The 2014 grid is slowly but surely taking shape with some of the sillier rumours dying out in favour of more credible and probable whispers about who will be where when the lights go out at the start of next season.
Much like 2012, one driver change at the front of the grid has led to a grid-wide reshuffle. Since Mark Webber announced his retirement from the sport at the end of this season, Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen and the Toro Rosso duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne were the drivers tipped to join defending World Champion Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull next year. Eventually, RBR Team Principal Christian Horner discounted Vergne on the grounds that he lacked the experience needed. This left Ricciardo and Raikkonen in the running but it now seems that Ricciardo will be joining the Milton Keynes based outfit.
This is as Raikkonen’s manager, Steve Robertson, confirmed that the Finn would not be moving to Red Bull. Admitting that there had indeed been talks with the team, they eventually broke down which leaves Raikkonen at Lotus for 2014, or so one would think.
“We are pretty confident Kimi will be in F1 next year. There are options – and that is plural – out there and I will continue to talk to teams. I am hopeful we will sort something out in the not too distant future.” Robsertson said.
It seems incredibly unlikely that Raikkonen would move to a team behind Lotus in the standings which would rule out teams such as McLaren, who he drove for between 2002 and 2006. If a Red Bull move is off the cards, then Lotus, Ferrari and Mercedes are the remaining options.
Former team-owner Eddie Jordan, who correctly predicted Lewis Hamilton’s move to Mercedes last year, now believes Raikkonen is off to Ferrari. The Irishman even believes that a deal could be announced at September’s Italian Grand Prix – Ferrari’s home race. If this was to be true, Felipe Massa would be given the boot as he has failed to perform up-to-standard for the fourth consecutive season. Raikkonen has also previously driven for Ferrari – until he was paid to leave the team when Alonso arrived for 2010. If Kimi was to move to the Scuderia, he would partner Alonso who holds a contract until the end of 2016.
As per usual, the team was remaining tight-lipped on the matter, telling BBC: “At the moment our priority is produce the car for Fernando and Felipe and a decision on the 2014 line-up will be made at the appropriate moment, which is not right now.”
It’s unlikely that if Raikkonen moved to Ferrari that Lotus would hire the jobless Felipe Massa, and so attention could likely turn to Nico Hulkenberg. The German was tipped for a seat at Ferrari at the end of last season before making the sideways step from Force India to Sauber. Having enacted a contract termination over contractual failings with Sauber, namely the cash-strapped team reportedly failing to pay his wages since May, it’s believed Hulkenberg is on the prowl for an open seat closer to the front of the grid. While Mercedes and McLaren seem comfortable with their drivers and Red Bull are not discussing him as a possible replacement for Webber, his two options could be Ferrari and Lotus. Should Kimi move to Ferrari, that leaves only Lotus.