Who should Lotus hire to replace Raikkonen?

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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?

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

    Karthikeyan? Seriously?

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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

    I would go for a new driver line up.

    Nico Hulkenberg and Davide Valsecchi

  6. Koba & Hulk

  7. 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.

  8. infernojim (@infernojim) said on 12th September 2013, 13:30

    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.

  9. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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?

        • 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?

          • 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.

  10. Timothy Katz (@timothykatz) said on 12th September 2013, 13:31

    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?

    • Brian (@bforth) said on 13th September 2013, 6:13

      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.

  11. Toro Stevo (@toro-stevo) said on 12th September 2013, 13:33

    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.

    • Funkyf1 (@funkyf1) said on 12th September 2013, 14:29

      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.

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

  13. 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.

  14. 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…

  15. Christopher (@twiinzspeed) said on 12th September 2013, 13:51

    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.

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