Vettel-Ferrari rumours add new dimension to 2013 driver market

2013 F1 season

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Valencia, 2012During the European Grand Prix weekend Ferrari raised the prospect of Sebastian Vettel joining Fernando Alonso in the future.

Are the rumours credible? And how might they affect the 2013 F1 driver market? Here’s a look at the state of play for next year.

Ferrari courting Vettel

Just over a year ago Ferrari announced Fernando Alonso will remain with them until at least 2016. Immense speculation has surrounded the identity of his future team mate.

It seems unlikely Ferrari will continue to tolerate the under-performance of Felipe Massa, who at the time of writing has 11 points in the championship – less than one-tenth of Alonso’s points haul.

It would be quicker to list the drivers who haven’t been tipped as potential replacements for Massa as some journalists have seemingly named potential successors based on nothing more than how good their name will look in a headline.

But it was Ferrari themselves who sparked the most interesting recent rumour about their future driver line-up when team principal Stefano Domenicali said Alonso could “coexist” with reigning world champion Vettel.

Not surprisingly, some have already taken this remark a step further, insisting Ferrari have already inked a deal with Vettel for 2014.

If true, that places the team in something of a quandary for next year, as they require a seat-warmer. In the absence of any likely candidates for a driver who might join the team for one year on the understanding he’d be replaced by Vettel afterwards, this brings us back to Massa. Might Ferrari eke out his deal for just one more season until they can have their Alonso-Vettel dream team?

Whatever the situation, it is encouraging that Ferrari are apparently trying to seize the two of the best drivers in F1 today, instead of hiring a subservient ‘number two’ driver.

Hamilton’s McLaren future

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Valencia, 2012Next month Lewis Hamilton will make the 100th start of his Formula 1 career in the German Grand Prix. So far, all of them have been with McLaren. But is that about to change?

McLaren tied Hamilton down to a lucrative five-year contract shortly after he made his F1 debut with them. But group chairman Ron Dennis has indicated Hamilton will have to accept less favourable terms on his next deal due to economic downtime in the intervening period.

Nonetheless Hamilton continued to make positive noises about his McLaren future during last week’s pre-race press conference and played down Dennis’s words: “Ron is a very tough negotiator.

“He was very tough when they negotiated the contract that I have now and I expect him to be the same when we go back in. I don?t see there being many problems, to be honest.”

Hamilton has said in the past his commitment to McLaren is partly dependent on them giving him a sufficiently competitive car. This they have certainly done – the MP4-27 won the first race of the season – but the team has let him down in other ways, with a series of calamitous pit stop blunders.

If he were to go, where would he move to? It’s hard to believe he might end up at Ferrari with Alonso despite his former team mate’s claim he would be happy to reunite.

But a move to Red Bull could make a lot of sense – especially if they find themselves needing a replacement for Vettel.

Team mate Jenson Button renewed his McLaren contract last year. The team vaguely described it as a “multi-year” contract but team principal Martin Whitmarsh later let slip it is a three-year deal.

Mercedes: Will Schumacher stay?

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Valencia, 2012When Michael Schumacher returned to F1 in a three-year deal with Mercedes in 2010 it was with the stated aim of competing for the world championship.

That it has taken him this long to step back on the podium is a reflection on the fact things haven’t gone entirely to plan, but progress is being made.

As Schumacher nears the halfway point in his 18th full season of F1 it is up to him how long he wishes to remain in the sport’s top flight. His ‘phantom pole’ in Monaco shows he still has the pace and the rustiness in his racecraft that was evident in 2010 and 2011 appears to have faded.

Nico Rosberg signed a new “multi-year” contract with the team in November.

Midfield moves

Who goes where in the midfield will be determined in the first instance by whether any enticing vacancies open up among the top teams.

Kimi Raikkonen has another year on his Lotus contract and expect the impressive Romain Grosjean to be retained alongside him.

Vijay Mallya gave a strong endorsement to his two drivers recently, telling the official Formula 1 website: “I think we have two potential world champions in this team. They are both exceptionally talented. I am very delighted to have them.”

However it’s not hard to envisage Mercedes going shopping for a new driver at their engine customer, if it turns out they need one. That would in turn give them a chance to elevate one of the promising drivers from their DTM programme: such as reigning Formula Renault 3.5 champion Robert Wickens or Formula Three Euro Series and International Trophy champion Roberto Merhi.

Bruno Senna is yet to get on the pace of team mate Pastor Maldonado at Williams. That and the promise shown by test driver Valtteri Bottas in his practice outings have led some to draw the inevitable conclusion that Bottas is destined for Senna’s seat. But we’re to even halfway through the season yet, and it’s far too soon to make a call on that.

On the outside looking in is Jaime Alguersuari, who wrote in his BBC column today: “I am pretty sure I will be driving in F1 again next year with a good team. Everything is looking very good at the moment.” The one team we can expect he won’t be joining is Toro Rosso.

Although Mark Webber’s Red Bull contract is up for renewal, it’s doubtful either of their junior team’s drivers will get a call-up for next year. Expect Toro Rosso to stick with their current pairing for 2013. As usual, there is upcoming talent in the Red Bull Development Driver pipeline, but it’s hard to see any of the latest crop being ready for next year.

Sadly, there remains no sign of when or whether Robert Kubica will be sufficiently recovered from his injuries to make a return to F1.

Over to you

Who will go where next year? Do you believe the Vettel-to-Ferrari rumours?

Will Hamilton stay at McLaren? And what will Schumacher do? Have your say in the comments.

2013 F1 season


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128 comments on Vettel-Ferrari rumours add new dimension to 2013 driver market

  1. Sviatoslav Andrushko (@) said on 27th June 2012, 12:00

    Sooner or later Vettel will be at Ferrari, and I foresee a great battle between him and Alonso. Schumacher will stay at Mercedes for another year. There is a truthful evidence that this season is his penultimate. As for others… who knows? Ham to RedBull – doubtful; Rosberg – somewhere – uncertain. Same feeling about Kimi and Romain and Webber. Paul will be in Mercedes.

  2. tandrews (@tomand95) said on 27th June 2012, 13:22

    As long as Adrain Newey is at Red Bull, I don’t see any reason why seb should leave a team that has been at the top of F1 for the last 3 years. Imagine if he moved to Ferrari and saw Red Bull dominate the season again knowing he could have stayed. But I think he’ll move at the end of 2013 to Ferrari with Alonso and assuming webber retires by 2014, Red Bull’s new line up could Be Hamilton and Ricciardo.
    Also Alguersuari will have a good chance of returning to F1 next year as he will have a good understanding of the tires being a pirelli tester and considering how much they have played apart this season, teams could uses his knowledge.

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 27th June 2012, 20:57

      @tomand95 It’s difficult to second-guess these drivers but I imagine quite a few of them would give up the chance of an easier championship just to prove their talent elsewhere. Vettel won’t become any more of a champion just by winning more titles, but he will become a legend if he has a chance of doing it elsewhere.

  3. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 27th June 2012, 13:25

    I would really be surprised if Vettel had already signed a pre-contract with Ferrari for 2014. He has a contract with Red Bull until the end of 2014, and although it may or may not contain performance clauses, to be sniffing around other teams for 2014 this early would strike me as out-of-character for Sebastian. My guess is he’ll simply serve his contract with Red Bull, and then sees which way the wind is blowing.

    Moreover, it would actually be convenient to come out of contract at the end of 2014, so a driver can evaluate which turbo engine is good, and which is not. To move to Ferrari in 2014 only to find out that Renault have built a monster engine would just be silly.

    More interesting is what Hamilton will do, and when. He recently said that he wanted to focus on this championship first (great!) and maybe decide on his future until after the season, but that strikes me as a bit late. Indeed, the best way to focus on this championship is to re-sign with McLaren now.

    If Hamilton wants the highest chance of a competitive car, then the only alternative is Red Bull. Another good team that wants him is Mercedes, but then he will again find himself in a car that is hard on its tyres (judging on the past two seasons).

    Of course, with the cars so close this season, he could move to virtually any team and still have a chance of winning. Frank Williams is a fan of Hamilton (and least he was when he was interviewed by Peter Windsor on the Flying Lap some time ago), though I can’t see him teaming up with Maldonado. Hamilton and Bottas, though, that would be a very good driver line-up for Williams.

    • Mads (@mads) said on 27th June 2012, 16:07

      @adrianmorse
      Exactly. It would be completely darft to sign a contract with another team this early, considering the changes in the regulations, and the fact that Red Bull still has Newey and has so far in the last 3 years been ahead of Ferrari.
      And the fact that his position in the team is much more secure at Red Bull, where he could easily feel left out at Scuderia Fernando.

  4. Kimi4WC said on 27th June 2012, 13:33

    This must be Ferrari’s grand plan to lure Adrian Newey :)

  5. HUHHII (@huhhii) said on 27th June 2012, 13:47

    I’m quite sure Kovalainen will change the team after this year, and the rumors are moving him to Sauber. Perez to Ferrari and Kovalainen to Sauber? Kobayashi hasn’t been spectacular this year, so maybe Sauber would be ready to get rid of Kamui and take Heikki instead?

    • Girts (@girts) said on 27th June 2012, 14:18

      @huhhii Where did you read this gossip? Anyway, it seems to make sense. I believe that Sauber would want him and, if Heikki doesn’t see better options (that is, any of the top 5 teams) for himself, he might agree.

      • HUHHII (@huhhii) said on 27th June 2012, 15:19

        @girts Auto, motor und sport wrote about it last week. Heikki has gotten a contract offer from Caterham, but he hasn’t signed it. Heikki said last weekend that he has discussed with several different teams, but he didn’t name exactly what teams.

  6. The Radical (@radical) said on 27th June 2012, 13:48

    The way I see it, Schumacher will hang around for at least one more campaign, which takes Mercedes out of the equation.

    As the days go by, it makes more sense for Hamilton to remain at McLaren at least for 2013 (as long as Vettel is at Red Bull).

    If Webber stays at Red Bull, I get the feeling that Massa will get a stay of execution for one last season – it makes sense if Vettel is headed to Maranello in 2014.

    However, if Webber joins Ferrari, don’t be surprised to see Raikkonen join Vettel at Red Bull, in which case, the 2013 line-up could be

    Red Bull: Vettel Raikkonen
    Ferrari: Alonso Webber
    McLaren: Hamilton Button
    Mercedes: Rosberg Schumacher

    Thoughts?

  7. dkpioe said on 27th June 2012, 14:05

    i believe Robert Kubica might be fit for next year, but i think if he is fit he might have to do a year as a 3rd driver or drive rallys or a lower series in f1 – as seats are limited in F1. he has been driving a rally car in recent months -and very fast if you watch the youtube video, but when he got into a cramped open-wheel simulator, he decided to have another corrective elbow surgery as he couldnt turn the arm in a sufficient way for driving in a cockpit- the surgery is a sign he still wants to do open-wheel racing. apparently the success of that surgery will be known in late july. from all (very few) accounts, the rest of his body is healed, hence driving a rally car, and his mind must not have been hurt since the first racing car he got back into was a rally car, showing he has balls.
    there was a rumour on caterhams twitter account a few days again saying they were interested in him, which turned out to be madeup.
    in a way but i think Kubica going the silent route is damaging his chances of landing a seat in f1 again, last year he had a manager who spun exageratted tails of his recovery pace, but that probably worked for a while, keeping him in the renault loop, but kubica then ended ties with that manager – and is doing things on his own – he will need a smart manager when he is fit and needs to contact teams to negitiate.
    i think their is something we arent being told – maybe that a lot more recovery time is needed, and perhaps full recovery will never be achieved, but what is known is he is doing the hard yards to recover.

  8. Where is all this discussion about Alguersuari’s future coming from? What has he achieved in F1 that puts him in line for any race seat next year? I mean the guy may be alright and his replacements at TRosso certainly aren’t showing that they’re any better but that doesn’t put him in line for a Williams or anything higher. If anything, based on his F1 results, he should be looking down the grid at…TRosso or one of the three below them. He might luck into a Force India if he played his cards right, as a replacement for di Resta should Paul move to another team, but anywhere else is undeserved based on his previous performances.
    Just because he says he’s expecting to be hired by a good team doesn’t make it so. Anyway, for a driver who’s not in F1 any team is a good team.

  9. Tifoso1989 (@tifoso1989) said on 27th June 2012, 14:25

    I think this change of mentality in Ferrari has a lot to do with Pat Fry’s arrival in the team. First he changed the conservative approach in the design of the car into a new aggressive one at least Ferrari now have their own ideas, then he restructured the aero_department & now the team is looking for a top driver to put alongside Alonso rather than the traditional number 2 driver so i think Vettel’s move to Ferrari isn’t just a rumor it’s a matter of time
    When Vettel extended his contract with RedBull he suggested the services of Adrian Newey until the end of his contract we know that Vettel & Adrian have a good relationship & that Ferrari are always pushing very hard to get Adrian Newey’s services
    The question is will Vettel suggest the same thing to Ferrari ???

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 27th June 2012, 15:29

      I think it is totally an unknown as to whether or not Ferrari has a ‘change of mentality.’ They have not said they are looking for a top driver. They were asked if they could see SV or LH on the team and they have said yes, but I think that is lip service…doesn’t mean they are actually going to do it…they may just want to sound like they would, but to do so would be a change in philosophy and I’m not sure they feel the need to do that with FA on the team. If they had actually said they were looking for a top driver to go beside FA I think this topic and this conversation would be a whole lot different because we would be talking about which of the few drivers who are ‘top’ it WILL be, rather than IF they even will actually do it and when.

      • Kimi4WC said on 28th June 2012, 7:52

        It saddens me. It is “easier” to win Constructors by having two winning driver, than shooting for Driver Championship with one, not to mention you will still most likely miss out on Constructors.

        This is different times, and Ferrari doing bad investment. Also with this mentality, no young talented driver will ever join them.

        Raikkonen said it best some time ago: “I didn’t want to go to a team as a number two driver because their would be no point going.”

  10. Schumi the Greatest (@schumi-the-greatest) said on 27th June 2012, 14:34

    Obviously a lot will depend on the Vettel rumours…if true I can see Hamilton going to Red Bull. A) Because they will be able to pay him what he earns now (around £13 million a year) and B) because he would like to link up with Newey.

    I just cant see Alonso accepting Vettel as a team mate…so I think if Vettel were to go to Ferrari it would be after Alonso leaves at end of 2016.

    Its going to be exciting to see because where as the last few years the top teams haven’t changed anything…there could be a big shake up for next season!

  11. Robbie (@robbie) said on 27th June 2012, 14:47

    FA is a lock at Ferrari for quite a while. Ferrari didn’t bring up the topic of FA or they being happy to have LH or SV as FA’s teammate. They were asked that question by the media and then responded. So for now I think it is just wordplay. If in fact SV has put together a deal with Ferrari with just the signing of it to be all that is needed to seal it, then that would mean that they are ready to take on two gladiators rather than do as Keith has suggested which is to go with a subservient for the designated number one driver. So it would mean the leopard would be changing it’s spots, and I’m not holding my breath for that. I don’t see why Ferrari would be anxious to have another WDC on the team given their philosophy for quite a while now, but I would absolutely love it if they did and I think it is exactly what we the fans deserve in the pinnacle of racing.

    I don’t see SV finding so much reason to leave the very strong Red Bull team where he is having great success, to go to a team that has been less competitive and be alongside an extremely strong and engrained partner. The only reason would be if he feels a strong pulling toward Ferrari from a sentimental aspect and doesn’t want to miss out on a window of opportunity if it exists, but it should really be, for him, about where he can win the most in the short-term, as the long-term presents too many unknowns. For me, a move by SV to Ferrari if in fact they want that, would be like fixing something that isn’t broken for SV.

    I don’t see LH doing better elsewhere…don’t see him going to Ferrari just as I doubt they seriously would take SV to partner FA. Would LH like to go to Red Bull? Perhaps. But he is so engrained at Mac that it is hard to imagine, unless the thinking is that he needs a change that badly in order to progress. But I don’t really see it. I think LH would be better off at Mac where they know him so intimately. And if my instinct is right that SV will stay at Red Bull then I’m sure LH is not better off going to SV’s team Red Bull vs. staying at Mac.

    I’m thinking things may well stay pretty much the way they are for next year. I think FM will improve enough through the rest of the season that they will keep him for one more year. It might be more wordplay on their part that they are unhappy with his points tally. They might not want someone beside FA that is going to take points away from him even if it is true that for the Constructors they would like more points from FM than he has achieved. So if they do get rid of him I think they will hire FA a subservient and hope he is only a little better than FM.

    I think MS will stay for one more year. The car is too strong and the field too close and the odds are his bad luck will diminish such that I think he will try one more year rather than leave only to see the Merc potentially closer to the top next year than this year, which is the direction they are going.

    Other than that, I think the big question marks have to do with how much knowledge or suspicion everyone in F1 will have as to who might come out on top with the big rule changes for 2014. If there is a sense that one team or another is going to excel, then some drivers may gravitate towards those teams they think will thrive in the future. I wouldn’t bet against an Adrian Newey car. And Renault, Merc, and Ferrari can build incredible engines.

  12. VoiseyS (@voisey) said on 27th June 2012, 15:41

    I think Alonso’s feeling towards Vettel as his team mate will be affected if he wins the WDC this year. Should he do that, the pressure would be completely off him to perform ‘for’ Ferrari, as he will have proven his calibre as a driver, and proven that he can win with inferior machinery.

    His standing within the team would also benefit from his winning the WDC, and with Massa leaving Ferrari would be Fernando’s team, full stop. As much credit as Vettel has, he is not going to compete with that.

    As a result, I don’t think Vettel will go to Ferarri, at least until Alonso leaves. He couldn’t deal with Webber getting some of the limelight at Red Bull, if decisions by the team are to be believed. Seb sees himself as Number 1, and always will do. Alonso is the same, and the risk to Ferrari of upsetting Alonso’s presence in the team isn’t worth it.

  13. James (@jamesf1) said on 27th June 2012, 16:06

    Scumacher to Ferrari for one year? Would anyone be against seeing that? It’s so unlikely to happen, but that would be quite something. Schumacher and Alonso together.

    It’s unlikely, but not an entirely stupid move. Schumacher, if he feels he can manage it, would get one more year in the sport, enough to keep a seat warm for Vettel in 2014 (if the deal is true and has any credibility). Ferrari would in theory have two race winners in the team, two proven champs. It would be the most experienced, technically brilliant and finely tuned pairing too. Schumacher knows the team, the team knows Schumacher.

    Who knows. Gotta love the F1 silly season!

  14. Jorge Mac said on 27th June 2012, 16:10

    I think everybody had underestimated that Sergio Pérez is highly supported by the Richest in the world, owner of América Móvil (TELMEX/TELCEL) and who is very fan of Racing … and who is really interested in putting his brand over Ferrari cars … I think Vettel-to-Ferrari rumors are just that rumors.

  15. NickV (@nickv) said on 27th June 2012, 16:32

    I think if the Vettel to Ferrari rumours are true, then webber will probs fill in for 2013 at Ferrari if Massa is ousted. In which case I think Massa’s F1 career will be over as there are so many young talented drivers ready to step up. If Perez goes to Ferrari, my guess is he will be replaced by Bianchi – Ferrari development driver in Ferrari engined car. If Perez stays at Sauber, i think Kamui could be dropped for Bianchi anyway.

    Williams will probably replace Senna with Bottas. If MSC retires, then Di Resta will probs get that seat, being replaced at Force India by either Bird or Wickens – both Merc drivers. I think Hamilton will stay at Mclaren alongside Button. If Webber reitres or leaves Red Bull for one last year at Ferrari, he could be replaced by either Buemi, Alguesuari or maybe Kimi. In the unlikely case of Kimi joining Red Bull, his seat at Lotus could be replaced by either a recovered Kubica (unlikely), or Korjus who is a gravity backed driver.

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