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. Clucky (@cluckyblokebird) said on 13th September 2013, 0:19

    Don’t forget, Lotus seem to be on shaky ground financially. So much so that its seemed to have frightened off Kimi. Hulk would be leaving a team that now has Russian backing. While Hulk would be my pick if i were Lotus, i am hoping he doesn’t go for reasons mentioned.

  2. J-Canada (@j-canada) said on 13th September 2013, 0:42

    Tough call, The Hulk appears to have a bright future and as Keith points out, it may be worth while to lock him down. However, considering the magnitude of the rule changes for 2014, a seasoned vet like Massa could be valuable in terms of car development. So do you sign a guy like Massa to a short term deal to get your car up to snuff, or do you look long term and put you money on one of the rising stars? I’d grab the Hulk and maybe offer Massa a cushy gig as a test driver!

  3. budchekov (@budchekov) said on 13th September 2013, 2:15

    Kobayashi, he should have been in the 2nd Ferrari a while back.

  4. Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 13th September 2013, 4:55

    Not Massa for sure. Keith commented on a post a few days ago where he said that the Ferrari and the Lotus were fairly evenly matched. The points difference between Alonso and Massa is 90. The difference between Kimi and Grosjean is 74. So Grosjean seems clearly closer to Kimi than Massa is to Alonso. That would be a big step back for Lotus. I’m not that great at crunching numbers… I’d love to see what some of you could come up with.

  5. Andres Felipe Aguilar said on 13th September 2013, 5:12

    Lotus should push for Juan Pablo Montoya!!!!!!!!!!!!! Is the right guy!!!!!!!!
    Imagine a grid with several F1 Champions and JPM?????

  6. raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 13th September 2013, 7:46

    I think Button is a good fit for Lotus. An experienced pair of hands, and while Button may not be the best car developer around, his driving style lends itself to good car development, as the data is very clean and clear, as there are no spikes, and the transitions are clear.

    Button works best with a car that is balanced to his preferences, but looking back at the last 2 years, I think that’s an area where Lotus excels at. When was the last time we heard Raikkonen and/or Grosjean complain about bad balance in the race? I only remember Malaysia this year, and none otherwise.

  7. If Lotus do chose the Hulk, then Sirotkin will surely start at Sauber in 2014.

  8. Massa is the best choice for them.
    Experience, knowledge of the competition and the motivation to prove Ferrari made a mistake.
    As far as I am concerned, if we are being fair to Massa, it has been clear to me that he had been ordered to stay clear of Alonso.is the best starter of the grid, with Alonso along side, he is always compromised.
    I believe Ferrari have themselves to blame in so many problems Massa faced.
    Lotus pay attention

  9. Cristian (@theseeker) said on 13th September 2013, 11:57

    I would say Hulkenberg is the one with the greatest talent, of the ones listed, but he might not be yet able to lead a front running team. For now, I believe Lotus would be better off with Button…Button – Hulkenberg would sure be a nice ideea, tho :).

  10. On pure driving, I’d go with the Hulk. Massa is there on driving ABILITY, but he has to be so comfortable emotionally to perform well, that I wouldn’t take a chance on him at this point.

    Of course, you have to throw in the financial problems and that some teams may be forced to go with drivers who bring money to the table. Sad, but a fact of life now in Formula 1 :-(

  11. Jono (@me262) said on 13th September 2013, 14:03

    ok here’s my 3 step plan for lotus financial/driver to secure the team’s survival into the forseeable future:

    1. send grosjean back to formula renault
    2. hire massa on the condition that he brings his fiat brazil dollars (big bags of them)
    3. sign the the hulk

    win win. the best advice comes free of charge boullier

  12. Adrian Newey.

    Not the greatest driver ever, but his other skills make up for it.

  13. Jason (@jason12) said on 13th September 2013, 14:49

    Maldonaldo or Massa

    I understand why Redbull didn’t even look at Hulk.

  14. Paul (@frankjaeger) said on 13th September 2013, 23:40

    I’d love to see Kamui in the Lotus. I doubt he could secure enough sponsorship, especially damming is the word of money trouble at Lotus

  15. Why do people think that Hulkenberg is a future World Champion?

    I don’t believe that he is. He will probably be a very good number two driver for a topteam or a number one drive for al team wich is al little bit smaller, but he will never be Champion, in my opinion. He is a big talent, but not like Vettel. More like Rosberg.

    Nevertheless he is probably the best choice for Lotus. But he will have a tough time beating Grosjean.

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