Posts Tagged ‘what will Kimi do next’

I mean, what is this all about?

http://whatwillkimidonext.com/ is the link, the man in the YouTube video linked to from that site looks an awful lot like the Kimster, the whole shebang looks legitimate and I’m assuming the folk responsible are using viral marketing to generate interest in some sort of product endorsement deal…

Keep your eyes on it, though.  Just in case.

Since we last spoke, deals have been done, contracts have been signed and one L. Hamilton of Stevenage has found himself being given the keys to a shiny new Mercedes. Those who’ve recently uttered words like, “So, we’re doing half-yearly season reviews now, are we?” will be pleased to hear that we’re going to revisit this topic and the motivation behind the move soon (clue: it’s not all about money. The money is probably quite important, I’ll allow, but Lewis is a bit more complex than that). Before we do, though, let’s have a quick squint at what it means for the rest of the grid.

Firstly, it means I finally get an answer to that hardy perennial, “Exactly how good is Nico Rosberg?” There’s a strong argument that he’s not doing as good as job as Michael Schumacher this year – “outdriven at Monaco” (look beyond the grid penalty – Schumi was faster in qualifying and race), “outdriven at Spa” and “outdriven at Suzuka” are three things you really don’t want to be saying about circuits that reward men over machines – and that win in China is looking more and more like a fortunate bounce with every race that passes. Hamilton is a proven quantity, a world champion with 20 wins under his belt and the nagging sense that the 2007 and 2010 titles were ones that got away. Lewis believes he’s the fastest driver in the world, a thought shared by a great many people outside of the Hamilton family, so for Nico, there can be no hiding place in 2013.

By extension, we’ll also find out roughly how good Schumacher Mk 2 was. With his second retirement now confirmed, this one more of his own volition than 2006’s effort but still with the unfortunate feeling that he was pushed before he ever made it as far as jumping, there’ll be no 8th world title for the Red Baron. If Rosberg keeps up with Hamilton, that’ll throw the old stager’s recent efforts into focus. If he doesn’t, we’ll know that Michael’s second coming was that of a good Grand Prix driver, not a great one being stymied by his equipment.

Sergio Perez is on his way to McLaren. Regulars will know that the Petrolhead Blogger doesn’t consider Sergio to be one of F1’s elite. His good results have been spectacular – think of that 2nd place that should probably have been 1st in Malaysia, of 3rd in Montreal and 2nd again at Monza – but none of them have been achieved through pure pace. Perez has been the man on the favourable strategy each time he’s appeared on the podium, popping up at the sharp end through good use of tyres rather than blistering speed. Qualifying averages tell the same story – have a look at his average starting position against Kamui Kobayashi this season and you’ll find that Sergio is losing. Each Sauber driver has 7 points finishes to their name this season and with Kamui losing great grid slots to oil on the track (China) and a clutch problem leading to a first corner shunt (Spa), the balance could just as easily have tipped in the Japanese driver’s favour. Curiously, nobody is talking about Kobayashi as a future McLaren driver…

This may end up being wildly inaccurate (“Shock! Horror!” – every single one of you, right now) but it’s hard to see Perez qualifying next year’s McLaren anywhere near where it should be or having the pace to come through strongly unless tyre conservation comes to the fore. It’s also hard to see his current team mate in a car next season. Kobayashi’s maiden podium on home soil at Suzuka was rich reward for a superb drive but the overriding feeling is that Sauber are a little frustrated not to have done better this season given the undoubted qualities of their car. Peter Sauber rates Kobayashi as a little slower than Perez and says Perez is on the pace of Sauber-era Felipe Massa, which hardly implies that either man is a potential world-beater. Everyone in the paddock without a seat for 2013 would like Kamui’s drive, which could mean one or more of the following names driving something Swiss next year:

  • Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber’s current reserve driver and a means of keeping the team’s existing Mexican sponsorship
  • Heikki Kovalainen, once of McLaren, currently with Caterham, always rapid
  • Felipe Massa, twice a Sauber driver previously, has strong connections to engine supplier Ferrari but his recent upturn in form might yet keep him at Maranello for one more year
  • Jaime Alguersuari, former STR driver and current Pirelli tester, worthy of a race seat and with intimate knowledge of current tyre technology
  • Adrian Sutil, ex-Force India man who could maybe have done without a trial and subsequent conviction for GBH after sticking the stem of a champagne glass into a Lotus managing director’s neck
  • Nico Hulkenberg, linked strongly to Ferrari should they jettison Massa but with Sauber as an increasingly plausible back-up plan

Were Hulkenberg to move, this would leave a vacancy at Force India, where Paul Di Resta has a contract for 2013 but remains an outside shot for the Ferrari gig. Anyone taking the Ferrari drive would effectively be staking their career on having one impressive season, since it’s widely considered that Sebastian Vettel already has a 2014 contract with a prancing horse printed on it and it’s a bit of a stretch to imagine Ferrari telling Fernando Alonso to “hop it, mate – we’ve got that Hulkenberg bloke on a long-term deal.” All the same, few young drivers could resist the lure of Maranello money (particularly if they hadn’t been paid at all this year, which – it is alleged, Your Honour – Di Resta and Hulkenberg haven’t). If either Force India driver was to bolt, have a look at the Sauber shortlist for your main contenders while also factoring in Jules Bianchi, currently going great guns in Formula Renault 3.5 and impressing for both Force India and Ferrari in the recent Young Driver Test.

The standard trick Dr Helmut Marko employs with the Red Bull driver development programme is to put his drivers into F1 slightly too early, give them a couple of seasons at Scuderia Toro Rosso and then offload them. See Scott Speed, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastian Buemi (who, it should be said, bucked the trend somewhat by managing three seasons and then landing the Red Bull reserve drive when STR got bored of him). Both Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo have only had one year at STR, so expect them to get another one. Then the sack.

Tangentially, back in 2001, the same Dr Marko withdrew Red Bull’s sponsorship from Sauber in protest when they refused to accept his driver Enrique Bernoldi (eventual F1 career record: 29 races, 0 points, best finish 8th), preferring instead to take a chance on signing Finnish newcomer Kimi Raikkonen (F1 career record to date: 171 starts, 18 wins, 16 pole positions, 37 fastest laps, 736 points, 1 world championship). His level of sway within Red Bull seems, to these eyes, inversely proportional to his talent-spotting ability. Save my thoughts on Sergio Perez, come back in a year and see if I’m doing any better. Those in glass houses and all that.

Lotus are probably settled, since for all Romain Grosjean’s ongoing wildness at the start of races (Mark Webber referred to him this weekend as “that first lap nutcase”), his management group also own the Lotus team. Kimi Raikkonen has shown no inclination to up sticks and leave either.

Or has he?