News broke last week that Raikkonen, whose back problems are apparently flaring up again, is to miss the final two races (here and Brazil). He’s having surgery. The replacement isn’t yet clear. Most seem to think Valsecchi, Lotus reserve drive, will get the seat, though a fair minority reckon they’ll try and move Hulkenberg (assuming he’s there next year) a little early. What is certain is that this will damage the team’s hopes of progressing from fourth in the Constructors (which was a bit unlikely anyway, as they’re 26 points off third-placed Ferrari).
Since Abu Dhabi Ecclestone’s been making more negative noises about New Jersey. Mexico also looks unlikely, and Korea could well drop off the calendar (which makes one wonder why the first two were on it in the first place).
On Thursday it emerged that McLaren were actively looking at taking on reportedly talented youngster Kevin Magnussen to replace Sergio Perez in 2014. This would be a big setback for Perez, not just because he’d be axed, but because he hasn’t (apparently) been talking to any other teams, limiting his 2014 options to driving a McLaren and not driving in F1.
On the same day Newey stated that the 2014 regulation changes (whilst including aerodynamic changes) were very much engine driven. It’d be nice to have engines rather than aerodynamics as the key dividing line for once. Here’s a quick rundown of how things will stack up next year (NB not an exhaustive list, I’m just briefly looking at it from a title perspective):
Mercedes - Mercedes, McLaren (McLaren will change to Honda in 2015)
Ferrari - Ferrari, Sauber
Renault - Red Bull, Lotus
If Mercedes is best I think the team of the same name will be best-placed. Rosberg and Hamilton are a great partnership, and almost certainly better than Button and Perez/Magnussen. If Ferrari is best it’s hard to see anyone but the Prancing Horse taking the Constructors’ title. Renault could be most interesting. A Vettel/Ricciardo and Grosjean/Hulkenberg (if the German gets the seat) battle could be very close.
Earlier mutterings I’ve heard suggest that (in power terms) the Mercedes is far more powerful than its rivals, and the Ferrari is more powerful than the Renault (albeit by a smaller margin). Reliability (I think fewer engines are available next year and there are bound to be teething problems with new technology) and efficiency will, of course, also be critical.
Anyway, back to America. The circuit had its first race last year, and it was pretty bloody good. The circuit has tight, twisty sections, faster-paced bits, hairpins, undulation. I wish all new circuits were like it. (That said, an inaugural race can often be a bit weird, so it may or may not be as entertaining this year, given Vettel’s driving the Starship Enterprise and everyone else is in a 2CV).
In pace terms I was surprised last week how competitive the Ferrari became in the race. The general theme of Mercedes moving backwards from a strong qualifying and Lotus doing the reverse is something I expect to see continue.
I don’t think there was a safety car last year, and the last 3 races have had a total of just 7 retirements, so it’s perhaps unlikely we’ll see one this year. The Winner Without Vettel (Betfair) and Winner Without Vettel Or Webber (Ladbrokes) markets should be interesting to watch.
As always, thoughts, tips, and F1-related haikus are welcome in the comments below.