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Driver market starting to move as Maldonado edges towards Lotus
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Posted By: James Allen  |  31 Oct 2013   |  1:03 pm GMT  |  284 comments

[Updated] The F1 driver market is starting to kick into gear for next season with the logjam over who will drive for Lotus appearing close to clearing.

Although Pastor Maldonado remains tight lipped, it seems that he has signed or is about to sign for Lotus for next year, Venezuelan oil backer PDVSA having reached an agreement with Williams over severance.

“At the moment I don’t have any confirmation. We will see later. I hope to have a clearer idea before the end of the season,” said Maldonado in Abu Dhabi this afternoon.

“There is a lot of speculation. It’s not signed. It’s still quite early.

“I want to be competitive, to have a competitive car and get good results like we did last year.”

Most sponsor contracts have performance clauses in them and with Williams have scored only one point in 2013, which is likely to be short of the baseline expectation. The suggestion is that PDVSA will be able to exit the deal without paying a significant amount of compensation.

Williams is in talks with Felipe Massa among others, while Valtteri Bottas looks set to stay with the team. GP2 championship contender and Mercedes reserve driver Sam Bird’s name is also in the frame, with support from Mercedes, who will supply Williams powertrains next season.

Lotus boss Eric Boullier said in India that either Maldonado or Nico Hulkenberg will occupy the seat next to Romain Grosjean. Hulkenberg’s other option is Force India or staying where he is at Sauber.

He’s had a strong season, but his bodyweight has been cited as a disadvantage next season with the advent of the new hybrid turbo powertrains, which add a lot of weight to the car. Hulkenberg’s signature was dependent on the investment coming in from the Quantum Group, which has turned into a protracted saga. Boullier has been anxious for his board to make a decision so he does not lose the chance to hire the highest quality driver available.

It is conceivable that Hulkenberg will find himself still standing when the game of musical chairs concludes and the music stops..

Meanwhile Max Chilton could be on the move. The Marussia team would like to keep him, but he is also in talks with Force India for whom he has driven in Young Driver tests before making his race debut this year. Also in the frame at Force India is McLaren protege Kevin Magnussen. McLaren could place the Dane alongside Jules Bianchi at Marussia, but would prefer a car further up the grid. Force India is leaving all its options open and has said it will not announce drivers until December.

Paul di Resta is in an anxious position as the Force India seat looks an attractive option to several drivers with budget. His strong relationship was via Mercedes and former motorsport director Norbert Haug, who was replaced in that role by Toto Wolff last Christmas.

The Force India team has always prided itself on taking drivers on merit rather that for budget reasons, although Adrian Sutil brings some funding from Medion and Capri Sun.

Marussia meanwhile, already has Jules Bianchi under contract for next season, a supply of Ferrari powertrains and now some commercial income from the central F1 prize fund thanks to tying up a bilateral agreement with Bernie Ecclestone and CVC last week.

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284comments

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1

What I completely fail to understand is how anyone in the marketing departments of the majority of F1 teams have kept their job.

Why on earth is the driver having to bring sponsorship?

MARKETING PEOPLE OF F1 – DO YOUR JOB!

2

Very good point.

Perhaps instead of the drivers the marking people should have to bring their own sponsorship to a team to prove they can do it.

3

I won’t be the first one to say this, but it’s a shame, a historic one, for F1 that so many very-good drivers are left outside for lack of funding.

4

How sad for F1 that Hulkenberg who in all probability is as quick as Hamilton and quicker than Kimi or Alonso will be wasting another season in a midfield team that struggles to get into Q3. Maldonado is no better than Bottas at the end of the day.

Looks like 2014 will be another season with the same old faces fighting for the championship. Hulkenberg would have been a legitimate championship threat with a competitive car. Can’t see Ferrari winning a championship with two drivers who struggle to qualify higher than the 3rd or 4th row. I guess it’s down to Hamilton, but he seems inconsistent these days. He has off days, whereas Vettel has two off days in a bad season (2012) and zero off days in a good season (2013).

5

I was checking some numbers to try and put sense on the discussion of who should go with whom.I hope I did not make any mistake. This compares the points FOR THE WHOLE 2012 SEASON with 2013 up to and including India.

Sebastian +41

Alonso -71

Kimi -24

Lewis -21

Webber -31

Rosberg +51

Grosgean +06

Jenson -128

Hulkemberg -24

Perez -33

Pastor -44

Sutil +28

Ricciardo +19

I know there are 3 more races, but the general feeling is that MOST drivers are in a worst position than last year.Only,Sebastian, Nico R and Sutil seem to escape the tendency.Please comment . I am more confused now.

6

Re Lotus: You have to wonder what kind of investor would allow a deal to slide a few more weeks at the expense of getting the best driviers. I wonder if this deal with Quantum will ever appear.

7

It’s a great pity that driver selection is so influenced by associated sponsorship rather than actual talent. As usual, there will be a number of talented drivers without a seat next year.

8

Though i’d be greatly dissapointed in Hulk not getting the drive in Lotus or a competitive team, people seem to forget Maldonado delivered a win when Williams gave him a car capable of winning. So if he delivered in Lotus then no big harm. Hope Hulk lands on his feet somewhere though.

9

If Maldonado goes to Lotus, if Hulkenberg doesn’t get a decent seat, and especially if Chilton gets a drive anywhere, F1 cannot be taken seriously any longer.

10

It is hard to understand how a team still in the fight for the second spot in both championships, can not been seen as an attractive prospect for sponsors. I know winning is everything to many, but second best still carries some bragging rights no?

I suppose the departure of key people, does not help with how Lotus potential looks for 2014. Hope they won’t fall out in comparison to Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes, too much or at all. I am no expert in this, but it does look a bit that way. Marc

11

Niko Hulkenberg undoubtedly has a size problem and a weight problem: his sponsorship pool is too small, and his wallet not heavy enough.

The driver market has too many tipping points to make any predictions right now. Perhaps rumours of Chilton moving to Force India could create an opening for Hulkenberg there? Him and Sutil in the same team might not have worked, but him and Chilton might.

2014 will be a transitional season – while big budgets will always help, some teams could be surprisingly strong, and others surprisingly weak. For 2015, I expect another wave of driver movements, starting at the top, and filtering down through the ranks. The main target should be to get any seat for 2014, and then try to move to the right team for 2015.

12

Hi james,

I just wondered, drivers who bring sponsorship how and by who pays them?

13

Would be gutted for Hulkenberg to have his seat pinched by Maldonaldo *again*

14

It seems to me that Lotus have no choice but to take Pasta’s money, they need to regain some leverage with Quantum who will be holding out for a better price.I agree hat Hulk and PDR will make a great FIndia team, surely Sutil has had his chances?

15

F1 2014 – the only sport where the little guy

stands to thrive! Come on Massa!

16

James, any talk about James Calado possibly stepping into a seat next year?

With the practice sessions he’s had with Force India I would’ve thought he’d be first in the queue for a drive if they decide to jettison Sutil or di Resta.

The Chilton talk doesn’t add up (talent wise).

17

Yes, James told our 5 LIve F1 programme last night his chances of a race seat are 50-50

Sam Bird was more optimistic, as he challenges for the GP2 championship this weekend

18

Fantastic. Lotus want Crash and Smash as team mates. Exciting time ahead.

19

Gutted for Hulkenberg!! Maybe it is for the best. If Lotus went down next year.. the Hulk would have looked really stupid!

20

Great! Lotus can change their name again next year.. to Team Demolition Derby

21

It’s going to be the hottest lineup ever: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BXzaAKCCEAAoR4y.jpg:large

22

With a crash repairer as title sponsor 😉

23

Ha ha!

Will be funny to see Grosjean and Maldonado run into each other through out the season.

Lotus might run out of money and spare parts half way through 2014!

24

We can imagine

Permane yelling “Pastor, get out of the ****ing way!”

Maldonado shouting back ” I’ll do one better” , then proceeding to take Grosjean out with him.

25

Maldonado to Lotus…and so the downward spiral starts again.

Pity seeing money talking louder than talent these days – unless you’re a superstar “out of the box” in the lines of Hamilton, Vettel…

As for Kimi’s profane instruction to get out of the way…here’s a conspiracy theory for you…we have same situation where Grosjean leads Massa with Kimi ahead of both…imagine if Kimi helped his new employers for next year by “getting in the way” so that Massa can get past both…a 2 finger salute to Lotus on track!

He’s a racer, and we know he won’t do that…as he wants to score points himeslef and end top-3 and get some silverware (i’m sure having something nice to put your Ice in would be incentive enough LOL)

26

Seeing the way Lotus are handling the Raikkonen situation and also the Heidfeld issue previously, why would any half-decent driver want to be assosciated with such a team. It’s clear that quite a few member’s of the Lotus hierarchy like to carry a grudge. The way their top driver and engineers are jumping ship and the way sponsors are refusing to come on board, it’s clear that the team are on the slippery slope to being the backmarker’s of the grid. Hope Hulkenberg stays at Sauber or goes back to Force India. Wouldn’t want a talent like him to be circulating as a backmarker.

27

Well.. I think if Maldonado buys the seat at Lotus and Chilton buys the seat at Force India that might be the end of F1 viewing from me. I know F1 is more about business than sport now, but it sucks that talent no longer means the best drivers sit in the best seats.

The whole sport suffers. Maldonado has driven 1 good race which showed promise, but 30 others that have really shown him to be a hack. Truly sad state of affairs if this goes through. I don’t think Chilton has done enough to even warrant keeping his Marussia seat let alone taking an opportunity to compete away from the Hulk or Di Resta.

Depressing.

28

“It sucks that talent no longer means the best drivers sit in the best seats”

Pay drivers have always been a part of F1, but probably more so during the upcoming expensive engine change.

Still, look at what we have in the top teams:

Vettel and Ricciardo at RBR.

Alonso and Räikkönen at Ferrari.

Hamilton and Rosberg at Mercedes.

Still looks okay to me and as for the midfield teams it could be a lot worse.

In the long view maybe it’s better for the teams that are struggling a little like Lotus and Williams to have one or two pay drivers rather than fold altogether.

29

How much money does PDVSA pour into Williams at the moment?

Lotus have got to way up whether the money can justify the points lost. I rate the Hulk as the second best driver in F1 at the moment. Him along with a performing RoGro would certainly go some way to filling the points gap that Kimi will leave. surely!?

Sad state the F1 finds itself in.

30

Over US$30m

31

30milllion reasons to not weigh up

32

How many of Nico’s organs can we harvest to get his weight down? How much does he weigh? 70kg? Can’t be that far of Romain’s weigh?

33

It is more a case of his wallet not being heavier than him not being lighter.

34

If they remove the family jewels he will be the same weight and exactly the same as Grosjean.

35

Which particular organs were you interested in?

36

Honestly i really feel sorry for the smaller teams. I can understand why they go for a driver with a fat wallet. its kind of been stuck between a rock and a hard place. I know its not F1 but maybe they will go down the MOTOGP route and have sattelite teams in the future becuase the smaller teams are just going to come and go. I surely hope Williams do not fall into that bracket. Then thy could potentiall employ a driver on merrit and not how fat your wallet is.

Also, thanks James for an awesome website

37

Thats going to be a big mistake getting Maldonado , instead Massa or Hulk! Hope those two get a seat and beat up those paying drivers on the grid! BTW, that radio between Kimi and Permane… that yell was just unnecessary, totally agree with Kimi, not going to Abu Dhabi today!

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