Who should Lotus hire to replace Raikkonen?

Debates and polls

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Warsaw, 2013With Kimi Raikkonen’s move to Ferrari now official, attention turns to the ramifications for his former team.

With a major change in the technical rules looming for 2014, the loss of Raikkonen deprives Lotus of valuable continuity in its driver line-up. Before the deal was announced team principal Eric Boullier admitted they would be more likely to hold on to Romain Grosjean if Raikkonen left.

Assuming Grosjean stays, who would be the best partner for him in 2014?

Felipe Massa

A straight swap for Ferrari’s outgoing driver Felipe Massa would be neat, but what would it say about Lotus’s position in Formula One if they took the driver Ferrari discarded?

More to the point, does Massa have what it takes to lead a front-running F1 team? Sadly, it’s not looked that way since his return from injury at the beginning of 2010.

There have been flashes of the old Massa, the one who came within a point of winning the 2008 title: he ended 2012 strongly and began this season fairly well. But Lotus would have to be very confident they could coax Massa’s best performances out of him on a regular basis to consider him a serious option.

Jenson Button

Is Jenson Button really available? He signed a contract extension in 2011 which team principal Martin Whitmarsh described as a three-year deal at the time. However he has since indicated a 2014 deal has not yet been signed.

Button has made clear his preference is to stay at McLaren. But if Eric Boullier wants to replace one world champion with another, Button surely represents his best chance.

Nico Hulkenberg

Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013Facing adversity on the driver market seems to lead to inspiration on the track for Nico Hulkenberg.

In 2010 Williams told him he was being dropped to make way for Pastor Maldonado’s petro-Bolivars, and Hulkenberg responded by sticking the car on pole position in Brazil. This year Ferrari sent him a text to advise his services would not be required in 2014, and not long afterwards he outqualified both their cars at Monza en route to a fine fifth place in the race.

There have been many more signs that Hulkenberg is ready for the big time. Following his nomadic tour of the midfield, Lotus could represent a chance to build a long-term future with a team who can challenge for wins – and perhaps championships.

Pastor Maldonado

The man who replaced Hulkenberg at Williams could also be in line for the Lotus drive. He has the advantage of bringing substantial backing courtesy of the Venezuelan government, and has proven his speed with victory in last year’s Spanish Grand Prix.

But he has also demonstrated an inability to keep out of trouble. He is leading the drivers’ penalties table for the third year in a row. Do Lotus really want to pair Grosjean with the only driver who outstrips him in terms of combining raw pace with a frustrating inability to race cleanly?

Jerome D’Ambrosio

Stood in for Grosjean during his one-race ban last year and has a full year at Marussia under his belt. D’Ambrosio has been working on Lotus’s simulator this year and may be a more credible prospect for the seat than he seems at first glance.

Davide Valsecchi

Last year’s GP2 champion has already replaced Raikkonen once, when he stood in for him during testing at the Circuit de Catalunya earlier this year. But these are big shoes for a rookie to fill. The best he might realistically hope for next year is the chance to do some more testing.

Over to you

Who should Lotus replace Raikkonen with? Make your pick from this selection of drivers who are believed to be on the market for next year, those who have recently left the sport but not retired from F1, and last year’s feeder series champions.

Who should Lotus hire to replace Raikkonen in 2014?

  • Felipe Massa (8%)
  • Jenson Button (2%)
  • Nico Hulkenberg (65%)
  • Esteban Gutierrez (0%)
  • Paul di Resta (2%)
  • Adrian Sutil (0%)
  • Pastor Maldonado (2%)
  • Valtteri Bottas (1%)
  • Jean-Eric Vergne (1%)
  • Charles Pic (0%)
  • Giedo van der Garde (0%)
  • Jules Bianchi (2%)
  • Max Chilton (0%)
  • Jerome D'Ambrosio (1%)
  • Kamui Kobayashi (6%)
  • Bruno Senna (1%)
  • Heikki Kovalainen (3%)
  • Vitaly Petrov (1%)
  • Pedro de la Rosa (0%)
  • Narain Karthikeyan (1%)
  • Timo Glock (0%)
  • Davide Valsecchi (2%)
  • Robin Frijns (2%)
  • Someone else (2%)

Total Voters: 740

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205 comments on Who should Lotus hire to replace Raikkonen?

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  1. Shreyas Mohanty (@) said on 12th September 2013, 12:49

    Nico Hulkenberg. He is by far Lotus’s best option – great pace and an obvious future WDC.

    • Carlitox (@carlitox) said on 12th September 2013, 19:28

      +1 on that.

      I’d love to see Massa follow Webber to the WEC. I really think he can shine again there. But his time in F1 has ended, sadly.

      • bpacman (@bpacman) said on 12th September 2013, 21:41

        I agree. Massa and Webber at Porsche would be a fantastic line up and would attract a lot of publicity for the series. It’d be great to see Massa on the podium again – something, sadly, I don’t think he’ll achieve in any of the available F1 seats.

    • Diceman (@diceman) said on 12th September 2013, 20:09

      I agree, Hulkenebrg is just what they need, and I think Lotus is just what Hulk needs ;-)

      I’d love to see Massa-Hulkenberg on Lotus, but it’s very unlikely that is going to happen, since it’s almost certain they will keep Grosjean.

    • TMF (@tmf42) said on 12th September 2013, 20:42

      I’d also say Hulk – hopefully they don’t dive in performance if he signs he has a bit of bad luck that way.

    • beanacre (@beanacre) said on 12th September 2013, 22:12

      I’d love to see Hulkenburg in the Lotus next year, but only if it is a competitive car. With James Allison moving to Ferrari, and question marks over the engines next year (I think I heard at one point Mercedes had an engine 100hp more powerful than any others – very unlikely I know) it might make sense for him to sit tight for another year. With the potential for a rift to form between Alonso and Ferrari over the next season if they once again fail to produce a very competitive car, there may be a seat at Ferrari the following season, or one of the other top teams.

      For me, Lotus would be a big risk next season, particularly with the financial issues, and the last thing I want to see is another incredibly talented, young driver losing an opportunity at a top team because of an uncompetitive car. I think Lotus should go with Maldonado next season in order to secure finances, and should hopefully then be able to lure bigger names to the team to increase their competitiveness for following seasons.

    • xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 12th September 2013, 22:27

      I would love to see Hülkenberg and Fabio Leimer at Lotus next year, only for Renault to buy Lotus and become a proper factory team again

    • They gave a reboot to Kimi’s career and it worked.

      Why not Kubica next? He could finally return to Lotus like it was promised all along.

      Or I’ll dig even deeper… Get him to lose 20 lbs by next season, but JPM is still only 37 years old, and available. If he feels like he has unfinished business in F1, he could easily give 3 good years of performance.

      Either of these options are a more exciting than the Hulk to me.

      • SundarF1 (@sundarf1) said on 13th September 2013, 15:38

        It’s not as though Kubica isn’t wanted, it’s just that his hands still cannot cope with an F1 steering. I doubt anyone would take on JPM though, he’s quick, no doubt but also very very very difficult to work with. F1 demands a lot of diplomacy and tact, and his no-******** way of operating will create controversies and unnecessary ructions within the team.

    • Yes but I think there’s a team called Mclaren that reallly need a top driver so, no Hulk to Lotus. Button maybe for Lotus he has good marketing appeal.

  2. No way in the world is Jenson going to Lotus. the only reason mclaren have not confirmed for next year is because they want to announce button and checo next season at the same time

    • Gordon (@) said on 12th September 2013, 13:50

      I think it’s also a bargaining chip to lower his (JB) salary (as inevitably his management will try to get as much £££ as they can).

    • Traverse (@) said on 12th September 2013, 15:34

      McLaren desperately need a driver with killer instinct. The current McLaren line up is lack lustre to say the least. They bore me to sleep. Zzzzzz

      • Not sure about Perez..

        • nickpkr251 said on 16th September 2013, 13:58

          Well is funny the “gut vs looking at facts” so far this season, Perez he has outrace hulkenberg and out qualify Di resta, in a mc-dog, bad strategy and full pampering of button needs in the race …..
          Grosjean – Massa will be awesome in qualy both are very fast even they usually get inferior car and still manage to out qualify team member

      • have to agree….more aggro is needed @ mclaren

      • Todfod (@todfod) said on 15th September 2013, 9:43

        Completely agree. Button just doesn’t have the pace or racecraft to excite, and I would be surprised if he could even get the car on the podium once this year. Perez has more potential, but has been hugely disappointing so far.

        I’m disappointed to see Mclaren set their driver benchmark so low… this is their weakest line up ever since I can remember

    • Hotbottoms (@hotbottoms) said on 12th September 2013, 16:28

      What do you mean? Perez is supposed to have a contract for next season so there’s no reason why they couldn’t announce him, although, since he already has a contract there’s no reason to announce him in the first place.

    • matt90 (@matt90) said on 13th September 2013, 3:40

      I voted for him because it was an option for who they should (rather than could and will) hire. Lotus could do with a solid pair of hands with Raikkonen gone, and Button is good for that (his flop last year aside). Hulkenberg would be the more interesting and exciting prospect, but not necessarily the correct one for what Lotus needs now. Also, I thought Button was quite under-represented.

  3. Simon (@simonw) said on 12th September 2013, 12:50

    Hulkenburg deserves a car that may match his talent

  4. Drop Grosjean, go with Hulkenberg and Massa.

    I would genuinely love to see Massa outpace both Ferraris in a competitive Lotus next season :)

  5. gatekiller (@gatekiller) said on 12th September 2013, 12:53

    The winner of this pole will be Nico Hulkenberg.

    • gwenouille (@gwenouille) said on 12th September 2013, 13:08

      Is it a voluntary typo ?

    • I seriously hope they get him. Other drivers available are no where near as complete as Hulkenberg, nor showed enough promise.

      JB is totally out of the market, I can’t see him leaving McLaren, nor I think McLaren will let him go. And I doubt Lotus has enough resources to cover the inevitable damage of all the broken front wings from a Maldonado-Grosjean lineup.

      That being said, I would love Massa to return to Sauber. I think being in a midfield team could do him very well, and it might build his confidence back. I know F1 shouldn’t hang on to those “have-beens” kind of drivers, but IMO, deep inside, Massa hasn’t lost it completely.

    • Manan (@mananbond007) said on 12th September 2013, 15:42

      Hulkenberg has a CV of 3 teams in 3 years… He def deserves it, but wats in it for Renault? He will move on the next year for sure… Plus two relatively young drivers (Romain and Nico) is not something Lotus would want… I wldnt be surprised if Massa bags it… He is a naturally fast driver and will aide team development…

  6. No doubt in my mind that it should be Hulkenberg. He’s the best driver that’s still available. He’s got 3 years of racing in Formula One behind him now and he’s been worthy of a top seat for quite some time.

    • Funkyf1 (@funkyf1) said on 12th September 2013, 14:20

      Totally agree that Hulk deserves the seat. Although based on the performance of Lotus in the 2nd half of the year, does he want to? Have they started on next years development and that’s why they were beaten by a Sauber at Monza? Nico was unfortunate enough to already suffer that fate this year by moving from Force India and next year has even more unknowns. I totally agree with you @enigma he deserves a top seat, but which team besides the ones with seats already filled can guarantee him that next year?

      • @funkyf1 It could indeed all go wrong next year and it’s definitely possible Sauber make a better car than Lotus. But even Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull could get it wrong next year.
        Of the available teams, Lotus is surely the most likely to give him a competitive car.

  7. Rob Wilson (@rob-wilson) said on 12th September 2013, 12:54

    Hulkenberg takes an early lead!

  8. Master firelee (@master-firelee) said on 12th September 2013, 12:56

    I think they should get rid of Grosjean and go with Hulk and Massa, the problem with that is that Grosjean brings money which makes me think they will keep him.

  9. the_sigman (@sigman1998) said on 12th September 2013, 12:57

    Tough choice. Massa is an experienced driver, still fast. On the other side, Nico’s career will be destroyed if he doesn’t get a top seat this year. Valsecchi is a good choice as well, but he needs a couple of years in a lower team. Hulk gets my vote.

  10. Bosley (@) said on 12th September 2013, 12:57

    I like the votes for Kobayashi right now, can’t keep die hard fans down I guess.
    Either way if they don’t take the Hulk then they better have a good reason for whoever it is they pick.

  11. Dragon (@dragon88) said on 12th September 2013, 13:02

    Nico Hulkenberg. It’s the easiest decision in the history of the F1 driver market.

  12. dan c (@bungle220) said on 12th September 2013, 13:05

    I think with lotus not afraid to take a driver fresh from gp2 as shown with romain they should maybe go with a fresh face from gp2 take a chance on raw talent Sam Bird for me know its a bit of an out there choice but I think he could be an amazing talent

  13. Rob Wilson (@rob-wilson) said on 12th September 2013, 13:09

    Right they should ditch Grosjean and get Hulkenberg and Maldonado, that way you get the talent & the money with a little more pace. Massa to Williams!

    • I think Grosjean and Hulkenberg is a good pair of drivers. Grosjean has issues to deal with, but he’s really fast and getting better with time, maybe at a slower pace than some would like but I think he’s clearly better than he was last year.

    • petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 12th September 2013, 14:51

      True – for most teams to bring in Maldonado, it would mean a dramatic increase needed in the front wing budget however if he’s replacing Grosjean, I suppose it’s like for like!

  14. The same guy who should have hired Ferrari, Hulk.

  15. Yosi (@yoshif8tures) said on 12th September 2013, 13:16

    I’m sure the hulk would score more than enough points to make up for his lack of funding whereas Maldocrashalot will just smash cars and lose points to other teams… Though he may make grojean look good ;)

  16. NickF12013 (@nickf12013) said on 12th September 2013, 13:16

    Karthikeyan? Seriously?

  17. Having been overlooked for the McLaren drive this year and now having missed out on the Ferrari drive, I’m hoping Nico Hulkenberg gets the Lotus seat alongside Romain Grosjean.

  18. Force Maikel (@force-maikel) said on 12th September 2013, 13:22

    Maldonado cannot be considered a serious candidate for the Lotus seat because the backing from the goverment is a deal between Williams and PDVSA and will run until 2015 when that money can go anywhere else, so Maldonado is tied to Williams and can’t go and take the money with him.

    For the rest it is obvious Hulkenberg is the prime choise for Lotus, you can’t really go wrong with him onboard. Massa could also be a valiable option but I don’t think the post 2009 Massa is good enough anymore to lead a team.

  19. Hotbottoms (@hotbottoms) said on 12th September 2013, 13:23

    The best possible line up for Lotus in this situation would in my opinion be Maldonado and Hülkenberg.

    Maldonado would bring Lotus desperately needed sponsor money and on his best days he can even win races as he showed in 2012. Sure, he’s crash prone and inconsistent, but so is Grosjean. Hülkenberg seems to be a great driver and his results could be close to Räikkönen’s.

    Boullier is Grosjean’s manager so Romain is likely to continue with them next season, but I think he’s a hindrance for Lotus at the moment. Keeping Grosjean is forcing the team to either take a pay driver such as Maldonado and risk having a poor level of performance or taking a talented driver such as Hülkenberg and heading towards a bankruptcy.

    • BJ (@beejis60) said on 12th September 2013, 17:37

      GRO has had much better results this year alone than MAL has his entire career. I think replacing GRO with MAL is a rather lateral move, if not, slightly less than lateral.

  20. Denis 68 said on 12th September 2013, 13:25

    I would go for a new driver line up.

    Nico Hulkenberg and Davide Valsecchi

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