Some days I get confused. Due to this TBV (tedious bloody virus) the summer break is in spring and before the season actually starts. As is usual during the summer break drivers and teams have sneaky chats in dark rooms about who might wish to go where and which where might want to have whom. Clear?


  This doesn’t usually happen before the upcoming season kicks off. It’s a bit like choosing who, what and where for next year in January. Well OK, maybe early March, because at least the great and good have tested in February and have some vague idea of which where works and which where may have needed to do some catching up. But only vague, because after testing the standard refrain is that “we will need to wait for Melbourne to really know where we stand”.


  So with no-one really knowing where who what and where stand one would usually expect that decisions about who might wish to go where and which where might want to have whom would not be made until much later in the piece. See? Confusing. But with this season already being confusing, the Great Big Whirlygig has already begun to spin. And it has begun with a drama and pace that would make any F1 car proud of it’s launch control. Except launch control doesn’t exist any more….


  One of the things that the TBV has done is make all those sneaky chats in dark rooms be sneakier and in much more darker rooms than any previous because none of those pesky journo types have been about to poke their devious snouts around the corner at an inopportune moment for those of a sneaky disposition. IE; there have not been very many leaks about sneaky chats taking place. So when just two short days ago we learnt that Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel “didn't share the same goals, short or long-term goals" and that there was "no longer a common desire to stay together" it came as a bit of a surprise. Or did it? Sebastian has been driving ( in testing & racing) F1 cars for 16 years now and rumours of an upcoming retirement have been wafting about for a couple of years at least. Like most F1 drivers, he also has a history of not much liking it when he has been teamed with someone who is potentially quicker than himself. He was pretty quick to chuck Red Bull when he was soundly beaten by Ricciardo in 2014. With Leclerc, after his impressive season last year, being given a long term contract and Ferrari offering Seb just a single year deal, it probably gave him a good idea of just which side of the garage their efforts would flow. So where to for Vettel now? Can’t see Verstappen or Hamilton accepting him into their teams or Vettel wanting to risk his reputation by taking on either in their own dens. Can’t see him wanting to troll around in the mid-field either so perhaps like his childhood idol, he will be forced into retirement earlier than he would have wished.


  Or perhaps he could end up as Danny Ric’s replacement at Renault. Immediately after the Ferrari announcement the rumours were flying that either Carlos Sainz or Ricciardo would be his replacement at Ferrari and just 48 or so hours later it was announced that Ricciardo was giving up on his Renault sojourn and joining McLaren on a “multi-year” deal and Sainz was indeed heading to Ferrari. These deals don’t just happen in two days so their had already been plenty of sneaky chats in dark rooms taking place. Another possibility is a return of King Fernando to the team he took to two championships in a different guise some while back in the Flavio days. Or maybe Renault will once again pull the plug on an underperforming endeavour in a time of financial insecurity. It would not be the first, or even second time, that has happened.


  Some may see Sainz’s move to Ferrari to be a safe option for Ferrari and Leclerc but Sainz has an enhanced reputation as a development driver after his stint at McLaren and those of us with slightly longer memories recall that his speed against Verstappen wasn’t too bad at all. And that Max’s move to Red Bull from Toro Rosso was as much to stop the inter-team friction and separate the two as much as any comment on the form of the unfortunate Daniil Kvyat who went the other way. One way or another Carlos has a lot to gain from this move and I for one would not bet against him enhancing his reputation even further. 


  Ricciardo’s signing with McLaren after just one racing season cannot be seen as anything but his realisation that the Renault thing was just not likely to work out as he had hoped. After all he had been looking with considerable interest at McLaren prior to signing with Renault. But McLaren’s recent upswing in performance allied to the chance to get his hands on a Mercedes engine in 2021 must have been the most enticing option if he didn’t fit into Ferrari’s vision of the future. A return to Red Bull was never likely and Mercedes has been a much happier team since Rosberg departed and Hamilton hasn’t had to worry too much about any inter-team battle. So with Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull all having settled and balanced line-ups what were Ricciardo’s options?


Staying with a Renault squad he was unconvinced with? Joining the other mid-field star performer, Racing Point/Aston Martin, who probably could not afford him? Or joining McLaren who are probably best placed to have the package, especially from 2022 onwards, to allow him to get back to the front.  




Sam Snape 14/5 2020