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Drivers’ Market Update

Nesta Oil Rally of Finland - Shakedown

As predicted here earlier, Kimi Raikkonen is apparently in talks with Renault regarding a possible drive for Renault in 2010.  Assuming Fernando Alonso will be off to drive for Ferrari next year, this would make the move a simple driver swap.  This move would make sense for Renault, as they clearly need an experienced driver, preferrably one capable of winning races, to partner junior driver Roman Grosjean, who thus far during his tryout this season has failed to impress.

It is also thought that a Raikkonen for Alonso swap might attract sponsorship funds from Finnish mobile phone giant Nokia.  Clearly, Renault will be in the hunt for new funding, as their deal with ING is set to expire at the end of this year.

F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Qualifying

While a deal with Kimi might have a certain immediate appeal for all parties concerned, both driver and team should probably consider the following issues before putting ink to a contract.

First of all, Kimi should be wondering about Renault’s long term viability as an F1 team.  Depending on the outcome of the Crashgate investigation, Renault might be a no-show for 2010.  Moreover, Renault reputedly have long been on the fence regarding their continued participation in the series, simply from a cost-benefit standpoint.  Even if they come through Crashgate unscathed, Kimi would want some sort of reassurances from the team regarding their long term commitment.

Secondly, Kimi isn’t particularly known for his skills a development driver.  Alonso excelled in this area, and slotting Kimi into the cockpit as the Spaniard’s replacement could leave the team at a deficit.

F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Race

With the withdrawal of BMW from the series (leaving Heidfeld and Kubica without rides), and with Heikki Kovalainen’s possible dismissal from McLaren, Flavio Briatore will have several capable drivers to choose from.  In our opinion, his best option would be to relegate the underperforming Roman Grosjean back to the tester’s bench, and fill the driver vacancies with a Raikkonen-Kubica combination.  If one of these drivers were unavailable, Briatore might consider either Heidfeld or Kovalainen to fill the second seat.

Another wild card in the deck is the Williams team.  Presumably, their lead driver Nico Rosberg is off to McLaren to partner Lewis Hamilton next year.  That will leave Williams with at least one vacancy.  The team is apparently anxious to wriggle out of their deal with engine-supplier Toyota, and the tenure of their second driver, Kazuki Nakajima, has been predicated largely on Toyota partnership.  Presumably, if the engine goes, so does Nakajima.  Therefore, it’s quite possible that Williams will be shopping for two drivers for 2010.  Very likely, Frank Williams will be fishing in the same pool as Flavio.

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