There is always some movement of drivers in F1 from one season to another and there is usually one driver who holds everything up.
This year the situation is slightly different as the retirement of Mark Webber creates an opening at the sport’s top team, Red Bull. This has fired a starting gun on driver movements for 2014.
As a result there is some action in the paddock with drivers’ agents getting busy making conversation with team bosses.
Kimi Raikkonen is in the frame for the Red Bull ride, up against Daniel Ricciardo and Jean Eric Vergne. While Sebastian Vettel was effusive in his praise for Raikkonen yesterday in the FIA press conference, hosted by JA, that could just as easily be because he knows that the Finn won’t be his team mate, as that he will.
Raikkonen has his supporters within the team, but there is a sense that, for Red Bull’s junior programme and its backers, Ricciardo is in the box seat at the moment. He said on Saturday that nothing is decided yet and Raikkonen reiterated that on Sunday.
Meanwhile Lotus are very keen on Nico Hulkenberg. He has been in discussions with them for some time. If Raikkonen stays at Lotus, it will be interesting to see whether they look to hire Hulkenberg anyway, or whether they stick with Grosjean, who had his strongest weekend for a while in Germany.
The team is never quite sure what it’s going to get with the Frenchman on any given weekend and he still has only 35% of the points of Raikkonen – although twice recently he has been instructed to let him through.
Hulkenberg provides a more consistent proposition and is highly rated by everyone he has worked with.
He finds himself in an awkward situation, with Sauber at something of a financial crossroads. The Swiss team is tight on money at the moment and the story in the paddock on Sunday was that Sauber has released him from his contract should he wish to leave.
With Felipe Massa struggling again at Ferrari, as the negotiations over 2014 start to ramp up, one wonders whether they will find a way to give him yet another chance or whether this is finally the end of the road for the Brazilian.
As lead driver in Ferrari’s ‘satellite’ team, Hulkenberg has been on Maranello’s radar this season, although he has always insisted his move there was not a holding pattern waiting for a Ferrari seat.
The interest from Lotus makes his situation more interesting and raises his stock – one way or another it seems he may finally get his chance with a leading team next year, if the cards fall right for him.