Friday 14th September 2012


MONKEY'S F1 PREDICTOR

Who'll be where for the 2013 F1 season? Here's Chris Harris's guesswork, sorry, informed view on the matter.


The F1 driver market shouldn’t be as interesting as it is, but who-goes-where remains compelling news. As does un-qualified guesswork on the subject. Here’s mine.

The big one of course is, will Lewis leave McLaren for Mercedes? It's entirely possible. The dream team of Ron and his chosen one should have delivered more than it has since 2007. Perhaps now’s the time for a break and some new Twitter accounts.

And Mercedes might be looking for another driver.

A Merc shoe-in?
A Merc shoe-in?
Surely the Lewis/Merc thing hinges on the 2014 engine regs? If Mercedes can persuade Lewis that they’ll have a dump-valve-popping-monster-motor for that season, one which Adrian Newey has already stated will be all about power, then those surely would be grounds to move?

Will McLaren still run Mercedes engines in 2014? No idea. They had a reasonably successful relationship in the 80s with some people called Honda – and it was based around turbochargers. McLaren Honda – that still sounds right somehow. Pure conjecture, but as of today there are three engine suppliers signed-up for the 1.6 litre 'new dawn': Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault. Of the three, I’d say Mercedes has the biggest and possibly the best R&D resources for this project.

But others are sure to join: I pray one of them is Honda. Nothing warms the cockles like the sight of a Honda engineer in virginal white paddock fashion, busily fussing and plugging things into data ports. It’s been too long.

He may know something
He may know something
Of course, Michael Schumacher has to leave Mercedes to allow Lewis to arrive – and that does look like the situation. Bernie’s hilariously indiscreet interview at Spa effectively announced Schumacher’s second retirement. The speed and sincerity of the denial from MS means Bernie’s utterance must be true, no?

Now for the juicy part of armchair silly season: a stream of unfounded and partially idiotic assumptions.

Schumacher leaves Mercedes. Lewis goes to Mercedes. Martin Whitmarsh asks Ron for the company cheque-book, but who does he go for? The no-brain choice is Paul Di Resta – or rather it was, because despite a very impressive first season and a half in F1, his massively quick team mate Nico Hulkenberg has just begun to shade him for raw pace. But then Paul’s KERS always seems to be on the blink.

Where’s Nico Rosberg in all this? No idea. Di Resta has been a part of the wider Mercedes-Benz Motorsport family since his DTM days, but German manufacturers tend to like German drivers, and that benefits Nico – assuming of course that Mercedes remains an engine supplier to McLaren who, incidentally, have for the first time just started paying for their lovely Mercedes 2.4 litre V8s.

What about Ricciardo? I came back from the Monaco race weekend on the same easyJet flight as him, so he must be pretty cheap. That will appeal to Ron, who doesn’t like wasting cash.

Peter Sauber tests Kobie comms
Peter Sauber tests Kobie comms
Now, if McLaren changed engine supplier, perhaps to Honda, then the team might like to have a Japanese driver. That could lead to the quite delicious possibility of Ron Dennis attempting to tell Kamui Kobayashi to calm-the-bastard-down into 130R. Kamui, being the most exciting thing on four wheels, will hopefully ignore the message. See, I’m already constructing imaginary conversations between Ron and Kamui in a team called McLaren Honda! This is way more fun than real motorsport journalism.

Red Bull’s jockey situation is sorted for next year, a parity that must have both sides questioning getting their houses in order so early in the season. Mark Webber’s had a dismal run of form pretty much from the minute he announced his 2013 deal, and Vettel wants a faster car.

The hunt for Red Guff
The hunt for Red Guff
Luca De Montezemelo, genetically incapable of missing an opportunity to be impish, yesterday said that Vettel would be most welcome at Ferrari. He’s been saying the same thing for a while now. When Fernando finally got past Sebastian last week, and the German-finger-mouse watched the F2012 disappear into the distance, he probably wondered what he’d done wrong. Consecutive World Championships, and now he’s fighting for the lower sections of the podium and making adverts for shit SUVs.

But Sebastian is not available for any team other than Red Bull next year. Which means we’ll probably see him in a Ferrari. Or a McLaren Hyundai in 2014.

Perez to Ferrari? Looks logical, but then like the interior of a 1984 Testarossa, not everything at Maranello works according to logic. Luca thinks he doesn’t have enough experience – which seems unfair given his mature performances this year. And even though poor Felipe has somewhat improved his form in the past few races, he remains just that, generically known as ‘poor Felipe’. An F1 driver with an unfortunate prefix and diminished speed is surely less desirable than a young Mexican who looks suspiciously like Pedro Rodriguez and who appears to have similar natural sparkle? He’s even on the young Ferrari Driver Clienti Manettino Spumanti Programme, so he should be ‘in’ like Daniel Craig in a convent.

Look into my eyes, not around the eyes
Look into my eyes, not around the eyes
But, sadly for Sergio, Luca is secretly luring Michael Schumacher to Maranello one last time, to bid his final arrivederci with the Scuderia. Isn’t he? Well, even if he isn’t it would be effing marvelous if he was, and it would clear up the name of the racy 458 street car we’re expecting next year: The 458 Michael. That kind of works, doesn’t it? In comes Perez for 2014 as MS heads back to retirement, or falling off motorcycles as it's sometimes known.

Remember Robert Kubica? He won a rally last weekend, which must prove that he still stands an outside chance of racing in F1 again. Ferrari did once have an option on him, then again, for all the vodka and significant silences, they still love Kimi – their last World Champion. Could he make a return to Ferrari and, more to the point, could he be arsed to board the flight to engage in negotiations? All we know is that F1 is miles, miles better with him in the script. Incidentally, he’s doing well at Lotus because they provide him with exactly what he wants: the biggest caps and shades in the paddock.

With car sales on the floor, Renault can barely justify staying in F1 without a French driver, and despite being a bit crashy into the first corner, Grosjean’s speed more than justifies his place in the team. So, we have to assume that in 2013 Renault Lotus Renault Renault, er, Lotus will remain unchanged. Particularly in the sense that all of us will continue to be baffled by the Lotus bit. Anyone got any Benetton stickers?

Finnish line
Finnish line
The lower ranks provide less amusing speculation because transfers are governed by boring things like money. Will Kovalainen jump back up into a better team? He’s so respected at Caterham his steering wheel has one more button than Petrov’s. Little known fact that.

Heikki is good enough to be plonked into a fast car and be quick. In fact almost all of the irritatingly talented sods are good enough to do that – a fact that most of us would do well to remember when we point and laugh at the unfortunates lurking under blue flags.

Where were we?

Oh yes, Sauber. F1’s petri dish for the propagation of F1 talent. It’s quite possible Peter Sauber could lose both of his drivers over the coming months, which seems mighty unfair, but the Ferrari Signatori Ravioli Training Academy will feed him more young pups, and he’s a master at scouting the lower formulae: Valsecchi anyone? Mind you, Mercedes could then take young Cecotto and produce a special edition C63 in his name to blow raspberries at BMW. By my calculations, about nine of you might get that last gag.

Pastor Maldonado is apparently a very nice chap, but he looks completely terrifying to me, so I’m just going to say that he’s very fast and deserves to stay with Sir Frank Ltd. He can also give the impression of being an accident waiting to happen, but I didn’t say that. Bruno is slowly getting it together, but his team-mate has shaded him this year, and that’s tough to come back from.

Wolffish look
Wolffish look
Like Sauber, Williams are scouters, they’ll want fresh meat. Susie Wolff for a curvier pit lane in 2013? Great for the sport, and there’s even some gratuitous, smutty sexism in that last sentence, but I just can’t see it yet. The drive, that is.

That leaves us where, exactly?

With no real idea of what’s going to happen. But if any of this tommy-rot does come true, I will be buying myself a Shandy Bass and some Nobby’s Nuts by way of congratulation.

Happy Armchairing, one and all.

Author: Chris Harris
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