All Aboard the Merry-go-Round

The driver market is currently providing more entertainment than the racing. It has long been rumoured that Felipe Massa, dropped by Ferrari in favour of the returning Kimi Raikkonen, was on his way to Williams. The team announced the deal yesterday, and also confirmed that Valtteri Bottas will remain for 2014. The Finn has had a difficult season, yet remains highly regarded within Williams, while Massa’s extensive experience is of great value to the team as it switches to Mercedes power for the new regulations. The news means, of course, that Pastor Maldonado needs to look elsewhere for a job.

Another announcement is due, according to Autosport, from McLaren, where it is reported that Kevin Magnussen has secured the seat alongside Jenson Button for 2014. Magnussen, son of former Stewart and McLaren F1 driver Jan, won this year’s Renault 3.5 World Series at a canter, and is considered top-level material by McLaren. At 21, it is perhaps an odd choice for a team not known for bringing in youngsters (Lewis Hamilton excepted) but it has to be said that Sergio Perez has not shown the speed expected before the season, albeit in a very difficult car. Joe Saward covers the story in more detail.

These two additions to the busy market place come shortly after an announcement from Lotus, and Kimi Raikkonen, that the Ferrari-bound Finn will not drive in the final two races of the season. Davide Valsecchi, the team’s highly rated reserve driver, had been expected to get the job, yet there has been no announcement from within the team. With just a few days to go before the US GP at Austin, Lotus needs to make a decision very soon.

The Lotus team is waiting on an influx of money from its apparent new investor; this has, apparently, yet to materialise, and should it not there is intense speculation that Maldonado, replete with Venezuelan money, is on his way to Enstone alongside Romain Grosjean. However, should the new money arrive, the new investors have made it known that they want Nico Hulkenberg – who doesn’t bring money – in the car. Hulkenberg, it should be said, is no longer officially under contract at Sauber: it could well be in Lotus’s interests to grab the German now, as he is effectively a free agent. However, money talks, and it could be that Lotus will choose the fast but erratic Maldonado over the fast and consistent Hulkenberg; it would be, in the opinion of this writer, a crying shame if Hulkenberg is left without a competitive drive in 2014.

There are also some lingering doubts surrounding Fernando Alonso’s participation in the USA, following his colossal back-jarring impact last time out (it seems the back injuries are the in-thing with Ferrari drivers at the moment); these have been variously denied and not denied, and it remains to be seen what the official line is. I expect Alonso to driver – he is to undergo tests when he reaches Austin – but if not, look for either Pedro de la Rosa or Jules Bianchi to step in.

So, there we have it: Raikkonen to Ferrari, but not in the USA or Brazil; Massa to Williams for 2014; Magnussen to McLaren, and Perez, Hulkenberg and various others fighting over drives at Lotus, Force India and Sauber. Oh, and Daniil Kyvat has a superlicence and will race for Toro Rosso in 2014. It’s all go!

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