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Friday, November 22, 2013

Six guys, five seats?

A few day's back I made my first outsider's guess as to who will be sitting where when the music stops. Some things seem a little clearer now, so here's an update...

This much we know:

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel
Daniel Ricciardo

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso
Kimi Raikkonen

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg
Lewis Hamilton

STR
Jean-Eric Vergne
Daniil Kvyat

Williams
Felipe Massa
Valtteri Bottas

McLaren
Jenson Button
Kevin Magnussen

Lotus
Romain Grosjean
Nico Hulkenberg/Pastor Maldonado
The money is still the key on this one. If the Quantum money comes through and he is still available, Hulkenberg gets the seat. If not, and Maldonado still has the PDVSA money, he's in.

Marussia
Jules Bianchi
Max Chilton continuing seems likely

Sauber
Sergio Perez
Estaban Gutierrez
If the Sergey Sirotkin deal with the Russians has fallen apart, Sauber needs money. Obviously, there are drivers at the bottom of the grid that bring it, but a return of Perez, along with and improving Gutierrez is, at least, a possibility. There is history there. The Carlos Slim backing isn't huge, but two Mexicans lined up a year before a Mexican GP could be advantageous to all involved, and I would be surprised to see him let Perez go to one of the backmarkers.

Force India
Adrian Sutil
Paul di Resta/Nico Hulkenberg/Sergio Perez
Sutil claims a deal is, for all intents, done. I'll go out on a very sturdy limb and say he is returning to Force India. Rumors continue to tie Hulkenberg to the team, and they rate him, so I'd put money on him over Perez, who is being mentioned for practically any competitive seat. That would make the odd man out di Resta. I just get the feeling the relationship has soured, and I think there are some pretty credible rumors tying him to Dario Frachitti's seat Chip Ganassi IndyCar seat.

Caterham
Heikki Kovalainen/Charles Pic/Marcus Ericsson
Giedo van der Garde
It all still comes down to money. I'm not sure even taking 10th from Marussia in Brazil would change that. Obviously, the team is still high on Kovalainen, but it picked its current pairing based on cash. The BBC is reporting it also would like to run youngster Ericsson. Best guess? Ideally, the team would run Kovalainen/Ericsson, a traditional veteren/rookie pairing. More likely, continuing with Pic/van der Garde or swapping one of them for whatever remaining driver brings the most cash to the team.

So, the Lotus seat still seems to be the one on which everything else hinges. Hulk, Maldonado, Perez, Gutierrez, Sutil, di Resta. One seat at Lotus, two each at Force India and Sauber.


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Monday, November 11, 2013

Who goes where?

Well, it's all gotten a bit silly this weekend, hasn't it? Here's a mix of fact and an outsider's opinion as to where everyone will be when the music stops.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel
Daniel Ricciardo

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso
Kimi Raikkonen

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg
Lewis Hamilton

STR
Jean-Eric Vergne
Daniil Kvyat

Williams
Felipe Massa
Valtteri Bottas

McLaren
Jenson Button
Kevin Magnussen to McLaren, Perez out

Lotus
Romain Grosjean continues
Nico Hulkenberg or Pastor Maldonado, depending on money

Marussia
Jules Bianchi
Hard to say, Max Chilton would like to come back, but it all depends on who can bring the most cash. There will be a lot of odd men out this year, and a lot of them bring financing.

Sauber
Sergey Sirotkin if he can get the super license, Vitaly Petrov if he can't, and the Russian backers insist on a Russian. Possibly both. Esteban Gutierrez has shown ability in the second half, has the Telmex backing, but, could Sergio Perez return for the same reason? Nico Hulkenberg seems least likely.

Force India
Adrian Sutil has always been favored, can't imagine that changing. Paul di Resta has had a difficult season, is being passed over for the big seats, and Hulkenberg could find himself back here if he misses out on Lotus. Force India has always stressed the best available drivers, and Hulkenberg could be ahead of di Resta. It always seems the day will come when Force India runs out of money, but it hasn't happened yet.

Caterham
Really hard to tell. Heikki Kovalainen seems to be favored, if the team can afford him. Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde have not been spectacular, so either or both may return, or then again, may not. Would love to see American Alexander Rossi get a shot, but I have no idea of knowing if the team could afford it or would be willing to do it. If I had to guess, I'd say not.

In short, this is a really harsh business. Last year Sergio Perez was on the fast track, now he's the latest Heikki Kovalainen. Nico Hulkenberg faces a make or break. With paths bloacked at Mercedes and Ferrari, Lotus is the last hope. Paul di Resta? Blocked. Meanwhile, unknown quanities slip into the big seats at McLaren and Red Bull. Economics mean Hulkenberg may lose out to Maldonado, and Sirotkin takes a coveted Sauber seat.

Crazy.


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