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RAIKKONEN QUITS LOTUS AMID SILLY SEASON SHAKEUP

Raikkonen out, Valsecchi in. Valsecchi out Kovalainen in. Perez out, Magnussen in. Maldonado out, Massa in. These are the changes that have occoured in just the last three days as the silly season manouvering for F1 rides in 2014 ramps up. This will leave an embarressment of riches for some of the medium to small teams to choose from over the next month or so.

 The sun sets on Kimi's Lotus career

  The most immediate is that Kimi Raikkonen has driven his last race for Lotus. The official line is that he is undergoing minor back surgery in Salzburg, Austria this week instead of flying to Austin for the US Grand Prix. The long term back injury, which almost saw him pull out of the Singapore Grand Prix has reportedly reared it's ugly head again and the recovery period is approximately four weeks, which rules him out of the season finale in Brazil as well. Just how much this has to do with his sciatic nerve as apposed to his hip pocket nerve is up to your imagination but as he was still in dispute with Lotus regarding the fact that he has not been paid this year leaves us thinking "hmmmmm" regarding the timing of it all. However as one who has had the dubious pleasure of dodgy discs I do know just how much it can hurt I can only which Kimi a speedy recovery & look forward to his radio chatter with his big red bosses next year. Initially it was expected that current reserve driver and 2012 GP2 series champion Davide Valsecchi would make his F1 debut this weekend. With his pedigree Davide is seemingly a vastly more deserving debutant than some of the recent announcements although it would have been difficult for his to impress with bugger-all testing mileage and running on circuits he has never before visited. Last minute reports are however that Caterham reserve driver and former Renault, McLaren and Lotus (the other one) driver Heikki Kovalainen will be in the seat. Still waiting for the email from Lotus to confirm that but the word is they wanted someone with experience who should be able to bring home some points as they are still hoping to be able to beat Ferrari and Mercedes in the Constructors Championship. A long shot perhaps but an understandable desire. With all the talent in the world it would have been tough for Davide. Mind you, not knowing the car it may also be tough for Heikki, but it’s nice to see him get a second chance and possibly resurrect his stalling career. It has also been rumoured that Nico Hulkenberg and (God Forbid) Michael Schumacher had been sounded out about the drive.

 

  In the latest batch of signings for 2014 Felipe Massa has been confirmed on a "multi-year" deal to join Williams alongside Valtteri Bottas bringing a raft of Brazilian sponsers to replace the slightly eratic, but occassionally very rapid Pastor Maldonado and his Venezuelan petro-dollars. Needless to say PDVSA will not be Williams title sponser next year but you can be sure that they will show up some-where. Both team and driver have spouted the usual complimentary remarks that come at the beginning of any relationship but whether either of them can return to their former glories remains to be seen. In both cases I hope so. In Felipe's case it should be remembered that before he got sconed by Barrichello's errant damper spring he was, in 2008, World Champion for about 20 seconds. And who knows, if Team Willi can get some sort of stability going it has everything it needs to return to the ways of it's glorious past. Hopefully Pat Symonds can engineer this as he takes control of the technical department. He may even be joined by old pal Ross Brawn who will be departing from Williams new engine supplier Mercedes fairly shortly. It may be that he gets Toto Wolfe's Williams shares as part of his pay-out from Merc, Wolfe having been Williams CEO for a short time before moving to the Silver Slings. Just a thought. It would be just a little weird, Williams being run by the same guys that were once their main enemy at Benetton. So long as they don't bring Flav back………….

 

  Not officially confirmed (although not officially denied) is that Sergio Perez will not be at McLaren next year. Team Brittania has decided to take a punt on Kevin Magnussen, the Formula Renault 3.5 champion this year. Magnussen has been part of the McLaren young driver scheme and was very impressive in winning that title this year. McLaren were looking to place both him and Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne at smaller teams for 2014 with a view of promoting them to the team once they had gotten some experience. Despite their obvious talent it was proving a bit tricky getting both of them a drive so poor old Sergio has been given the heave-ho. Mind you, it has been said that you should never believe anything until it HAS been officially denied so…… watch this space. McLaren however have let be known that their title sponsership announcement, previously set down for December 2 has now been put off until the launch of the new car, which may or may not have anything to do with not getting lots of Mexican Pesos now that Sergio is searching for a new home.

 

 So who's going where?

 

Here's the current list

 

Red Bull (Renault)

Sebastian Vettel & Daniel Ricciardo

 

Mercedes

Nico Rosberg & Lewis Hamilton

 

Ferrari

Fernando Alonso & Kimi Raikkonen

 

Lotus (Renault)

Romain Grosjean & (almost certainly) Nico Hulkenberg

 

McLaren (Mercedes)

Jenson Button & Kevin Magnussen

 

Force India (Mercedes)

?????????????????

 

Sauber (Ferrari)

????????????????? (although Sergey Sirotkin has been named - pending gaining a super-licence)

 

Toro Rosso (Renault)

Jean Eric Vergne & Daniil Kvyat

 

Williams (Mercedes)

Valtteri Bottas & Felipe Massa

 

Marussia (Ferrari)

Jules Bianchi & ???????????

 

Caterham (Renault)

????????????????????

 

Which all leaves Sergio Perez, Pastor Maldonado, Paul di Resta, Adrian Sutil, Esteban Gutierrez, Max Chilton, Charles Pic, Giedo van der Garde, Davide Valsecchi, Heikki Kovalainen, Stoffel Vandoorne and GP2 champion Fabio Leimer as the prime candidates for the remaining six or possibly seven drives. Twelve into six means that the remaining teams now take their time and select the best pairing for their own needs and that (unfortunately) may not have much to do with the available talent as much as the available cash.

 

The late press is from Sergio’s twitter account and that he has confirmed that he is leaving McLaren so you can forget that bit about it not being officially denied. More on that later perhaps, it will be very difficult for Sergio to find a decent drive for 2014 but he does still have all those Telmex Pesos behind him. His shit load of pace won’t hurt either, but………

 

 

Sam Snape

 

13/11/2013