula One would be awash in rumors and speculation that constituted what was known as the ‘silly season’, however things have moved on, putting deals together over the summer months with sponsors and announcing new teams for next season with an ex World Champion signed up to get things off on the right foot are a thing of the past.
The silly season circa 2013 is mostly focused on two seats at Red Bull and Ferrari and the possible destination of one World Champion Kimi Räikkönen despite the fact that 13 of the 22 Formula One seats available for next season are open for negotiation.
With Ferrari not being an option, Kimi has said he is in no hurry to announce his plans for next season the longer he leaves it the less likely he is going to be wanting to move from Lotus to Red Bull. By waiting to make the decision on his future Kimi is giving Lotus the opportunity to get everything in place both financially and technically. Worryingly, Lotus have yet to confirm which motor’s they will be using next season, however both current Lotus drivers are most likely to be occupying the same position within the team next year.
However much all drivers, including Kimi, want a winning car the idea of Red Bull signing the Finn, at anything but a heavily discounted rate, does not make sense when their confirmed driver for next season is the reigning three time and four time champion elect, Sebastian Vettel.
Red Bull can choose any driver, not under contract, they like for next season. My best guess is that they are most likely to promote from within
their own extensive ranks of young drivers. Top of the list would be Torro Rosso drivers Jean Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo.
Lying just a couple of points apart, 13th and 14th, in the championship standings Frenchman Vergne would appear the better option for Red Bull having scored a few more points than his team mate both last season and this. Most speculation has been that in form Australian Ricciardo will replace his compatriot Mark Webber who has announced he will be leaving Red Bull to drive for Porsche’s sports car program.
It is unlikely that Red Bull will choose any of their current crop of drivers in the lower Formula for a seat alongside Sebastian, none of the Red Bull Junior team are particularly well placed in their respective series, however I do not expect to see either Vergne or Ricciardo at Torro Rosso next season which should open up two seats for young drivers to step up to Formula One. I would not be surprised to see Torro Rosso give the likes of; young American Conor Daly, Cypriot Tio Ellinas who race in GP 3 or FIA Formula 3 drivers Italian Raffaele Marciello and Swede Felix Rosenqvist a Formula One trial for next season at the very least.
As in most recent years the pressure is on Felipe Massa to finish the season well if he is to keep his seat at Ferrari. Should Felipe fail to adequately back his team mate, Fernando Alonso, German Nico Hülkenberg who drives for the Ferrari powered Sauber team is an obvious shoe in for the second Ferrari seat, though Frenchman Jules Bianchi who drives for Marussia has also been mentioned in connection with the second Ferrari seat should it become available.
Hülkenberg had a meteoric rise to Formula One making his F1 debut with Williams in 2010, for whom he scored many points and a pole position. Then the money ran out forcing Nico to take a test drivers role at Force India in 2011. Joining the team as a driver last year he beat his team mate Paul di Resta in the 2012 championship standings. Nico accepted a drive at Sauber for 2013 where he has brought an uncompetitive car home in the points on four occasions.
If Nico does move to Ferrari it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Felipe
Massa will return to Sauber, with whom he made his F1 debut in 2002, for a final season of Formula One. Speaking of Sauber the Swiss team have just announced new Russian Financial partners in the form of the Investment Cooperation International Fund, the State Development Fund for the North-West Russian federation and the National Institute of Aviation Technologies. Part of the deal includes a seat next season for Sergey Sirotkin a seventeen year old who currently sits 8th in this years Formula Renault 3.5 championship where he drives for the Czech ISR Team.
Of the remaining seats up for negotiation it remains to be seen if Pastor Maldonado can maintain the same level of support from new Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro as he did from former President Hugo Chavez, if not expect those with the budgets to fight keenly for the top drive at Williams who will be Mercedes Benz powered next year.
Next Up: An update on the news from the 3 day’s of testing scheduled to start at Silverstone on Wednesday.