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Some thoughts on the F1 driver market – Still waters run deep
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Alonso and Vettel
Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Aug 2014   |  6:39 pm GMT  |  325 comments

There has been less chatter about the F1 driver market this summer than there normally is and what rumours there have been have tended to be long term, big picture stuff. Still waters run deep.

But some of that is pretty interesting and well worth a few moments consideration.

Of course the main reason why it’s quiet is because most of the top seats are already tied up for 2015. Ferrari boss Marco Mattiacci has already confirmed verbally that his team will retain the current paring for 2015; Alonso also has another year after that, but there will probably be a vacancy when Kimi Raikkonen moves on at the end of next year, as he has suggested he will. Jules Bianchi is one candidate for that seat and Ferrari are considering whether to leave him for a third year at Marussia, or whether to move him up the grid to prepare him.

Adrian Newey

Red Bull has Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel tied up for next year, but Vettel is free after that and it will be fascinating to see whether he and the team believe that they can live without each other, having enjoyed so much success. Vettel’s problems this year and his performances when the car has been running, have raised questions. With Daniil Kvyat and Max Verstappen both coming through the system, Red Bull is not likely to be sentimental about Vettel and he may fancy a change of scene, especially as Adrian Newey is stepping back from hands-on involvement in F1 in December,

With Newey doing the 2015 design and increasing optimism from Renault on their development upgrades for next season, the signs are that the 2015 Red Bull Renault could be a really good car, but after that can they sustain the magic on the chassis side without their genius?

Ferrari, meanwhile is known to have had informal discussions with Vettel in recent years.

Fernando Alonso and Ron Dennis

McLaren is also very keen to line up Vettel or Alonso for its next challenge with Honda, starting in 2015, and is actively pursing a commitment.

The Honda power unit is likely to be slightly behind in its first season, that is the mood among those in the know. However one major advantage it has over its rivals when building a first generation hybrid turbo engine is that it knows what the performance benchmark is, namely where the other rivals’ power units are at the moment.

When Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari were building their engines for 2014 none had any idea what the performance level of the best one would be, it was a shot in the dark, hence why Renault and Ferrari came up short.

Speak to any engine builder and they will tell you that ‘knowing the target’ is worth a lot to the R&D engineers.

Honda

They will also tell you that Honda’s disadvantage is that it started the hybrid turbo F1 project quite late; it was announced in the Spring of 2013 and even if they had some single cylinder project studies going before that, as we suspect they did, they only turned the money tap on 18 months ago, which is very late to be ready to race Mercedes et al in March 2015.

So joining McLaren-Honda in its second year, 2016, could make sense for a top line driver from outside and some quotes from McLaren team principal Eric Boullier in Autsoport today reflect that the team is realistic about the short term, whilst ambitious on the long term.

“We are still pushing and we will take the time we need. We don’t want to do a mistake – we have one shot and we don’t want to miss it,” he said.

“McLaren is a top team, a big team, with a lot of history and we want to be back where we should be.

“So if we can afford to take the time to think and to prepare our strategy then we have to do it.”

McLaren is the key to the 2015 driver market and until it concludes something long term it’s not going to rush into its 2015 plans. In Jenson Button, who has another year in him and Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne they have drivers who can wait – and who are having to wait.

Hamilton and Rosberg

Until last week, Mercedes was been considered a very stable situation, with the team having recently resigned Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton having another year left on his contract.

But with the toxic atmosphere now present between the pair after the Hungarian GP team orders disobedience and the collision “to make a point” in Spa, the picture is less straight forward. All the other top teams and drivers will be on alert; this is the kind of situation which can lead to one of the drivers leaving the team.

Senna and Prost clashed and Prost left the team. Mansell and Piquet clashed and Piquet left the team. Vettel broke the “Multi 21” agreement and Webber left the team.

Rosberg was the incumbent at Mercedes before Hamilton joined, but Hamilton was the star signing and is paid more. Of the two, Hamilton is the more likely to want a change if the situation becomes unbearable as Rosberg has a long contract already, is a stickler for continuity, in addition to being a more hard boiled character, who would probably want to tough it out.

If there are any signs that Hamilton wants out, a domino effect will begin, with any and all of the above possibilities starting to move.

Waiting to pick up any pieces if things fragment is Valterri Bottas, who is being monitored while driving a Mercedes engine this year and who is mentored by Toto Wolff. The team is also developing its Young Driver programme and is soon to sign up Frenchman Esteban Ocon, a rookie in Euro F3, who is currently leading Max Verstappen in the drivers’ championship. Ocon has been brought on by Gravity Management, spotted and nurtured by Boullier during his time there, prior to joining McLaren.

It’s all about long term planning, as it is at Red Bull and Ferrari, hence the less frenetic action and no ‘silly season’. Instead of water splashing on the surface, as has happened in the past in F1, the movements are taking place deeper under the water.

But that doesn’t mean that there will not be change; Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso are very much in demand and two years from now you could easily see all three of them in different coloured overalls.

And this is without considering what Bernie Ecclestone wants. Let’s not forget, it was he who steered Jean Todt and Michael Schumacher to Ferrari to reinvigorate F1’s most famous team.

What moves would you like to see? Leave you thoughts in the Comments section below

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1

What i do not understood is in reality how you are no longer actually much more well-liked

than you might be now. You are so intelligent. You recognize therefore

considerably on the subject of this topic, made me in my opinion consider it from numerous

various angles. Its like men and women are not interested until it’s one thing to do with Woman gaga!

Your own stuffs nice. At all times take care of it up!

2

Hi James,

You mentioned “Vettel’s problems this year and his performances when the car has been running, have raised questions”. Could you let me know which races / qualifying you are referring to in the “when his car has been running” part?

Vettel has had a multitude of problems with his car and his luck. Considering this, I’ve not accepted the general opinion that Riciardo is thrashing Vettel. A lot of reporters and fans have been dying to take a dig at Vettel and this season has given them the opportunity.

3

http://www.grandprix247.com/2014/09/01/mclaren-tempt-alonso-with-32-million-deal/

it is decision of his life, because it will be the final stint in his carrier.
open questions:
1. Is Allison capable to build better red car than Tombasis did?
2. Do they try some things from 2015 car on current 2014 and Alonso influences them?
3. Who will build good McLaren for 2015? They lost chief engineer to Mercedes…
4. Strategically if both Ferrari & McLaren produce bad car in 2015, McLaren is more attractive for 2016-2017. Their base and culture looks more reliable.
5. But 32 millions are attractive…

It is hardest decision time for Alonso, either take money and go blind into 2015 with good perspective for 2016-2017, with some risks for being sacked as too expensive; or to give a chance to Allison’s “non-thomb” in 2015, with uncertainty into 2016. I think Alonso will stay with Allison for 2015.

4

Yes, it is THE decision of Alonso´s life, and I hope he goes to McLaren! if he decides to waste the rest of his career in Ferrari, a black veil will fall upon F1!

Next year might be too late to jump ship, its now or never.

5

Not to go into details on those points, but Tombazis is still design chief, Allison is the technical director

6

For me, Dan is the man. I am kinda of a Vettel fan because I am sick of people criticizing him, I want to see those people proven wrong.

I am hoping for his resurgence.

But Daniel story should be more of a big deal than it is. In a machine dominant sport, he is beating four time WDC. Was there any non champ who beat 3 or 4 times WDC?

For me, it’s like a prime Mike Tyson beaten by some unknown guy. You could argue that when you comprehensively beat a reigning champ, that makes you the champ.

If I were a team principle, I would go for him.

7

Ferrari: ALO and RAI

Mercedes: HAM and ROS

Red Bull: VET and RIC

No driver changes in 2015.

8

What move would I like to see ? The Hulk in a top team.

9

Ideally,

Ferrari: Kimi & Hulkenberg

Mclaren: Alonso & Bottas

Mercedes: Vettel & Hamilton

Redbull: Riccardo & Kyvat / Verstapen

Williams: Rosberg & Massa / Grosjean / Maggnusun

10

Well mclaren will be mad to replace Jenson for vettle or any other driver accept alonso or ham other wise Jenson is keeping magnums on honest and now all most double his points tally so far half way through this season Ron for gets he’s given Jenson a crap car for past few years to race with so Jenson has not been in the lime light so to speak and poeple for get how good you are he Jenson over 3 seasons out pointed Hamilton no mean task ham beat alonso vettle had a top car that was better than the rest full stop he would be crap in a crap car if given jensons car now I bet he would be trounced by magnums on like Ricardo is doing let face it Ricardo didn’t look amazing when in toro Rossi I’m sorry but I think Jenson is in a top class same as alonso and Hamilton but agree they may have ege over Jenson even thow I’m a big Jenson fan I hope they see sece and keep him on and the car proves to be good and Jenson shows his talent in a good car the last few races the team let jens down on pit strategy to good luck Jenson

11

James I find it very amusing that people think Hamilton lacks the mental strength of Rosberg when :-

A) he has beaten Nico in his first year

B) incurred twice as many race ending mechanical failures and quali failures including car fires yet still came back challenging for wins

C) has had the less favourable pit stop /tyre calls in races Bahrain/ Hungary and still won. Nico was not able to attack Lewis so I dont understand why he expected to be let by. Clear sign of Weakness

D) has driven from the back of the field twice in succession to a podium- something which Nico can only dream of doing.(ref China)

E) has never accidentally or intentionally damaged nicos car on track despite the above

F) has always come back after each successive let down reset, driven brilliantly and saved races against really tough odds.

Despite all the problems and team favouritism for Nico up till Hungary Lewis put his head down and kept fighting fairly. Sure I dont agree with his antics off track but Nico has shown he is far more precious and Spa revelaed He is the one that is struggling both mentally and racing wise and only luck played into his hands at SPA.

Im not sure what yours/ Mercedes constant protection of this guy is but he is anything but worthy of it. Anyone constantly seeking team orders and crying like a baby instead of fighting cleanly on track is weak-mentally and otherwise. He was very lucky at SPA. His suggestion that he was proving a point then his belated team apology is not the sign of a strong and forthright racer but that of a wish-washy and spiteful character that cannot win on even terms.. Keeping helping him folks he needs it..despite his WDC advantage.. Its funny how some drivers cannot win without every conceivable advantage, MS, Vettel now Nico the only diff between the previous 2 is they could actually race..

As for drivers, I see a very strong possibility of Vettel to Mercedes in 2016 if not Valterri Bottas. Maybe even sooner depending on this stupid Mercedes support of its one & only German driver.

I see Alonso at Mclaren in 2015 unless Ferrari have unveiled a super bullet by November.

I see Bianci at Ferrari either 2015/6

Red Bull have plenty of talent to draw on in the coming few years.

Lotus cant see any changes their.

I see both Button & Massa out of F1 in 2015 or 2016 if “prize” signings dont occur for 2015.

Williams should be challenging for 2nd or 3rd at every race with both cars. Perhaps a very fast new talent like Vandoorne can be placed there for a few years

12

Ron Dennis: “my name is Ron and we´re gonna get it on!”

Alonso: “Yo!”

Bouillier: “la Revolution mes enfants!!”

13

I’d like to see all the drivers in the same chassis :).

Make it all about driver skill rather than being in the right car at the right time.

Then, for example, Alonso’s talent wouldn’t be being wasted in a rubbish car, and us fans wouldn’t be being deprived of entire grand prix’s worth of great racing between the biggest names in the sport :).

I don’t really care for the name on the car. Could be a DAMS (Team) Chevrolet (Engine) with a chassis made by Dallara for all I care. As long as the racing is good :).

Just tell the engine manufacturers the maximum horsepower and leave them to it.

Patrick Head has already said earlier this year that you can have 800hp for 2 million euro’s per year per team.

I’m sure plenty of engine manufacturers around the world wouldn’t mind a couple of million per year to go racing :).

14

James,

With Ricciardo’s success, should Red Bull start to look at upgrading and extending his contract?

Thanks

15

Certainly.

16

Doesn’t Honda benefit from having supplied US open wheelers with Turbo V6s for some time now???

In other words, they are not new to this!

17

Good insight brother !!! and look at HRC with their MOTOGP engines – by far the best!!

Alonso move NOW or you might be looking back soon at a Wasted Career ——–pick up the phone and call Uncle Ron today. You can buy a house in the Woking area so you dont have to travel that much – the area is nice, drive up to Glastonbury– chill out and enjoy!! cheers

18

With Nico signing a 3 year contract with Mercedes I can’t see how Lewis can stay. I predict we will see him back at McLaren next season.

19

I personally would like to see Lewis in a Ferrari in 2016. I am interested to know if they would have any interest in Lewis, I am sure Eddie Jordan had mentioned Lewis going to Ferrari and Alsono going to Mercedez.

James do you know if there is any interest on Ferrari’s part in Lewis or would they prefer Vettel?

Regarding Alonso, I would be very surprised if he went to McLaren after 2007, I believe it depends on the pressure from Honda because without that I don’t think McLaren would want him back.

I can see Vettel leaving Red Bull with Newey going.

20

Imagine ALONSO & HAMILTON back in McLaren.

21

Alonso should make the move to McLaren NOW!!! it might be too late in a year´s time. Commit yourself and take the risk …. be part of history next to Ayrton Senna.

Ferrari will take three years at least to improve since they are behind in organization, leadership, wind tunnel, simulator, power plant and very specially flair. Their lack of flair is visible even in the livery of the driver´s appearance. Everything at Ferrari looks old and dated.

Both Ferrari and Mclaren are behind at this moment but the big difference is that Ron is a man of the future while Lou DM is in the past. One year from now McLaren will be at the top or very close, while Ferrari will be frustrated; where do you want to be, Fernando? if you are going to leave Ferrari anyway, might as well do it now.

Alonso runs the risk of being left out in the musical chairs. Who knows what new Ricciardo or two will appear and change the rules of the musical chairs?

Ron, Bouillier, Alonso: they could dominate the next 5 years!!

22

I think Lewis should stick it out at Mercedes and not be lured back by the Senna McLaren-Honda history. He has the best chance he will ever get to win his second WDC, he has the best car and he has only one man to beat…although maybe he has two men to beat..Rosberg and more importantly himself.

I cant help but feel that he has shown tremendous weakness to his competitors this season by being so easily unhinged. Nico comes across more assured and has delivered on Saturday when it mattered and put Hamilton on the back foot. Sure he was wrong at Spa but its a reminder to Lewis that he is not a walk over.

Loving all this I have to say!

23

It’s all just negotiating tactics.

Ron knows that a World Champion is a necessity for a top team, especially if the performance is not up to scratch. I don’t see him getting any other WC for 2015, so at this point he’s left with Button who I imagine he probably thinks costs too much (any driver always costs too much!), so he’s trying to apply pressure to get Button to reduce his price.

The problem for Ron is that JB is just a bit too canny to fall for that, so he’s gone one better by saying he’d rather retire than leave mclaren. It’s better because he’s showing his decision to be solely based up on what mclaren chooses and not whether there are good seats available elsewhere. If he did look elsewhere, then the negotiation would become about price and performance and that would be something Ron could negotiate against. Also, he’d have to compete with other drivers and risk looking like he’d rather be somewhere else. That could get messy fast.

By saying that he’s happy to retire, he’s removing any leverage that Ron thinks he has… (and therefore strengthening his own negotiating position, because he’s clearly fast enough and the only WC available…)

Just a thought…

24

Mercedes must be looking at the attendance figures at their home race and the lack of enthusiasm for Rosberg amongst fans in key markets like the UK and Germany. They also know that Hamilton is the fastest of the two and is much more bankable.

My view is that they will decide to hang on to Hamilton at all costs and might well be prepared to sacrifice Rosberg and replace him, despite the extension of his contract. After all, they have the deepest pockets of any team.

For Hamilton, surely, the only team that would be interesting enough for him to consider a move for 2016 would be a rejuvenated Ferrari ?

If he wins the championship in 2014 or 2015 and he sees Ferrari winning races in 2015, he might fancy his chances to match Fangio’s record of three World Championship each with a different team. It’s hard to imagine him going anywhere else.

25

OMG: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/formula1/28983758

They don’t punish the innocent (or at least I hope they don’t).

26

After Monaco I suggested Hamilton could leave merc at the end of the year. I still believe if rosberg wins the wdc this year Hamilton will jump.

I’m not a Hamilton basher but he has had problems with every competitive team mate. Kovalainen was the only team mate he never had a problem with. It never went nuclear with Jenson but there were regular moments of tension and tetchiness over their partnership. Jenson was prob just not quite competitive enough. I think hamilton has a very paranoid personality and he needs to feel the team are behind him and only him. He would thrive in a team built around him with a definitive number 2 driver. I think he needs that emotional reassurance.

As for next year, I see Hamilton potentially back at McLaren alongside kmag with bottas or hulkenberg to replace him at merc. I don’t think Alonso or vettel will move before 2015.

27

James, the comment about Honda having a slight advantage, as they know the performance bench mark. How much do they actually know? I assume much like a driver departing from a team, McLaren will know nothing about the development of the current engine, future plans, or much about the internals of it. They’ll have map data and general sensor data, but much more than any other team? I doubt it. Although I personally wouldn’t bet against Honda as an engine builder, if these things powering the car are actually really engines any more!

On this subject, the whole layout of the intercoolers and piping of the Merc was apparently much smarter than the others, presumably the regs won’t stop other teams (renault, ferarri and Honda) copying that part, at least?

Thanks

J

28

James, thanks for a great article as usual. As a Button fan I am more than interested to know what is going on.

Such a shame about the comments section which is the yin to the articles quality yang.

29
Riccardo Consulini

I would love to see Vettel joining Ferrari, Alonso returning to McLAren and Hamilton opting out of F1.

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