THE summer hiatus wasn’t entirely uneventful in Formula 1.
The “laggard” Kimi Raikkonen was re-signed by Ferrari for 2018, crushing the ambitions of some of his rivals hoping to move into a red car and disappointing critics who believe his is overdue for the shove. After all, Raikkonen has gone winless for 71 races, having being belted by current teammate Vettel and, before that, Alonso.
Raikkonen’s attributes are not always obvious. Those who’ve worked with him say he has great car feel. He is also a great fan favourite and more importantly, Vettel, who has signed a three-year contract extension, endorses him as a partner.
This year, Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne, has questioned Raikkonen’s lack of success. Yet in this scenario, the Finn, a gifted natural talent with at times questionable commitment, secured a reprieve not because he deserved another chance, but because there are not any standout drivers available to take his seat. Who’s that I hear yelling “Me…me…ME”? Oh, its Sergio Perez. Sorry, mate, you’re not up to scratch.
The Red Bull young guns, obvious choices, are in quarantine under unbreakable contracts. And prising the Merc pair out of the Silver Arrows would be tough and expensive.
Alonso may be available but it’s hard to see Ferrari taking him back after problems when the Spaniard last drove for the Scuderia.
The rest are either caught in mediocrity or not free to move. Or both.
Kimi it had to be. For one year.
Maybe Ferrari is still eyeing Daniel Ricciardo, whose Red Bull contract expires at the end of 2018. Or teenage rookie sensation Charles Leclerc, the reigning GP3 champ currently leading GP2. But don’t count on Kimi wearing red in 2019.
Raikkonen may have his employment sorted for 2018, but another world champ is still not locked in. The hottest rumour in the Spa paddock was that Williams offered Alonso a car for 2018.
Anything is possible in F1, but Alonso must a little leery about taking that one.
Firstly there is the matter of Alonso’s $40 million driving fee. Williams doesn’t have that sort of money to toss about, although someone has suggested that Lance Stroll’s father could open his wallet to get the Spaniard into Martini colours. Que!
The other consideration, surely, is that Alonso may not see under-performing Williams as worthy enough, even with Mercedes engines. At Spa, Felipe Massa qualified 16th and Lance Stroll 18th.
Perhaps too McLaren may convince its superstar to stay? It’d be possible. But not probable.
Alonso says he’ll decide on his future within a month. He has said he won’t stay in F1 unless he can drive for a competitive team.