Davide Valsecchi is poised to make his grand prix debut in the United States next weekend following the announcement from Kimi Raikkonen’s manager that the Finn would not be racing in the final two rounds of the 2013 Formula One season.
Raikkonen has taken the decision to undergo back surgery ahead of his move to Ferrari in 2014, and will miss the races in Austin and Interlagos as a result thus bringing an early end to his time at Lotus.
Former GP2 champion Valsecchi – who has worked as Lotus’ reserve driver throughout the 2013 season – could be poised to step up and replace the Finn for the final two rounds, handing him an opportunity to prove his worth to the rest of the F1 world as he continues to search for a full-time seat in the sport.
Should Lotus choose to look elsewhere, a number of drivers could fit the bill. Nico Hulkenberg is known to be unsettled at Sauber and looking to move to Lotus for 2014, so the team could secure the German’s services for the final two rounds of the season and coincide it with an early announcement should they be in a position to do so. Other less likely options include Ferrari test driver and regular ‘stand-in’ Pedro de la Rosa, newly-crowned GP2 champion Fabio Leimer and McLaren junior Kevin Magnussen.
However, Valsecchi is the obvious and most logical choice for Lotus as a replacement for Raikkonen as their reserve driver, and it would also provide a great opportunity for another talented youngster to impress and prove himself in Formula One.
The Italian driver has made clear on a number of occasions that he believes that he is ready to step up to a full-time seat, and although Raikkonen is set to leave Ferrari, Valsecchi has not been a leading contender for the vacant seat. However, a good showing at the Circuit of the Americas next weekend could put him back in the running alongside Nico Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado.
Lotus are yet to official confirm who will deputize for Raikkonen in the final two rounds of the season.