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Race is on for the last top F1 seat in 2011
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Race is on for the last top F1 seat in 2011
Posted By: James Allen  |  19 Jul 2010   |  4:22 pm GMT  |  125 comments

This summer is unusual in that we already know the identity of most of the drivers in the top teams’ cars for next year.

Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull will field unchanged driver line ups and the same is likely to be true of Mercedes unless Michael Schumacher has a sudden change of heart and decides to quit at the end of the season. But he has been talking about next year’s car and looks very much as though his thoughts are of racing again in 2011.

This leaves only the seat alongside Robert Kubica at Renault.

Petrov: Sitting in a highly prized seat (Darren Heath)

The team has said that it is up to current incumbent Vitaly Petrov to show that he justifies the seat. So far he has had only one points scoring result in China, although he qualified well in Turkey. But he has made quite a few mistakes. He has the worst qualifying comparison with his team mate on the grid, at 10-0 and the average gap is 0.8 secs.

There is no doubt that the team is suffering from not having an established runner in the second car to allow it to fight Mercedes and Ferrari in the constructors’ championship. Kubica has scored 83 points already, more than Massa and not far behind Rosberg. Even if the second driver had contributed half the number of points of Kubica, the team would be ahead of Mercedes in fourth place.

On top of that running a rookie driver is always a compromise on development and this was certainly a problem over the winter testing period. Williams has a similar problem with fellow GP2 graduate Nico Hulkenberg, who is not matching up to Rubens Barrichello.

There is quite a big gap in performance from Renault back to the next fastest team, which is Force India. So it is very much a case of there being a top five teams and then the rest.

Petrov started the season qualifying 1.7 secs slower than Kubica, but did a strong job in Turkey to qualify 0.4s away. In Canada with the walls lining the track and clearly fearful of making a mistake, he was 1.7s off again, but in the last two races he has been 0.4s away from the Pole, albeit in Silverstone that equated to ten places on the grid.

There is a strong business case for retaining Petrov, as Lopez and Genii are active in the Russian market and it is an untapped resource of new funding into the sport. Lopez’ business model is to offer sponsors joint venture business deals with his own companies and with Renault corporate, so they get far more than just a sticker on a car. The return on investment of such deals is attractive to certain companies, who wouldn’t perhaps normally think of sponsoring an F1 team. The team has such a deal going with Russian car company Lada at the moment.

It is also helpful to Bernie Ecclestone to have a Russian driver as he tries to get a Grand Prix in Russia, possibly as soon as 2012.

Renault is a team on the up. Since the takeover by Gerard Lopez’ Genii group and the arrival of Eric Boullier as team principal, the team has rediscovered its confidence and the technical department has been praised by rivals for the constant updates they are bringing to the car. Lopez plans further investment in the team and it seems a fairly stable platform.

As a result the Petrov seat is attracting quite a bit of attention. Auto Motor und Sport has suggested that Kimi Raikkonen is thinking about a comeback with the team and will decide by the Finnish rally, but I don’t see Raikkonen coming back and I don’t see Lopez wanting to pay him.

Meanwhile Adrian Sutil, Timo Glock and Heikki Kovalainen are also candidates.

Lotus have indicated that they would like to keep Kovalainen. Sutil is faster than Glock and, after a few years of being erratic, is having quite a good season in the Force India, having scored 35 points so far. He also brings some sponsorship money from Medion and is probably about ready to move into a top team if he is ever going to make that move. He’s the one I would go for if I was looking to make a change on sporting grounds.

Lopez told me earlier this year that he wanted to “build the team around Kubica” and anyone coming in would need to establish the terms on which he would be employed.

It is an exciting opportunity and there is likely to be a lot of chat about it, but I see Renault waiting until the end of the season to see how Petrov does. I think they would like it to work with him, but he has a lot of ground to make up.

It is the key seat in the driver silly season, but there is no hurry for Renault.

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  1. john g says:

    what about klien? he’s still a pretty useful driver. and there was talk in the winter gone about heidfeld joining his old BMW team mate too…

    1. Howard Hughes says:

      Nah..he’s like Liuzzi for me. Never shone, despite numerous admirers…

      1. Christos Pallis says:

        Klien didn’t really do anything in his time in F1. He has driven the HRT teams car in testing and driven the socks off it but then times are compared to Chandok and Senna two rookies who are not benchmarked. Basically Klien is not a safe bet.

        1. Sutil – good solid driver who is performing well and with some money behind him.

        2. Kobayashi – cos he’s already a legend and is markitable and growing in consistency.

        3. Petrov – for all the reasons Russia can offer and a ok rookie season in form if not in results.

        Renault wouln’t be able to lure Kimi from WRC as he would only come back if their was a seat at McLaren or RBR, doubt he’d go back to Ferrari if there was one there. That all said if Renault are looking to move forward then they have to commit to a solid driver for the number 2 seat and Sutil seems the obvious choice. Do you really think Sutil would be on less than half the points of Kubica? i think he would be closer to Kubica than Schumacher has been to Rosberg and that would have put Renault into 4th in the Team standings, forgetting Petrov’s money how much more do they get from Bernie for a higher championship position – ALOT

  2. Ben G says:

    I’m available.

    1. J. Potocki says:

      What would be your salary expectations?

      1. Kedar says:

        I could drive for -500 Euros (I am willing to pay)

    2. Colin says:

      If it was you or villeneuve you’d be in mate.

      1. Rich C says:

        Heck I’d even kick in a hundred bucks per race for ya!

    3. Marybeth says:

      @BenG, I will hire you. No money, no car, but I could sew up a nice pennant for you to carry.

  3. CanadaGP says:

    I think people are being too harsh on Petrov. Many folks thought that Hulkenberg was going to be another instant star like Hamilton but he has done worse than Petrov, especially if you consider that Barichello isn’t quite as good as Kubica.
    I would stick with Petrov for both commercial reasons and driver potential reasons. I don’t think a Sutil offers as much commercially due to the surplus of German drivers and I don’t think his potential is any higher than Petrov. By 2011, Vitaly might be as consistent a points getter as Adrian in the same seat.

    I think the big unexpected news in 2011, will be Webber coming to Ferrari. The current Red Bull situation is as bad as the 2007 McLaren situation between FA/LH. Even though FA had a contract, a way out was found for both parties. I think the same thing will happen in RBR. Vettel is the favoured son in RBR as much as LH was in Macca so we know who will be leaving.

    1. ian says:

      underestimate Barichello at your peril …
      just ask the Stig.

      1. ManxF1 says:

        Get the stig in – how markable is he??

      2. S J W says:

        The stig already has a drive…

    2. Andy W says:

      I like Petrov he seems to have good race craft and isn’t afraid to try and wring his car’s neck when fighting.

      I feel the problem is the limited amount of time that rookies get coming into the season, its not just that they have to learn the tracks but they also have to learn how cars work and how to set them up and get the most out of them, all in 3 short practice sessions that are geared upto setting the car upto the race not teaching the rookies, or helping them maximise their performance by experimentation and experience.

      F1 needs to do something to help new drivers (and teams) by giving them more track time and more time to experiment and make mistakes, because thats how people learn!

      The ban on testing has had the unintentional effect of making it increasingly difficult for rookies to enter the sport and show off their true potential.

  4. tblincoe says:

    If Renault aren’t willing to give Petrov another go next season, then I too would snatch up Adrian Sutil.

    It seems as though he’s powering through the learning curve at this point in his career and he would be a nice complement to Robert Kubica in terms of personality, driving style, etc.

  5. ginnerchris says:

    Is there any suggestion that Webber might walk away from Redbull and take up the Renault 2nd seat, or is he going to put up with the rubbish he is getting because it’s his best chance of winning the championship?

    1. Lewis says:

      Can’t see him moving from a team built around Vettel to a slower team built around Kubica…

    2. Howard Hughes says:

      That’d be a good mix actually – Webber as WDC, signs a 1 year contract with Renault to have fun in his last year as a driver and attract a better marketing angle to the team than Kubica can… Kimi then takes the vacated Webber seat at Red Bull on both sporting and marketing grounds.


  6. Luffer says:

    Personally I like to see Timo Glock given a good car. He had a good season last year and scored quite a few points. He’s really suffering at Virgin with the poor car and deserves better.

    1. Nando says:

      Glock was consistently outpaced by Jarno Trulli!

    2. Howard Hughes says:

      I agree. There hasn’t been any Irish driver in F1 since Irvine left…time we had another.

  7. Lojen says:

    Haven’t Renault made it abundantly clear that they are basically a 1 driver team, that driver being Robert Kubica?

    Second seat strikes me as something of a poison chalice.

    1. Luffer says:

      Only if you’re coming from a better or equal team. Being a second driver for Renault is better than a lot of the other teams could offer!

  8. Nathan says:

    What about Kobayashi, if he keeps delivering solid performances in this year’s Sauber?

    Personally I think Kubica and Kobayashi would make a good pairing.

    1. ManxF1 says:

      Yeah, major Reanult & Nissan backing….

      Lada is also heavily linked to Renault….

      As James’re reported in his post “”Lopez’ business model is to offer sponsors joint venture business deals with his own companies and with Renault corporate”

      Think how nuts the Japanese public went over Sato!

    2. Sikas says:

      I agree. I’d love to see how Kobayashi does in a better car.

    3. J. Potocki says:

      I agree, he’s fast, agressive and I think he could handle being a number two as he gains more experience.

  9. Andy says:

    While I agree with you that I doubt Kimi will be interested in coming back to F1, I wonder why you think that Lopez would not be willing to pay him? After all, recently it was publicized quite widely that it was exactly Lopez who wants Raikkonen to drive for Renault, and MasterCard would be willing to foot the bill (for example here, ).

    Do you have some additional (and interesting) inside information about this?

    1. ian says:

      Kimi isn’t much good – there’s a reason.

      1. Sam says:

        A world champion who won a race last season even though his car is no good isn’t a good driver? You may want to re-think that statement if you are going to make such rash and unqualified comments.

      2. alterstill says:

        Kimi is a very good driver, but… at the same time he is very poor value for money. Don’t think Renault should even look into his direction.

        Also I am surprise how people believe Kimi would or wouldn’t come back to RBR but not Renault. His market position changed significantly and he has to work through for his seat from the scratch.
        He ain’t gonna put WRC on fire, he will be average there at best. He’s probably already looking for his F1 return options.

      3. Jbags says:

        No one likes a troll

      4. Mark V says:

        So you’re saying Whitmarsh is either a liar or a fool then?

      5. Luffer says:

        Was that a rhetorical questions?

      6. Mark V says:

        No, I wasn’t sure if the poster meant Raikkonen isn’t much good for Renault, or isn’t much good of a driver. If the latter, how would they explain why Whitmarsh wanted Kimi at McLaren and has since said F1 needs Kimi?

  10. F1 Kitteh says:

    I thought both Lotus drivers were in for the long term, and now both might be moving on?
    Wouldn’t Glock or Kovalenien be more ideal than say Sutil if they are looking to bank home points?

    1. Feynman says:

      I thought the vibe was Heikki goes to Renault, and discounted Renault engines go to Lotus.

      1. J. Potocki says:

        Can’t say that I’ve overly impresed with Heikki and his performance to date. I believe Renault could do better.

      2. Andy says:

        I suppose it is not the Renault that Heikki left all them years ago

  11. Kate says:

    I’ve thought for a while that Sutil is a no-brainer for that Renault seat – he’s quick, gets into far less accidents than he used to and comes with sponsorship. He is the sensible option, but then after all the surprises of the last Silly Season, who knows what is going to happen.

    I also doubt Raikkonen is coming back, he seems much happier in Rally. People were always trying to fit him in at Red Bull, yet that is clearly a very political environment – the very thing that Kimi hated about F1!

    1. tblincoe says:

      If Renault aren’t willing to give Petrov another go next season, then I would snatch up Adrian Sutil.

      It seems as though he’s powering through the learning curve at this point in his career and he would be a nice complement to Kubica in terms of personality, driving style, etc.

    2. tracer32000 says:

      Agreed all the way around! Sutil is a good fit and I highly doubt that Raikkonen is coming back too.

      Too bad for Petrov though, I still don’t think he’s half-bad…

    3. russ parkin says:

      ha one of the most sensible post in f1 history kate. kimi is never ever going to go back to f1 to be a number two driver. i think (although havent read lower than this) that should silence the rumours. i think they should pick up koybayashi

  12. Henry says:

    I feel it is a shame that Petrov’s business contacts, or opportunities provided by his sponsorhip mean he is highly likely to keep the seat despite not being a driver of a high enough standard for the sport. I dont think I’m alone in wishing it was more of a meritocracy out there. A few months ago there was interesting debate of this blog about women in motorsport, and most comments were to the tune of the idea that they would be welcome, as long as they were not simply there for a PR opportunity. It should be the same idea for the current driver.

    Sutil deserves an opportunity in a team thats really going places, but having said that Force India really are improving, next year they could have a very good car. I also think that Grosjean did not have enough of a chance before he was dropped, he has been carving up the field in the new Auto GP; he had a terrible car and a team that was under immense attack; I personally would like to see him given a chance in a better car.

    p.s. Bernie has too much power. Just a little lasting gripe of mine.

    1. J. Potocki says:

      Re: your comment on Bernie
      Could not agree more, how rich does one have to be? He has no sence of tradition. Case in point there being no French GP and now he is puting the futur of Monaco in question.

      1. Cliff says:

        Bernie has no time to think about tradition…He only has to think about what’s best for CVC Capital Partners, or in other words, his paymasters.

      2. Jez Playense says:

        The tradition of paying to drive is long established.

        Monaco GP is not going to be cancelled by Bernie or anyone else.

    2. antony says:

      bit naive. times were when half the grid were pay drivers. its in the sports dna and its only fanboys coming from football who think it odd

  13. S.J.M says:

    Sutil would be the best bet for Renault, in my opinion. He’s a quick driver and has certainly come of age over the last half season in making a lot less mistakes then in the past and would given Kubica an excellent partner and Renault a fantastic 2nd Driver. But I wonder if Sutil will want to play 2nd fiddle to Kubica, Renault have stated they want to build a team around him. But then i also wonder if Kovalianen will want the same treatment, he was rarley as fast as Hamilton at McLaren in a race (but competitive in Quali). Ive have read that Renault would look at Kovalainen as part of a deal to give Lotus their engines next year.

    I wonder if Renault will want a pay driver next season as they have proved a lot stronger then many would have thought after their last 12months worth of drama.

    I think your right James, Sutil would be the driver id be after, purley because of what he offers.

  14. Martin says:

    I feel sorry for Petrov as it is very hard for new drivers to make an impact these days without testing.

    I think they should bring back testing but have them on the Mondays and maybe Tuesdays after a Grand Prix at the same circuit. Then you wouldn’t need extra test teams.

  15. N. Machiavelli says:

    I think we will see more changes before next
    season begins.

    I expect Massa to leave Ferrari and F1, and I expect Webber to leave Red Bull. I also expect Renault will
    send Petrov packing.

    I don’t see Kimi returning, because he doesn’t need the
    money and clearly he doesn’t enjoy the political side.

  16. E.B. says:

    I expect Petrov will be sent packing.

    I also expect Massa will decide to retire, after
    this season, with Ferrari’s blessing.

    Webber won’t be at Red Bull next year. Red Bull want
    a driver they can control, in order to get the results
    they want.

    1. Marybeth says:

      Personally, I would like to see Ferrari give Kimi back his last contract year, i.e., do the year 2010 in 2011. If they had to let Kimi go after Massa was injured, & it wasn’t Alonso demanding Kimi’s ouster, then let Kimi have his last contracted year, as their 1st driver, next year. I think that by now, Ferrari might look at the Iceman as a very large dish of ice cream on a very hot, long & tiresome day. It could provide redemption for all involved.
      @BenG, I will hire you. No money, no car, but I could sew up a nice pennant for you to carry. :)

    2. Pinball says:

      I’m pretty sure that Helmut Marko will be making a Schumacher style return next year as the number two driver at Red Bull.

    3. jb says:

      i hope webber gets a fair go, after all this time in f1 he has finally got a competitive car and his leg is fully recovered, he is finally able to prove his talent…webber to ferrari with a nice new number 1 on his car.. what do you think?

  17. David Hamilton says:

    James – What on earth do you have against Nick Heidfeld? As the most highly rated current F1 driver without a drive for next season it seems bizarre to omit him from the article.

    Or do you know something about Michael Schumacher’s plans for next season that you’re not sharing?

    1. jonrob says:

      Yes didn’t the infamous Eddie Jordan nose for rumor suggest that all was not well in the Schumacher inner spirit.

      I agree that Nick Heidfeld should have a drive, but don’t think James has anything against him.

    2. vivek shetty says:

      I agree….

      What about it James?

    3. hesus says:

      Nick consistency and technical skills would be very useful. Plus he was with Kubica in one team already (it wasn’t perfect but in comparison to Maca/RB..) His “20 race-finishes-streaks” would also be helpful. Ideal second driver – hungry of wining races, good passing skills yet a bit slower than no1.
      But is he available?

      I support Petrov, seems to be nice guy and still learning but I fear two things in 2011:
      1. Petrow will stay and do no better than Piquet in his second year.
      2. Renault’s best engineers will be drained to bigger teams.

  18. C Pitter says:

    I would love Heidfeld to make a comeback. I couldn’t understand why he never got a drive this year when you see some of the field who did get a drive. And he beat Kubica on many occasions.

    He is a good chap personality-wise too, a million times nicer than Vettel IMO.

  19. Rafael L says:

    Yay for sutil! I hope he gets the seat.

    I’ve always had a soft spot for him…not sure why. Always lining up the back of the grid I guess.

    Although even if he doesn’t get the seat, Force India is at least much, much, much better now than it was in 2008.

    Although a move to Renault puts him up with the big guns and opens up a lot of doors in the future, I would imagine.

    Go Sutil!

    1. jonrob says:

      Depends on how long Renault are around.

      1. Kenny Carwash says:

        The Renault name will be in F1 until the end of 2011 at least. FOM insisted on that when their majority stake was sold to Genii, presumably because they didn’t want yet another manufacturer to leave the sport in just a couple of years.

        Genii appear both serious and organised, so I don’t see the team going anywhere but their branding may change. By then Renault may decide to renew, but Genii would probably want quite a bit of money so they could end up being rebranded before 2012.

  20. Peter says:

    I don`t think it would make sense for Kimi to come back next year. He should wait and see how much he can achieve in WRC 2011. However he is not going to be satisfied by being close to the podium and that would be already a huge achievement by him in rally. I am sure he wants to make a point. Also in 2012 there is much better chance for top-seats. Sutil has showed strong race-craft against Hamilton and Vettel this year and has the hunger and the experience in the same time.

  21. Sam says:

    Did anyone see Kimi around the paddock during the Monaco Gp weekend? And did he see anyone? Are Auto Motor und Sport credible? And is Lopez paying? I thought Mastercard was going to foot the bill?

    1. mtb says:

      “Are Auto Motor und Sport credible?”

      Far more credible than some of the weekly publications that I have had the displeasure of reading.

  22. Pablo Rossi says:

    Very surprised Petrov’s only had one points scoring finish! Dont know why I thought otherwise but i didnt think he looked as bad as it sounds on paper. But in all honesty he isnt good enough for a team with aspirations as high as Renault clearly have.
    As for Sutil, he’s decent and would be respectable in a number two sense to Kubica so if you wanted a Kubica/Heidfeld type partnership again then its okay. But if that was the case why not go for tried and trusted and actually get Heidfeld. Whereas having a Kimi/Kubica partnership is a whole new ballgame in every sense – driving the team forward as well as financial and high exposure. With Kimi they would have an absolutely ruthless partnership that would send out a message and be in line with the Mclaren and RedBull teams of having TWO number one drivers.
    Rally’s dead Kimi, its on Dave for pity’s sake!, and no-one is beating Loeb no matter how long your there.
    PS if they’re seriously considering Glock and Kovy, they might as well stick with Petrov and at least get some of that Russian money in addition to keeping Uncle Bernie happy ;)

  23. Stu says:

    Have to agree about Sutil, think he’s playing a blinder for Force India this season (admittedly it’s a good car) and he deserves to do well now he has matured.

  24. Erik C says:

    What about Senna? Brazil is a huge market for Renault and he won’t be expensive to sign.

    1. ManxF1 says:

      Makes good sense – Brazil’s economy is booming

    2. Phil Curry says:

      He’s also shown that he can be quick in an F1 car – look at the tests he did for Honda just before they pulled out. It was regarded that the second seat, alongside Button, was his, until the Japanese manufacturer announced it was quitting. Ross Brawn decided to stick with Barrichello because of his experience, feeling that a new privateer team wouldn’t be the best place for a rookie.

  25. SoLiDG says:

    If I had a say, I would go for Glock. He is in bad luck with his car this year, but has shown promise in his toyota days. He derserves a good car! Sutil would also be a good second driver alongside Kubica. They do need an expierenced driver rather then a rookie!

  26. Chris Orr says:

    Paul Di Resta any one ? get him on loan from Mercedes, let him prove his worth.
    Im sure he wont crash as much as Sutil will

  27. BMG says:

    Kimi and Webber would not sign to be number 2 drivers and Renualt have basiclly said Kubica is number 1.

    1. Jake Pattison says:

      Good points.

  28. BMG says:

    James I just read an interview on . He said that there is no 1/2 driver and the team should not interfere in the driver rivalry. Do you think this is conformation that the Team was interfering in the drivers performances.

  29. BMG says:

    Sorry, I’m talking about Dietrich Mateschitz.

  30. David Baric says:

    Really hoping Petrov comes good – he doesn’t seem to be a bad driver – but the bar has been set soo high for new drivers without testing.
    I would like to see Renualt stick with him for next year.
    If not: Glock or Heidfeld- – both would do a solid job.

  31. Lewis says:

    What are Nick Heidfield’s plans for next year? He and Rob did well together at BMW…

  32. Steve Selasky says:

    What if Weber wins the driver’s title and retires?

  33. Keith says:

    Yeah what about Senna… on paper you would have to say he can’t be any worse than Petrov and perhaps the name alone might spark something up for Renault?

  34. Ian Blackwell says:

    As has been said Petrov has not been awful by any stretch. It is true the results are not really there but there have been enough flashes of brilliance (particularly in the wet and while overtaking) to justify a second year. He is so much better than Nelson Piquet Jr was as his predecessor. Renault would be well advised to keep him and the money he brings and concentrate of giving Kubica a winning car. Once they manage to get Kubica on the top step a few times, they can have another look and Vitaly and see if they could do better.

  35. tblincoe says:

    I’ve got to agree with the rest that Adrian Sutil is the man for the job. I think that Renault should and will wait it out to see if Petrov is worth keeping around. With his business-related intangibles and the fact that Sutil doesn’t have a better option at the moment, it makes all the sense in the world to see if the young Russian can show something the rest of the year…

  36. Madhu says:

    I don’t think kimi is the one who is interested in the REnault seat, its always been the other way around. Lopez wanted to sound out kimi, but kimi has always publically said he would not return unless its a top team.

  37. Mark V says:

    Can unsigned drivers pick teams based on the potential speed of a future car’s development? Do teams who are wooing drivers show them specs of the new car, or is it all a guessing game?

    After Raikkonen’s statement last year that he would only sign to a championship contending team, surely he and his management, were they in a position to ask for such, would want some proof that McLaren’s new car would be fast.

    On an unrelated note, that page that shows up saying “you’re posting too fast, slow down.” is annoying since you lose your post, and because this is an F1 site. Speeding should be the rule!

    1. Zobra Wambleska says:

      Yeah, what’s with that? I can’t even figure out what it means.

    2. Rich C says:

      I *always copy my text before posting here just for that reason.

      1. Mark V says:

        Yes, a lesson hard learned. :)

  38. Donuts says:

    If it’s a 2nd driver they want, the are surely looking for what Petrov lacks, which is consistency and beeing able to help with development. Nick Heidfeldt could be a good partner, but this time around it will be on Robert Kubica’s terms(not competing with a german driver in a german team).

  39. Matt W says:

    I think there is a problem in F1 now that teams expect drivers to come into F1 and instantly perform like Hamilton did in 2007. Hamilton was a once in a generation find, and now teams seem intent on finding the next gold driver rather than nurturing them along.

    Even Schumacher needed a season or two of nurturing before he really found his form. Teams need to take more care and be more patient with young drivers.

    1. tblincoe says:

      And that really is the problem, isn’t it? Look at the pedigree of guys like Hulkenberg, Grosjean, or even Petrov and it’s not like these guys can’t drive. However, they’ve all struggled to make the immediate impression that the upper-tier teams are wanting to see. We all need to remember what Sebastian Vettel’s first season looked like up until the Valencia round when Toro Rosso started to turn things around…

      It’s for this reason that we need the Toro Rossos, Virgins, and HRTs of the world to get these guys into the sport for more than a half season without worrying about losing their seats. It’s hard to focus on driving when you’re always looking in the rear-view mirror!

  40. Harvey Yates says:

    Having two drivers of equal quality is a luxury few teams can afford. And even those that can are wondering if it is worthwhile.

    What Horner did, for whatever reason, with regards to Webber’s wing was dreadful man-management and even worse PR but the team is suffering despite having the fastest car on the grid. It makes good sense to favour one driver.

    A major part of the strength of Ferrari in its championship winning phase was its overt (to everyone but Rubens it seemed) monoculture. It was the double diffuser of its day.

    If Renault do aspire to bring back the old days then they will probably need to stick with just the one driver. 4/10ths off the pace of a team mate as a best showing is a signal not only to the team management but to the driver himself.

    In those circumstances Petrov is a pretty good buy given what he brings to Renault. But there’s more.

    It has always been a good career move to help out Bernie. With his stated desire (although you never know with him) to venture into Russia, he needs to pander to jingoism. And that means Petrov. Bernie has never shown himself to be reluctant to support, and not only financially, what he sees as a deserving cause.

    One driver teams are bad for the sport but they’ve always been here. All Ferrari did was to abandon any pretence. The situation at McLaren is unique in 2010: a car capable of winning the WCC, two drivers aiming at the WDC and equal support.

    In the glorious Honda years at Williams they wanted Mansell to back up Piquet, to do some testing and not get in the way. They, like many others, including me and an awful lot of F1 fans, underestimated his ability.

    It is ironic that the whinging nickname became a permanent fixture when he complained that he was being given less powerful engines than his team mate. Honda’s confession some time later that they ‘tailored’ each engine to the individual driver’s needs, somehow suggesting that Mansell drove better with lower bhp, showed that major sponsors did more than just supply the drinks at the Paddock Club.

    Williams was ridiculed at the time for managing to lose the WDC despite the skills of their drivers and having the fastest car on the grid. There is little doubt that when motivated, Piquet was one of the greats. Yet the team blew it.

    At Silverstone in 87 both Williams cars lapped the field up to, I seem to remember, 4th. Williams’ lack of compliance with Honda’s desire to favour Piquet meant they lost the engine as well. It was a lesson well learnt by other teams.

    Petrov is the perfect number 2 in the current F1 climate. If there is a Russian GP then sponsors will be queuing to rent a space on the Renault and Petov’s overalls when the circus comes to town. All he needs to do is ensure that he doesn’t get too close to his team mate. 4/10ths probably needs a bit of improvement. Say half that and everyone’s happy. Including, I reckon, the driver himself

    Mind you, I can see a seat going spare at Red Bull next season. Contracts in F1 are signed more in hope than expectation. Petrov would be perfect for them.

  41. Taimur says:

    I don’t know why no one is considering Nick Heidfeld. I was very disappointed when I found out no one had agreed to give him a race seat for this season. Kubica and Nick have been team mates for a very long time and I’d love to see Nick racing again!

  42. Stevie P says:

    I feel that Renault have done well this year because they have focused almost exclusively on Kubica… and not 2 drivers. I think Petrov is doing ok, considering he’s a rookie and I think he deserves another year to see if he can improve – if not, then cheerio.

    Can’t see Kubica being happy with Heldfeld re-joining him or Kimi… I think Kubica is very happy to, at last, have the resources of a good team mainly focussed on him.

    That might change, as James alludes to (in terms of them wishing to get higher in the Constructors)… but for me, it’s nice to see Renault back in the mix and Kubica racing well :-)

  43. IMHO says:

    IMHO Renault is the private farm of Robert Kubica. The question is: who wants to be the second? I think that Kimi is not this person. In my opinion they’ll choose Glock or Sutil.

    1. mtb says:

      Button would make a great no.2 for Kubica ;)

  44. dimitris says:

    Depends on how high Renault has set its targets. If they want championships they will need two top notch drivers. They can’t wait for rookies to mature. With good results the money also flows in. They can obtain the services of Kimi if they give him what he wants: allow him to race at the WRC, Citroen will probably not have a full schedule for the coming year for its junior team due to financial difficulties, and give him equal status with Kubica. They will indeed be the ‘dream team’ of F1.

    1. anna says:

      You don’t seem to be awared that it’s Red Bull and not Citroen who is Kimis current employer. Reb Bull also has stated that they are very happy whit him and looking forward to extend his contract and fix him a citroen to the next rally season.

  45. Howard Hughes says:

    It’s at crucial times like this that I bet the teams rue the day Gastón Mazzacane ever left the sport. God the things that kid could do with a car – he’d have turned that Renault team around…

  46. Peter says:

    A Raikkonen – Kubica pairing would be probably the strongest on the grid in 2011. I can`t see it happen however just as Raikkonen-Hamilton team didn`t happen last year, unfortunatelly. Kimster will be on podium in WRC next year and hopefully come back in 2012 or play racing with his kid at home.

    1. anna says:

      …or go for the WDC in rally, at least his co-driver has stated that it’s possible with a 5 year plan. Sadly, I would like to see him in F1 again but I understand if he choose to never come back make a carer i rally instead.

  47. Josh M says:

    I’d give Bruno a decent seat just to see what he can do . . . the sport owes “a” Senna that much at least.

    Maybe we’ll see Webber at Renault next year and Kimi at Red Bull . . . though he won’t like being #2 to Seb.

    1. Zobra Wambleska says:

      Seb would probably like Kimi as his number 2 just about as much as he likes Mark. I think the results might be about the same. In other words Kimi wouldn’t stay number 2 for long.

  48. Livo says:

    Let BobKub get on with it and give Petrov more time I say. Heidfeld would be my pick but from a commercial standpoint it would not make much sense.

    James, on another note and OT, I am sad to see the new banner picture you have chosen. That image of Princess Petel is my least favorite of the season by far. Makes me want to put my fist through his face. Not that I would, it just makes me feel that way. Horrible, and I wish he would refrain in future. I really think it pisses a lot of people off when he does this incessantly. Anybody else feel the same way?

    Any chance of a change please, James?

    1. James Allen says:

      No chance of a change, it’s Germany, he’s the one in the spotlight, it’s the right banner for the week!!

      1. Livo says:

        Ah! I’m with you now James. I shall watch with interest!

  49. Lionel says:

    Potential Flash point in Germany: James What would happen in Germany come the week End if Jenson Button says “The new diffuser is not perfect and so he does not want it on the car” and Lewis Hamilton says “Yes, its not perfect but it makes the car better than the valencia edition we have been driving, I will drive round the problems, I want it on my car”. Will Mclaren then say, JB here is the Old car and LH, here is the new car?

    1. Livo says:

      I think it was the team ‘and’ JB that out voted LH on the upgrade issue at Silverstone and it would be illogical for any call of that nature to be made at any race in the future.

      It is a none issue as far as I can see.

    2. James Allen says:

      See Whitmarsh comment on this in my latest post on German GP. He addresses it head on

      1. Livo says:


  50. MJL says:

    Kimi at Renault would be very interesting for a number of reasons, but particularly so we could compare him with Kubica. I still rate Kimi as one of the world’s fastest out-and-out drivers and wouldn’t bet on Kubica dominating. But it depends on how motivated Kimi would be…maybe they could give him an ice cream bonus on top of a few million quid?

  51. mekanikal_grip says:

    James, great blog as always…keep it up;

    my question although off topic is, how do you see the wrangle between Allsport and Fota developing, Put yourself in the shoes of a small sponsor, you already pay a fair % of your marketing budget to display your company’s logo on clothing, trucks and inside the garage and then Allsport say, sorry you need to stump up and extra xxx,xxx GBP or your logo wont appear anywhere inside the track….

    in the current climate most companies will probably, and quite rightly walk away from the sport, coupled with an expiring concorde agreement…..

    1. James Allen says:

      It’s funny that it’s never been a problem before. It will be resolved, just some early sabre rattling. There will be much bigger bumps in the road soon.

  52. Sharp_Saw says:

    Okay lets hypothetically assume that Kimi signs for Renault. How is this thing good for F1? How is this good for Kimi? What can Kimi bring to the sport with this drive?

    1. dimitris says:

      The artistic style coupled with unmitigated speed that seem to be missing from F1 right now. And, of course, some straight-forward no-nonsense, non-political behaviour.

      1. Faisal says:

        There are already drivers with speed equal to what Kimi had. Ever heard of Hamilton,Alonso,Vettel ?

        And I bet half of F1 fanbase doesn’t mind the politics in F1. That is what keeps the F1 forums and blogs alive.

        Kimi would be just another strong contender if he comes back. Nothing more than that !

      2. dimitris says:

        You are right about Hamilton and Vettel, I think Alonso is just not as fast as these two, but as far as the blogs feeding on the politics of the F1, I would rather see us discussing the sport, not its politics.

  53. EM says:

    Here’s an interesting one I’ve heard from a well placed source…

    Mercedes are currently talking to Kimi about replacing Schumacher next season.

    It makes a lot of sense from a business and team point of view. Schumi isn’t delivering this year, he’s really struggling with the new cars, Kimi is quick and with Rosberg their as the team player he can do all the stuff Kimi isn’t interested in including all the German press and PR stuff.

    Remember where you heard it first!

  54. Rich C says:

    Its gonna be Sutil at Renault. The Groundhog says so!

    James should run a contest on this. WHoever’s right (moi) wins… something cool.

  55. mo kahn says:


  56. Ed says:

    I don’t think Medion would follow Sutil to Renault because HP is already there – and I think has a multi-year deal.

    Also, I’m surprised that you say that Sutil is faster than Glock so readily, I would have said the opposite, but its hard to compare.

  57. Mr G says:

    One question only ?
    Does Petrov make sense financially ?
    Yes he does and following the Genii model, they want to have a financially self sufficient team in F1, Petrov is, at the moment, the only solution.
    He has a good backing, it is more or less on the pace with the rest of rookies and he has demonstrated that sometimes can be quite good.
    Without testing, he is one of the best in the paddock.
    The talks about Kimi are totally rubbish.
    Look at his situation from this angle.
    Red Bull is paying his salary to do WRC, no other team can have his services despite being very quick in an F1 car and maybe Reb Bull could bring him to F1 when Webber will finish with Reb Bull in 2012.
    Do you get my point now ?

  58. Tyler says:

    Too bad marketing plays such a role…but thats how it is. That aside….Heidfeld is the obvious choice.

  59. Grabyrdy says:


  60. Dave Aston says:

    Sutil deserves a good drive. If they want to ‘build a team around’ Kubica, Kobayashi would be a distraction – he’s too quick…!


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