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Handing Our Crystal Balls Back
Friday 28th December 2012

No need to retrain Felipe Massa for 2013 (Pic:Sutton)

The OffonF1 pundits had a go at predicting the driver moves back in September. Here’s what we predicted would happen. The result is that Dave Jorgensen has to get the first round in… (which is pretty convenient for him as he’s on another continent)

Who’s going to be driving where in 2013? The Off on F1 team pitch in with a few ideas.

Ferrari: Fernando Alonso and ……….?
Andrew Davies: Sergio Perez. I think the pronouncement from Luca Montezemolo about Sergio Perez being ‘not ready’ for a Ferrari drive is a case of smoke and mirrors. The Scuderia are trying desperately to convince Felipe Massa that he’s loved, which is a hard task after Mark Webber publicly came out and said that he’d been in talks with Ferrari. The thing is that whoever gets the second seat has to be Alonso Approved and the fact that Sergio speaks Spanish and is clearly in a junior, learning role means that he can take on the position of No.2 without hesitation. Checko to Ferrari
Frank Hopkinson: The chances are that the F2013 won’t be such a tricky beast to drive and so Massa will get one more season. Perez is good but Kobayashi regularly outqualifies him.We saw how badly Fisichella and particularly Luca Badoer performed when they were asked to step into his shoes in 2009, so being an Alonso team-mate is clearly not easy. It also throws light on Alonso’s position as a superior driver to Michael Schumacher. Massa and Schumi weren’t that far apart when they were team-mates, but look at the difference now? Can that all be put down to the effects of Felipe’s accident in Budapest?
Dave Jorgensen:  I think Ferrari would go for Perez. Especially if Hamilton decides that he wants the ego (and salary) boost of being a team leader at Mercedes. They’d hate to have Perez stomping past the red cars in a McLaren.
Frank Cook: Felipe Massa. If the reports about Vettel joining Ferrari in 2014 are to be believed, why would Ferrari go for anyone else? Massa is a known asset, and always manages to pull out a respectable 4th or 5th place every time the stories about him leaving the prancing horse reach boiling point. And anyway, Abu Dhabi’s Ferrari World has both Alonso and Massa’s face on everything; it would take ages to peel him off all the windows and rides.
AD: 0, FH 1, DJ 0, FC 1

McLaren: Jenson Button and ……….?
Andrew Davies: Lewis Hamilton. He may have done a wide variety of ill-advised things in his career; the beards, the tweets, the blocking moves, the Ali G references, but surely he’s not going to sign for Mercedes. At this rate Ross Brawn will be struggling to hold onto fifth place in the constructors championship in 2012 the way Sauber are performing. Lewis’s management company might like the money, but he doesn’t need it. What he does need is a car fast enough and consistent enough to be World Champion and with Mercedes that will take patience and patience isn’t Lewis’s strong suite.
Frank Hopkinson: Robert Kubica. Should Lewis Hamilton fail to re-sign for Mclaren then Martin Whitmarsh should immediately get on the dog to Robert. That’s providing Kubica hasn’t already got a Ferrari contract for 2014, there were always rumours floating around about that and Kubic and Alonso are big mates.
Dave Jorgensen:  It’s a big step to go outside the team you’ve grown up with and have been associated with for 15 years. He’ll stay and cope with any lack of salary advance by sulking.
Frank Cook: Lewis Hamilton. As Ron Dennis said, “we employ him, not the other way around”. He may throw all of his toys out of the pram along the way, but at this moment in time, Mclaren offers Hamilton a much better chance at the championship than Mercedes. How important can the salary be to Hamilton?
AD: 0, FH 1, DJ 0, FC 1

Mercedes: Nico Rosberg and ……….?
Andrew Davies: Michael’s retirement has become a little bit like Eddie Jordan’s wig. Supposedly everyone knows about it, but people don’t want to make him uncomfortable by talking about it. I think Nico Rosberg won’t be partnered by Michael next year but it’s more likely to be Adrian Sutil.
Frank Hopkinson: Lewis Hamilton with a massive escape clause so that if Merc don’t finish in the top three in the constructors or if he doesn’t win a minimum number of races then he would be free to join Red Bull in 2014.
Dave Jorgensen:  Paul DiResta. He’s been a Mercedes-engined driver from his DTM days and there’s no reason to see why Paul wouldn’t fit it in at Brackley.
Frank Cook: Paul Di Resta. This is his big break. If he isn’t packaged off to Mercedes this year then he will stay in the midfield for the rest of his career. And with Rosberg beginning to fall into the “experienced driver” range.
AD: 0.5, FH 2, DJ 0, FC 1

Lotus: Kimi Raikkonen and ………..?
Andrew Davies:  Romain Grosjean. He has the speed all he needs is to be a bit more circumspect on the opening lap of the race. Also, he is the cheerful ying to gloomy Kimi Raikkonen’s yang. If they put another cheerfulness intolerant driver in the second Lotus, then the engineers might top themselves.
Frank Hopkinson: Romain Grosjean. You can see by the way that Eric Boullier’s supported him through his one-race ban that they’re keen to hang on to him.
Dave Jorgensen:  It’d be great to think that Lotus could mend their fences with Robert and have him back. Ultimately Kubica is the true racer not influenced by flash management or big salaries and the fact that Lotus have proved they can challenge at the front must be very attractive to Kubica.
Frank Cook: Davide Valsecchi. Grosjean has had his (second) chance and, while there is no doubt that he is talented, his lack of consistency has let him down. Valsecchi, on the other hand, is about to win the GP2 championship through consistency. Worth a punt.
AD: 1.5, FH 3, DJ 0, FC 1

Sauber:  ……..? and …………?
Andrew Davies: Felipe Massa and Kamui Kobayashi. Sauber have a history of drivers returning to their teams and should Perez move out then Massa might move back in. The only uncomfortable thing is that should Sergio take his Mexican millions elsewhere then the Sauber team are going to be short of funding.
Frank Hopkinson: Sergio Perez and Jaime Alguersuari. Jaime’s been very confident about getting back on the grid again in 2013 and he’d be a perfect fit for Sauber.
Dave Jorgensen:  Adrian Sutil and Kamui Kobayashi. But Kamui’s going to have to get a move on and involve a serious Japanese sponsor. It’s pretty dire that with a home race and a driver who can qualify on the front row of the grid at the sport’s biggest GP challenge (Spa) that he can’t generate more Japanese interest. Do they still make cars?
Frank Cook: Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez. With Kobayashi performances being swamped by Perez, the number one status will land in the lap of the Mexican, and Kobayashi will have nowhere to go. Gutierrez is proving himself in GP2 and after a season of “reserve driver” status, Sauber will become the first all-Mexican team.
1.5, FH 3, DJ 0, FC 2

Force India:  ………..? and ………….?
Andrew Davies: Nico Hulkenberg and Paul diResta. Vijay Mallya says he wants to hang on to both of them and if there’s no opening at Merc for either then they’ll stay put.
Frank Hopkinson: This was going to be my other guess as a home for Jaime Alguersuari, but I’m not allowed to play that card twice. Let’s go crazy and partner Nico with Ma Qing Hua in 2013.
Dave Jorgensen: DiResta will be drawn back to the Mercedes mother ship and they’ll promote Jules Bianchi.
Frank Cook: Nico Hulkenberg and Jules Bianchi. Force India have a habit of promoting their young reserve drivers rather than outsourcing, and in the past it hasn’t done them any harm. And, being linked to the second Ferrari seat since Massa’s accident in 2009, it is clear that Bianchi is hot property.
-The jury is still out on this one-

Toro Rosso: ………..? and …………..?
Andrew Davies: Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari. What does Helmut know…
No, it’s too late for that. It’s most likely to be Ricciardo and Vergne again.
Frank Hopkinson: Ricciardo and Vergne need to be employed for one more season because if they’re cast aside now they might as well put the whole Red Bull Academy in the dumper. Four drivers trialled and none of them look capable of outperforming Mark Webber.
Dave Jorgensen: Ricciardo confirmed and then Luiz Razia will be in a shoot-out with “Jev” to see who gets the second seat. 
Frank Cook:: Whoever are the next two in the list of Red Bull drivers. Helmut Marko will push to give another two “brilliant young drivers” a chance in an F1 car. Ricciardo has had a season and a half to prove himself, and there has been no stand-out performance as of yet, and Vergne’s qualifying performances are enough in themselves to doubt the young Frenchman’s talent. Maybe he isn’t too bad, but last year showed us how cutthroat this industry is.
AD: 3.5, FH 5, DJ 1.5, FC 2

Williams: ………..? and ………….?
Andrew Davies: Pastor Maldonado and Valterri Bottas. Bottas has put in some impressive practice times and with Williams’ profits going up recently, Sir Frank will be in a position to look beyond Senna’s cash.
Frank Hopkinson:Maldonado and Senna again. Building the car that killed his famous uncle has weighed heavy on Frank Williams soul and so if there is the chance to keep Bruno on he will. Both drivers are making progress. Luckily (for him) the one with the un-sackable paycheck is the one who’s making the most mistakes
Dave Jorgensen: Maldonado and Kubica – that’s all supposing he can’t mend his fences with the Lotus team.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if Vitaly Petrov and Bruno swapped places.
Frank Cook: Pastor Maldonado and Adrian Sutil. Whatever your opinion is of Maldonado, there is no doubt that having a state-owned petroleum company sponsor is beneficial. Sutil’s time spent hanging around the paddock this year will pay off, giving him a seat. And if it isn’t Sutil, it will be Heidfeld; neither will leave too much of a dent on Sir Frank’s payroll.
AD: 5.5, FH 6, DJ 2.5, FC 3