With the Formula 1 silly season ramping up for the summer, a look at the drivers who should be moving on. Time gentlemen please…
Felipe Massa – Williams Mercedes
Felipe was expected to struggle at Williams against the much-vaunted Valtteri Bottas. The Brazilian is due a load of credit for showing everyone (myself included) that Bottas is perhaps not the next true flying Finn. But the up and down performances remain for Massa. Mistakes and crashes creep in more and more often and you just feel another driver on the upswing of his career could get more out of the Williams Mercedes combination.
Where does Felipe go next? The Brazilian does not look like hanging up his helmet soon. so a ride with Ferrari in sportscars beckons.
Likely replacement at Williams Mercedes: Jenson Button
My preferred replacement: Jenson Button (because he still has something to give in Formula 1 and to see how annoyed Alonso would be at Jenson getting his hands on a Mercedes engine first)
Valtteri Bottas – Williams Mercedes
I’m touting a complete clear out at Williams for the 2017 season. I was absolutely convinced that Bottas was the next big thing in F1. The manner in which Massa – a driver on the downslope of his career – has kept the Finn honest renders that assessment wide of the mark. Bottas has not looked anywhere as sharp this season. The constant talk last year of a dream move to Ferrari that subsequently did not materialize may have left Bottas lacking drive when he knows the Williams is not the best car. Nevertheless, the Williams is still a very capable machine and someone hungrier could make more of it.
Where does Bottas go next? I could see him re-igniting at Force India.
Likely replacement at Williams Mercedes: Pascal Wehrlein. With Honda trying to wriggle out of a 2nd supply deal, Williams will stick with Mercedes power for the new era of cars in 2017 meaning Wehrlein could be placed at the Mercedes ‘B’ team.
My preferred replacement at Williams Mercedes: Paul di Resta for an all-British line-up.
Danill Kvyatt – Toro Rosso
It’s actually relatively easy to drive quickly in an F1 car … if you are paying no heed to other cars and using them like bumpers at a bowling alley. Kvyatt has done a decent job at getting himself back together following his demotion. However Carlos Sainz has the Russian in his back pocket and is undoubtedly the first choice for the next Red Bull graduation place.
Red Bull will not give Kvyatt a second chance the way Renault did for Romain Grosjean. Another team is unlikely to take a punt on a Red Bull reject unless he can bring some Russian cash with him.
Where does Kvyatt go next? Might pay his way in at Force India or Sauber (if they are still afloat next season). More likely to be found in the World Endurance Championship which is quickly becoming a rehabilitation centre for ex-Red Bull drivers.
Likely replacement at Toro Rosso: Pierre Gasly as the next driver on the Red Bull conveyor belt.
My preferred replacement at Toro Rosso: a non-Red Bull driver.
Rio Haryanto – Manor Mercedes
Rio’s foray in to F1 has been short and unremarkable – a bit like the Indonesian himself. Team-mate Wehrlein is touted as being a bit special so it is perhaps unfair to measure the two directly but that is the only benchmark available. On those grounds it seems clear that Haryanto is going to be nothing more than a journeyman in F1.
Where does Haryanto go next? Could buy his way in at Sauber. Otherwise I expect him to pop up in Japanese Super Formula.
Likely replacement at Manor: Sergey Sirotkin
My preferred replacement at Manor: a driver loaded with talent but short on cash.
Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari
This pains me to write as I’ve been a Kimi fan since he arrived in F1. But (almost) everything that made Kimi such a joy to watch has faded. The ‘couldn’t give a f**k’ attitude and desert dry sense of humour remain. Both of which are even more refreshing these days than when he first hit the big time with McLaren. But the bonkers speed and talent, the brave but clinical moves and the seeming inability to ever get flustered are definitely on the wane.
Where does Kimi go next? Maybe back to NASCAR but probably off to spend his days riding jetskis and snowmobiles in the sun.
Likely replacement at Ferrari: Sergio Perez
My preferred replacement at Ferrari: Lewis Hamilton – if only to see how Ferrari would cope with two number 1’s.
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