The game of musical chairs that is the driver market has sprung into action with the announcement that Lewis Hamilton is moving to Mercedes. It had been thought that Michael Schumacher’s decision about his future would set it off, but ultimately his decision was made for him. Off on F1 looks at other people who are affected by Lewis’s transfer to Mercedes and Sergio Perez’s move to Mclaren…
Sergio Perez – Perez has got the top-line drive that everyone has predicted he would get at some stage in his career. He may not be experienced enough for Luca Montezemolo and Ferrari, but McLaren were prepared to take a gamble. As the deal was done so quickly you wonder at what stage McLaren started to take an interest. Could it be that former McLaren Racing Director, the much-loved Jo Ramirez, played a part in making contact. Jo was a great friend of the late Ricardo Rodriguez, Mexico’s first F1 star. Ramirez retired in 2001 but has kept in contact with the team since. Perez has now got the perfect opportunity to win races, not that he’s doing so badly in a Sauber.
Sauber – The cash-strapped Swiss team have suddenly had a big hole punched in their finances for 2013 with the loss of Perez and (presumably) Carlos Slim’s multi-million dollar sponsorship. With Kobayashi failing to attract big money Japanese sponsors it could be that the team now need two new drivers for next year.
Nico Rosberg – The sight of a joyous Nico Rosberg hugging a similarly joyous Lewis Hamilton as they both waited to go on the podium at Chinese GP of 2010 lives long in the memory. They weren’t on such good terms after the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix when Rosberg swerved to block Hamilton and Lewis took to the run-off area to avoid getting clattered. How will they get on in 2013? If Rosberg’s uncompromising attitude about being overtaken by Schumacher is anything to go by then there could be fireworks.
Felipe Massa - Felipe Massa will be breathing slightly easier after one of his main rivals for his 2013 Ferrari seat has been ruled out. Luca Montezemolo said that Sergio Perez wasn’t ready for a Ferrari drive yet, but that was before he scored another P2 at the Scuderia’s home race. And he may yet score more podiums before the end of the year. In the game of chess that is the F1 driver market, the only significant talent who would accept a No.2 role at Ferrari is Paul di Resta. Otherwise it’s a gamble on Robert Kubica’s return.
Paul DiResta - These two moves will come as a blow to Paul DiResta who had a significant connection to Mercedes via his DTM performances. DiResta was probably next on the McLaren shopping list and next on the Mercedes shopping list but has ended up with neither drive. He may have the Italian surname, but you would think his chances at Ferrari are less than the other two teams.
Michael Schumacher - When Michael announced that he was returning to F1 with Mercedes, Ferrari boss Luca Montezemolo wailed that it was just his luck that he couldn’t employ him and that he would always have a place ready at the Scuderia. Well, now is his opportunity. If the great man meant what he said Michael can sit alongside Fernando Alonso next year. What a fantastic irony that would be, the man who was for so long the No.1 at Ferrari coming back as the No.2. It won’t happen, but you’d like to see Montezemolo being asked the question.
Matt Bishop - McLaren’s PR meister, the former editor of F1 Racing magazine and the man who established it as global brand, no longer has to run round clearing up the debris after another Hamilton outburst. Yes, technically he has another six races’ worth, but everyone knows Lewis is going and what he says and does reflects more on the driver than the team. Thanks to Matt’s skilful guidance Lewis has avoided the kind of foot-in-mouth gaffes he is evidently capable of when left alone with his Twitter account. Bishop loves to win, but we’re sure he’ll be relishing a quieter life.
Heikki Kovalainen - There were some who suggested that Heikki might be making a return to Woking in 2013. The only reason now is to visit the New Victoria Theatre to watch the Christmas panto ‘Sleeping Beauty’.
Jenson Button - When Jenson won the World Championship in 2009 and announced that he was off to McLaren in 2010 many reacted in astonishment (not us, obviously, because we’re getting a bit gloaty about it now). Jenson was walking into Lewis’s team and wouldn’t do very well… was the general opinion. Jenson’s done fine and now it’s his team. With Hamilton’s departure there’s no doubt that McLaren have lost one of the best three drivers in the world, but there are ‘up’ sides and the team will have a lot more money to spend in making the car go quickly.
Mercedes - Until recently there were rumours that Mercedes were thinking of quitting the sport after being offered less than favourable terms in the new Concorde Agreement (the deal that governs F1 teams’ incomes). It was thought they might emulate Renault and drop back to become solely an engine supplier. With the announcement of a three-year deal for Hamilton it is quite clear that they’re continuing. What will become interesting is the political manoeuvring for the engine units available in 2014. Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault are making the new units but at the moment they can’t supply all the teams on the grid.