Gutierrez is now showing his true pace, as his driving record indicated he would after 1 season in old money (16 races and a few tests). He should score before the end of the year, possibly a few times with the resurgent Sauber form, but the 2014 Sauber line up will come down to a crap-shoot over who can bring the most money, as I just wrote in the Hulk best race article. Massa – Brazilian backing, Gutierrez – Telmex, Sirotkin – Daddy/Russian backing. Sirotkin will probably be given a superlicence upon gaining the mileage, as the FIA will let anyone who wants to pay them money for one have one.
So, despite Hulk single handedly getting Sauber above Toro Rosso, gaining them a lot more than his salary back in prize money next year, the question is – are they bound to take Sirotkin, something they signed when it looked like they were rooted to 8th in the constructors table? Even FI are not out of the question now, given the Hulk and the odd contribution from Gutierrez. Hulk overtook 4 on the run down to T3, and that made his race – Gutierrez got 2 in to T1 but then was passed and swept up in the Massa spin. All down to experience. Gutierrez will likely score at somewhere left on the calendar he has driven at before, be it FP1 or in a junior formulae.
Personally, I think Massa-Gutierrez, with Sirotkin FP1s, is their best 2014 option. Gutierrez-Sirotkin is likely, but Telmex have been lax in paying McLaren apparently. It all depends on Hulk, Massa, and whether Sauber’s deal with the devil will come back to haunt them. Hulk is in at Lotus now surely, with a potential WDC line-up completed by Grosjean. It’ll be interesting to see if Hulk can match Kimi’s consistent podium performances.
FI will probably keep their line up, it’s a bit like a boys club and whoever the owner likes, drives. They’ll take the measly salary on offer (who wouldn’t for an F1 drive) and their sponsorships keep the deal sweet. It might help their transition to a 2014 reg as well. Magnussen is top notch but even he should probably do FP1s next year and then get a seat in 2015 if possible. The problem now for him is that FI have Calado doing that, and McLaren won’t want to do that, so where else is left. Their biggest issue ATM is making sure their 2014 car doesn’t have the same problem the current car has on the new-old tyres – lack of tyre temp, as compounds are likely to be hard next year.
Caterham’s issue is the rising costs and need to have paying drivers. VDG has impressed me as the season wore on, with his bullet starts (akin to Kovalainen). Pic brings the Renault deal sweetener, which is for the Caterham group, so is probably secure. So, it depends on if the 2014 car is competitive. If so, Kovalainen could snag them some points, if not, VDG is a paying Kovalainen (in this case, to do FP1s and set up the car!) and they’ll be in the same situation.