When news broke that Kimi Raikkonen had been resigned to Ferrari for the 2014 season, many questions over Felipe Massa’s future in Formula 1 were raised.
Would he head back to the team where he began his career in Formula 1 and drive for Sauber?
Would there be a straight swap between himself and Raikkonen, which would place Massa at Lotus for 2014?
Would Massa simply retire?
These and many more speculations were voiced but it was the surprise revelation that Massa had signed a multi year deal with Williams that secured his future within Formula 1.
A mid-field team like Williams will no doubt benefit from signing the Brazilian as he has been within the world of Formula 1 for quite some time and has much knowledge to share.
Also, with his signing to the team, it sees him being partnered with the young driver Valtteri Bottas. Therefore, Massa will inevitably take on a mentor like role within Williams, with Bottas having the opportunity to learn much from his experienced team mate (much more than Pastor Maldonado could provide at least anyway).
Williams are therefore poised to improve. How much so? We will have to wait and find out.
Massa’s move to Williams also reveals that an agreement could not have been met for Raikkonen and himself to swap teams with one another.
Lotus have still not replaced Raikkonen yet Nico Hulkenberg and the soon to be former Willams driver, Maldonado, have been the strongest contenders to partner Romain Grosjean next year. Hulkenberg for his untested talent and Maldonado for his deep pockets. In the end however, Hulkenberg will probably get the drive.
But have Lotus missed out on a perfect opportunity regardless of who they sign?
At the time Raikkonen announced he would be departing Lotus for Ferrari, Lotus was in need of funding to secure their future in the sport.
To receive the money they so desired for next season and beyond, they needed a product to sell.
With Raikkonen leaving they no longer would have a former World Champion driving for them in future seasons to come and therefore were loosing a valuable asset and the main magnet to draw in potential investors.
With this in mind they had to change tactics if they wished to be successful in their hunt for funding. In short, they needed to show they had a driver which could not only beat a champion, but also had the possibility of being a future champion himself.
Grosjean’s form increased as Raikkonen’s fell; Grosjean not only constantly out qualifying Raikkonen but beating him on race day as well.
If there was still any doubt that Lotus were now favouring Grosjean now that their relationship with Raikkonen had turned sour, it was extinguished when the Lotus pit wall harshly told Raikkonen to move out of the way for his team mate during the Indian Grand Prix.
Lotus have now signed a deal with Quantum Racing, having proved to their investors that Grosjean has what it takes to produce consistently good results against a worthy driver in Raikkonen.
Yet, has it helped Lotus at all?
Having “proved” that he is better than Raikkonen will mean nothing when they place a superior driver like Hulkenburg in the car beside him in the garage.
There are a number of drivers which are just as good, if not better, than Grosjean, including Hulkenberg.
Grosjean will obviously grow as a driver in time, and has continued to do so this season. Yet would he have achieved the results in the last races if Raikkonen was not leaving for Ferrari?
Grosjean became the key for Lotus to receive the desired funding they needed so therefore, as this was the case, we were never going to see Grosjean not being retained for 2014.
This left Lotus with only one available seat and the decision to replace Raikkonen with Massa, Hulkenberg or Maldonado.
Hulkenberg has proved time and time again that he has what it takes to be a top tier driver. Yet he has much to learn and it would have benefited him and Lotus greatly if Grosjean was replaced by Massa and Hulkenberg replaced Raikkonen.
This scenario might have played out in the minds of those in power at Lotus. Yet because Grosjean became a key element to the teams future funding, it was a scenario which could never be realised.
If Hulkenburg does manage to secure the vacant seat at Lotus then he will do well in 2014. Yet, with the help and mentorship of Massa, he may have done better and grown much supremely as a driver.
A mentorship program which may now be solely enjoyed by Williams.