Maldonado Signs for Lotus: What Comes Next?

The news, released shortly after yesterday’s post, that Pastor Maldonado has secured the second Lotus seat alongside Romain Grosjean came as no surprise to anyone. Now that we have one less driver in this expensive game of musical chairs we await the next round of changes.

Sauber and Force India, along with back of the grid stalwarts Marussia and Caterham, are the remaining teams with seats available, and yet there is no news from either. The problem is, of course, money: neither team is flush, despite some great results this year, although that also applies to Lotus. The word is that Adrian Sutil has jumped from Force India to Sauber, and it is expected that Nico Hulkenberg will go the other way, but the identity of the second driver at either team is far from decided.

Sergio Perez should, by rights, take one of them, and the general consensus is that he will pitch up alongside Hulkenberg at Force India. Perez may not have set the world alight at McLaren but he did a decent job in a difficult situation, and we know he has pace from his time at Sauber, while Hulkenberg is a known quantity in anyone’s book. The two of them in one team make an attractive partnership.

The second Sauber seat is the most confusing of all; assuming Sutil has done a deal, we might expect Esteban Gutierrez to keep his drive. The young Mexican, in my eyes, drove some fine races in his rookie year, and deserves a second season. However, money talks, and it may be that Sauber is looking at drivers with some cash.

There are other rumours about teams ‘merging’; it is known that Marussia sounded out a deal with Williams but was met with little enthusiasm. The story now is that Lotus and Caterham may join forces, and Sauber will do the same with Marussia. For me, this makes no sense. All that would happen is that one team will effectively close down, and the remaining outfit will cherry pick the good guys. It also leaves four drivers out of work, as all talk of three-car teams is well ahead of the game.

One name that has entered the frame is Felipe Nasr, and the young Brazilian is undoubtedly talented, while Marcus Ericsson is also a driver being mentioned in some quarters, which must be making Charles Pic, Max Chilton, Giedo van der Garde and Jules Bianchi somewhat nervous. Of the four, the latter is the obvious candidate for a 2014 drive, not least because of his Ferrari connections.

Elsewhere there is talk of making two pit stops mandatory, and of giving drivers permanent numbers. Given the perilous financial state of more than half the grid one feels that there are more important factors for the FIA to be concentrating on right now.

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