Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Monza, 2013

Who should Lotus hire to replace Raikkonen?

Debates and pollsPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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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Images ?? Ferrari/Ercole Colombo, Sauber

205 comments on “Who should Lotus hire to replace Raikkonen?”

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    1. That’s a combination made in heaven :D

  1. Find it hilarious that Keith hasn’t elaborated on Paul Di Resta as a potential replacement for Kimi.

    Surely, there is no driver on the grid more deserving of a top drive than Paul Di Resta!

    I look forward to Paul’s comments when Lotus hires the Hulk. It’ll probably be something along the lines of how he was could match the Hulk in their season together, and if it wasn’t for some bad luck, he would be in that Lotus seat right now.

    1. Di Resta is going to replace Jenson at McLaren. You watch!

      This message was approved by the Paul Di Resta-for-McLaren 20134 committee

    2. That is because Keith has obviously focused on the most realistic options, not the best available drivers, which are two different things. I agree that Hulk is most probably a better choice than di Resta but I fail to see how one could be sure that Valsecchi, Massa, Maldonado or d’Ambrosio are all better drivers than di Resta.

      1. Yeah, Kobayashi would be great but isn’t realistic. I rather see Koba returning to Sauber …

    3. I was thinking of this earlier. It will be funny to see di Resta’s reaction to being overlooked again. His recent lack of points and questionable attitude could put his own seat in doubt for 2014.

      1. Still dont see it. Do you mean the poll?

        1. @todfod I think the link was broken before, should be OK now.

  2. Hulkenburg, easy. He’s the only driver since Hamilton to dominate GP2 in the same way that Hamilton did. I really think that he’s the real deal, and given the right opportunities would be quicker than all but the big 4 in top machinery. I’m basically saying that I think he’s as good as Button, Webber, Rosberg et al and maybe better.

  3. Kubica. If not signed here – he will drive and fight for WDC in WRC 2014.
    However – he rejected to sign to Hyundai and Citroen WRC teams 2014, so something is cooking there.

    1. If he’s ready to give it bash, being a Renault test driver for 2014 might be a possible shout. Not a race drive yet though.

      1. Test driver?? With WRC option – he can go for it maybe. IMO – this is not option considered. And I do not see a WRC team for him now after his no to Citroen.

        From another pov – Citroen (and Hyunday) WRC rejection: what kind of option has Kubica got already?

        1. Fair enough, but he might be thinking longer term. A test role would be perfect to see how his hand holds up though and get a feel for the new reg cars ahead of a full return in 2015. If he wants to stay in WRC then obviously an F1 test role is not the best option. I could actually see it happening. I don’t know what else he’s holding out for, do you?

          1. His main goal is to get back to F1. Winning the last rally in Germany (WRC2 cars, but 5th place in general!!) he said on the podium that he supposed not to be there back in 2014.
            Doing planty of kilometers in Mercedes’ simulator, three months ago declared that on 80% of tracks saw not any problem with his elbow.

            Continuing “rehabilitation by rallying” in the last 2 months (3 wins, 1 runner-up), beating all in his first season in WRC2 (current leader), second driver in history (after Kimi) to score in F1 and WRC.
            Being one of the most wanted and promissing driver already – Citroen and Hyunday made him the offers to join manufacturer teams – rejected (!).
            Something is going to happen – we have to wait.

  4. I always look for new drivers to come into F1, and so I’d be disappointed if Massa went to Lotus because it would be a lost opportunity for a new driver to get in at a lower team. Hulkenburg is an obvious choice for Lotus that’s difficult to fault, and so who would take his place at Sauber – Frijns or is the Sauber seat too far up the grid for a rookie?

    1. It wasn’t too far up the grid for Perez in his rookie year, and Kobayashi was nearly new when he got into the team. Massa and Kubica started at Sauber too. Gutierrez is a rookie… And a bit of a mistake. The team isn’t usually challenging above the midfield either, so no, it certainly isn’t out of the question for them to accept new drivers.
      They do seem quite set on getting Sirotkin (and his briefcases of Russian money) signed on, so the question is whether or not they will chance two rookies. My concern for Frijns’ odds lies more in the financial climate of the team.

  5. I said Hulkenberg, as he’s by far the best of the options who could realistically move there next year. Although I think Vergne is also worth a look in, but they may be reluctant to pick two French drivers who aren’t fantastic qualifiers.

    1. I see Vergne being a great business decision for Lotus “The French Connection” could have the potential to bring in some great sponsorship and give Vergne the chance a lot of people think he deserves.

  6. I’m voting for “your mum”, just to be, like, totally mad and stuff.

  7. I like Grosjean and I think that he has potential but he just hasn’t been consistent enough so I would sign two new drivers. Hulkenberg is an obvious choice and I would also take Kovalainen, who has worked with the Enstone team before, is experienced and probably at the peak of his powers. They both are good enough to win races and maybe even championships, although I doubt if Lotus will be that good next year.

  8. No doubt in my mind the best line-up Lotus could choose is Massa-Hulkenberg.

    I can’t imagine the mechanics would be too pleased with a Grosjean-Maldonado line-up…

    Surely Hulkenberg has to slot in next to either Grosjean or Massa…

  9. Massa and Hulk to Lotus. I think Massa would get his mojo back as a leader in a different team. His spirit has been broken over the last few years of being beat. He is an emotional guy. He would be a great veteran to work with Hulk.

  10. Hulkenberg, without a doubt. He’s young and he’s very fast. Besides, Lotus will make a lot of Hulk related jokes on twitter.

    I don’t think Massa is a good option. Button would be perfect, but he wants to stay in Mclaren. Actually, it would be interesting to see Button in Lotus and Hulkenberg-Perez in Mclaren, but I doubt it’s going to happen.
    Valsecchi.. I don’t know, I don’t like him too much. He won his GP2 championship after 5 seasons and, arguably, he didn’t have such a great opposition. I don’t think he deserves to be in a team capable of winning races.

    1. Besides, Lotus will make a lot of Hulk related jokes on twitter.

      Yep, would be a great replacement for Kimi :D

  11. Heikki Kovalinen and Massa are the only two race winners on the list. Based on current form it’s Heikki for me.

    1. I’m sorry, but Kovalainen only fell into first place once by accident during two miserable years driving for the championship winning team. Like the guy, by he had his chance and blew it.

      1. @Meander Whilst I’m not saying that Kovalainen’s McLaren stint was a success, that win was a fair compensation for all the times when the car let him down. Moreover, he wouldn’t be the first F1 driver, who fails to deliver with a top team only to come back stronger with another team. Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who got close to winning the 1999 world champioship with Jordan, is a perfect example.

    2. @DVC Button and Maldonado are race winners as well but Button is most likely going to stay with McLaren and Maldonado is too accident prone. So I agree, Heikki is a good long-term option.

      1. Yeah, I discounted Button because I don’t think he is available, but forgot Maldonado won a race. In any case Maldonado isn’t the consistent performer that Kovalinen is. I think Heikki has improved quite a lot since leaving McLaren. He deserves a chance to show it.

  12. i’d give valsecchi a chance, let’s not forget that he was gp2 champion last year!

    i reckon it’ll be close between him and hulkenberg

  13. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but let’s not forget about Vergne. I think in Grosjean they have the fast guy who could be a potential team leader (after all, we have only been able to judge him against world champions in their prime, and he has the speed). I think he has done a great job the last few races and has started bringing the points home. And something tells me that left alone with the responsibility, he would rise to the challenge.

    Vergne could be the reliable point scorer. He is fast. As fast a Red Bull n°2 driver. And a good wet driver. He is also French which could help vis à vis de total. (but is it necessary to have two French drivers in a single team ?)

    1. I agree Tango, good selling point for sponsors, maybe *FCUK can sponsor them.

      *Maybe not the best option, but a french sponsor could bring the team some much needed coin

  14. As a dutchman i voted patrioticly for Frijns, but realisticly I would LOVE to see the Hulk in a good (read capable of winning races) car

    1. Haha, as a Belgian, I voted for D’Ambrosio haha :D

      But yeah, the Hulk is probably the best option for them right now :)

  15. I want Hulk and Maldonado. If Lotus has Maldonado, I can’t see why Grosjean would be there.

  16. I hope it will be Jérôme D’Ambrosio. Wishful thinking for my local hero mostly.

    1. I’d support that on the basis that it’d save us from his monotone commentary on GP2!

  17. I think the best option would be Button, but I doubt he’s really available. The next best thing is Felipe Massa, who I think will flourish again without the pressure of Ferrari and Alonso. Also filling the empty seat left by Kimi is not the only problem of Lotus. Grosjean does not learn. He had his chances, he should be sacked. So in my mind the perfect situation for Lotus would getting Button or Massa AND Hulkenberg.

  18. I think with all this time as a Ferrari driver Felipe could take much knowledge to a team that needs to stay in top five

    Felipe still has what it takes to be a top driver. Hulk may have more speed now, but Grosjean is also fast. The Lotus need experience in a year with so many rule changes

  19. Hulkenberg, cause he has shown his talent in all racing series he’s entered in. Or Valsecci, GP2 champion and knows the team. Or, either Frijns or Bianchi .. both very talented, but young.

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