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.

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

  1. I don`t think Vettel will go to Ferrari now, there`s no point as long as Red Bull is competitive. As long as this persists both Vettel and Red Bull will do their utmost to continue what has been a great partnership. And Vettel cares more for records and success than money, at least for now.

    When Alonso`s contract at Ferrari ends in 2016 I can see Vettel replacing him. Alonso will be about 35 years old at the time and depending on how successful he and Ferrari are at the time he might stop racing. Vettel would then be a perfect fit for Ferrari as he`s a hard worker and a perfectionist, pretty much like Schumacher and Alonso.

    I don`t think Ferrari really want to partner Alonso and Vettel. Both drivers are perfectionist and want the car their own way. That`s tough for a team to handle and it just might blow up in their face. Nomather what people say it cannot be denied that both drivers are absolutely world class, in my view they are currently the two best drivers out there for a team to employ. I know a lot of people are in denial about Vettel, he cannot win from the back, he cannot overtake and all that ********. He has done it and he can do it all, he`s a double wold champion at 24 for god`s sake.

    In my book his statistics tell me he is probaly the most valuable driver of the lot for a team as hìs attention to detail helps push the boundaries. When he gels with the car he`s untouchable as he keeps refining the car relentlessly. If I was a team manager I would much prefer a driver that keeps working to improve the car consistently than a driver whose strenght is to drive around problems. Some of those drivers keep driving around problems for years and ends up being number 2 or 3 every year whereas they could have been number 1 if they had instead tried to iron out the problems. In a way it`s ironic, Vettels consistency and attention to detail masks his huge talent. The reason he doesn`t make storming drives from the back of the grid is because he`s not going to be at the back of the grid if he`s got a good car. He`ll convert a good car into pole position almost every single time due to his ability to take advantage of the car. So when Vettel is further back on the grid it`s not because he had a car but messed up qualifying, it`s because he doesn`t have a good car for this race. Such consistency is rare and reminds me of Alain Prost who was also great at developing winning cars.
    If you compare Vettel and Webber you will see the difference between them. When the car is not great Webber is much closer to Vettel. But Vettel keeps refining and refining until he`s got a car that suits him perfectly, and suddenly Webber is struggling. That`s probably because Webbers attention to detail doesn`t match Vettels. Also notice that when the car was not great in qualifying in 2012 Vettel`s strenght was suddenly over race distance as he had previously been the qualifying king. That should tell his critics a lot about his abilities.

    As for Alonso he`s complete, he`s got it all. He`s got the spees, he`s got the mentality, he`s got the know-how and he`s got the “never-say die” attitude. And so he should, he`s supposed to be in his prime now, and it shows. A fearsome competitor to take on for anybody.

    For those reasons I really hope Hamilton stays with McLaren as that is the best team for him. If Hamilton went to Red Bull to replace Vettel I suspect he would be in for a cultural shock. Neweys cars are fast but also on the edge and sometimes hard to get right, and I got a feeling Red Bull needs more feedback from their drivers than McLaren. That`s not Hamiltons strenght, his strenght is driving the wheels of his car, not refining a “nervous beast” to perfection. Not to mention Ferrari, if he went there he might self-destruck big time. I really feel that Hamilton should focus more on getting his car and setup absolutely right instead of being the “world-champion-of-driving-around problems”. His massive talent should have brought him at least 2 or 3 championships by now, but he doesn`t seem to be able to convert a very good car into a great car. McLaren is a truly great team and has been up there consistently for decades, no other team has been as consistent the last 25 years (remember Ferrari was nowher in the eighties and most of the nineties and Williams har been nowhere since the nineties).

  2. apole said on 27th June 2012, 17:02

    I can’t wait for the battle, the real driver (Alonso) vs the playstation driver (Vettel).

  3. beneboy (@beneboy) said on 27th June 2012, 17:57

    Vettel to Ferrari sounds good to me, although it would be a big change for a team that has a tendency to focus on a number one driver as I doubt Alonso and Vettel would accept anything other than absolute equality if they were to be paired together.

    If this means the team need a seat warmer for a year I hope they don’t fall back to the safe option of retaining Massa. I’d much rather see one of the younger drivers given an opportunity with the team, even if it is just for one year. A driver like Perez/Di Resta/Kobyashi or even a driver from GP2 or another series could take a lot from a single year at a top F1 team like Ferrari and given Massa’s performance over the last few years even a rookie would be unlikely to do that much worse and it’d certainly be a whole lot less expensive.

    The one thing I really want to see is Schumi staying, ideally in a much improved Mercedes. He appears to have got used to the new car and the new tires and he’s had some good drives this season, even though his results don’t really reflect this. I hope he and the team can continue to improve this season so he can start next season positively and compete for a few more wins (and even if it is just a hopeless dream – maybe even compete for the WDC one last time…)

    It would be nice to see a few more driver changes in the coming seasons, the last few years have been pretty static – especially at the sharp end of the grid – I don’t know if it’s just my perception but it feels like I’ve been seeing the same faces (or helmets) in the same cars for years now and a few driver changes, and possibly even some new faces, would be a welcome sight.

    • themagicofspeed (@) said on 29th June 2012, 10:49

      I hope they don’t fall back to the safe option of retaining Massa. I’d much rather see one of the younger drivers given an opportunity with the team, even if it is just for one year. A driver like Perez/Di Resta/Kobyashi or even a driver from GP2 or another series could take a lot from a single year at a top F1 team like Ferrari

      Ferrari arent in the business of giving unexperienced and unproven drivers a race seat, no matter who they are.

  4. Ed Marques (@edmarques) said on 27th June 2012, 18:52

    It’s not a guess but this line-up would interesting to shake up things a little bit for 2013:
    Rosberg/Di Resta
    But i doubt this will happen. Vettel and Hamilton are the key players. What each one of them decides will impact the others.

  5. Cyclops_PL (@cyclops_pl) said on 27th June 2012, 19:07

    As far as I recall, Vettel signed extension until the end of 2014 and Horner said the contract was solid and didn’t have any release or termination clauses nor extension options, so he doesn’t have to worry about losing Seb.

  6. Bradley Downton (@bradley13) said on 27th June 2012, 19:39

    Heard rumours that Alguersuari is being seriously lined up for McLaren or Mercedes. If Vettel goes to Ferrari, Hamilton to Red Bull… McLaren will need a replacement to drive alongside Button. Mercedes wouldn’t let di Resta go to McLaren surely so, Alguersuari may well be in with a chance.

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 27th June 2012, 20:51

      @bradley13 Doubt it. I do like Alguersuari but I don’t think he’s quite McLaren material, especially after taking a year out.

    • Nickpkr said on 28th June 2012, 23:22

      well is he a pay driver ? Sponsors ? Few teams can take those

    • themagicofspeed (@) said on 29th June 2012, 10:44

      I dont think McLaren will have to scrape the barrel that low. They can attract big name drivers, as they did with Button in 2010. So although there wont be any big-name drivers around to sign most probably, theres plenty of talented guys in the upper mid-field….Grosjean, Rosberg…etc

  7. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 27th June 2012, 20:48

    Vettel at Ferrari would be amazing. I don’t subscribe to the consensus of opinion that Ferrari would unequivocally support Alonso. Sure, they should support him more if he’s the one with the best chance at success but straight out of the garage? No way. That would be madness.

    I’m only speculating here but I think there’s something to be said for Alonso actually relishing the challenge. He looks at home with Ferrari and he has a terrific morale around him. He isn’t only a driver but almost carries ambassador like status for them. I don’t see him throwing his toys out of the pram like he did with McLaren. There’s a lot to be said for maturity and I think Alonso has it in buckets these days.

    It would give Vettel a chance to shine elsewhere, just like Alonso and Button are doing. That theory would also suit Hamilton moving elsewhere.

  8. Lothario said on 27th June 2012, 21:37

    Well if Vettel joins Ferrari, it’ll be hopefully another 20-odd year drought

    • themagicofspeed (@) said on 29th June 2012, 10:40

      Doubtful. With Vettel and Alonso on board, they will pummel McLaren, Red Bull and any other fools who try to stop them. Vettel is an excellent driver, just a rather annoying one, and Alonso is even better. Judging by your comment, I would guess you are a McLaren fan/Lewis fan..?

  9. Kimi4WC said on 28th June 2012, 0:25

    Bottas will be joining McLaren after impressive year at Williams.

    The only way Vettel leaving Red Bull, is if he goes mad. At this point Hamilton looks way more likely to join Ferrari. No matter how hard Hamilton would wish to leave McLaren, there are just not many options for his.

    Ferrari should get their head out of sand, as a team I’d imagine Constructors matter way more then Drivers Championship. They could have had a couple by now if they put their main driver on edge by bringing a winning second driver. I know Massa situation is delicate, but until stop dancing around drivers odds will never be in their favor.
    Last time they won Constructors was 5 years ago and they nearly missed on Drivers. Alonso is great and all, but he is not a Schumacher and they don’t have luxury of testing to create advantages. They need “Vettel/Webber” like line up.

  10. leotef (@leotef) said on 28th June 2012, 5:00

    Until when is Newey’s contract with RBR? RBR may not be as it is said if Adrian leaves them. So his place shall be a really key factor in this talk. Assuming RBR deficient of Adrian, will they be still claim the fastest next season? Who knows but seems certainly negative… and if he moves to Ferrari in 2013, VET shall dearly go to Ferrari.
    I just want to see a team which is not dependent on one leading edge designer but which can cultivate one who can, so much as a driver with high talent to be more long term looking rather than following tails of certain check.
    Can McLaren do this, or be ambitious to do this? Then it might be really a good team in the future. Likewise, better attitude of Ferrari in this sense will be not chasing after Adrian for short and quick success but to build and upbringing their own sort of approach…

  11. raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 28th June 2012, 5:07

    I am personally of the opinion that Seb will at least see out 2014 with Red Bull. The 2014 rules shakeup will bring about a new set of design regulations with it, and new packaging for the rear of the car. Where has Mr. A. Newey shone in the past? Rule changes. 2014 could see another 2010 or 2011-like year for Red Bull, and I think Seb knows that, unless someone pulls a Brawn and brings up a loophole that gives them massive laptime like the double diffuser.

    The 2014 Red Bull chassis is going to be mighty – the class of the field I daresay.

    However the big unknown is the engine, both from a cost perspective as well as competitive aspect.

    • Kimi4WC said on 28th June 2012, 6:38

      I would love to see Audi enter as engine supplier to wreck the competition in 2014 :)

      In my eyes Renault will be the safest bet to deliver competitive engine with new regulations.

      • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 29th June 2012, 3:26

        Hard to say. We need to see who on the current field has a 1.6L V6 turbo engine – that will at least give some indication as to who’s experienced at building a performance engine with said specifications.

        @Kimi4WC I’m an audihead, as my avatar shows – and a competitive Audi in F1, with Vettel at the wheel, is a wet dream come true.

      • themagicofspeed (@) said on 29th June 2012, 10:37

        I think Mercedes in Brixworth will probably not be far away. The Mercedes engine is generally thought to be the best in F1 at the moment, followed by the Renault, and then the Ferrari last.

  12. Neel Jani (@neelv27) said on 28th June 2012, 12:20

    Firstly, let’s talk about Ferrari.

    Alonso is the lead driver and as proven last week, has a substantial say in driver line up. Taking that into consideration, he would be having a say in other fields as well regarding development. He has sort of become a part of the management at Ferrari.

    Taking this into consideration, Vettel going to Ferrari seems unreal. That will ruffle Fernando’s feathers at Ferrari, whom he considers to be his spiritual home. I think Vettel might move to Ferrari post Alonso era or during the sunset years of Fernando and I certainly don’t see Fernando retiring in 2016.

    Secondly, I am slightly baffled by Lewis’ situation. If we assume that Red Bull might want to sign up Lewis, considering the rumors, it won’t be before 2014. His McLaren contract is up for renewal this year and certainly don’t think that McLaren would be happy to sign a 1 year extension with Lewis. That leaves Lewis in a tricky situation if he is targeting RBR.

    I personally see Vettel at Ferrari post 2014 and Hamilton extending his contract with McLaren. Only when Vettel goes red, Hamilton will have wings.

  13. I don’t bealive Αlonso would like to have Vettel as a team mate whatever he sais! Neither Vettel would like Alonso who actually build the team around him..If Ferrari ends Massa I cas see 2 “senarios”;
    1) Weber or Alguersuari (who is from Spain as well) could possibly sign 1/2 year contract until Perez grow up (so the prezident will be happy:P)
    2) Having Perez straigth from this season(!) and have him ready for next year’s season!
    About Hamilton, the only reason that he could leave McLaren is Adrian Newey and I see this prospect way difficult! Remember Hamilton calling RBR just “drinks”.
    Of course all these are my thoughts as a simple spectator!

  14. Donald Lovefunk (@donald-lovefunk) said on 28th June 2012, 20:36

    Vettel to Ferrari seems unlikley. It was probably a diversion tactic to talk up the brand in difficult times and fire a shot across the bow of Ecclestone and the FIA that Ferrari is F1 and can control the big names in the sport. Ever since around 1996 Ferrari has always put their weight behind a number 1 driver in order to maximise drivers championship chances. I read on Joe sawards blog that Webber to replace Massa next year is a possible move and I agree likely to help them consistently challenge for the constructors championship. With the rolling one year contracts he has essentially been keeping a seat warm for a Torro Rosso driver.

    Hamilton will stay at Mclaren is he is still in with a great chance for the drivers title in coming months and has won more races. If not then he’ll most likely go to Mercedes in place of Schumacher. Norbert Haug had the priviledge of watching Hamiltons rise and early F1 years from the same garage before 2010. Brawn said he wanted Schumacher to stay as long as he is competitive. Competitive in terms of speed or points? Although he brings great value to the Mercedes business overall, the best way to build brand strength through F1 is to win races and championships. If Hamilton stays at Mclaren then Di resta may get the drive due to existing Mercedes links.

    Vettel will stay at Red Bull as long as he is winning and challenging for the title and there is no other team that is dominating. If not he won’t go to Ferrari until Alonso has moved on. If Hamilton is not already there, Mercedes (assuming they are competitive) would be the obvious choice in future as they would surely love to have the top German driver in F1 in the team.

  15. themagicofspeed (@) said on 28th June 2012, 22:10

    I’ll do my best to predict, for 2013, and 2014. This is without dream/fantasy what i think might happen:
    I havent included the bottom teams, because lets face it, who cares?

    Ferrari: Alonso (has contract), with Massa. I dont see them having any viable alternative. LDM has already said he wants to see Perez gain more results and experience before he drives in red, and the other young and talented drivers are either contracted or fall under the same argument.
    Mercedes: Rosberg, Schumacher. I dont think Schumi is ready to give it up yet, and despite the lack of results relative to Nico, i dont think Mercedes will have any problem signing another cheque, just because its Michael Schumacher. hes popular, and most importantly, this old dog isnt out of new tricks just yet.
    Red Bull: Vettel (has 2013 contract) with Webber again. I dont see any reason for Webber to move on from the fastest team of the last few years, and as long as he continues to bring points for Red Bull’s campaign for the constructor’s championship, and be a good rear gunner for Vettel, RBR wont mind keeping him. As far as drivers are concerned, Vettel seems to be their preferred driver to back for an attempt at the WDC, because he’s already done it twice.
    McLaren: Hamilton and Button (Button has contract for 3 years from 2012). Another thing people may find surprising, I dont think Hamilton will depart McLaren. He wont fit in at Ferrari, RBR is full, and Mercedes also, meaning the only other option is less competitive teams. Button already has a 3 year deal.
    Lotus: Raikkonen on a 2 year deal until end of 2013, and i think Grosjeans 2012 performances will be enough to land him another deal for 2 years or so, unless he majorly messes up the 2nd half of 2012.

    Ferrari: Alonso, and either Vettel, Webber, Perez (depending on his 2012-13 results) or Di Riesta.
    I dont think it will be LH for sure. I have a strong feeling RBR will block Vettel going to Ferrari and get him under contract with them for a long time. Webber could end up at Ferrari to fill Massa’s #2 status because he can be an invaluable asset in helping rack up constructors points behind Alonso’s WDC challenge. Perez could graduate to Ferrari if LDM approves by then. As an outsider, Di Riesta could land a seat if all others fail, as Domenicalli and LDM seem to like him.
    Mercedes: Rosberg and Di Riesta if he doesnt end up at Ferrari.
    I dont think MSC will carry on beyond 2013, as he wlill be 45 before the 2014 season begins, and will have realised he is probably not going to be able to win again in F1. I predict his retirement at the end of 2013.
    Red Bull: Assuming Vettel goes to Ferrari: Raikkonen and Webber..assuming Webber goes to Ferrari, Vettel and Vergne if he matures into a decent driver.
    I dont think Raikkonen will be interested in being #2 to Vettel, and I think RBR would be wise to pick a replacement for Webber from within should he leave, and the most promising RBR – supported driver is Vergne. I can see Raikkonen filling Vettel’s seat in 2014 though if VET departs, due to his previous ties to Red Bull.
    McLaren: Hamilton will probably stay at McLaren until the end of his career. Despite his frustrations, he is too at home at McLaren to move elsewhere; probably no other team would tolerate his diva-fits and whining over the radio. Button will be in the final year of his 3 year deal in 2014.
    Lotus: Assuming Raikkonen departs for the 2014 season, Grosjean, if he stays in Boullier’s good books, will be promoted. Boullier will probably pick one of the young drivers he manages to fill the vacant seat.

    Well, thats my predictions.

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