Formula One is a hotbed for rumours, and never more than right now. Two seats are subject to a great deal of speculation – the one currently occupied by Felipe Massa at Ferrari, and that which Sergio Perez will vacate at the end of the season. Rumours persist that Schumacher will go to Sauber; I don’t see it happening. Sauber has the highly-rated Esteban Gutierrez, another Mexican, waiting in the wings, and there are those who believe Jaime Alguersuari is being lined up for the drive. I see both as more likely candidates. Some insist that Michael will drop back into Ferrari and carry out a sort of ‘farewell tour’ across 2013. Again, I can’t see it happening. I could, of course, be wrong.
A story on the BBC website by Andrew Benson, their chief F1 writer, insists that Ferrari has drawn up a shortlist: Massa, Nico Hulkenberg, or Paul di Resta. He also claims they will not make the decision until after the Korean GP. Indeed, it’s fair to say that Massa has enjoyed an upturn in form of late, and it cannot be overlooked that he knows the team, and they know him. Experience counts, after all, and he also has the backing of Fernando Alonso (I wonder why?), the championship leader. Benson closes his article with the following line: “Meanwhile, the picture is complicated by a source with good knowledge of the driver market saying that a deal for Hulkenberg to join Ferrari next year is already done.” I am not one to doubt his word, but I can’t find the name of this ‘source with good knowledge’, and the story is present only on a couple of minor websites.
What about di Resta? I will likely be pilloried by a bevy of Brits for this, but I can’t see why Ferrari would be interested. Paul is a fine racing driver, but he doesn’t seem to have that spark, that something special, that others do. Hulkenberg put in some fine efforts at Williams, and his reputation prior to that preceded him. Granted, he’s been matched most of the way by di Resta this year, but it is still my gut feeling that Hulkenberg is the better deal. How would he fit in at Ferrari? He would be unlikely to trouble Alonso too much, and would learn from arguably the best driver in the business right now, and it would be a good grounding for a future in the bigger teams, should he prove to be the real deal.
So, will I stick my neck out and pick next year’s Ferrari number two? Bearing in mind I have no ‘inside information’’ here, I think di Resta is out of the picture. It comes down to whether Ferrari believes Massa can pick up his form for next year, or whether they opt for the fresh start that Hulkenberg would present. I hope they go for the latter, but believe they will stick with Massa – we shall see.