As Formula One heads to the Americas for the final two rounds of the 2013 season, the 2014 silly season dealings are heating up.
The news Felipe Massa has landed with Williams is a good move for all parties. It keeps a Brazilian, and a popular one at that, on the grid. It gives teammate Valtteri Bottas an experienced driver to learn from and help guide the team’s setup direction. It also eliminates the consternation regarding the Venezuelan sponsorship dollars brought by Pastor Maldonado, given the investigation into that country’s funding of racing drivers.
Maldonado has been linked to Lotus for some time and if the situation is as dire there as it appears from the Kimi Raikkonen payment saga, his financial package could be too attractive for the team to turn down.
Elsewhere, McLaren’s lineup may be fluid as well with the possibility Kevin Magnussen replaces Sergio Perez, and as it turns out, multiple media outlets have said it’s a done deal.
Lotus is the last top-flight outfit to confirm its 2014 driver lineup. If talent was the only deciding factor, Nico Hulkenberg would already be signed. If it comes down to dollars, Maldonado enters the equation. Assuming reserve driver Davide Valsecchi gets his rightful promotion for the last two Grands Prix (we’d have to expect news within the next 24 hours on this), and does well, he could be in play.
Assuming that happens, you’d have four of the top five teams on the grid this year with at least one new driver entering in 2014; only Mercedes would carry its 2013 lineup over. And Perez has shown enough within his first three seasons to deserve a spot on merit, even though his financial package could help a team struggling in that department.
A similar situation may present itself for the second half of the field. Force India hasn’t made specific overtones about its direction but if the team fails to keep both its 2013 drivers, the potential exists that only Marussia would have the same lineup year-to-year.
Toro Rosso has already signed Daniil Kvyat. Sergey Sirotkin, the Russian teenager, is set for Sauber once he gets his superlicense, and Caterham may bring Heikki Kovalainen back in place of Charles Pic alongside Giedo van der Garde.
More of the 2014 grid should sort out before the holidays get going.