Felipe Massa last night announced that the longest “when will he go” story of F1 is over with the confirmation that he will not drive for Ferrari in 2014. Massa, the nearly world champion in 2008 suffered a horrific crash in 2009 when a spring collided with his helmet in Hungary. While his return in 2010 was promising and could of delivered a win in Germany before he was told to pull aside for Alonso (however I believe that Alonso would of overtaken him in the end anyway) the following years of the Pirelli era have been tough on the Brazilian. His qualifying speed is still evident and regularly has out-paced Fernando on a Saturday (the exception being the start of 2012 when Ferrari produced an absolute dog of a car so we’ll let that one go) however come Sundays his performance has been missing.
This opens up the driver market significantly as ex-Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen (2007 World Champion for the Scuderia) will return on a one year deal with an option for 2015. This leaves Massa looking for a seat next year and a vacant spot at Lotus, a top 5 team. With McLaren, Mercedes and Red Bull all looking set for the next two seasons (assuming Ricciardo doesn’t bomb) this leaves the drive at Enstone as the only “Top Team” drive in the future. It also likely secures Romian Grosjean’s seat for 2014 as Eric Boullier confirmed he would look for some continuity next year with the massive rule changes. Nico Hulkenberg is the hot favourite to take the lead driver role at Enstone however there are options from inside the team, Davide Valsecci (2012 GP2 Champion) and Jerome D’Ambrosio. Funding is an issue at Lotus and the team have lost their star driver over the issue with rumblings all season that the Finn had not been paid on time, thus Pastor Maldonado could use his vast backing to secure a move up the grid.
Lets hope he brings enough cash for the repair bills!
This is likely to open a mid-field frenzy with teams looking to cover the bills of the increased engine costs but can also look to 2014 to bring in new talent alongside a reliable benchmark driver. This is because although the experience is useful in developing the car next year as it will be a “clean sheet” design, it will level the playing field slightly as drivers have to adjust to new aerodynamics and drive trains.
The 2014 Line-up so far:
Red Bull: Sebastian Vettel – Daniel Ricciardo
Ferrari: Fernando Alonso – Kimi Raikkonen (TBC this week)
Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton – Nico Rosberg
Lotus: [Free] – Romain Grosjean likely to stay
McLaren – Jenson Button (TBC) – Sergio Perez
Force India – unconfirmed driver line up
Toro Rosso – [Free] – Jean-Eric Vergne
Sauber – Sergy Sirotkin – unconfirmed second seat
Williams – unconfirmed driver line up
Caterham – Charles Pic – unconfirmed second seat
Marussia – Unconfirmed driver lineup