Formula 1's Latest Rumours & Talk: Magnussen to McLaren, Heikki to Lotus & More
As speculation mounts over the 2014 Formula One grid, we find ourselves in one of most entertaining driver merry-go-rounds in town.
One driver will miss the final two races of the season, so he needs replacing. But he’s not going to be at that team next year, so does said team opt for a pay driver or evaluate its long-term option?
If that replacement comes from another team, how will they replace their driver?
And what about next year? After weeks of speculation about the McLaren seat alongside Jenson Button (also unconfirmed), the picture has shifted massively in the last few days.
It looks like McLaren’s made a decision; as has one of Germany’s automobile club ADAC to buy the embattled Nurburgring and save it from bankruptcy.
These are just some of the stories circulating F1 cyberspace at the moment. Read on to find out more.
Magnussen to Replace Perez
It was reported by Autosport on Sunday morning that Formula Renault 3.5 champion Kevin Magnussen was the favourite to replace current McLaren driver Sergio Perez.
Then, last night, the same website confirmed it would be happening.
While there has been no official comment from the team to say the same, Edd Straw wrote:
Sources have confirmed to Autosport that the team has decided to promote the Formula Renault 3.5 champion, although a contract has not yet been signed. Magnussen, a McLaren development driver, became the favourite for the seat in the days following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
On Sunday, Jonathan Noble had written:
In the wake of that race [Abu Dhabi], senior McLaren staff members are understood to have spent time this week evaluating the driver issue. Although no final decision has been taken, sources suggest that there is now a widespread feeling within the team that Magnussen should be given the nod, and it is suggested that he is actually now favourite to replace Perez.
Raikkonen's Season Ends Early...
Embattled Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen will miss the final two races of the season to undergo surgery on his back.
The Finn, who has locked horns for several weeks (if not months) with his employers over a long-running pay dispute injured his back in a Sauber testing crash years ago.
The injury was aggravated in Singapore and, as reported on GPUpdate.net, Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat reported he would travel to Austria for the operation.
The early date set for 2014 pre-season testing, combined with the late 2013 season finish, meant Raikkonen's preparations for his surprise Ferrari return could have been compromised had he waited until after Brazil.
...Valsecchi and Kovalainen in the Frame at Lotus
Raikkonen's early departure from Lotus raises the obvious question of who will replace him for the final two races.
2012 GP2 champion and Lotus reserve driver Davide Valsecchi is the logical choice, but there are two factors against him.
The first is that he hasn't raced since last year, in anything, but of course has kept sharp in the simulator and has been on-hand throughout 2013.
The second is potentially more limited: Lotus is in financial strife. Of course, the much-mooted investment deal with Quantum is supposedly confirmed, but any official announcement has been regularly delayed.
So will they opt to bring in someone with more backing?
Heikki Kovalainen might not be everyone's first choice as a pay driver, but according to compatriot Mika Salo, is an ideal candidate.
Speaking to Finnish broadcaster MTV3, Salo (according to Planet-F1.com) said:
I have thought about this for a while and I think getting Heikki would be a smart idea. Valsecchi will hardly be able to do anything on a completely new track to him, but Heikki has raced in Austin. Caterham also has a Renault engine. Heikki has been waiting for something like this, and if I was a team boss, I would take him rather than Valsecchi. That's nothing against Valsecchi, but simply about Lotus needing to score points.
Massa Signs for Williams: But Wait, There's More...
Felipe Massa has signed for Williams on a multi-year deal to partner highly-rated Finn Valtteri Bottas.
But the Grove outfit insists hiring the 2008 world championship runner-up is not its only bit of good news to come, as reported by motorsport.com.
That would suggest there is some positive financial stuff set to emerge from a team that has long been rumoured to struggle to balance the books and (with the departure of Pastor Maldonado) is now without PDVSA sponsorship.
The Venezuelan oil company, owned by the state, was believed to be pumping £20m or more into the team each season as part of its relationship with Maldonado.
It is very exciting for us to be able to confirm our 2014 driver lineup as part of a number of announcements we will be making over the coming weeks. [PDVSA branding] won't be on the car for next year. I think when our numbers come out next year, people will see what has actually gone on behind the scenes with this whole arrangement.
Could the Nurburgring Be Saved?
The Nurburgring might be on the brink of being saved after reports emerged of a new buyer for the legendary circuit.
Home to the fabled Nordschleife, but more recently the revised (and much safer) modern Grand Prix facility, the Nurburgring has been battling financial despair for several years.
It was so bad that a 'one on, one off' arrangement was made with the Hockenheim to alternate the running of the German Grand Prix.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper reported organising club ADAC, which works with the Hockenheim historically but helped run this year's race at the Nurburgring because of its financial troubles, has submitted a non-binding offer.
ADAC, usually linked only to Germany's other F1 host Hockenheim, stepped in this year amid the Nurburgring's financial troubles to host the 2013 race.
According to auto123.com, the FAZ newspaper reported a €100m bid has been submitted.
"With the non-binding offer," ADAC spokesman Lars Soutschka is reported as saying, "we hope to gain access to the numbers and then we will decide how to proceed."