The silly season gets sillier, but something will soon give way

By on Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

So Kevin Magnussen has been confirmed at McLaren for 2014, alongside Jenson Button. Got that? Good. Because it’s not true. Well, not yet anyway.

Several leading sources have suggested that Magnussen is in at McLaren, with Pérez – the supposed saviour 12 months ago – left out of a drive at Woking. But the deal between pen and paper has not yet been signed, sealed and delivered. Until an email from McLaren arrives confirming their 2014 line-up, it remains speculation, however strong the sources.

This weekend’s race at the Circuit of the Americas near Austin is Pérez’s home race (on account of its proximity to Mexico) and Magnussen lurking in the background will up the ante on Pérez’s sponsors. If McLaren do put Magnussen in the car for 2014 then it’s a huge statement of intent from a team that has suffered a miserable 2013; Magnussen excelled in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series this year as he romped to the title but only a handful of people would have expected him to find an F1 berth, let alone one at McLaren. But suddenly, Pérez would become an unexpected player in the driver market.

Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, Toro Rosso and Williams have their seats wrapped up for 2014 but that still leaves several teams with both seats left wide open. It’s an expensive game of chess as teams jostle for the best combination of talent and money, while drivers weigh up which outfit will nail the new regulations. It may be racing driver conjecture, but Felipe Massa cited the Mercedes engines as a reason for joining Williams, saying that he also had discussions with McLaren, Lotus, Force India and Sauber over a 2014 drive. That’s almost half the grid.

Lotus F1 Team

Lotus F1 Team

Lotus is the most intriguing proposition. Retaining Romain Grosjean appears a dead cert considering his recent form and his sponsorship, although there has still been no official announcement. The spanner in the works is that Kimi Räikkönen’s season is now over, on account of back surgery. There’s no doubt that Räikkönen has suffered with his back for the past couple of months, but the cynics would suggest that the surgery could have waited another two weeks. Back in Abu Dhabi, the noises were bounding around that the deal with Quantum Motorsports – and therefore the signing of Nico Hülkenberg – was nearing its completion. But nothing has been announced (sensing a theme here?)

But now, Lotus needs a driver for the final two races of the season.

Back when Grosjean was banned for last year’s Italian Grand Prix, reserve driver Jerome d’Ambrosio had a seat fitting on the evening of Grosjean’s lunacy and was announced a day later. If current reserve driver Davide Valsecchi was the shoe-in for the seat, why has he not yet been announced? Could it be that Lotus is looking for money, or perhaps the chance to give their 2014 driver a two race head start? Or perhaps, the 2014 driver – which could be Hülkenberg – wants assurances over next year but, with the 30 million dollar man Pastor Maldonado now on the market, those assurances cannot be met?

This has ramifications for the remainder of the midfield. Neither Force India nor Sauber has officially confirmed their 2014 driver line-up and with good reason. Why sign up drivers when the likes of Maldonado – and perhaps Pérez – are loitering in the paddock in search of a seat?

The longer the wait goes on, the sillier the silly season gets. But something, soon, has to start the domino effect. There’s only 11 weeks until pre-season testing kicks off in Jerez. But it will come sooner than that; Lotus needs a driver for this weekend’s United States Grand Prix. When the identity of that driver is revealed, it could spark the rest of the teams into action.

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