As the off season rolls on, more seats for the 2013 season are being snapped up, leaving just two remaining vacancies. Still to confirm their complete driver line ups are Force India and Caterham. This week has seen Romain Grosjean retain his seat at Lotus for next season. The team did consider other options including Kamui Kobayashi and Heikki Kovalainen, which must have been of concern to the Frenchman especially due to the tumultuous season he has had, but the final decision was to maintain him to drive alongside Kimi Raikkonen for a second consecutive year.
In 2012 Grosjean achieved three podiums in comparison with seven including a win from Raikkonen. He was handed a race ban for causing the explosive pile up in Spa and and incited seven other opening lap incidents. Considering this tally of mistakes, it seems a brave choice by Lotus. Romain Grosjean’s storming performance in the Race of Champions, overturning German World Champions Michael Schumacher and SebastianVettel on the way to victory, will have gone a long way to saving his seat from the clutches of others. Eric Boullier made the following comment,
“With the continuity of two exceptional drivers like Romain and Kimi, we are well placed to build on our strong 2012 with even better results in the year ahead.”
This suggests Boullier wants to build on this years achievements without throwing another unknown into the mix. But do they really need the continuity of causing first lap pile ups? Granted, Grosjean knows the car but Lotus should be hoping he has learned from his mistakes and brings an increased level of maturity in 2013 to prove he is worthy of the seat.
Esteban Guttierez has been signed for Sauber to drive alongside Nico Hulkenberg, but he has admitted he doesn’t feel entirely ready for Formula One. He only managed third position in the GP2 championship behind Davide Valsecchi and Luiz Razia, neither of whom have an F1 drive for 2013. They may have proved to be more promising choices. However, the financial backing Guttierrez brings from Telmex, a Mexican communications service, who also back Sergio Perez, ensures the team don’t lose funding and will have been the swaying factor in the signing.
Having signed Nico Hulkenberg, who delivers no funding signed for 2013, Sauber chose to oust Kamui Kobayashi, another driver without financial support. Kobayashi launched an online appeal to raise money to bankroll a drive for next season but has admitted this week that he accepts it won’t be possible for 2013. His intentions are to save the money to secure a seat in 2014 and he has stated that he has no wish to drive in any other racing category. This could prove to be a costly mistake due to the importance of maintaining the fitness and skill levels needed to be competitive in 2014. As a result of his rallying, Kimi Raikkonen demonstrated how valuable other racing experience can be when aiming to achieve a successful return to Formula One.
Following Charles Pic’s move to Caterham, Max Chiltern has been confirmed to drive alongside Timo Glock at Marussia. He has achieved well in GP2 and has been reserve driver for the team, driving the first practice session in Abu Dhabi, but would Davide Valsecchi or Luiz Razia, winner and runner up of the 2012 GP2 championship respectively, be more competitive? Considering that Marussia are reported to be struggling economically, and missed out on tenth place in the Constructors Championship to Caterham, and with it a substantial amount of revenue, surely the fact that Chiltern comes with financial backing is very attractive and an influential factor in their decision.
Adrian Sutil has been mentioned regarding a return to Force India, the team for whom he drove in 2011. He has confirmed that his conviction for assault will not affect his ability to travel to all the countries in which races are held. The German outperformed Paul Di Resta by 42 points to 27 in the 2011 season. Another possible option for the team is Ferrari young driver Jules Bianchi. On loan to Force India for 2012, Bianchi has taken part in Friday practice numerous times and has steadily improved in performance. In addition to Valterri Bottas, Max Chiltern and Esteban Guttierez, the hiring of Bianchi would see four rookie drivers on the grid for 2013.
Only time will tell which signings demonstrate clever foresight and which are flawed…