So far, the 2015 F1 driver merry-go round has been largely a non-affair. It seems as if the moment speculation mounts over a driver potentially moving teams, they are swiftly re-signed by their current one’s.
Kimi Raikkonen was the man on everyone’s lips during the Summer break, although Ferrari exercised their option to keep him during the Belgian GP weekend. The man expected to replace him, Valtteri Bottas, was subsequently re-signed by Williams as they retained their current line up of Bottas and the experienced Felipe Massa.
The ripple effect caused by Raikkonen being retained has trickled down the grid, with the highly touted German Nico Hulkenberg shunning a potential move to the new Haas F1 team to re-sign with Sahara-Force India. Whilst the very close links Haas has with Ferrari was a huge potential plus, the re-signing of Raikkonen has left him little option but to re-sign with his current team, much like Bottas.
Now with a lot of potential moves on ice at least for another year, the attention is now focused on two drivers at very different stages of their career’s. The man sparking most of the F1 headlines this week is the experienced and popular Brit Jenson Button. Whilst he has an contract in place with McLaren for next season, it appears increasingly likely the 35 year old will prematurely end his stand out career.
Rumors are growing this week that Button will announce his retirement from the sport at this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix. Button commented this week, stating that he had already made a decision regarding whether he will continue in F1 next year. He stated “it’s always nice to make an announcement when you are at your home grand prix”.
He later added “There are a lot of meeting’s in Japan, Ron Dennis and Eric Boullier will be there. I’m sure there will be a lot of meeting’s at the headquarters.” Rather more ominously Button has also been giving cryptic suggestions as to his lack of desire to remain in his current position. He said “The joy of being in the car is only there if you’re fighting at the front, because you feel like you’re achieving something, if you’re fighting near the back, you’re driving and F1 car, but you can easily get joy driving something else.”
Button leaping the kerbs in a character building year for the new McLaren-Honda partnership. Photo credit courtesy of SkySportsF1.com .
These comments suggest Button has began to feel fed up with the hugely trying season both he and team mate Fernando Alonso have enjoyed with the new McLaren-Honda package. Should Jenson Button retire from the sport at the end of the season, McLaren have a big decision on their hands as to who they will choose to replace him. They have two very quick young development drivers in Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne.
Magnussen partnered Button last year and showed promise, along with the typical rookie mistakes also. This year he has been the team’s reserve driver, though the Dane has recently stated he can’t do another year without racing. Magnussen has been linked with the Haas team for next year, although that seems increasingly unlikely. Stoffel Vandoorne is rapidly stating his claim as the most dominant GP2 champion since Nico Hulkenberg in 2009. He is ready for F1 yet he may struggle to find a seat available unless he’s promoted by McLaren.
The other key driver to this year’s market appears to be Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman is reaching the peak period in his F1 career at age 29, and has spent his entire career with the current Lotus team. Whilst he’s comfortable with the midfield team, it appears the team’s ongoing financial issues may be the final straw.
Grosjean is eager to show he is a better version of the driver that regularly put the dominant Sebastien Vettel under pressure in the second half of the 2013 season. Since then the Lotus team have struggled mightily, and it appears Grosjean has had enough. Despite the carrot of the team’s seemingly imminent takeover by Renault, this may not be enough to keep Grosjean.
Whilst the move to Haas may seem a backwards one considering their a new team and will likely struggle next year, the long term incentives may prove enough to tempt Grosjean. The team’s close links with Ferrari will put him in a great position to replace Kimi Raikkonen when the Finn leaves the team in the next few years.
Romain Grosjean driving for Lotus earlier this year. Photo credit goes to Autosport.com and latphoto.co.uk .
This is where the move makes sense, as it’s likely he will stagnate at Lotus or Renault potentially, although things may well improve should Renault complete their takeover of their team. For Grosjean this is a huge decision he will make, as it affect his potentially whole F1 career as legacy. Should he make the right decision he will likely end up in a race winning car, however should he make the wrong decision and he may regret it for the rest of his F1 career.