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
With Moto GP currently in turmoil with about every rider linked to any seat that’s not got a rider welded to it upon pain of death (even contracted seats seem to be being discussed as though the rider doesn’t stand a chance of retaining them) Formula 1 has had a leisurely silly season. Oh and Casey Stoner is doing 4 tests at Motegi on board a full Honda prototype and the new production racer for privateer teams:
So back to 4 wheels and Felipe Massa, ever the stalwart of Silly Season post his crash at Hungaroring in 2009 and yet this obvious drop has never happened. The man who was world champion in 2008 for around 38 seconds has fallen a long way from challenging Lewis Hamilton for race wins to his current in-ability to scrap to podiums in a car that Alonso can regularly win in. If you think Ferrari are loathed to kick out a man who was so nearly world champion, the last 2 drivers that they got rid of (Badoer and Fisi excluded as they were simply subs) were World Champions including one 7 time World Champion.
Felipe’s lack of pace in 2012 could be excused as Ferrari produced a right wrong-un of a car that took most of the season to right and when they did Massa seemed to come on song and the folks at Marenello thought they had their man back. However it appears really that it could only of earned the Brazilian a stay of execution as his performances this year have once again been lacklustre. Ferrari do have the luxury of biding their time as it appears Nico Hulkenberg will be up for grabs alongside most of the back half of the field have clauses that let them accept a drive at a top team (for compensation to said team). They also have their own drivers in Jules Bianchi (who’s currently placed at Marussia and will come with engines next year for the minnow squad) and David Rigon (who completed the young drivers test this year for the Scuderia). Either must be a better choice to spike some interest in the team and I think both would be capable of grabbing more points than Massa.
Red Bull are going all out to replace Webber with shoot-outs and openly courting Kimi and this is for a team that has a young drivers program that starts with karts (or probably pedal karts for all we know!) and Ferrari have only ummed and ahhed about what they are going to do. Its a top seat with the greatest team of them all and its being wasted on a 32 year old driver that hasn’t come close to winning a race in 3 years.
Felipe as much as we love you, the rest of the grid is more deserving than you – do you understand?
In the few hours that have passed since my previous post HRT and Ferrari have outlined their plans for next weeks 3 day test at the Mugello circuit and they fit in perfectly with the stereotypes associated with the teams.
Ferrari will run Fernando Alonso for 2 days leaving the struggling Massa a single day in the middle.
HRT will skip the test completly as they will not have any new parts until the Spanish Grand Prix and are concentrating on moving their headquaters to Madrid. It is baffeling how the team would have any upgrades as the car was designed by the previous design team that were based in Germany. The team for the 3rd year in a row missed pre-season testing all together and highlights a lack of finance more than anything as it would be useful seat time for 3rd driver Luizzi to give feedback on the car alongside Pedro De La Rosa.
Well then kids what an exciting weekend of motorsport! Alonso’s win for Ferrari is a god send for the Scuderia (in fact I think second would still of been sweet relief) who have been under a lot of pressue after showing up in Australia and being over a second off the pace in qualifying. Although the fact that Sergio Perez announced himself with an even more shocking second place should tell you everything that the rain in Malaysia really shook up the form book. The real key was the tires this weekend and getting them to work in the rain, it would appear that McLaren struggle in very cold and damp conditions to turn the tire on along with Red Bull whereas Ferrari and Sauber have less on an issue.
Bruno Senna also had a great race after the break with a drive through the field in the wet befitting of his surname. He drove from last on the grid at the restart (after 7 laps the race was stopped due to the extreme amount of rain that fell) and cut through the field to finish in 6th place and collect a hatful of points for Williams. Paul Di Resta also used his wise head on young shoulders to pick up a 7th place in the chaos which will be relieft indeed as the Force India is currently lacking a little bit of pace. Elsewhere it was a good race for HRT who qualified on merit, quite comfortably in the case of Pedro De La Rosa and this was after Mark Webber went out for a second run (in fact Pedro De La Rosa was within 107% of the pole time) and in the race Karthikeyan was running 8th at one point before getting tangled with Button and Vettel (neither of them his fault in my opinion).
It wasn’t a great weekend for Mercedes who managed to get a car starting 3rd on the grid and then only brought a solitary point, which at the very least gets them off the mark. There was more heartbreak for Pastor Maldonado as a last lap engine failure robbed him of points.
But the big news was how close the teams are, Nico Rosberg had a scrappy lap and was 4 tenths off pole. Last year that would of most certainly of meant that he would of been 2nd or 3rd. However he qualified 8th (started 7th after Kimi’s penalty) and there was one second between 1st and 12th in Q2.
Not content with the crazy weekends race Williams dropped a bombshell yesterday announcing that heir apparent to the team, Adam Parr has resigned and will leave the team this Friday. Parr has been controversial and was known to have a rocky relationship with Patrick Head, but was the man being lined up to take over from Frank Williams who is in his 70s. He definatly leaves the team in good shape with strong finances and a car this year capable of scoring some decent points all year long.
HRT have confirmed they are moving not to Valencia but to Madrid and will be moving operations there before the start of the European season. It is another odd choice for HRT that are currently having their cars designed and built in Germany to move to Spain where there is very little infastructure for motorsport there. Most of the teams are based in “Motor Sport Valley” in the South East of England (M4 Corridoor) or in Northern Italy/Switzerland around Ferrari and Sauber.
Felipe Massa has made noises that the Scuderia are struggling out of the box this year with their ugly duckling of a car. The car is a radical departure from last years car and of course it could all be smoke and mirrors. But we haven’t seen the usual glut of laps of Ferrari so far, last year they covered more mileage then an entire season in the tests (although there were 4 pre-season tests rather than the 3 pre-season and 1 mid-season test this year)
This week sees the annual wrooom! event which sees Ferrari and Ducati team up to launch their 2012 season, however this year the traditional unvieling of the Ducati is absent. However it is interesting to note that Ferrai have announced two new appointments to their technical team. The first is former Bridgestone Technical Director, Hirohide Hamashima who is help the scuderia with understanding tyre issues which plagued the 2011 challenger and the second is Steve Clark from Mercedes to become track engineer. It is a further move away from the national flavour the team took on post Ross Brawn and sees them returning to hiring internationally reconised personel.
Yesterday at wrooom! we saw the Ducati riders in focus with Rossi admitting a title challenge is still unlikely this year. Today we expect Luca Montezemelo to be disliking the new engines and wanting 3rd cars.
Moto GP has announced that next year it will have unlimted testing based on a limited amount of tires. As well as the introduction of the CRT bikes using production engines.
Moto GP has had an issue that it only has 4 manufactures of bikes: Yamaha, Honda, Ducati and this year one single Suzuki. The other teams run customer bikes of lower specifications. In an attempt to increase the grid and get smaller manufacturers involved next year the teams will be allowed to run a production engine in a prototype chassis. It does still remain to be sceen how competitive these teams will be and how many bikes will be fielded next year. The flip side of this increase is the fact that the lower satellite teams are looking likely to run less bikes next year.
Montozemelo has been banging on about the lack of testing this week and the reliance on aerodynamics in F1. To be fair I think he has a point, I also think ironically its hurt the teams at the bottom of the grid not getting experimental mileage and its certainly hurting younger drivers on entry to the sport. He also talked about running 3rd cars.
I think the Moto GP rules of limited tires is an interesting one, it would allow teams restricted testing but allowing those tires to be used in any of the practice (not qualifying) or tests would suit everyone. There would be more mileage from the smaller teams in free practice and it would allow teams to run test drivers on private test days. This is also useful if the calendar gets any bigger which I assume Bernie will be arguing for in the next Concord agreement meeting the teams will need to start crew rotation so a test team back at base will be possible.
Im still advocating the teams are allowed to nominate a 3rd/test driver who gets an additional set of tires to run in any of the practices to increase the cars on track and mileage for young and test drivers.
Im hoping the 2014 rules will strip back the aero and increase the reliance somemore on mechanical grip from engines, gearboxes and KERS, which is going to be given a significant power boost.
And finally for the same reason Moto GP has introduced CRT rules (to avoid only having a small number of manufacturers) is why 3rd cars seem very unlikely.