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. JackySteeg (@jackysteeg) said on 12th September 2013, 19:18

    For me, there are far too many variables to give a definitive answer. It’s very easy for a casual observer to say Hulkenberg, but for Boullier it’s a bit more complicated.

    For me, the most significant question is whether PDVSA will be able to switch their sponsorship from Williams to Lotus. If they can (but apparently that’s a very big ‘if’), then I would hire Maldonado in a heartbeat. He’s a much better driver than people give him credit for, and he’s done a great job at ironing out his mistakes. Whether or not he’s as good as Hulkenberg is debatable (but it’s definitely a debate worth having), but the increased financial security for Lotus makes him worth hiring, in my view.

    Massa may well be worth hiring, too, but his ability is quite an unknown at the moment. It’s unclear, from my perspective, whether his poor form is a result of the massive dent in confidence that being a #2 has caused him, or whether he’s genuinely lost his skill. Valsecchi may be worth a shout since he’s integrated with the team very well as a reserve but, as much as I like him, I can’t see why he’d be more desirable than Hulkenberg.

    I’ve also read elsewhere that Kubica could be in the running if he can recover in time. But that looks less and less likely…

    • Looking on his recovery in the last 3 months, hours spent in Mercedes’ F1 simulator and current skliis – I would say more and more…

  2. Pointless debate IMO, if Lotus wants the best driver available they should go with Hulkenberg…if they want money it should be Massa. There is my starting list…

  3. Definitely Kobayashi. Only 6 points behind Perez who is now driving a McLaren. Plus he would drive for free.

    But anyone will be ok except Massa and Kovalainen. Kovalainen never had it and Massa has long lost it.

  4. ferrox glideh (@ferrox-glideh) said on 12th September 2013, 20:14

    I guess I’m the only one who voted for Jerome D’Ambrosio. My second choice would be Davide Valsecchi. Lotus should save some money and go with someone who is already in their program. Don’t get me wrong, Hulk is more experienced, but this is a great opportunity for Lotus to throw some kids into the deep-end and watch them swim. Grosjean is not going to be asked to leave, and is important for continuity and political reasons. He’s also Tres Rapide.
    On another note: I didn’t see KARUN CHANDHOK on the list. 2011 is so long ago…

  5. RACERNORRISKI (@racernorriski) said on 12th September 2013, 20:25

    My heart goes out to Massa and I hope the very best for him in the future. s I would look very closely at both Heikke K. and Nico H. I think Grosjean is an excellent YOUNG driver and they need to keep him as he will shine more and more in the future. Kimi will keep Ferrari honest and they will not be able to blame anyone for car failures, meaning failing to be competitive, in the future. rnr

    • Grosjean is no longer young, just can’t handle his own speed. He has calmed down and is driving within himself, but really not all that while doing so. When he goes as fast as he can, he is an idiot. He has had 3 chances in F1 (I’m counting this year as his third shot, as he really should not have been in a car this year given his 2012).

  6. Obviously Jaime Alguersuari.

  7. PMccarthy_is_a_legend (@pmccarthy_is_a_legend) said on 12th September 2013, 21:08

    Come to think of it Jenson Button and Lotus are a very good match actually. A not quite front running team (at least in its current guise) with a decent but not quite front running driver. I doubt Jenson will ever leave Mclaren out of his will though, they will have to fire the guy to get rid off him. And since Martin Whitmarsh will remain the team principal for the foreseeable future, Button’s seat there is probably fairly safe…. But I digress. Felipe still has it but the the last few years beaten by Alonso and Ferrari politics made a massive dent to his confidence, hence his poor form. Nico is excellent, possibly a little bit overrated, but good nonetheless. Either Felipe Massa or Nico Hulkenberg would be fine choices for the Lotus seat.

  8. Missle-Man said on 12th September 2013, 21:32

    For the sake of Williams, Lotus should take Pastor off their hands.-

  9. @stevelloydf1 said on 12th September 2013, 21:41

    So I’m guessing that I’m the only one who is praying that Kubica comes back to the team?

    I know it’s not going to happen.

    But a fan can dream!!!

  10. Hulk to Lotus, Massa to Force Indua – Grosjean hasn’t set the world alight but he has been a consistent 2nd fiddle this year, so will stay, but does not deserve it IMHO. Sutil may stay, but personally, I’d rather have Massa -possibly He could land at Sauber with Sirotkin. Gutierrez has had his shot and blown it. Call time on Maldonado as well – Bottas is a bit of a disappointment, but it is hard to judge the drivers harshly in such a dog of a Williams. VDG is now outperforming Pic, which I didn’t expect. Chilly on is doing better than I expected as well, but is only there as long as daddy’s wallet lets him be. Calado might be at FI, but prob only as reserve. Massa to FI makes a bit of sense. Sutil deserves a jail cell, not a drive – also has been outperformed by DiResta again, so no need to continue that experiment. Unless Kingfisher can find a nice pay driver, that’s how I see it panning out.
    :)

  11. Calback said on 12th September 2013, 22:17

    Why not take Another Finn? I Think Bottas could surpise in the same way Kimi did after his return. As a driver he is more or less on par with Maldonado. In the off track evens he would be far superior to the ruffian Maldonado. I dont know if Bottas would be available though. Is he?

  12. Le Jimster (@lejimster82) said on 12th September 2013, 22:18

    I don’t want Hulkenberg to get the seat because he moves every damn season to a new team, he should show a bit of loyalty and help Sauber out of the crap they’re in. If he leaves them, they’d be stupid enough to put Gutierrez and the Russian rookie in the same team.

    • @lejimster82: I don’t think Hulk has an option, really. Not only Sauber won’t probably be able to pay him a dime next year, they will need him to bring in some sponsorship too. Whatever Sirotkin pays them alone won’t be enough to keep Sauber afloat, considering the financial damage that’s already been done.

      I’m afraid Sauber are in the obnoxious position where they need two pay-drivers to survive.

  13. Jack (@jmc200) said on 12th September 2013, 22:50

    Take Felipe! He’s the ultimate confidence driver, and the laid back attitude of Lotus would make him confident and help him find the great speed he still has (Start of 2010. End of last year and beginning of this year) Plus he’s very experienced which will always be a help with a crash kid in the other car. Felipe’s super fast and deserves a few more years in F1. Hulkenberg would be a good choice, but could be difficult to market (in the words of Peter Windsor) to get sponsors, while Brazil is a growing economy. No doubt Nico’s mega quick. Madness that you put Button on there, he’s not going anywhere, especially not Lotus! DI Resta’s already signed up with FI for next year, but Lotus said earlier in the year they’d spoken to him, so could an outside bet. many people like to forget how evenly matched Di Resta and Hulk were for 2/3 of last year, before the cracked chassis blighted his end of the year. Plus he’s super consistent, something they’d miss from Kimi, though PDR’s peaks probably aren’t as high as Felipe’s or Nico’s.

    • PMccarthy_is_a_legend (@pmccarthy_is_a_legend) said on 12th September 2013, 23:19

      @jmc200 agree with your comment, you are right Felipe only needs a bit of confidence and people forget that as a youngster people saw him as super fast if a bit erratic. He is very consistent, experience and I am sure still fast if he were to regain confidence.

  14. Michael Brown (@) said on 12th September 2013, 23:30

    Maldonado and Hulkenberg for Lotus.

  15. I stand by what I said. Lotus have to be crazy not to take Hulkenberg on. He’s the hot-property of the moment, he’s arguably the best driver available to them right now and he’ll most likely be a free agent by the end of the year. Sure, he won’t bring any considerable amount of cash in, but he’ll probably be willing to drive for about 10% the money they used to pay Raikkonen, so that’s still a huge financial improvement on the team’s budget.

    As for the second seat, I would hire Massa in an instant. I think Grosjean’s departure from the paddock is slowly becoming overdue despite his recent string of “consistent” races. Despite being fast on occasion, I don’t think Grosjean has more of what it takes to become a world champion than Fisichella, Trulli or Heidfeld did and frankly, given his “fast and erratic or slow and consistent” style, I’m not sure Grosjean even has what it takes to become a race winner. And I also don’t think his insane number of idiotic mistakes over the past couple of years should be taken out of account when it’s decision-making time.

    Sure, Massa won’t win another WDC either, but he could be a race winner again, a more consistent, faster on occasion, more experienced, more reliable and more popular option for a second driver than Grosjean. Also, from a financial point of view, I don’t think whatever sponsorship Grosjean brings in from Total cannot be matched by Massa.

    Yes, I still think a large part of Felipe’s counter-performances have something to do with the “Alonso complex” and Ferrari as a climate. In a different team he might actually do well.

    I’m 100% behind a Hulkenberg – Massa pairing here.

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