Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Who's Going Where? The 2012 Silly Season

Yes, it’s that time of the year again. At this point of the season every season we have the rumours of who’ll be switching teams, if anybody. So it was interesting this week to see Joe Saward write that both current Force India driver and former world champion turned WRC driver Kimi Raikkonen had visited a struggling Williams team. Is this true? And will it amount to anything?

Raikkonen last won at Spa in 2009 - could he win at Williams?
First of all, it would be smart to look at what both Sutil and Raikkonen want from a team. Sutil, on one hand just needs a seat. With a fast team-mate this year and a quick Nico Hulkenberg waiting in the wings, then there might not be a future beyond 2011 for Sutil, a driver who has been at the team since it was Spyker in 2007. Of course, that all depends if di Resta is pulled into the Mercedes works team, which would only be possible if Michael Schumacher decided to quit again. However, with that looking increasingly unlikely, and with ‘the Hulk’ impressing on Fridays, Sutil might be wise to be looking towards Williams, who should be getting better in the seasons to come (but that’s another story).

Raikkonen, on the other hand, when booted unceremoniously from Ferrari at the end of 2009, said that he would only look at teams who had a chance of winning a race - he turned down Toyota, a team that actually took a pole position in 2009. Would he really want to go to a team who has only scraped - and I mean scraped - five points this year? I can only see that as a realistic possibility if Raikkonen really misses F1. And I’m not sure that he does.

Remember too, with Sutil, that removing him from Force India would leave the Silverstone-based squad with a very inexperienced line-up, not to mention a team leader who has only had one season in Formula One. Whether Vijay Mallya has that much faith in either di Resta or Hulkenberg remains to be seen.

The other big story of the 2011 into 2012 off season is the recovery of Robert Kubica. Renault’s driver line-up for next year hinges purely on whether he can get back into a racing car and drive it at a pace deemed fast enough by the team. The biggest question is if we will get the old Robert Kubica back - fast, aggressive and punching well above his weight, he was a fantastic team leader for Renault last season. However, as we have seen so many times before and most recently with Felipe Massa, a driver can struggle to adapt to racing again after a life-changing accident and a year out of the cockpit.

One thing we can be sure of, however, is that no-one is moving from the top three teams. Yes Mr Massa, you can breathe a sigh of relief…