Mercedes are on the conference call trail again this morning. This time it is to announce what Mercedes describes as the “first new driver” for its team, which is expected to be Nico Rosberg, as he has been signed to the team for some time.
Rosberg will be in the conference call as will Norbert Haug, the vice president of Mercedes Benz motorsport and Nick Fry, who is now billed as the CEO of the Mercedes F1 team.
Haug continues to maintain that the Mercedes driver line up will ‘surprise’ and will be appealing. Over the weekend Ross Brawn told German tabloid Bild that Schumacher had “no ambitions” to return to F1. Schumacher’s camp distanced themselves from the notion of him racing for the team next season. His manager, Willi Weber, said that Schumacher had met with Dr Zetsche from Daimler and with Ross Brawn in Abi Dhabi, but there was no suggestion that the idea of him driving for the team was seriously discussed. At that time Brawn and Mercedes were still hoping that a deal would be done with world champion Jenson Button to stay.
Rosberg is ready for a change and he is a good choice for the team, as he has shown a lot of improvement this season, he tends to get the job done in qualifying and his pace in races is good. He is still prone to the odd mistake, like Singapore where he threw away a podium due to a simple error on the pit lane exit, but he is ready for the chance to show what he can do at the front of the field.
When he’s mixing it with Hamilton, Alonso, Massa and the rest we will also get a chance to see whether he has sufficient aggression, which is the one question mark a lot of team insiders want to know the answer to. Kimi Raikkonen would be an ideal team mate for Rosberg and give him an excellent yardstick, but at the moment Raikkonen seems be cool on the move,
“I’ve always thought that now Mercedes is involved, they will run two Germans,” he said at the weekend, adding “I’ve not spoken to Ross Brawn.” However it was noticeable that his manager Steve Robertson, having said last week that Raikkonen would take a year off, hit reverse gear after Button jumped ship and opened the door again for a dialogue with Mercedes.
The notion of Raikkonen racing alongside Rosberg was given further credibility by something else Brawn said over the weekend to Bild,
“If we get a combination of two equally strong drivers, then the strategy will be different than if you have a winner like Michael. Following Button’s move to McLaren, we will think differently. My desire is to find two experienced drivers. Nico Rosberg has more than three years in Formula 1, so I count him to be experienced.
“I do not want a novice who must find their way around racetracks, because we have very few opportunities to test drivers now. Performance without much practice is therefore the task. The good thing is we are not in a hurry.”
This is a consistent line from the team, that they are in no hurry. Their question mark over Raikkonen is which driver would they get, the one who performed miracles in a slow Ferrari from July onwards, or the one who went missing in action a few times over 2008 and early 2009?
If they are looking for a driver for two years, before they can get their hands on Sebastian Vettel, Raikkonen would be a good bet; most of his 2010 salary is paid by Ferrari, the problem would be agreeing a figure for 2011, when the €10 million Ferrari subsidy would not be available.