Silly season: 2014 F1 driver market

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    Felipe Bomeny

    Ladies and gentlemen, the silly season has begun! While Hulkenberg’s Sauber switch and the Vettel-Ferrari rumours had previously generated speculation for the 2014 driver’s market, Mark Webber is now the center of attention for the silly season. Last year, a rumour Webber could replace Massa at Ferrari kicked off the rumours, but today, his retirement from the sport seems more likely. Here’s how the market stands:

    RED BULL: Despite the internal issues and Horner’s criticism of their lead driver, Vettel will remain at Red Bull in all likelihood. The identity of his teammate remains a mystery, however. A disgruntled Mark Webber may be looking at retirement and his successor could be one of the Toro Rosso lads. Helmut Marko has also confirmed his interest in Nico Hulkenberg- should Ferrari retain the improved Felipe Massa, Red Bull could feature an all-German line-up.

    FERRARI: Alonso will certainly be retained. While it’s too soon to draw conclusions from Massa’s recent performance (has he merely been lucky? or is it a renaissance for the Little Brazilian?)- all can agree he is performing at a much-improved level. His experience and seemingly good relationship, as well as his Brazilian nationality (which, from a marketing perspective, is important considering FIAT’s interest in Latin America) are factors that could see him enjoy another year at the Scuderia. But should Ferrari decide to groom their next young talent, the same way they did with Massa himself, the highly-impressive duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Jules Bianchi are on the market.

    McLAREN- Will retain their current line-up. They have a world champion in Jenson Button and a promising talent in Perez, himself a very marketable athlete. With Perez’s Telmex money and youth, he could easily be a long-term prospect, especially with talk of a Mexican Grand Prix.

    LOTUS- Although Raikkonen has been linked to Red Bull due to his previous association with the brand in his rallying days, Lotus seems like his best bet. Raikkonen will continue to enjoy no. 1 privilege at Lotus, which will allow him to develop the car to his liking. His teammate could yet again be Romain Grosjean, who has managed to keep his nosecone clean for two races- it remains to be seen whether or not he can continue this into the remaining 17 grands prix. Grosjean also has the support of Total behind him, which, coupled with solid and trouble-free races, could guarantee him another year or two at Enstone. A possible replacement for a departing Grosjean or Raikkonen could be a DAMS/Lotus affiliate such as Davide Valsecchi, Marcus Ericsson, James Calado, Marco Sorensen, or Arthur Pic.

    MERCEDES- With star driver Lewis Hamilton confirmed, his teammate will probably be Nico Rosberg again. Rosberg has proven to be quick in comparison to Hamilton and he knows beating the 2008 World Champion will truly confirm his talent and ability.

    SAUBER- With Nico Hulkenberg being eyed by the top teams, Sauber will need another driver to partner Gutierrez. Gutierrez, like Perez at McLaren, is young, talented, and is Sauber’s source of sponsorship. Sauber may promote Robin Frijns but Ferrari, having potentially lost customers in Toro Rosso and Force India, may push Jules Bianchi to partner Gutierrez at the cost of a discounted engine.

    FORCE INDIA- With Sutil on board, Force India may retain Mercedes power in 2014. Should Sutil beat Paul di Resta, the Scot may find himself out of the sport, in favor of another Mercedes-backed driver. Mercedes have a stable of young drivers they are keen to promote, including Robert Wickens, Roberto Merhi, and Sam Bird. Or, a McLaren-backed Kevin Magnussen could partner Sutil. In a rival bid from Ferrari, the Italian marque could push Jules Bianchi once again, with discounted Ferrari engines as part of the deal.

    WILLIAMS- With the political uncertainty in Venezuela following Hugo Chavez’s death, Pastor Maldonado’s future at Grove may be limited to only this year. With question marks over PDVSA’s future participation, Williams may have to look elsewhere for a driver to partner the promising Valtteri Bottas. Possible candidates include the well-financed Felipe Nasr and Giedo van der Garde, or an ousted Toro Rosso driver (this is pure speculation). A FR3.5 frontrunner could also partner Bottas, although the team might want a more experienced driver.

    TORO ROSSO- the winner of the Toro Rosso duel may get a Red Bull seat, or, if Nico Hulkenberg should fill it, a lifeline at the Faenza team. The loser, of course, faces replacement by the ferociously talented Antonio Felix da Costa, another Red Bull Junior. Da Costa may even enter the sport as soon as the middle of the 2013 season.

    CATERHAM- with Renault affiliate Charles Pic confirmed for 2014, the team may explore experienced options in their duel with Marussia. With Oksana Kosachenko on board as a commercial director for Caterham, Vitaly Petrov could return to F1 should he muster enough sponsorship from Sochi. If not, Giedo van der Garde remains a safe choice in terms of continuity and sponsorship (from Dutch fashion giants McGregor). An interesting pairing could be that of the Pic brothers, should the younger Arthur impress in the World Series by Renault.

    MARUSSIA- With Graeme Chilton buying into the team, his son’s seat may be safe. Should Jules Bianchi fail to snag a seat at a more competitive team, he could remain at a Ferrari-powered Marussia. If not, his absent seat could be filled by McLaren-backed Heikki Kovalainen or a younger driver, such as Rio Haryanto, Kevin Magnussen, or Felipe Nasr.


    @portugoose You’ve covered nearly everything, really difficult to find any improvements!!
    I would add that if Stoffel Vandoorne ends up doing better than Kevin Magnussen, then McLaren might fire the Dane and give the Belgian a chance to show his worth at either Force India and Marussia(the decision will depend on which team grabs Ferrari engines next year). And from FR3.5 pre-season testing, the WSR rookie Vandoorne is already looking very strong.
    Don’t rule out Rodolfo Gonzalez..I know his talent is nowhere, but Marussia might be in need of big money if they can’t get a good Ferrari deal.

    I can’t see Nico Hulkenberg at Ferrari. I would like that to happen, but I think he’ll be more eager to drive for Red Bull than for them.

    Here’s what I think would be:

    Felipe Bomeny

    Could the Iceman join Red Bull? It’s well known that he and Vettel are good friends, but would Raikkonen really leave his undisputed No. 1 spot at Lotus? From the team’s perspective, signing a big name like Raikkonen would help distract from the Multi 21 scandal. Obviously the Raikkonen-RBR rumours will excite the Kimi fanboys, but it shouldn’t be dismissed.

    And what about Romain Grosjean? Could he be the one to partner Sebastian Vettel in 2014? Little has been mentioned about him but should Red Bull fail to poach Hulkenberg, there’s Grosjean, a solid number 2 who will surely be looking for a quicker car. With his Total backing, Grosjean-RBR could also be a possibility- although at this point, this idea is simply my own pure speculation.

    With Force India confirming Mercedes power, it looks as if the loser of the teammate battle within the Silverstone team may be dropped in favour of the next Mercedes young driver- be it Sam Bird or one of the DTM youngsters. In 2015 or 2016, it is possible that Malaysian Jazeman Jaafar will enter the frame due to his strong Petronas-Mercedes connections.

    Sauber seem very likely to commit to Gutierrez. It remains to be seen whether on not Ferrari will nudge Bianchi in place of the aspiring Robin Frijns. If not, Bianchi may find himself at Marussia for another year in order to finalize a Ferrari engine switch for the Russian-liscensed team.


    Bild are reporting the Webber is in talks with Porsche for their new Le Mans program for 2014. Despite that, I still can’t see Kimi jumping to RB to play second fiddle to Vettel.


    Here’s the article on the Webber Porsche story:

    I’m not sure if this is serious though.. it starts off with:

    Dass der Australier keinen neuen Vertrag mehr bekommen soll, hat BILD bereits berichtet.

    BILD has already reported that [Webber] would not get a new contract [at Red Bull].

    BILD has got a bit of a problem with presenting rumours as facts. To their credit, they were spot on with Lowe and Wolff to Mercedes and Glock leaving Marussia, but this story seems like a bit of a stretch.

    Boxcar Racer

    Interesting reading. Has anyone entertained the idea that two new teams may join the grid?


    @andae23 You’re right about Bild….I think we can rest until Michael Schmidt(of AMUS fame) confirms it..


    Webber to Porsche Le Mans is not new… he even said it himself back in January 2012 although he didn’t specify when.


    Every year, there’s suppose to be a change in the Ferrari and Red Bull line-up for next season, and every time Massa and Webber resign with their respective teams for one more years. It’s been the same song since 2011.


    @Kingshark True. In fact Webber “has been retiring” every year since the end of 2008.


    I personally can see Button retiring at the end of this season, and potentially McLaren trying to get Raikkonen back

    Ben Furtula

    Red Bull: Webber will retire and Hulkenburg will get the remaining seat.
    McLaren: McLaren will hopefully get Raikkonen back and Perez will keep his seat.
    Ferrari: Alonso will keep his seat as he has a contract, and Massa will have one more crack at the title next year.
    Lotus: Grosjean will be retained and Valsecchi will get the remaining seat as I watched him in GP2 and he has breath-taking pace.
    Mercedes: Both Hamilton & Rosberg will have consistant years and will keep their seats.
    Force India: di Resta will have a very average year and Bianchi will come in and take his place. Sutil will have a good year and retain his seat.
    Sauber: Kobayashi will be back! Guitarrez will be signed later on this year and race in 2014.
    Williams: PDVSA will run out of money and Maldonado will lose his seat. Bottas will be good, and Riccardo will be given one last crack to prove him self.
    Toro Rosso: Red Bull will play the cards differently and retain Vergne, and put in De Costa for next season.
    Caterham: Kovalainen will also be back! Van Der Garde will be bad this season and Pic is already signed on for 2014 so he will keep his seat.
    Marussia: Petrov will get the drive because of the Russian GP looks set for 2014, Also because it is a Russian backed team and Chilton’s seat looks safe as Daddy buys into the team.

    Red Bull: Vettel & Hulkenburg
    McLaren: Raikkonen & Perez
    Ferrari: Alonso & Massa
    Lotus: Grosjean & Valsecchi
    Mercedes: Hamilton & Rosberg
    Force India: Sutil & Bianchi
    Sauber: Kobayashi & Guitarrez
    Williams: Bottas & Ricciardo
    Toro Rosso: Vergne & De Costa
    Caterham: Kovalainen & Pic
    Marussia: Petrov & Chilton

    This is personally my view, so please don’t argue over my opinion.


    @raikkonen25 Heh heh! Disclaimer alert!!

    Prisoner Monkeys

    I’m not predicting too many changes for 2014. The rules are undergoing a major overhaul, and most teams will want stability to dull the effects of the changes, particularly among front-runners. The midfielders might take a gamble on a new driver in the hopes of moving up in the world, and the backmarkers are subject to the usual instability.

    Ferrari: #1 – Alonso; #2 – Hulkenberg
    Red Bull: #3 – Vettel; #4 – Vergne
    Mercedes: #5 – Hamilton; #6 – Rosberg
    Lotus: #7 – Raikkonen; #8 – Nasr
    Force India: #9 – Sutil; #10 – Vandoorne
    Sauber: #11 – Bianchi; #12 – Marciello
    McLaren: #14 – Button; #15 – Perez
    Williams: #16 – Bottas; #17 – Grosjean
    Toro Rosso: #18 – Ricciardo; #19 – da Costa
    Marussia: #20 – Chilton; #21 – Ellinas
    Caterham: #22 – Ma; #23 – Nasr


    @prisoner-monkeys I really don’t see Vandoorne, Marciello and Ellinas moving to F1 next year, and I seriously hope Ma won’t drive for Caterham! Also, you included Nasr twice?

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