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KIMI KILLS THE SILLY SEASON

  Prior to the summer break there was a silly season in full swing. Rumours abounded regarding who would replace Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari because he would DEFINATELY be on the way out. Most of them were complete nonsense of course as either the cost of paying out existing contracts would make the choice prohibitively expensive or the touted drivers were not, or not yet, of Ferrari quality.

 

 

  In the nonsense file could be placed Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas, Esteban Guttierez, Jean-Eric Vergne, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton but they all were mentioned as certainties by one publication or another. Ricciardo for several reasons, one being the cost involved in extracting him from his Red Bull contract and the other that Vettel would probably not have been too keen on the concept after his trampling by Daniel last year. Ricciardo did his best to dismiss the story but did admit it was nice to be considered a potential Ferrari driver. Williams also would have wanted a large swag of Euros to release Valtteri who was more likely to have been having discussions about a 2017 drive while Hamilton, give me a break. Why on God’s earth would he want to leave the team that is the current cream of the crop when he is currently cruising to a second consecutive title in a team that he has now moulded about him? Not unless he is on copious quantities of mind altering substances would he even remotely consider such a move.

 

  With all due respect to two very competent drivers, neither Guttierez or Vergne are really thought of as potential world champions and Verstappen, who is, does not have enough experience yet to have been a real candidate. In reality the only real, potential candidate was Nico Hulkenberg who’s current Force India contract is finished at season’s end. For some reason no front-running team has snapped up Hulkenberg despite a glittering junior career and a habit of transcending every F1 car he has parked his arse in. This is a guy that truly deserves a front running car and it will be a huge loss for all F1 fans if he doesn’t get one before he gets too old.

 

  However all this feverish speculation came to naught when Ferrari announced that Kimi would be staying on for at least another year and that effectively killed off the silly season. In the weeks following this there has been a series of announcements that have basically confirmed that everyone is pretty much staying where they are for next year. Mercedes – no change, Red Bull – no change, Ferrari – no change, Williams – no change, Force India – no change, Toro Rosso – no change and Sauber – no change. Sort of takes all the fun out of it.

 

  There are potentially just six places left, although that is only five if Button does not announce his retirement this weekend. Jenson dropped a couple of large hints in Singapore when he mentioned that he had made up his mind regarding his F1 future and that it had been an emotional decision. That usually means you are calling it quits and there are whispers that he may end up as one of Mark Webber’s team-mates next year. That is of course if VW’s current emissions scandal doesn’t bring the company to its knees as the cost of worldwide fines and law-suites could make any motorsport programmes too much for their bottom line. It would be just Jenson’s luck to have signed a contract with a team that may not exist in six months time. The repercussions of this could be disastrous for not just the World Endurance Championship (possibly losing Audi and Porsche) but also the World Rally Championship (VW and Skoda) and Formula 3 where most engines are supplied by VW. Let alone the rumoured future tie-up between Red Bull and VW.

 

  If Button does go, who will step up into the second McLaren seat? Most likely either Magnussen or Van Doorne obviously but Magnussen has also been linked with a move to the new Haas squad, as have many others. Amongst those (who are yet to sign up with their current teams) are Ferrari testing pair Esteban Guttierez and Jean-Eric Vergne, Romain Grosjean (who has become thoroughly fed up with Lotus’s continued financial woes) and Alexander Rossi, currently with Marussia. As the potential Haas list began with ten names the odds are getting better for these final five.

 

  No-one will know who Manor/Marussia will front up with until their finances for next year are sorted out but it is unfortunately likely to be who has the biggest cheque available so the only questions left to be asked are; Will Lotus be Renault and will Renault have Mercedes engines and who will slot in beside Maldonado whose Venezuelan petro-dollars have kept his place safe? If Renault don’t buy in, will the Enstone squad be around at all? Will Ferrari agree to supply Red Bull/Toro Rosso with engines now that the split with Renault has been all but finalised and announced. Will they get the latest versions of the Ferrari or will Maranello be unwilling to be beaten by a customer and only agree to supply year old ones? If Ferrari don’t supply them, and Mercedes have also said they won’t, and Renault aren’t, and Honda can’t, will we lose both teams? What would that mean to the newly reinstated Austrian Grand Prix at the “Red Bull Ring”?

 

  Ah jolly good, there are some things that we can still speculate about and enjoy the wild rumours that will be postulated. Did you hear the one about Stirling Moss coming out of retirement and rejoining Mercedes after 60 years to replace Hamilton who has accepted a place on the one way mission to Mars?

 

 

   I’ll keep you posted.

 

 Sam Snape

 

24/09/2015