Are Lotus Wise to Delay Naming the Replacement for Kimi Raikkonen?

Fraser MasefieldContributor IOctober 21, 2013

Nico Hulkenberg faces an anxious wait
Nico Hulkenberg faces an anxious waitMark Thompson/Getty Images

According to recent reports in Autosport, Nico Hulkenberg has told suitors Lotus that he wants his F1 future sorted by the end of the month.

Hulkenberg has long been considered the favourite to replace Kimi Raikkkonen at the team after it was announced the Finn would be rejoining Ferrari for next season.

But Team boss Eric Boullier is quoted on ESPNF1 as saying there are “a number of other good drivers on the market” and there are no announcements to be made as yet.

There are no announcements yet but there is plenty going on behind the scenes. We know that Kimi is headed elsewhere for next season, but we also know that Romain would bring good continuity as well as the strong performance potential we've seen recently. There are a number of other good drivers on the market at the moment, so we're in a strong position of being able to assess the possibilities. A race seat with Lotus F1 Team is pretty hot property at the moment, so we're confident we'll have a strong line-up in 2014.

Stellar performances in an uncompetitive Sauber car this season have made Hulkenberg one of the hottest properties in the driver market for next year, so why have Lotus left this late to sign up the German, and could their delay backfire?


The Financial Situation

Possibly the primary reason for the delay in officially signing Hulkenberg is whether or not the team completes its investment deal with Quantum Motorsports, as reported on Autosport.

Should the pieces of the jigsaw fall into place, Hulkenberg seems the most likely option as Lotus would then be able to meet his salary demands rather than hire a driver with significant financial backing.

If not, drivers such as Pastor Maldonado and Kevin Magnussen would then come into the picture.


The Weight Issue

There is no doubt about Hulkenberg’s potential as a race-winner, but next season’s new regulations may see Lotus as viewing the German as a hindrance rather than a help.

Standing 6'1" and weighing over 12 stone, Hulkenberg is one of the largest drivers on the grid. And with cars taking on board heavier 1.6 litre engines with turbochargers and Energy Recovery Systems, the issue of weight is very much at a premium.

The combined car and driver has to comply to a minimum weight limit so smaller drivers are more valuable to a team who can then have the luxury of playing around with extra ballast to give the car an advantage in terms of optimum balance at certain circuits.

Former world champion Nigel Mansell recently slammed the new F1 weight limits on BBC Sport as “disgraceful.” But if the weight issue really is a serious sticking point then Lotus may well be looking at other options, including the aforementioned Maldonado and Magnussen.


The Risks in Delaying

If Lotus delay too long and fail to meet Hulkenberg’s October deadline, the chances are he could head back to Force India, possibly in place of the out-of-form Paul di Resta.

The other sensational rumour circulating in the Japanese Grand Prix paddock according to The Telegraph is that Fernando Alonso may yet opt out of Ferrari and replace Sergio Perez at McLaren, with Hulkenberg jumping into a Ferrari seat alongside Kimi Raikkonen.

But the likelihood is that Lotus will soon announce the funding deal that will give them the freedom of making their preferred choice. And if Hulkenberg really is that good, surely his extra talent behind the wheel can make up those few tenths of a second that extra weight would add.