Ferrari's circus: The driver lineup conundrum | Sportwalk Times
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Ferrari’s circus: The driver lineup conundrum

It was late in the year 2014. The F1 season had nearly finished and all the F1 fans were inevitably preparing for their 3-month hibernation until the 2015 season started, soon. Of course, there would be pre-season testing in between, but it’s not like it’s broadcasted on TV. I, for one, was expecting it to be a fairly uneventful and boring 3 months. But I was so very wrong. When you’re an F1 fan, you can always anticipate something to spice things up, like a new rule or new regulations. This time, it was the driver line-up. When Fernando Alonso announced that he would be leaving Ferrari to “try something new”, there began the chaos. There was only one big question that needed answering- a question that would lead to much more. Who would go where?

And thus began the speculation. “Would Button retire? Would Hulkenberg replace Alonso? What about McLaren’s reserves?” were just some of the questions that everyone was asking. Of course, we all know what happened next- Alonso and Button at McLaren; the two buddies, Vettel and Raikkonen at Ferrari; Sauber pairing up Nasr and Ericsson; and Manor hiring Roberto Mehri and Will Stevens.

At this point, you might be wondering why I’m going on about something that happened quite a while back. Well, the reason for that is to lead up to events that might unfold soon enough. Albeit not as extensive, there will be some craziness in the driver line-ups for the 2016 season.

The root of this potential craziness is Ferrari.

In 2009, Ferrari paid Kimi Raikkonen the best part of 20 million Euros to not drive for them in 2010 and pave way for Alonso. This resulted in Kimi taking a sabbatical for 2 years, after which, he returned to Lotus. He left Lotus at the end of 2013 for Ferrari, owing to money problems. And now, it appears that money yet again compromises Finn’s future in F1.

Reports have it that Ferrari has bought Bottas from Williams for a whopping 12 million Euros, to replace Kimi. Although this is still a rumor, there is certainly a lot of doubt floating over Kimi’s F1 career. Although the Finn repeatedly states that he would like to race in 2016, a lot of critics still believe that he’s not as motivated to race as he used to be, and hence he isn’t winning races. This certainly must be on Ferrari’s mind seeing as they’re considering an option to replace Kimi next year. But surely there must be some other reason behind Ferrari considering this.

Kimi had a car that he didn’t like in 2014. The balance was off and the setup could never be altered to suit his driving style. As a result of this, his best finish was a 4th place in Belgium. Although people were aware of this, it didn’t stop them from saying that Kimi had lost interest in the sport. The reason for this statement of theirs was because Alonso managed to extract pace out of the F14-T, unlike Kimi.

Then, in 2015, with Seb replacing Alonso, the atmosphere at Ferrari was a whole lot different. It was a lot jollier, and you could see the Iceman smiling on multiple occasions. The pace of the Ferrari had considerably improved and everyone was expecting Ferrari to consistently challenge the Silver Arrows. And yet, despite the car being better, it appears that Seb is overshadowing Kimi. And this where the chaos starts. With only one podium to his name this year compared to Seb’s 5 podiums and 1 win, Kimi appears to be struggling, even though he isn’t. Considering the fact that he has 2 DNF’s, neither of which were his fault, he still is 5th in the WDC and only one solitary point behind Bottas.

But, ah, there’s the thing. He’s one point behind Bottas. Bottas has been very consistent and has a cool and calm attitude which helps him defend the others even if he’s short on pace. Though he’s only 25 years old, he’s shown the maturity of a Champion. It’s this attitude of his that has him linked with Ferrari for the next season. Yet, he’s not the only one with a chance of a Ferrari seat. Here are the contenders for the Ferrari seat alongside Vettel for the next season.

Valtteri Bottas

As mentioned earlier, with a cool and calm head, Bottas has shown the maturity of a highly experienced driver. He’s been consistent with the Williams car and has shown brilliant pace. He also has an immense amount of skill and talent. Racing under Ferrari, Bottas can perform wonders and can easily win races and even Championships. Bottas remains anonymous with respect to whether or not he’ll stay at Williams. Yet, there is a rumor that a deal has already been signed after Ferrari paid Williams 12 million Euros for Bottas. Right now, Bottas seems to be the most likely replacement for Kimi Raikkonen if he is, indeed, relieved of his duties.

Nico Hulkenberg

Nico Hulkenberg, currently at Force India, is another contender for the seat alongside Vettel. No matter which team he’s been at, Hulkenberg has consistently finished in the points and is always near the top 5. Long being linked to Ferrari seat, Hulkenberg surely deserves a seat at a top team, even if it isn’t Ferrari. He has shown his potential to become a World Champion. If he does end up at Ferrari next year, you can expect him to immediately start consistently finishing on the podium.

Nico Hulkenberg, Williams, Australian GP, 2010, F1, Sportwalk
© Photographed by Robyn

Kimi Raikkonen

How can we forget the main man of the discussion? Yes, Kimi Raikkonen himself is a contender for that Ferrari seat. Rejoining Ferrari in 2014, Kimi as been instrumental in the development and improvement of Ferrari since the V6 Turbo era started. Kimi’s contract ends on the 31st of this month, but he has made it clear that he would like to race in 2016. Though he hasn’t been as consistent as he’d like (and Ferrari for that matter too), Kimi holds the record for the most consecutive race finishes and points finishes, beating even Schumacher. Yet, it is his seat that is in danger. Maurizio Arrivabene has stated that, if he proves himself, Ferrari will retain Kimi for the next season. Yet, there are reports that Bottas is going to replace him. There is no doubt that Kimi is running out of time to prove himself with only the Hungarian GP left to prove himself before his contract expires. Yet, it should not be forgotten that Kimi is Ferrari’s last World Champion.

With all this speculation, one can only take a guess of as to what’s going to happen. If Kimi is replaced, it would shuffle up the teams with a vacant seat at either Force India or Williams and many potential candidates for those seats. According to the GDPA survey, Kimi is the most popular driver on the grid, but popularity holds no importance when it comes to a race seat. I’m not saying this just because I’m a Kimi supporter, but I certainly do hope that Kimi retains his seat and he races in 2016. I think I speak for every other F1 fan when I say that F1 needs a driver like Kimi. If he is replaced, it would be the end of the era of another Flying Finn. The end of the era of The Iceman. Only time will reveal what’s to come. Signing off.