Yesterday we looked at the likely moves in the driver market for Renault, Williams, Sauber and Hispania, whilst also putting forward Badger’s ideal line-ups for those teams. Today we’re focusing on the rest of the grid- Force India, Lotus and Virgin- as well as having a think about who’ll drive for the mysterious 13th team set to join Formula One in 2011.
Tonio Liuzzi looks like one of the most vulnerable men in the 2011 driver market. He’s been up and down this year, but overall teammate Adrian Sutil has had him beat comfortably. That said the team have hinted that Tonio will be about next year, and he’s stated that he has a contract for 2011. But then what do contracts mean in F1? Just ask Jenson Button…
Sutil meanwhile has really matured this year, and now looks capable of progressing to the next level. But with such a static driver market his chances are limited- in fact only Renault would make sense. If they drop Petrov and make him an offer Adrian will almost certainly jump at the chance to test himself against Robert Kubica- and you wouldn’t blame him if he did. That would probably secure Liuzzi’s seat, as the team won’t want a whole new line-up for next year. But if Sutil stays Liuzzi could leave- so who would replace him?
We’d love to see Karun Chandhok get a shot with his ‘local’ team. Karun has proved himself capable of being in F1 this year and it’d be great to see if he could deliver with a properly prepared outfit. Added to that having an Indian driver race for Force India in a season that will see the first Indian Grand Prix would spell marketing gold. Karun’s been hinting at this for a while now.
But realistically we’d have to say Sutil will stay and the second seat will either remain Liuzzi’s or be given to test driver Paul di Resta. You’ve got to admire Force India’s loyalty to their drivers, and it’s a big part of their progress over the last two years. But, whilst we’ve got total respect for both Tonio and Paul, Chandhok would be the ideal man for a seat with the Silverstone-based squad.
Ideal Line-Up: Sutil & Chandhok
Likely Line-Up: Sutil & Liuzzi or di Resta
Both current drivers have contracts for 2011, and though that’s never an absolute guarantee it’s likely that both will stick around.
Heikki Kovalainen has had a solid season- and attracted some interest from bigger teams- but unless Renault decide to re-hire the Finn he’ll stay put. He deserves to reap the benefits of his hard work this season in what will surely be a more competitive 2011 car.
Ditto Jarno Trulli. He’s unlikely to get any better offers for next year, so we’d expect to see him retained, unless the team decide he’s too long in the tooth to do the job. That’s not too likely, as Jarno’s experience and speed over one lap makes him a handy man to have around, and the fact he has a vineyard means there’s never a shortage of wine at post-race shindigs. Expect 2011 to be Jarno’s last year however, with the team likely to get a bit more ambitious driver-wise for 2012.
Test driver Fairuz Fauzy would love a chance at a race seat next year, but he too is more than likely to remain in his current role. And, to be honest, a totally unchanged line-up is the ideal situation for Lotus if they want to progress up the grid. They’ve been the best of the new teams this year and, as the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
Ideal Line-Up: Kovalainen & Trulli
Likely Line-up: Kovalainen & Trulli
Holding on to Timo Glock will be Virgin’s priority for 2011. The German has two years experience at well-funded Toyota and has proven himself more than capable in the team leader role this season. Unless Renault or Williams come calling Timo will stay put, and the team will benefit hugely from that.
This shouldn’t be an issue- he’s supposed to be under contract for 2011- but Timo recently said he’s “keeping his eyes open,” as regards future options. Don’t consider this a done deal.
In the second seat di Grassi has failed to shine, but then it’s hard to imagine a Petrov or a Senna would have done any better in the same boat, what with the teething problems Virgin have suffered. Lucas’ chances of remaining at the team are decent, but would shoot up if Glock went, as they’ll want stability.
There’s a chance PR-mad Virgin will want Bruno Senna in the car, so that Richard Branson can fly over Brazil in a hot air balloon and market young Bruno in to the ground. Or they may take Vitaly Petrov, for the cash (and a balloon trip over Russia).
Right now we’ll say Senna’s the ideal man to join Glock, though mainly due to his marketability, with the likelihood being that di Grassi gets a second season. But this one’s tough to call- who do you think Virgin should bring in?
Ideal Line-Up: Glock & Senna
Likely Line-Up: Glock & di Grassi
The New Team
Okay, we can’t speculate too much on this one, as we don’t even know who it’ll be yet, but here’s some quick rumour mongering. If Jacques Villeneuve’s team are succesful JV will definitely drive (naturally). For his teammate we’d suggest Karun Chandhok, who drove for Durango (the Italian squad who’ll run the racing side of team Villeneuve) in GP2 a few years back. That’d be a decent pairing, though we’ve heard nothing to suggest it’s going to happen.
If Spanish squad Epsilon Eskudai make it (and they really should- they’re the standout candidates) expect them to look for experience. A de la Rosa, a Fisichella, it won’t matter so long as they’ve lots of F1 miles on thier C.V. They may well take a rookie, but only if he’s quick and preferably has cash or the backing of a big team- GP2 starlets Jules Bianchi or Sergio Perez would fit the bill nicely.
Ken Anderson (he of USF1 infamy) is also trying to start a team. However his chances are practically non-existent, so we won’t go making driver predictions just yet- build a car first Ken, then we’ll talk.
Stefan GP are also looking to join, but again they don’t look too likely. Both of these teams would need a paying driver, and in this case GP2 title leader Pastor Maldonado would be a great signing if he isn’t snapped up by an existing team. He’s got money and pace- it’s a good combo.
So what have we learned here? Villeneuve will drive for Villeneuve, if they make the cut, and the rest is a mystery. We’d best wait until the identity of the new team is confirmed, hadn’t we?
So that’s Badger’s look at who’ll go where for 2011. What are your thoughts?