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The Driver Merry-Go-Round... Pivotal Decisions

2015 has been quite a year for F1. The Introduction of new venues, more reliable Engines in the new era of F1 but the most important, entry of youth in the pinnacle of motorsport.

The rookies have impressed in 2015 so far and their abilities have silenced the doubters.


At the Mid point of the season, rumours are rife in the paddock about potential driver lineups for 2016. Not many seats are up for grabs but for some, time to prove their worth is running out.

Who is safe and who is not, time to have a run through.


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 :

The Fastest team in F1 ( Currently ) has steered clear from any paddock chatter by locking down the current lineup of Hamilton and Rosberg with long term contracts. Rumours about drives being available would be the last thing the team would want for themselves as well as for their drivers in their battle to maintain their edge in the current formula.


Scuderia Ferrari F1 :

The Loss of Jules Bianchi has hit both the Team and the F1 Fraternity hard. Sebastian Vettel has a contract. Kimi Raikkonen, as always is in the news about his future in F1. The Finn's contract expires at the end of 2015 and Ferrari has the option of extending it for another year based on the performance this year. 2015 has been a better year for Raikkonen but there is a considerable gap ( 84 points ) to his team-mate which isn't doing his chances any good.

Valtteri Bottas, Williams F1 Driver is being shortlisted as a replacement for Raikkonen and the rumours gathered a lot of steam in the past couple of months. However no formal announcement was made in this regard. Max Verstappen too has emerged as a contender in the past week but for 2017.

Ferrari have emphasized on multiple occasions that Kimi's contract extension / replacement isn't a priority at present. Recent developments suggest that the Maranello outfit will renew Kimi's contract for another year.

Kimi has the speed. In James Allison's words "Kimi is as quick as Seb, only difference is that Kimi has made a couple of mistakes in qualifying to Seb's one." Kimi has also been on the wrong end of reliability in 2 races. Add those results and he would be in contention for 3rd place in the Drivers' Championship.

Raikkonen's decision is the most pivotal in the market and can trigger a lot of movement. Else Status-quo.

Raikkonen has proved his mettle on more than one occasion. He remains Ferrari's Last Champion. Belgium beckons and being the most successful driver there, I am hoping to see the "King of Spa" do well.


Williams Martini F1 :

Williams should be happy with their current lineup of drivers. They have performed exceedingly well since 2014. Massa will continue into 2016. Bottas' future though is questionable. The Finn is young and fast besides being consistent. His performances have caught the attention of Ferrari and seems to be the favourite to sign for them. Bottas has reiterated that no deal with Ferrari is in place and such rumours should stop doing the rounds. Williams on the other hand were instrumental in bringing Bottas into F1 but that shouldn't hamper his chances of moving higher up the grid given the opportunity.

There were some rumours of Nasr stepping up but they were written off when Sauber renewed his contract.

Another rumour that surfaced was that Button was considering a switch to Williams. ( Discussed later ). Alex Lynn, formerly belonging to Red Bull's driver program, signed up with Williams as a development driver. It won't be long before he is ready to step up into F1. So Williams have their hands full.

The Possibility of Bottas to Ferrari looks pretty certain but I feel Ferrari will hold stations for another year.


Red Bull Racing F1 :

Red Bull Racing seems to have their Driver Contracts sorted for next year inspite of talk of a potential offer for Ricciardo. Sometimes the media links every driver with a Ferrari Seat. Red Bull would like to continue with their current crop of Kvyat and Ricciardo considering the position they are in. Losing their Quadruple World Champion Vettel to Ferari didn't do them any good. Red Bull must keep their lineup stable to rebuild and mount a new challenge.


Sahara Force India F1 :

Force India too preserved their lineup of Perez and Hulkenberg for 2015. Both Drivers performed well so far. Perez has been overshadowed by Hulkenberg. Hulkenberg is another candidate for the Ferrari Seat for 2016 but substantial sponsorship backing besides a height disadvantage is hurting his chance of moving higher up the grid. Haas F1, a new team in 2016 with Ferrari Power should consider him as a candidate. If none comes calling, the Hulk will stay at Force India. Perez is best suited to Force India with the abilities he possesses. Perez should continue with Force India as he enjoys a great relationship with the team.

GP2 has some candidates willing to take the big leap but I feel the team must stick with their old guns and build a solid platform for the future.


Lotus F1 :

Grosjean and Maldonado continued into 2015 for Lotus F1. Grosjean should continue in Lotus. I don't see him going elsewhere. Maldonado has been reckless to be frank and its high time for Lotus to open up a seat. Maldonado might have a fat sponsorship with him but his failure to bring him consistent results is costing the team dear. Jolyon Palmer, the reserve driver is the current GP2 Champion and has every right to graduate into F1. This might be the last year for Maldonado according to me. Palmer seems favourite to land a drive in 2016.


Scuderia Toro Rosso :

Toro Rosso, Red Bull's "B" Team recruited 2 rookies in Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. Verstappen joining F1 at a tender age of 17. Both have performed well so far in the season and Toro Rosso might opt to retain them both, maybe until the time is right to move to the Big League.

It would be very difficult for any driver from the Red Bull Program to grab a seat in 2016. The Best anyone can manage would be to become the 3rd Driver.


Sauber F1 :

Sauber F1 has been instrumental in bringing the best into F1. Many greats began their careers in F1 through Sauber. The Team dismissed any rumours about their drivers fairly quickly by confirming new contracts for Nasr and Ericsson. Marciello, a Ferrari Driver Program graduate, might have to wait another year and prove his mettle in GP2 if he wants a seat with the team, courtesy of Engine Suppliers Ferrari.



McLaren Honda F1 :

McLaren's
new partnership with Honda began in 2015. They hired the services of World Champions Button and Alonso ( Dual WDC ) to assist them in their quest to return to supremacy. However their poor form and reliability has left the duo frustrated. Alonso expressed that he is slowly losing interest in the sport. He is happy to be a part of the challenge being faced but he is slowly losing the excitement he had about the sport. Alonso didn't re-sign with McLaren only to leave prematurely. He will dig deep and bring home the results and McLaren need to keep him interested to stay.

The situation with Button is very different. Button has been with the team for a fair amount of time and quite frankly, lived in the shadow of his team-mates. He has been in the news on many occasions with questions being raised about his abilities. The toughest was last year when McLaren bided their time in renewing his contract. Magnussen, his team-mate from last season, stepped down to 3rd driver and is waiting in the wings hoping to land a drive in 2017. To complicate matters, McLaren's protegee, Stoffel Vandoorne is performing brilliantly in GP2. He must get a drive sooner rather than later. Vandoorne should win the championship this year and failure to absorb him into the F1 team will leave him with few options ( A GP2 champion can't return to the feeder series ).
McLaren has to decide. Soon.


Manor Marussia F1 :

Manor, the buyers of Marussia brought in Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens for the 2015 campaign. Both have brought home satisfactory results. Merhi has been outshone by his team-mate on many occasions. There were rumours of Merhi's seat being up for grabs in 2016 but the bosses at Manor have reiterated that holding onto both for 2016 is the priority. The team wants stability going forward but as is the case with smaller organizations, nothing can be taken for granted. Fabio Leimer, the 2013 GP2 Champion bagged the reserve driver's seat and I won't be surprised to see him challenge for a drive in 2016.


Haas F1 :

Haas
is the new kid on the block. It might be early days but there is a lot of buzz surrounding the team's entry into F1 in 2016. Haas has enjoyed a close relationship with Ferrari who will eventually supply them the engines. Ferrari will have a say when it comes to hiring the pilots for 2016 ( for at least one seat ). Estebaan Gutierrez, 3rd Driver at Ferrari currently should return to the starting grid in 2016 with Haas.

Haas
must sign someone who is quick and can bring home the results consistently. Their intentions are clear - they want to be a top running team in F1. Nico Hulkenberg will be the perfect candidate for the job. But will the bosses at Haas consider him worthy? Surely they must!


To Summarize, Haas has 2 places, Lotus should have 1. Little movement elsewhere according to me.

F1 is a very funny sport. A lot of things can change overnight. We still have 2 races left in the European Leg of the season. More Rumours are bound to emerge, some totally absurd. Its tough for both the teams and drivers to operate in such a competitive environment, but compete they must. This post might be a bit earlier than it should have been. Nevertheless the silly season has thrown up enough speculations for the F1 Fraternity and Fans to keep them engrossed for months.

Who goes, who stays, only time will tell. Some might already know their fate..some might be in the dark...it will all be revealed soon...


The Season isn't over yet. We still have 9 races to go.


Time to put all that aside and prepare for the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix. I shall be at the race supporting Kimi. There will be updates from the Grand Prix once I return.


Have a great week and enjoy the race everyone!
 

The Driver Merry-Go-Round.... Speculations Galore

2014 is a new chapter in the history of Formula 1.

The Rules have changed, the Designs have changed, the chariots look different, the Turbos have returned and new battlegrounds have been added.

Reliability is paramount this season. The changes have humbled some and brought a resurgence for some.

We are almost nearing the end of the season and the paddock is abuzz with rumours about drives for next season.

How does it all shape up? Lets have a quick peek.


Williams Martini Racing :

Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa are retained for 2015 and its not a surprise considering their performances so far. The Team can now focus on fighting for Constructors' Championship as well as on developing their 2015 contender.



Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton stay in the team for 2015. The Incident in Belgium created a huge stir but I feel both have grown from the incident and learnt many lessons. The 2014 Title is still up for grabs and either one could go home with top honours. Leaving a team dominating the way they are this season would be unthinkable. The Team only needs to ensure that both cars finish races.



Marussia F1 Team :

The Team should retain their current lineup for 2015 and with the possibility of a higher financial influx at the end of the season should aid the survival of the team ( thanks to vital points in Constructors this year ). Chilton and Bianchi are both resourceful, the latter enjoying preference for a seat as the team is a Customer for Ferrari Engines. Staying with the current lineup is the way forward but as is the case with smaller teams, guarantees can never be given.



Sahara Force India F1 Team :

Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez have been performing really well and the sheer talent of the duo should ensure their seats for 2015. Its a shame to see Hulkenberg's inability to move up the grid due to a lack of sponsors and the height disadvantage. A man with his talent definitely deserves a seat in the sharp end of the grid. Daniel Abt from GP2 is waiting in the wings but his decision to also race in Formula E might hamper his chances into F1.



Sauber F1 Team :

Sauber is a team known to spot talent. However the team's existence in F1 itself is at stake due to a lack of funds and dismal performances. Sergey Sirotkin, the rookie might get a Practice Session in Sochi and his chances for 2015 seem bright. Gutierrez and Sutil might lose their seats to Van der Garde and Sirotkin if they can't raise sufficient finances for 2015.

Sutil seems the most likely to go out with Sirotkin taking his seat. Van der Garde is a talent but does he have the same financial backing as Sirotkin? - I don't think so.



Caterham F1 Team :

A Change of Ownership and a management overhaul means there is a lot of uncertainty about the team. The Team has reiterated its intention of staying in F1 and the current line-up of Kobayashi and Ericsson cannot take a 2015 seat for granted. Kobayashi has already lost his seat once this year and Ericsson is definitely not the quickest rookie around. Both Seats would be up for sale according to me and the Highest Bidder will get them. The Contenders are many and for most this might be the ticket into Formula 1.



Lotus F1 Team :

Lotus went backwards in 2014 after 2 years of great success. The Drastic Rule Changes left them struggling at the back of the grid not to mention the exodus of technical personnel and the lack of finances. Maldonado was hired in 2014 to bring PDVSA onboard and some much needed finances. The Car has not yielded the results expected and the team is languishing at the back of the grid. Grosjean will be looking to greener pastures and Maldonado's performances will not help him go elsewhere. For Charles Pic ( the reserve driver ) the possibility of a drive is getting bigger by the day.



Scuderia Toro Rosso :

Red Bull's B Team and the final hurdle before earning a drive in the Big Team. Both Vettel and Ricciardo spent time here and their performances helped them moved into the A Team. Jean-Eric Vergne already lost his seat for 2015 while Daniil Kvyat retains his. Max Verstappen who will be 16 years old next year joins the team for 2015.

Is he too young for F1? Many believe if someone is quick then age shouldn't really be a factor but the lack of experience might prove to be detrimental. Red Bull is the best judge and I am sure they might have seen something in him to be reason enough to award him with a drive. Carlos Sainz Jr. who belongs to the same program and races in a series higher than Verstappen was overlooked and would feel hard done by Red Bull's Decision. I hope he does well and proves the doubters wrong.



Infiniti Red Bull Racing, Scuderia Ferrari F1 & McLaren Honda :

6 Drives and uncertainty looms all over in 3 of the top teams in F1. Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen will stay with Red Bull and Ferrari respectively for 2015. The other 4 drives are a classic case of Driver Merry-go-round in F1 with the rumour mills running overtime.

Red Bull Racing will try to hold onto their Quadruple World Champion Sebastien Vettel. He had a tough season so far but his abilities and talent are unquestionable. 

Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Vettel might swap seats as per the latest rumours. Alonso joined Ferrari in 2010 and is yet to win a World Championship with the team. Ferrari has had a forgettable 2014 and the struggles within the Maranello outfit compelled Alonso to explore options. Alonso's departure would also mean the loss of a big sponsor in Santander for Ferrari and the team must look for a worthy replacement for his seat.

The Advent of the Honda Engine for McLaren in 2015 adds more confusion to the mix. Reports suggest that McLaren are trying to sign either Alonso or Vettel or if possible both. Kevin Magnussen is a rookie this year and his performances bode well for him. A product of the McLaren Driver Program, he would be hoping to retain his seat.

Jenson Button faces an uphill task to hold onto his. I feel his stint at McLaren is over and the team wants a change of guard. Honda comes in as a new engine supplier in 2015 and joining the team carries a big risk for a new entrant. The Uncertainty of the performance and reliability could severely backfire on Alonso or Vettel if they choose to go down that path. Alonso had issues with the management at McLaren but those are things of the past. Alonso is more likely a contender for the seat than Vettel as it would be taking a step back for the latter.

According to me, Vettel and Alonso swapping teams seems to be more realistic with Alonso opting to be with Red Bull only for one year; this would help the Spaniard to assess the performance of McLaren in 2015 with the Honda Engine and of the Renault in the Red Bull. He can weigh his options at the end of 2015. McLaren would be stronger in 2016 with Honda addressing engine issues ( if they have any in 2015 ) and if Ferrari produces a resurgence, maybe return to replace a retiring Raikkonen for 2016.

Red Bull would definitely have something in place for him in 2016 but considering his age and the talent pool that Red Bull possesses, Alonso's one year will be the perfect time frame for Red Bull to ready the next Ricciardo or Vettel.

Romain Grosjean could spring a surprise in all this.

Grosjean's Manager Eric Boullier is the Racing Director at McLaren while Ciaron Pilbeam the Chief Race Engineer at Lotus F1 ( in 2013 ) also joined the Woking Outfit this year. Both know how big a talent and how resourceful Romain is. His arrival would be like a breath of fresh air at Woking.

All this points to only one thing - Jenson Button's Career is at stake. Should he lose his seat to any of these, he would either have to hang up his boots or move down the grid and join a smaller team. Lotus F1 seems to be the most viable option.

However McLaren must keep Button and Magnussen for 2014 to maintain stability but the final decision rests with the management.


Personally, I see 4 to 5 drivers not featuring in next year's Driver Line-up. Its a sad story this but with the cut-throat competition, drives are few and far between.


2014, dubbed the "Silly Season" has been one the most exciting in the history of F1. The Possibility of a major reshuffle within the big teams would be an intriguing one. What happens at the end of the season? Only time will tell.

Till then, lets enjoy the remainder of 2014.

Paddock Club Diaries - Abu Dhabi GP 2013 Day 3

Sunday was the Big Day!! The Final day of the Paddock Club Diaries for this Season! The last of the 4th and Final Paddock Club Experience for me.

Well, Lets relive it!


UAE is known for its fancy cars and I came across a couple on my way to Yas Island.



Enroute to Yas Island :


I reached the Paddock Club and the First event of the day was the GP2 Sprint Race :


Kimi Raikkonen joined us in the Suite to oblige the guests with autographs!!


Eric Boullier talking about the Team's Performance so far


Lunch!!!


A quick lunch and it was time to go down for the Final Pit Lane Walk of the weekend and the Final one for me to be at. I wanted to make the most of it.


Shots from the Pit-Lane Walk :


A Moment with Steve Robertson ( Kimi Raikkonen's Manager ). He is a very approachable man and very humble.


The Pit Lane Walk ended and preparations were in full swing for the race.

Cars doing installation laps :


Lotus Boys taking sighters of the Track :


The Grid Preparations :


The Etihad Airways Fly-Past :


The Cars rolled out for the Formation Lap and the Mechanics had to run back to the pits!

Video Link :


The Cars lined up on the Grid and Expectations were high. Kimi Raikkonen started at the back of the grid after the disqualification on Saturday and I was praying for a strong result.

Race Start Video Link :



The Race began and Kimi jumped the Marussia but ran a bit wide on the kerb. The Resulting imbalance caused contact with the Caterham and damaged the front suspension rod. It was a First Lap retirement for the Iceman and a good weekend that went from bad to worse for me :( A Rare Retirement for the Iceman...

There was still a race to be won and here are some shots from the Race :

McLaren Mercedes during their Pit-Stop

Video Link :



The Lotus F1 Team in the Race :


Lotus F1 Team Pit-Stop Video Link :



The Chequered Flag came out and it was Sebastien Vettel again who took victory! Mark Webber finished 2nd while Nico Rosberg held off a late charge by Romain Grosjean to hold onto 3rd place.

Kimi Raikkonen was the sole retirement in the race.


Video Link ( Chequered Flag ) :


Fireworks display :

Parc - Ferme :

It was time to say goodbye to my friends at Lotus F1 Team and as I headed out, I saw the Yas Marina Hotel shining in all its glory!!

Some more exotics on the way back :

It was a good weekend from a neutral point of view but very disappointing as a Kimi Fan.

I was sad to see it end like this. This was the last race in 2013 that I would be at and it turned out to be the last one for Kimi too as he decided to go in for Back Surgery.

Overall it was a satisfactory 2013 for me. It all started with an All Expenses Paid trip to the Malaysian GP thanks to Tourism Malaysia. Then the German GP, Italian GP, Indian GP and the Abu Dhabi GP to make it 5 races for the season. I was with the Lotus F1 Team in the Paddock for the 4 races and I must say it was a great experience. I shall cherish every moment.

A Special Thank you to Oliver Anderson, Anne-Charlotte Remy, Sophie Stapleton, Anna Pamin, Fleur Foster, Francois Puentes, James Robinson, Gaby Mills, Anita Nyers, Fred Garcia and Luca Mazzocco for all the Hospitality shown to me.

I made some really dear friends in this season and I am thankful to God that I got a chance to meet such wonderful people!!

A Big Thank you to YOU my followers and readers on various social platforms who have been patient enough and enjoyed reading everything that I have shared over the past year.

2014 will have its own experiences and I pray that I get a chance to be at a couple of races... Fingers Crossed.

God Bless You All!!