Top 5 Driver Moves That Would Shake Up Formula 1
With the grid for the 2014 Formula One season almost complete, there have been precious few shocks and surprises in the driver market.
Force India have an all-new driver line-up in Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez and there will be two new rookies on the grid in the form of Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat.
During the course of the season, many shock moves were mooted and seemingly close to fruition and yet none of them came off.
Here, then are five such driver moves that would really shake up the sport over the coming seasons almost as much as the new 2014 regulations.
Jules Bianchi to Ferrari
Before Ferrari confirmed that Kimi Raikkonen would be moving from Lotus to partner Fernando Alonso for the outgoing Felipe Massa, some other drivers were in the frame.
Sebastian Vettel looked to be a strong possibility, but both he and Red Bull were quick to pour cold water on the rumours. Jenson Button also appeared an outside option but Jules Bianchi appeared a strong possibility.
Bianchi had impressed for Marussia during his debut season and is part of the Ferrari development academy. Academy chief Luca Baldisserri has been monitoring Bianchi with interest and he told Sky Sports that they were impressed with his progress.
Jules has completed the move to Formula 1 without any problems. He has become the benchmark driver for the team, gaining its confidence at the track. I consider it a fundamental move, especially in Formula 1. Recently we spent a bit of time together in Maranello to assess the situation. We will continue to concentrate on stress management, an aspect where he has already made great progress, even if there is still room for improvement.
The young Frenchman is clearly a potential star of the future and he is currently testing for the team in Bahrain before participating in Ferrari’s Florida Winter series.
Jenson Button to Lotus
How hath the mighty fallen? For 2009 world champion Jenson Button, the recent season has been one to forget at McLaren after a complete redesign of the 2013 challenger backfired spectacularly.
Button is one of F1’s elder statesmen and his days are surely numbered. Should McLaren continue their downward spiral or Kevin Magnussen upstage his experienced teammate, Button may move on sooner rather than later.
Lotus would seem an ideal fit. The chassis appears ideally suited to get the best out of Pirelli’s fast wearing rubber and Button is known as one of the smoothest drivers on the grid.
And should some investment and sponsorship deals bear fruit, Button suddenly becomes an affordable asset.
Fernando Alonso to Red Bull
Rewind almost five months and there seemed to be a very strong possibility that Fernando Alonso would be leaving Ferrari at the end of the season to form a formidable partnership with Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull.
Alonso had been openly critical of his Ferrari team in Hungary and his manager, Luis Garcia Abad had been spotted meeting with Red Bull boss Christian Horner, as Sky Sports reported at the time.
When Horner was pressed on the issue, he said little to deny that he had been talking to Alonso about a possible drive.
Is [Alonso] available? You ask him. We are going to take a bit of time to make the right decision. We have some great options and we don't need to be in a rush. There has not been any pressure that we must take a junior driver, it is a matter of fielding the best team. Of course, the junior drivers are under consideration but there is no pre-requisite it has to be a junior driver for next season. We want to put the strongest drivers in the car that we can. "It would be interesting. At the end of the day we have to do what is right for the team and the pairing that we want to put together next year has to be right for the team.
Just how long Alonso is prepared to bide his time at Ferrari in his quest for that elusive third title is an interesting question. He has clearly been frustrated at being second best to Alonso and if Daniel Ricciardo fails to deliver, we could see the move happen.
Fernando Alonso to McLaren
Shortly after Red Bull had confirmed they had signed Daniel Ricciardo to partner Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull for 2014, McLaren focused their efforts on re-signing the Spaniard.
Alonso left McLaren under a cloud after a tempestuous 2007 season that saw him clash with teammate Lewis Hamilton and team boss Ron Dennis but Dennis recently told BBC Sport that he would have no problem with Alonso returning to the team.
One has to recognise the first objective of any grand prix team is to win races. Whatever obstacles sit between a team wanting to win and winning, be it engineering, fiscal or human issues, you resolve them. You never say never.
Current team boss Martin Whitmarsh is now focused on luring Alonso back to the team in 2015 when the team renews their partnership with Honda.
Sebastian Vettel to Ferrari
Another rumour doing the rounds during the 2013 season was whether or not Sebastian Vettel would be open to a move to Ferrari.
Ferrari is the oldest and most successful team in F1 and a team that every young driver dreams of driving for.
Vettel had been thought to being close to agreeing terms to join Ferrari towards the end of the 2012 season but quickly denied the rumours.
But outgoing teammate Mark Webber recently told Sky Sports that he sees the Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel partnership at Ferrari as a short-term fix before they move for Vettel in 2016.
There are so many reasons why it's a bit of a gamble to help Ferrari. Two years for probably both of them actually I think. And then what they do after that obviously [is] pick Seb up off the back of Red Bull and they keep moving from there. But it's a very short-term aggressive statement from Ferrari to put the team at the front.