The top classes of Motorsport are now concluding deals in the backrooms and announcing their line up for the following season. Or in the case of Ferrari and Red Bull, posturig ahead of the concord agreement negotiations this season which has seen the grand old team and the new pretender leave FOTA. The 2012 entry list has been revealed for F1 next year and the cast and crew is remaining fairly stable at least at the front, however down the grid things are moving.
The return of Kimi will be the story of the winter one would assume as the 2007 World Champion is making a popular return with Lotus Renault (EG Enstone Genii, black Lotus team). The team really need to produce a solid car and we all hope the Finn is still as hungry as he was before he went to Ferrari. Despite winning the title with Ferrari he never looked as good as he did at McLaren where any sniff of victory would result in sublime racing (see Japan 2005 or Spa 2009) and in 2009 despite that victory in Belgium failed to measure up to Massa before his crash. But the Finn is a popular man due to his dislike of the corperate world of F1 and has always been seen as something of a rebel in a pack of ever increasingly clean cut young men. But Kimi is only 31 and still has plenty of miles left in the tank. His partner remains a mystery as it could still be Petrov or Senna (both of whom come with serious backing) or Romain Grosjean (2011 GP2 Winner) and theres also the outside possibility of Jerome D’Abrosio (who was cruely dumped by Virgin) or even Sutil.
Williams have confirmed Pastor Maldonado after he was suspiciously missing from the 2012 entry list. With Kimi going to Lotus it looks like a straight fight between Sutil (who looks out of a job at Force India) and Barrichello. Valtteri Bottas will take the test/reserve roll and will run in 15 friday practices a la Force India, Im assuming he will also compete in GP2 after a thrilling GP3 season where he came from the back to win the series with 4 wins towards the end. The young Finn’s stock seems to be very high at Williams and I think its a case of when not if he will make the jump to full time racer.
Force India are still no closer to revealing their driver lineup but they have 3 very good drivers, Paul DiResta has had a fantastic debut season but in the end it was probably over shadowed by Sutils huge up turn in form to finish 9th in the standings – the highest placed driver outside the top 4 teams. And Nico Hulkenberg is understood to have a contract for next year and has huge potential and likely to have some backing from Mercedes. A tough choice and they are going to get slated whatever way they go as all 3 are fine choices and they only have 2 seats.
Torro Rosso are also in a pickle with 4 drivers for 2 seats. The plan was a straight shoot out in 2011 from the 2 current drivers to slot alongside Daniel Ricciardo. However both have performed very well and picking between them is going to be very difficult. Current thinking is that Buemi and Alguersuari will remain at Torro Rosso for 2012 (tormenting people who like me cant spell) and Riccarido will be farmed out to possibly Team Caterham (old Team Lotus) with Jean Eric-Vergne taking the test/friday roll for the team.
HRT have made the slightly surprising move of enlisting Pedro De La Rosa, the team apparently have been designing a car with a new team in Germany and building a base in valencia with the design office staying put for now. They are trying to style themselves into a spanish national team and further to this Dani Clos will be taking on reserve and test duties with the team next year alongside GP2 with a view of taking Pedros seat once he retires. The new spanish squad are running KERS and there seems to be some positive noises coming from the team. But results as always will be the barrometer.