The Alonso to Ferrari move has energised the driver market and it looks like we are going to have some very strong line-ups for next year.
Whoever wins the next couple of world championships will really have deserved them because the competition is going to be intense.
I’ve been thinking through the rationale behind some of the likely next driver moves I posted about this week.
Raikkonen to McLaren
This one struck me as odd, as regular readers will know, because firstly I didn’t see why the team would need another ‘ace’, second I wonder if they could handle the situation given what happened with Hamilton and Alonso in 2007 and third it seemed like something guaranteed to annoy Hamilton.
When you think about it, there is some small benefit for Santander, who were keen to get Alonso in a Ferrari as soon as possible. From McLaren’s point of view the performance of Raikkonen this summer, since it became apparent that he was being pushed out, has been stunning. It shows that he still has the fire in his belly.
McLaren believe that he will perform at his best next year because he will be highly motivated to show everyone, but particularly Ferrari, what he can do. So it’s a good moment to get a very motivated Raikkonen. As for handling him and Hamilton in the same team, he isn’t someone who plays political games, so the atmosphere in the team will be one of straight competition.
Although Hamilton isn’t over the moon about the idea, he isn’t afraid of going up against Raikkonen either and he no doubt believes that he will prove the more consistent over a season. It means that the team will be a very strong force in the drivers’ and constructors’ championships next year and as the Mercedes partnership in its current form is coming to an end in two years time (when they move on to Brawn) it is an important moment to demonstrate that McLaren is a top class team, to build a platform for the next stage of the team’s development.
If it happens it will be the first time a team has had two world champions in it since Senna and Prost were together at McLaren in 1989!
Rosberg to Brawn
This will not be announced until after the season ends because Ross Brawn doesn’t want anything to detract from the team closing out both championships.
This makes perfect sense for Rosberg and is an ideal move. He will be driving for the world champion team in a car which should be capable of winning races. He is bang on his personal stated target for 2010. If he had gone to McLaren he would have been up against Hamilton, who usually had the upper hand over him in their early days. He will fancy his chances more against Button and the whole package will keep his stock very high. If he drives a Brawn the way he has driven a Williams this year, he will do very well.
From Brawn’s point of view, Rosberg is a strong package who has proven this year that, although he still makes the odd big mistake like Singapore, he is very consistent and still improving. He’s also German, which suits Mercedes and he’s young, marketable and great with the media.
Barrichello to Williams
This is the best story of all. Rubens is keeping his career alive and moving to yet another team, his fifth in 18 years of F1 racing. Barrichello will go through the 300 Grands Prix starts barrier next season and has become one of the sport’s treasures. Although Sir Frank Williams criticised him for laying into the Brawn team after he felt he was ‘switched’ in Germany, he also admires him for his speed and above all his ability to set up and engineer the car.
Williams has a super young talent in Nico Hulkenberg and putting Barrichello alongside him will give Hulkenberg a well set up car at every race and a fantastic reference point. I think the pair of them will be very fast and exciting to watch. It’s an exciting and very affordable driver line up. The engine choice will be important. It’s looking more like Cosworth than Renault at the moment, I’m told.
The key for Williams is to pay incredible attention to giving Rubens the brakes he needs. If he can stop the car the way he likes to, he will fly.