2012 Silly Season latest

By on Monday, August 15, 2011

As ever, the summer break in Formula One gives us a chance to speculate about who will be where next year. Managers will be enquiring with teams in order to give their driver the best deal available, whilst teams will be looking for the best driver at the best price. The currently Silly Season will be nowhere near as silly as the build up to the 2010 season, whilst with many drivers out of contract at the end of next season, 2012 will probably be much better than 2011! Nevertheless, there’s still widespread speculation as to what will happen to around half of the seats currently occupied by some established names.

Vettel will stay with Red Bull for another 3 years

It’s hard to see anyone else but Sebastian Vettel possessing the Number 1 sticker on an F1 car until at least the start of 2013 and Vettel’s contract doesn’t run out until 2014. Mark Webber now seems likely to stay as his team mate, although for how long is anyone’s guess. McLaren keep the same driver line up but Lewis Hamilton has been getting too close for comfort to Red Bull recently and speculation is that he’s eyeing a move there for 2013. Fernando Alonso is at Ferrari until 2016 and maybe longer but it’s the other seat that is less secure. Felipe Massa hasn’t won an F1 race in almost three seasons and looks unlikely to end that barren spell. Massa does have a contract for 2012, but Ferrari seem keen to promote from within their own academy for 2013 (possibly Sergio Perez or Jules Bianchi).  Perez and Kamui Kobayashi stay with Sauber for 2012 after impressing this season. The rest of the midfield is where everything is less clear…

Nico Hulkenberg wants a race seat

Nico Rosberg is likely to stay with Mercedes but it’s the future of his team mate that is uncertain. Michael Schumacher has reaffirmed his commitment to Mercedes’ cause in 2012, although many still suspect he’ll retire (again). If he does, then Paul di Resta will move to the Silver Arrows and his place will be taken by test driver Nico Hulkenberg. If Schumacher stays, then di Resta will probably stay at his team as well, in order to alleviate some of the cost of Mercedes equipment for Force India. That leaves the other Force India seat up for grabs. Sutil bring some sponsorship in the form of Medion, an electronics company. Hulkenberg has expressed his frustration at being a test driver and is keen on a race seat for 2012.

Will Barrichello race into a 20th season?

Renault and Williams are also two teams with uncertainty next season. Renault’s season has obviously been severely hampered by the injury to Robert Kubica and their hopes seem to be pinned on his recovery. There has been much speculation as to the state Kubica is in and many fans of Formula One hope that he can make a full recovery and return to F1 at the start of 2012 with Renault. If he can’t, senior officials at the team have expressed a desire to have Romain Grosjean at the team and he would partner Vitaly Petrov, who has a contract for next season. Grosjean needs to be in Formula One next season. His 2009 appearance was a mistake and he performed well given the difficult circumstances. Grosjean has rebuilt his damaged career and looks set to clinch the GP2 title at Spa. If there are no spaces at Renault, then Grosjean may be loaned out to Williams. The Oxfordshire based team have had a difficult season and will rekindle the old relationship with Renault that brought them so much success in the nineties. There’s a chance that by having Grosjean at Williams, Renault would be willing to cut the costs for Williams, which could be attractive to a team whose finances are constantly questioned. In the eyes of many pundits, Pastor Maldonado has had a good rookie season, despite his woeful championship position. The team feels the same and he is likely to be retained for 2012. That leaves Rubens Barrichello’s position precarious. F1’s most experienced driver wants to stay with the team next year, but has expressed his frustration at their poor season. When this translated into people thinking the amiable Brazilian was to retire, he quickly took to Twitter to profess how he and the team will work together to improve and wants to stay for two more years. For Williams, if Renault come calling with reduced costs in exchange for Grosjean, then Barrichello may find himself out of a seat.

The inevitable squabble for seats at Toro Rosso continues. Both Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari have performed admirably this season, although Helmut Marko doesn’t see either of them as harbouring enough potential to drive for Red Bull. The other two drivers in contention are Daniel Ricciardo and Jean Eric Vergne, the Frenchman who is currently leading the World Series by Renault championship. A likely scenario seems to be that Ricciardo will be at Toro Rosso next season, although who he replaces is unknown at this stage. Vergne will probably be the Friday test driver, with an eye to moving to a full time seat in the middle of next year. Alternatively, Red Bull could loan one of their drivers out to HRT, like they have done with Ricciardo this season.

One rumour a few weeks ago suggested that HRT wanted to become a complete Spanish team, with a takeover by Thespan Capital and detaching themselves from Colin Kolles and his team in Cologne, Germany. Such a move would have possibly resulted in Jaime Alguersuari ending up at the team alongside Javier Villa, although the future of HRT is currently uncertain and whoever pays the most will get the drive. Vitantonio Liuzzi has expressed a desire to stay with the team for another twelve months.

Alongside HRT near the back of the grid are Virgin and Team Lotus. Virgin has signed Timo Glock up to 2014 and he’ll hope that they can progress into the midfield with their partnership with McLaren. Virgin seems likely to retain Jerome d’Ambrosio, so long as he keeps bringing money although he could face opposition from Canadian Robert Wickens, who is currently challenging Vergne for the WSbR title. Over at Team Lotus, Heikki Kovalainen is likely to stay, whilst Jarno Trulli and Karun Chandhok are contending for the second seat and GP2’s Davide Valsecchi is also in the running. A likely outcome is that Trulli will race most of the season, with Chandhok driving in two races, including the Indian Grand Prix.

Summary: Possible 2012 line-up - Drivers in italics not contracted

  • Red Bull Racing Renault: 1. Sebastian Vettel | 2. Mark Webber
  • Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: 3. Lewis Hamilton | 4. Jenson Button
  • Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro: 5. Fernando Alonso | 6. Felipe Massa
  • Mercedes GP Petronas: 7. Michael Schumacher | 8. Nico Rosberg
  • Lotus Renault GP: 9. Robert Kubica | 10. Vitaly Petrov
  • Sauber F1 Team: 11. Kamui Kobayashi | 12. Sergio Perez
  • Force India F1 Team: 14/15. Adrian Sutil/Nico Hulkenberg/Paul di Resta
  • Scuderia Toro Rosso: 16/17. Sebastien Buemi/Jaime Alguersuari/Daniel Ricciardo
  • AT&T Williams: 18. Rubens Barrichello/Romain Grosjean | 19. Pastor Maldonado
  • Team Lotus: 20. Heikki Kovalainen | 21. Jarno Trulli (Karun Chandhok for 2?)
  • HRT F1 Team: 22. Vitantonio Liuzzi | 23.
  • Marussia Virgin Racing: 24. Timo Glock | 25. Jerome d'Ambrosio

 


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