It’s August, It Must Be Time For The Silly Season!

It’s August, It Must Be Time For The Silly Season!

With the ideas that were being bandied around in the previous post regarding the future of Nico Rosberg, I suddenly realised that the silly season is imminent. Of course, in this day and age of long (and short)-term contracts being announced in advance and drivers being fired mid-season, the silly season doesn’t really have a traditional start date/month any more. But as Formula One is on a break, now might be as good of a time as any to field some ideas.

To begin with, Red Bull Racing are definitely sewn up for 2010 with Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, and there is little chance of either driver being fired or quitting. Especially as the RB5 is running so competitively at the moment. Also confirmed both in writing and in my mind are Lewis Hamilton at McLaren and Felipe Massa at Ferrari. Kimi Raikkonen has a contract with Ferrari for 2010, and has stated quite forcefully that he will honour this contract. However, there is a niggle in my mind that simply won’t go away.

So that leaves us with some unconfirmed drivers, but we can still assume some will remain where they are. It is likely that Scuderia Toro Rosso will keep Sebastien Buemi, and providing he continues his progress well, they will likely retain Jaime Alguersuari as well. Brawn are sure to keep Jenson Button, and after all the Briton has been through this past year, he is likely to want to stay as well.

Force India will probably retain Adrian Sutil unless a bigger team pick him up, and although I am tempted to say that Giancarlo Fisichella is relatively safe, I again have that niggly feeling in my head. If the niggly feeling is correct, it is called Paul di Resta in this particular case, the McLaren-Mercedes association being the link.

Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock appear to be working well together, but the car has been gradually slipping backwards. It is likely that Glock will be retained – he seems to fit very well with the Cologne-based squad, but I’m getting the impression the team may be tiring of Trulli. Despite this though, both drivers have had some decent results this year, so may be both will be kept on the books for 2010.

Right then, on with the harder calls…

Nico Rosberg to McLaren. As discussed in the previous post, if the offer is there for the German/Finnish pilot, he should probably take it. Williams aren’t the worse team, and it is understandable why Nico would want to remain loyal, but let’s be honest, McLaren have a greater chance of giving him a car to win with. For many of the races this season, the FW31 has looked to be the slightly better car when compared to the MP4-24 (McLaren have only just overtaken them in the constructors). But somehow, McLaren have turned it around whereas Williams have progressed at a much slower rate. And that is essential when considering a new home.

So this completes McLaren. What of Rosberg’s old stable, Williams? Dank suggested that the squad really want their test driver to step up, which would mean putting Nico Hulkenberg in the car. However, if they really want to keep Toyota happy – the company that supply them with fairly decent engines – they will have to partner Hulkenberg with current pilot Kazuki Nakajima. While I do rate Kazuki as an okay driver, I don’t think he really is ready to take on a lead driver position yet. This pairing does not inspire confidence. It would be better for Williams to sign BMW-refugee and former driver Nick Heidfeld, but would the two parties want to reform their relationship? Also, would the squad want two German pilots for marketing/sponsorship reasons?

Ferrari will either partner Felipe Massa with Kimi Raikkonen, or Felipe Massa with Fernando Alonso. Or as a total outside bet, Felipe Massa with Robert Kubica. However, the chances of Kubica beating Alonso to the seat should it become available are pretty slim. The only way Kubica is likely to get a chance in a red car in the near future is if Massa does have an issue with his eye. But according to all reports coming out of Hungary as I type this post, there is no problem and Massa is recovering well.

Instead, I can see Kubica ending up at Alonso’s old home, Renault. I wouldn’t be ideal for the Polish driver, but it would be a home. And partnered with Romain Grosjean, who could learn a lot from his more experienced team mate, the pairing could be quite good, car-dependent of course. And so that just leaves a vacant seat at Brawn, which will probably go to a young upstart, maybe Bruno Senna who was originally suggested for the role prior to Barrichello being retained.

For the new teams, Alex Wurz has been linked with USF1 despite the Austrian retiring at the end of 2007. Pedro De La Rosa may be in at Spanish outfit Campos as well. The new teams will want someone with experience, knowledge and understanding, but not the huge egos or the demands on salaries. So in other words, test drivers. They can develop the cars initially while helping out a younger less experienced team mate. I wouldn’t even put it past Barrichello to be on the grid next year with a new team.

Rookies include Lucas di Grassi, Adrian Valles, Vitaly Petrov, even Giorgio Pantano could find his way onto the grid ahead of former drivers like Christian Klien, Takuma Sato, Anthony Davidson, Jacques Villeneuve, Vitantonio Liuzzi…

To sum up my thinking, here’s what I think the grid for the 2010 Australian Grand Prix might look like:

Silly Season 2010
August 2009 Predictions

Driver 1
Bold = Confirmed

Driver 2
Bold = Confirmed

Ferrari Brazilian FlagFelipe Massa Spanish FlagFernando Alonso
McLaren British FlagLewis Hamilton German FlagNico Rosberg
Renault Polish FlagRobert Kubica French FlagRomain Grosjean
Toyota Italian FlagJarno Trulli German FlagTimo Glock
Scuderia Toro Rosso Swiss FlagSebastien Buemi Spanish FlagJaime Alguersuari
Red Bull Racing Australian FlagMark Webber German FlagSebastian Vettel
Williams German FlagNick Heidfeld
Japanese FlagKazuki Nakajima
German FlagNico Hulkenberg
Finnish FlagHeikki Kovalainen
Force India Italian FlagGiancarlo Fisichella
British FlagPaul di Resta
German FlagAdrian Sutil
Brawn British FlagJenson Button Brazilian FlagBruno Senna
USF1 Austrian FlagAlex Wurz American FlagRookie/Former Driver
Campos Spanish FlagPedro De La Rosa Rookie/Former Driver
Manor Experienced Driver Rookie/Former Driver
Former BMW? Experienced Driver Rookie/Former Driver

These are my thoughts and ponderings, but what about yours? Do let me know in the comments…

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24 comments

  • Suddenly had a thought: Heidfeld might work at Brawn alongside Button. German driver, Mercedes engine (assuming the relationship continues). Not sure on Brawn’s opinion of Heidfeld though.

  • I could see Ross Brawn opting to partner Button with Kubica. He’s top level, there’s no question about his commitment, and his no-nonsense attitude would seem a natural fit at a no-nonsense team.

  • I could see Ross Brawn opting to partner Button with Kubica.

    Oooh, hadn’t thought of that option, and I would have to agree with you. I could see a clash of personalities between the pair, but I could also see Brawn as being the best of the options for Kubica and therefore hard to resist.

    I say a clash of personalities because I get the feeling Kubica might be starting to think about some kind of semi-definite number one status within a team. And if Button does take the title (or even if he doesn’t (and remains at Brawn)) he would be the default number one for 2010. Which may put Kubica off should that offer emerge.

  • on paper Raikkonen has been confirmed by Ferrari for 2010 . yes I know, the contracts are out there to be broken …

    I think that following the BMW news all of a sudden McLaren is spoiled for choice. Hamilton is safe there but I am probably not alone thinking that the second seat is up for grabs next year. And in all likelihood that seat will be the most competitive seat available on the 2010 market. Heidfeld, Kubica, Rosberg – I can see nice queue forming there …

    Talking about Rosberg he is facing tough choice – if he goes to McLaren his chances of winning races may be much bigger than now in Williams. But will he have chance to fight for title there ? And when talking about McLaren making bigger steps forward than Williams – may be true but we should not forget the KERS effect …

    I haven’t given much thought to the rest of the field yet but I remember some talk about Liuzzi getting the Force India drive next year

  • we should not forget the KERS effect

    This is also true. Williams were mentioned recently as potentially not giving up on their flywheel system for 2010. And if it isn’t successfully outlawed by FOTA (which Williams aren’t against going, erm, against) then they could be an interesting watch for next year.

  • Whilst I agree with your ideas Ollie, I reckon that the movement on contracts will only really begin when the Concorde agreement is signed.

    While there is still concern about Toyota and Renault remaining on the grid it’ll take a while to sort out the pairings. Plus, Fernando’s decision is usually the thing that slows down the whole process. Odd that he’s the one having to do the waiting this year.

  • ‘Me’ (from Sidepodcast) and I were told by a close pal of Liuzzi’s (whilst on our Red Bull tour last year) that he had a race seat at Force India guaranteed for 2010, and there have been various mumblings since that this is also the case.

  • I reckon that the movement on contracts will only really begin when the Concorde agreement is signed.

    Funnily enough, the Concorde Agreement was announced just a couple of hours after your comment. Our crystal balls must be very clear today.

    ‘Me’ (from Sidepodcast) and I were told by a close pal of Liuzzi’s (whilst on our Red Bull tour last year) that he had a race seat at Force India guaranteed for 2010

    So Fisichella’s best hope is with a new team then. 🙂

  • Ollie, I really think you’ve got Kubica under-valued. If he really is up for grabs, I would think he’d be given consideration alongside Rosberg, and would get a serious look at Brawn as well. His talent is top of the line, and I expect him to be highly-coveted as things play out.

    With regards to the second USF1 seat, I am really pulling for Jonathan Summerton to lock it down…I’ve interviewed him for an article on a different blog, and he’s raced against many of the current young hotshots in the sport. Graham Rahal is another one getitng high consideration, and I would expect Alex Rossi to be kept in the fold for the future somehow- I was quite pleased to hear he’ll still get his BMW test later this year.

    I would expect Heidfeld to land with one of the other two new teams- he’s got the top talent as well, but sadly, he may not be viewed as flashy as Rosberg, Kubica, etc..

  • The World Series has proven to be an excellent feeder category for Formula One, so I don’t think Bertrand Baguette should be ignored. He’s really on a roll at the moment, with a massive 31-point lead in the championship. The way things are going, the rest of the field are going to be left to fight over the crumbs.

  • ‘Me’ (from Sidepodcast) and I were told by a close pal of Liuzzi’s (whilst on our Red Bull tour last year) that he had a race seat at Force India guaranteed for 2010, and there have been various mumblings since that this is also the case. {Dank – 4 comments ago}

    Tonio thought that last year (according to the interview he gave BBC TV in Germany) and was proven wrong. I’m not entirely convinced he’s right this time either…

  • So Fisichella’s best hope is with a new team then. {Ollie White – 3 comments ago}

    Unless Force India decide that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, or Adrian uses his career momentum to get into a faster team…

  • With regards to the second USF1 seat, I am really pulling for Jonathan Summerton to lock it down…I’ve interviewed him for an article on a different blog, and he’s raced against many of the current young hotshots in the sport.

    Feel free to pop a link in; always good to read other stuff by the commenters here.

    The World Series has proven to be an excellent feeder category for Formula One, so I don’t think Bertrand Baguette should be ignored.

    Good point. The World Series has been attracting some attention recently with some of the recent promotions. In fact, didn’t Vettel come from the World Series by Renault?

    Unless Force India decide that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, or Adrian uses his career momentum to get into a faster team…

    I was always under the impression Sutil was on a long-term contract, thanks to his close friendship from one of the managers from the squad’s Spyker days. Might have been Kolles, whom is no longer a part of the team. Although having said that, Adrian was linked to McLaren in late 2007, albeit very briefly.

    If Sutil can stop throwing it off the track and somehow repel those Ferrari’s away when he’s in great positions, he could impress enough to move up the field.

  • Tonio thought that last year (according to the interview he gave BBC TV in Germany) and was proven wrong. I’m not entirely convinced he’s right this time either…

    A lot happens in F1 in four months (Jul-Nov 08).

    I rate Liuzzi, he upped his game when Vettel came along at Toro Rosso and was a match for him. Vettel’s gone on to bigger things, Liuzzi’s in the third-driver duldrums and driving in the now vanished Speedcar series. Liuzzi for Fisichella? I’d do it in a heartbeat.

  • I was always under the impression Sutil was on a long-term contract, thanks to his close friendship from one of the managers from the squad’s Spyker days {Ollie White – 2 comments ago}

    Sutil has a long-term contract, but it ends this year unless his option is taken up. It may be that Sutil decides to take some other team’s option instead 😉

  • Sutil has a long-term contract, but it ends this year unless his option is taken up.

    I always forget how long long Sutil has been around! This is his third year in F1! 🙂

  • Isn’t Force India interested in trying to develop Indian drivers? Are there any Indian drivers in the pipeline?

  • Isn’t Force India interested in trying to develop Indian drivers? Are there any Indian drivers in the pipeline?

    As far as I can remember, it is a goal of Vijay Mallya to put an Indian driver in one of his cars, but Mallya has stated in the past that he would only do this if the driver in question was actually good enough. This perhaps explains why Narain Karthikeyan has not been enlisted, and also why Karun Chandhok has not yet been promoted.

    Any other up-and-coming Indian drivers I’ve forgotten about? I was sure there were two or three others who’s names were floating around recently…

  • Isn’t Force India interested in trying to develop Indian drivers? Are there any Indian drivers in the pipeline?

    Karun Chandhok is probably their best bet. But he’s failing to live up to his ’08 performance in GP2 this year for Ocean Racing.

    Other than that, the only other Indian driver I can think of is Narain Karthikeyan. But he’s 32, done F1 already and isn’t really anything to write home about.

    So Vijay’s not really got a lot to choose from right at the moment you’d have to say.

  • As it`s the silly season. Will Jenson stay at Brawn now that He`s Kudos has increased to the inverse of the budget for next years car, and what team could resist Villenueve looking like a stunt double for `Harry Potter an were`s me pension gone`.

  • In fact, didn’t Vettel come from the World Series by Renault?

    He did indeed, leaving the World Series mid-season whilst leading the championship.

  • There some rumors that Rapsol will be the primary sponsor at Campos (which is the main reason De La Rosa keep getting mentioned for a ride there) and they are paying for Alguersuari, so I’d say there’s a shot they are paying STR to give the kid some seat time before next season.

    Liuzzi suggests his contract include two years as main driver. Might be true, might not but I’d expect Fisi to annouce retirement soon. I also don’t see Di Resta moving to Force India or anywhere. I know brit press love the idea but Mercedes hasn’t done a single thing to suggest they are planing to bring the kid back to open wheel (he hasn’t drive an open wheel car in a race since 2006). I think is more realistic to add poor Di Resta to the same list of very talent brit young drivers whose shot at F1 was ruined by McLaren Mercedes that also include his teamates Gary Paffett and Jamie Green.

  • Isn’t Force India interested in trying to develop Indian drivers? Are there any Indian drivers in the pipeline? {Travis R – 7 comments ago}

    It is. Vijay’s set up a talent search programme in national-level series, but I haven’t heard any names come out of it yet, so it may be a few years before we get an Indian driver who meets Vijay’s standards at F1-level. Last I heard, Vijay was talking in terms “within five years”. That would make it 2014 before an Indian drives a Force India F1 car.

    Narain didn’t meet Vijay’s standards for some reason and although Vijay probably still has one eye on Karun, he appears to have found his level at GP2.

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