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 (0%)

Total Voters: 740

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205 comments on Who should Lotus hire to replace Raikkonen?

  1. It has to be Hulkenberg for reasons already explained. It bemuses me though how Kobayashi gets 5% of the vote. I know he’s popular, but I don’t really think he deserves an F1 seat.
    My second choice is Kubica (I know it’s very optimistic). He has shown good pace in rallying (Raikkonen has been strong on his return from it), had good pace before his departure, knows the team from 2010 and early 2011, and has shown to be a good team leader at both BMW and Renault.
    Other decent choices: Massa, Maldonado, and Kovalainen.

  2. mixwell (@mixwell) said on 12th September 2013, 15:53

    the Hulk . period.
    although i accidentally voted for Narain :D

  3. Butch27 (@butch27) said on 12th September 2013, 17:00

    I voted for Bianchi. I’d really like to see him driving a good car like Lotus.

  4. bull mello (@bullmello) said on 12th September 2013, 17:12

    Hulkenberg would be the best choice. He is a performance driver not a pay driver, but a smaller salary than Raikkonen will be like adding money to the team. I think he deserves the seat and can develop further with a team that is currently closer to the front of the grid.

    Vergne would not be a bad choice, I think Hulkenberg is a better choice.

    Grosjean is not going anywhere and will provide some continuity for Lotus.

    Maldonado would cost too much in destroyed equipment even if he could bring the pay driver money with him.

    Button will be with McLaren.

    I think Massa could provide some help and experience to Lotus, but Lotus needs to look to the future. The harsh truth too is that Massa would be a hard sell to potential sponsors and investors after being cast off by Ferrari.

    Hulkeneberg is the future and it looks much brighter with him at Lotus than without him.

  5. I previously said that I found a lot of hints that Kimi joined Ferrari and it came out right. Now I’ll also gloat here that I know who will replace him through reliable sources- you can be VERY sure of this-
    Davide Valsecchi.
    He has already had his seat fitting session.

  6. Kobayashi! Every team should hire him.

    More seriously, Maldonado. They could use the money, and Grosjean could use some tutoring in crashing things, hasn’t it been a while since he’s hit something?

    Maybe even Hulkenberg/Maldonado?

  7. hunocsi (@hunocsi) said on 12th September 2013, 17:51

    In bold the real contenders in my opinion.

    Massa – I can’t imagine him at any other team but Sauber, probably Williams if Maldonado changes teams
    Button – staying at McLaren
    Hülkenberg – probably the best choice both for Lotus and him, no explanation needed
    Gutierrez – if he’s lucky he’ staying at Sauber, can’t see any other team opting for him
    di Resta – would be great for both, though he is a bit slower than Hülkenberg, but very consistent, nevertheless I believe he’s staying, he’s got a contract as well
    Sutil – there is no way he’s going to Lotus after his incident with Lux, his only option is staying at Force India
    Maldonado – has a lot of money through PDVSA, he can be brutally fast but is inconsistent, good for occasional big results, not in a championship
    Bottas – staying at Williams
    Vergne – I would love to see him there but he is staying
    Pic – staying at Caterham
    van der Garde – I don’t really know, he’s likely to stay, depends on his sponsor money
    Bianchi – he’ll be going to Force India fighting with Sutil and Calado for the seat or stay at Marussia
    Chilton – staying at Marussia
    D’Ambrosio – he won’t get back into F1 in my opinion
    Kobayashi – another good choice, he should get an F1 seat, and this would be a great opportunity for him
    Senna – should stay in WEC
    Kovalainen – this is his best chance to get into a better team than Caterham and he was pretty good with the Enstone team in 2007
    Petrov – won’t get back to F1
    de la Rosa – staying with Ferrari as the test driver
    Karthikeyan – only the young teams would opt for him, or rather his money
    Glock – I would love to see him back, but he will stay in DTM
    Valsecchi – I don’t think he will get a seat with Lotus, he didn’t drive too much at the YDT which I would have expected as he is their test driver but I’m not ruling him out at all
    Frijns – he won’t get an F1 seat until 2015, and he will have to perform very well in GP2 for that next year

    From lower categories I would consider:
    Felipe Nasr – has great racecraft, his overtakes are amazing and has wealthy Brazilian sponsors, and I heard he doesn’t want to get into F1 through a small team
    Robert Wickens – he tested with Lotus in 2009, won WSR in 2011 ahead of Vergne and has a great season in DTM, and North America hasn’t had a good driver for a long time

    If I would have to choose it would be tough for me because I like all of them but Hülkenberg, but he has proved so far that he is the best of them. On the basis of sympathy I wish it was Wickens or Kobayashi, Wickens should have got into F1 by now, and Kobayashi should get back.

    • hunocsi (@hunocsi) said on 12th September 2013, 17:53

      Sorry, Wickens tested with Lotus in 2011 after he won the WSR

    • You forget Kubica.

      • hunocsi (@hunocsi) said on 12th September 2013, 20:06

        I’m pretty sure that – sadly – he won’t return to the F1 grid after his accident. I took a mention of everyone that is listed in the poll and the guys who I think have a good chance.

    • Fernando Cruz said on 11th October 2013, 23:21

      “Kobayashi – another good choice, he should get an F1 seat, and this would be a great opportunity for him

      Senna – should stay in WEC”

      Senna deserves more a great opportunity than Kobayashi. The brazilian never had a proper full season in F1, the japanese had already three. Whenever they have more equal chances the brazilian does a better job: in GP2 he won 3 races (including Monaco) to Koba’s 1 (and one with a reversed grid) and in WEC has already 4 Poles ans 2 wins in 5 races to Koba’s 0 Poles and 0 wins…

      However it would be hard for both to come back and do a good job after a year out. Senna could have had a great F1 career had he started with Honda or Brawn in 2009 but lost too much due to the global crisis effects. Kobayashi was much more lucky but he didn’t show that much of an improvement with much better conditions than those Senna had in F1… I think the future of both is where they are now and maybe Formula E…

  8. liam (@) said on 12th September 2013, 17:53

    Hulkenberg even though I accidentally voted Sutil- computer problems. So that 1% vote for Sutil is me :).

    Also Maldonado with his sponsorship to replace Romain Grosjean in the other seat. Lotus 2014 Hulkenberg-Maldonado

  9. Win7Golf (@win7golf) said on 12th September 2013, 17:59

    For me was a done deal – Paul Di Resta. It’s a talent been wasted at an out of shape team, this year. He’s young and improving every race and would put the team, regarding money, between the French and the English ‘market’, 2 of the more ‘powerfull’ (or less troubled) markets nowadays.

    What can I say, I’m not impressed my Nico Hulkenberg, Massa had more than his shot and blew it – I hope he leaves and other place becomes available for new talents. Jenson Button is at home at McLaren, no chance there. At last, Pastor Maldonado is entangled with Williams and they really need his money to try to do a better jog build a competitive car for next year (and will have Renault engines, so that already a plus).

    That’s my 2 cents.

    Just as a foot note, I’m really anxious the see how long will last Alonso before starting to ‘cry wolf’ to the press and around – like he did at McLaren, when a rookie driver called Lewis Hamilton, relegate to two times Spanish champion to the corner, just like I’m completely sure Kimi will also do. It’s going to be a Ferrari Circus inside the F1 Circus :) lol

  10. PG tipsy said on 12th September 2013, 18:33

    Why not Perez?
    He’s been trying to break into Kimi’s car all year.
    Plus he can pay good money.

  11. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 12th September 2013, 18:40

    None of them are particularly appealing options:

    – Massa has been underperforming for years. Ferrari only seem to have kept him around out if sentiment.
    – Hulkenberg needs stability. If he moves to Lotus, it will be his fourth team in five years. He should stay with Sauber (who won’t need Gutierrez, given the investment from Russia) and work on a future Ferrari drive.
    – Button might not be confirmed at McLaren just yet, but there is no evidence he is looking to leave.

    The others aren’t even worth mentioning. The team’s best bet would be to find a promising rookie with a bucket of cash. Felipe Nast springs to mind, or maybe James Calado.

  12. Valsecchi. He deserved seat in F1 an year ago. I think Nico should go to McLaren.

  13. I voted for Bianchi.

    As much as I would like to see Hülkenberg in a top team, I don’t think Lotus qualifies as one. It wouldn’t be wise for Hülkenberg to make a third sideways move in a short time, it makes you wonder why he doesn’t want to stay in the same team more consistently. Unless he absolutely HAS to leave because of pay-drivers buying the both seats in the team for instance, I think the best thing to do for him would be to stay put and wait.

    Bianchi though seems very interesting as a driver talent, Lotus should seize the opportunity and snatch him before someone else does. A very likely future talent for a small price.

    • Butch27 (@butch27) said on 12th September 2013, 21:51

      I agree completely

    • bpacman (@bpacman) said on 12th September 2013, 22:05

      I see your point about Lotus not quite being the step-up the Hulk deserves but I think he has to leave Sauber this winter. Peter Sauber appears to have lost interest in the team and they’re really struggling for funding. I think they’re sadly only going to go backwards on the grid where it’ll be much harder for the Hulk to remain impressive.
      A couple of decent seasons at Lotus and the Hulk will be in pole position to replace either Kimi at Ferrari, Jenson at McLaren or (if he underperforms) Ricciardo at Red Bull.

  14. WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 12th September 2013, 18:45

    I beg of you Lotus, get Nico Hulkenberg in a decent car now. This is a man that was on pole in a Williams, led the Brazilian GP in a Force India, qualified third on the grid in a Sauber and has one of the finest records ever in the junior categories. If Nico Hulkenberg ends up in a Sauber again next year, or even worse, without a drive (which is feasible bearing in mind the fact that Sauber probably can’t afford to keep him, so Lotus is Hulkenberg’s only hope really), then that would be very bad news for F1. F1 needs to be seen to be rewarding young talent, so whilst Sauber has turned a cold shoulder to Frijns, so at least an attempt needs to be made to make up for that by getting Hulkenberg further up the grid. Now I have no doubt that Lotus will choose Hulkenberg, but still, a lot of F1’s integrity hangs on the quality of car that this young megastar supposedly being rewarded with for his impressive showings throughout his single-seater career, including F1. I mean, what is the point of GP2, GP3, FR3.5 and F3 if it doesn’t improve the chances of the top talent getting the top seats in motorsport?

    Coming at it from a different angle, it really is a shame Hulkenberg was presumably deemed too inexperienced for a Ferrari drive. Have no fear, by hook or by crook, he’ll end up there eventually, it’s just a shame that he has to wait. But after the frankly disappointing Red Bull decision, F1 desperately needed the prospect of Alonso vs Raikkonen to water down the resigned solemnity that capes the paddock after the last two races. I will come clean. Even up until the very last moment, I was convinced Hulkenberg would get the drive. It just fitted. He’s younger than Kimi. He’s cheaper than Kimi. He more likely to play #2 than Kimi. He’s not necessarily any slower than Kimi. He also doesn’t have the frankly awkward relations with Ferrari that Kimi has. Saying that though, I, and everyone else in F1 said, “It just fits” when we first heard about the prospect of Kimi to Red Bull, and we all know how that turned out…

  15. to everyone that’s saying kubica, he said himself that he can’t fit in an f1 car after his accident. i’m afraif this train is long gone. it’s a shame, but we need to get on with it.

    • to Rigi – well, you have very old infos about him. Check what he said Aug/Sep about his 2014 priorities/talks and what he did regarding F1 car driving + producer teams WRC lately.
      It is very interesting, believe me.
      Plus – speed is there, limitations not.
      http://www.wrc.com/wrc-2/results/

    • to everyone here – I wonder how huge is unawareness about his current options :)
      http://rankings.autosport.com/driver/robert-kubica

    • to Rigi – please do not mix-up. He said that long time ago and have done tremendous job since there – fitting into Merc F1 simulator for hours and beating in rally in his first season all other experienced drivers.
      In the last couple of weeks stressing that 2013 is his only season in rallying. Being very much wanted driver for few WRC teams, rejected the offers. Looking on current skills and rapid development – looks like he just rejected 2014 WRC championship.

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