With F1 on break for the coming month, we now enter prime time for driver contract negotiations. In this update, I will focus on the major teams, what we know and what is suspected. Let the silly season begin!
This year’s silly season revolves around Ferrari and what they do with Felipe Massa. It should not be a surprise to anyone that Massa has been out of form since his crash at Hungary in 2009. Understanding the nature of his problems is at the heart of Ferrari’s decision. In the past couple of races, Massa has shown some glimmers of hope, qualifying and racing much closer to his more illustrious and domineering teammate. That being said, the relative distribution of points between Alonso and Massa is shameful. A constructor’s championship is out of the question for 2012 with Massa in the seat. So Ferrari looks to replace Massa.
Now it gets tricky. If rumors are to be believed, Ferrari has looked at every driver on the grid. Something tells me, though, that Pedro de la Rosa is not going to get the seat. So who are Ferrari serious about? Well, that depends on Sebastian Vettel. See, rumors abound that Vettel has some sort of pre contract with Ferrari for 2014, after he is done with Red Bull. If the Vettel deal is real, than Ferrari would be in a different sort of driver market. They would be looking for a proven number two performer who wants to finish their career with Ferrari. Problem is, Red Bull snatched up Mark Webber and is not letting go until 2014. From that criteria, guys like Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen come into the picture.
I do not know how Jenson Button feels about all this, but all of a sudden the rumor mill has really churned on Kimi Raikkonen. Kimi’s comeback has shown without a doubt that he has the speed and the talent to do what Ferrari need. Kimi has publicly said that he bears Ferrari no ill feelings. That being said, when Montezemolo dumped the Finn for Alonso in 2010 a lot of bad blood was created. Apparently, Kimi has promised to never work for Montezemolo again.
This leaves Ferrari in a pretty pickle. See, any other drivers they may consider, Perez, Kobayashi, Hulkenberg, Di Resta, for example, all lack in experience, something that Ferrari desperately needs.
It may be that Ferrari will keep Massa to bridge the gap to Sebastian’s arrival in 2014.
If Sebastian is not coming, than Ferrari can look for a career driver. Someone who wants a long term contract and has the performance to prove it. Problem is, however, that only Lewis Hamilton is in that position and Alonso has apparently vetoed that move. Again, Ferrari may be stuck with Massa until a candidate from the midfield has a couple more years to prove themselves (cough, Perez, cough).