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GP Week : Issue 189
F1 >>> nEWs The pieces of the puzzle in the driver market may have begun falling into place with the most coveted seat on the grid no longer in play, but Formula One’s ‘silly season’ remains in full swing with several drivers’ futures yet to be decided. With Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo having landed the Red Bull seat alongside reigning triple world champion Sebastian Vettel, the focus of the silly season has inevitably shifted to Kimi Raikkonen, intensifying the speculation surrounding the Finn’s future. Having lost out on the Red Bull drive, the 2007 world champion’s options are now limited and Raikkonen is currently considering whether to remain at Lotus or return to Ferrari where Felipe Massa has once again been put on notice. The Finn made a hugely successful return to the sport in 2012 with Lotus and the Enstone-based squad have this year given him a car capable of challenging for the title. The outfit has also allowed the steely- eyed, party-loving Finn to be his laidback self, an atmosphere in which Raikkonen has flourished. But financial issues at the team — currently working to complete a deal with a group of investors that will give it access to fresh funds — have meant Raikkonen hasn’t been paid on time, and the former world champion is reportedly seeking assurances from the team regarding its financial stability as well as its ability to produce a competitive car next season when sweeping rule changes are set to kick in. “They know the reasons why it's not going for ward right now and, until they sort out those issues, we cannot really talk about next year,” Raikkonen told reporters at Monza. “You can ask as much as you want, but nothing has changed since the last race. We'll see what happens next year and we'll let people know once we know.” Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo refused to rule Raikkonen out of the running at Monza but said there were several other candidates as well. "We will take a decision in the next days; we haven't taken any kind of decision yet. We haven't signed a contract with anybody,” he said. “We will talk with Massa, then we will have our opinion, and then we will decide.” Raikkonen now holds the key to the driver market, as what he decides to do will also determine the futures of other drivers. Nico Hulkenberg has been strongly linked with a seat at Ferrari while Paul di Resta, who has put in some impressive drives this year, has also been mentioned as a candidate, although paddock insiders are unconvinced. Fernando Alonso is believed to be pushing hard for Felipe Massa to stay at the team as he enjoys clear number one status over the Brazilian even if the 32-year-old’s relatively meagre points haul has dented Ferrari’s challenge for the constructors’ title. Lower down the grid, Sauber are set to give Russian Sergey Sirotkin his debut – provided he gets his superlicense – as part of a deal the team struck with a group of Russian investors who threw the Hinwil-based outfit a financial lifeline. Caterham are believed to be chasing Ferrari protégé Jules Bianchi – who has had an impressive rookie season – though which of the team’s current drivers he might replace remains unclear given Frenchman Charles Pic brings subsidized Renault engines with him while Giedo van der Garde has significant sponsorship on his side. Bianchi has also been linked to the Ferrari seat, but the team don’t traditionally take on drivers with just a year’s experience under their belts. The dominoes in the driver market will only start to fall once Raikkonen makes his decision. If Lotus can convince him that they are on sound financial footing, he may well decide to stay on, while Ferrari may decide to keep the faith with Massa for another year. In the end, only time will tell. lET THE DoMINoES fAll ... 7 GPWEEK.com // 7 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: