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As some of you will have seen I wrote my first silly season article before the Hungarian Grand Prix as I turned one eye towards the revolutionary 2014 season. Given the number of expected announcements to come in Belgium, I felt I ought to get new predictions in there before those announcements come out. Since this is only an update of a previous piece I won’t go into the detail I did before. However, you can find that article at http://www.fofassociation.com/features.php?id=294.
Red Bull have got Vettel signed for 2014, with increasing rumours claiming that Ricciardo will be confirmed in the sister car in Belgium. Since that is what I predicted before, and Kimi Raikkonen’s manager has come out to publicly confirm the Finn will not be driving there next season, I consider this a cut-and-shut case.
Ferrari have a problem in Felipe Massa: he is a fantastic driver on his day, but his days come so rarely that he isn’t performing to the standard expected of a number two driver. His job is to ensure Ferrari win the Constructors’ Championship – something they haven’t achieved since 2008. Increasing rumours put Kimi Raikkonen in the frame for a shock return to Maranello, alongside current lead driver Fernando Alonso. Certain articles posted in recent days add fuel to that fire and, for me, Raikkonen is not going to be at Lotus after this year as he dons the scarlet overalls once more. Note this is a change to my earlier prediction of Alonso/Massa.
McLaren have Button and Perez contracted for next season so it is a very brave journalist or fan who predicts anything other than those two there. I for one am a coward in this regard. No change in Woking, as I said before.
Lotus are an interesting team. Before Hungary I predicted they could keep Raikkonen and hire Hulkenberg. However, with Raikkonen now looking more likely to return to Ferrari and Lotus apparently struggling to pay Kimi just as Sauber are with Hulkenberg, I may have to thoroughly rethink this pairing. Therefore I will go with another season for Grosjean, mainly for the Total sponsorship, and a promotion to a race seat for reserve driver and 2012 GP2 champion Davide Valsecchi. Of the top 5 teams, this is definitely my least confident prediction.
Mercedes, as with McLaren, already have two drivers contracted for 2014 so I will retain my earlier prediction of Hamilton and Rosberg there. Again, it would be an incredibly brave call for anyone to say otherwise.
Sauber’s financial problems were apparently solved within a week of me saying Telmex money would be their saviour: they came to an agreement with a Russian group who are backing Sergey Sirotkin for a 2014 seat. A number of FP1 sessions will be used by the Hinwil squad to test the young driver, but I have a suspicion that as long as he doesn’t have too many crashes he will be in the second seat for next year. If the financial department can convince Hulkenberg they will be able to pay him next year, he may stay on but if not then Gutierrez will be kept – assuming Telmex stay on board. Of the two, I’d plump for Hulkenberg at this stage.
Force India have done very well with Sutil this year, but the real revelation was in Paul Di Resta repeatedly coming from the back of the grid after qualifying problems to score decent points. As much as I want to say Bianchi will be promoted up the grid to Force India, I think the current pairing is about the best they can do for the moment and thus will be retained.
Williams have at least Bottas contracted for next year, while the money coming from Maldonado – not to mention his raw pace being impressive – will be enough to keep him in the sister car.
Toro Rosso have confirmed informally that Vergne has a seat there for 2014, which writes off my prediction of Sainz Jr coming into the team. However, I fully expect Antonio Felix da Costa to make the step into F1 alongside him. Whether there will be anywhere for either driver to go in the near future is anybody’s guess.
Caterham have Pic signed for 2014 already, but it is Alexander Rossi I expect to sit alongside him in the new Caterham chassis. Here I am confident in my original prediction.
Marussia I suspect will have a second year’s service from Jules Bianchi, while the second seat is a mystery. Maybe Chilton will retain it with his father’s money, maybe Razia will be able to put together a viable sponsorship portfolio, or maybe someone else will come in that I haven’t even considered. As it is I will change my prediction for the second seat from Razia to Chilton.
So, to stick my neck on the line for the second time this year:
RED BULL – VETTEL/RICCIARDO
FERRARI – ALONSO/RAIKKONEN
McLAREN – BUTTON/PEREZ
LOTUS – GROSJEAN/VALSECCHI
MERCEDES – HAMILTON/ROSBERG
SAUBER – HULKENBERG/SIROTKIN
FORCE INDIA – SUTIL/DI RESTA
WILLIAMS – MALDONADO/BOTTAS
TORO ROSSO – VERGNE/DA COSTA
CATERHAM – PIC/ROSSI
MARUSSIA – BIANCHI/CHILTON