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 (0%)

Total Voters: 740

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205 comments on Who should Lotus hire to replace Raikkonen?

  1. 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.

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

    • Meander (@meander) said on 12th September 2013, 14:08

      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.

      • @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.

    • @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.

      • 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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 ?)

  5. melkurion (@melkurion) said on 12th September 2013, 14:18

    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

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

  7. Mike Dee (@mike-dee) said on 12th September 2013, 14:19

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

  8. Cyclops_PL (@cyclops_pl) said on 12th September 2013, 14:24

    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.

  9. 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

  10. 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.

  11. Jack (@jackisthestig) said on 12th September 2013, 14:29

    From Lotus’ point of view, Hulkenberg is by far the best candidate.

    Driving-wise he is the best of this generation of relatively young drivers (although I think Bottas will be phenomenal an a few years’ time). His character and personality suits the slightly alternative image that the team is trying to put accross, he’s not a Kimi tribute act but there are likeable similarities.

    It’s worth remembering he’s also German. Schumacher commanded a huge following in his home country and despite his success, Vettel just hasn’t sparked anything like such an interest and Rosberg doesn’t exactly have red, black and yellow running through his veins. If Hulkenberg were a regular front runner, perhaps he would revive alot more of the interest orginally started by Schumi. The German economy is in good health and perhaps alot of national interest in Hulkenberg would result in sizeable sporsorship from Germany.

    Lotus could do with the money. When Boullier first mentioned Hulkenberg, after the year he’s been having at Sauber my first thought was; “talk about ‘out of the frying pan…’ both teams can’t afford to pay their drivers!”. However, Joe Saward seems to think Renault will put money into the team in an effort to increase their visibility within the sport, with Infinity taking the limelight alongside Red Bull’s success despite their Renault engines. I hope this comes to fruition, Hulkenberg deserves a chance in a competitive car.

  12. braisim (@braisim) said on 12th September 2013, 14:54

    A bit marginal to this topic, but does anyone know why Hulkenberg moved from Force India to Sauber for this season? I never really worked that out. Was he pushed out? If not, in retrospect it wasn’t a good idea.

    • Hotbottoms (@hotbottoms) said on 12th September 2013, 16:07

      @braism
      Last year there were questions over Force India’s financial status and Sauber achieved four podiums. Ironically Force India has now a better car and Sauber is in financial trouble. It’s easy to say in hindsight that Hülkenberg made a bad choice, but it didn’t look like that last year.

  13. katederby (@katederby) said on 12th September 2013, 15:07

    I voted for Vergne; he’s got the speed, the race craft, the talent and has shown great maturity in his short F1 career so far, (he is a year young than Ricciardo) in light of some terrible bad luck. A exciting pairing with Grosjean.

  14. andae23 (@andae23) said on 12th September 2013, 15:11

    Not only does Hulkenberg deserve to drive for a ‘top team’, Lotus needs Hulkenberg. They need someone who can lead a team, because to be honest I don’t see Grosjean taking Lotus to greater heights. The only other two drivers who could potentially substitute for Hulkenberg are Jenson Button (which simply isn’t going to happen) and Felipe Massa.

    Comparing Hulkenberg and Massa, I see two reasons why I want Hulkenberg: first he is very quick, as he showed for instance last weekend, whereas Massa’s performance over the last three four years has been abysmal to say the least. But second, I want some fresh meat: for the last four years, the drivers at the top teams haven’t changed much, so it would be nice to see what a less experienced driver could do as a team leader.

    • @andae23 I think Hulk might actually be a strong team leader. The relaxed attitude and the smile are misleading.

      I recently read an interview with Sauber’s head of track engineering Tom McCullough. He says that Hulkenberg is a driver who “knows what he wants and when he doesn’t get it he tells you” and admits that they have fallen out before.

      That and the Belgian Grand Prix team radio transcript makes me think that he’s not much different from di Resta in this aspect but he seems to be better at transferring this harsh approach into consistently good results, which is what counts.

      • andae23 (@andae23) said on 12th September 2013, 15:48

        @girts Exactly – Enstone is a team that likes to take a risk every now and then, so I hope they will take a younger driver over an older driver (i.e. Massa).

        I still remember how utterly dominant he was in A1GP, and also races like Brazil last year and Monza this year really make me want to see what he can do when he has a proper car.

  15. Hulkenberg gets my vote, because he is the most exciting young talent and he has already “wasted” three years with cars which aren’t as competitive as he deserves. I hope if he gets the seat that Lotus will build a strong car, at least to put him on the podium and occasionally allow him to win.
    Massa is my second choice, first of all because he’s a good driver who has not been far off Alonso’s pace on his good days (discounting 2011 and the first half of 2012), and coming second to Alonso doesn’t mean being last, he could beat Grosjean (who I’d sack for Massa-Hulkenberg, although he still deserves F1, but needs more time to develop), he is very consistent in scoring points (i.e. he makes few mistakes) and his knowledge of Ferrari’s race-winning cars from 2007 will surely help Lotus develop. His experience is great for a team looking to make a step forward. Massa might also not cost too much as I think he knows Lotus is the best option for him, and he might have some sponsors come with him.
    Valsecchi is my third choice because he knows the team and has followed the season closely, he mastered the Pirelli tyres in 2012 and has experience in this year’s car. He is a fast driver but postponing his début could be fatal for his career.

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