In her Badger GP debut, Fern Lock looks at who really holds the power when it comes to F1 teams picking their drivers each and every season.
It happens every year in Formula One; speculation on who is retiring, who is switching teams and which youngster is going to be given their big break. But how much truth is in these rumours? They have to start somewhere, so who’s to say they haven’t come from a reliable source?
We find a lot of the rumours we hear are fed from the press, planting ideas into the heads of fans. Usually, the stories posted are misunderstood and taken as fact. The power of social networks means it ends up like an insane game of Chinese whispers.
Praise and comments about a driver may even build interest from teams. If a driver has a huge following on social networking platforms, it could potentially put them on the most wanted list of the larger teams. Let’s face it, a lesser known driver that doesn’t put them out there isn’t going be noticed. So a rumour started from the comfort of your living room, could have a small effect on where a driver ends up.
Let’s look at Kimi Raikkonen; we all thought he would be the key to the driver movement puzzle this year. Rumours were brought to an abrupt standstill when Ferrari confirmed Raikkonen had signed a one-year extension on his current contract. Every year we just assume he must be retiring, especially now he has a young family. This is where the yearly ‘who is going to Ferrari?’ talk starts.
To become a driver for Ferrari would be a dream come true for most – to hear your name under speculation to replace Kimi Raikkonen must be an incredible feeling. But, in reality, how many drivers are on Ferrari’s radar to become his successor? My guess is only a select few, however, it doesn’t stop us talking about the endless possibilities of driver line-ups.
We’re always looking for clues, believing we can guess what’s happening before an official announcement is made. Sometimes we read too much into it; looking at who drivers follow on social media can also feel like it can be a big giveaway.
Fernando Alonso recently caused a whirlwind of drama by changing his header image on Twitter and unfollowing Honda. Was Alonso just playing games with us, or was this his subtle way to say it’s over and he’s moving on to new ventures? We now know McLaren and Honda have finally agreed on the divorce, but there’s nothing to say he will stay loyal with McLaren and sign for another season. Time will tell whether he was using this as a decoy to keep us talking and guessing.
Another example of how drivers can blow things out of proportion comes from the Red Bull junior driver, Pierre Gasly. During the McLaren-Honda saga, stories were emerging that Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz was to replace Jolyon Palmer in the Renault car from Malaysia onwards. Gasly’s words were blown out of proportion when asked about a possible drive for the Italian team. This is just an example of how just a few wrong words could be taken out of context creating a lot of unnecessary drama. [We now know the Sainz rumour was based in fact – Ed].
When a driver isn’t performing, the teams keep a professional front, whereas the fans will be brutally honest. Jolyon Palmer hasn’t exactly had the easiest of seasons, being the butt of all jokes. Did Renault feel under pressure from the comments made by both fans and the media? I believe the internet has had a huge influence in what his future holds, with Renault certainly keeping a close eye on what the press and fans have had to say about him. We may have, inadvertently, contributed to his probable departure from F1.
Without the fans on social networks would silly season exist? I don’t think it would, and although sometimes it can become annoying, it does open our eyes to the potential talent out there. Without realising, we help shape the future of our sport. Our tweets, blogs and articles are read by the teams and, although we don’t necessarily have a say on who goes where our voices are heard.
There are only a few months left of the season to go, will we be seeing any final shock announcements? With just a few seats left to fill, there’s still time for some last minute silly season drama. But I’m certain as soon as the final seat is taken, the rumours will start up again for the 2019 season, working a vicious cycle over and over again.