The big deals in Formula 1 have long been concluded: Sebastian Vettel, who was put in front of the door by Ferrari, will prove himself again at Aston Martin; Fernando Alonso makes a comeback at Renault; Carlos Sainz is on his way to Maranello. In the emergency year of the premier class, it appeared that the most important season, the Silly Season with its many speculations about bills and often ludicrous phrases, this time out. But before the last third of the world championship, which begins with the Grand Prix of Portugal on Sunday (2:10 p.m.), the tradition, which has also been loved by the discussion-loving audience, is revived.
Provided that Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes agree on the terms of a contract extension at some point, there will be four free cockpits for 2021, if not six. That multiplies the possibilities. Two German racing drivers are also at full speed on the emotional roller coaster: the Emmerich noble reservist Nico Hülkenberg and the talent Mick Schumacher.
In this workplace roulette, anyone betting on red is well advised. Because Ferrari is currently setting the decisive course in the personnel policy of the premier class. In Mick Schumacher, the Briton Callum Ilott and Robert Schwartzman from Saint Petersburg, the Scuderia’s junior academy has three 21-year-old Formula 2 drivers who are suitable for promotion to the top division. The talents are to be accommodated at the two customer racing teams Haas and Alfa Romeo, which are to provide training places as part of the engine delivery. Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto and academy director Laurent Mekies can at least play a leading role in this regard.
The US racing team Haas has already taken the first step and sacked the two hapless regular drivers Romain Grosjean, 34, and Kevin Magnussen, 28. In addition to nice farewell words from team boss Günter Steiner, the Frenchman also heard the disgraceful truth: “We had to act like this for financial reasons.” In addition to one of the Ferrari apprentices, this points to another Formula 2 driver: the Russian Nikita Mazepin, 21, who could get a chauffeur job thanks to the money from his father Dmitry.
The Williams team, which has just been sold to investors, also seems to have its eye on the return to the good old pay driver. With the Canadian Nicholas Latifi there is already a pilot with good morning gifts at the start. But he could also be joined by the Mexican Sergio Perez, who was shot for Vettel at the future Aston Martin racing team. Obviously he has plenty of sponsorship money on hand and could oust the British George Russell, who was sponsored by Mercedes and who already believed his cockpit was safe. “I cannot judge how the financial situation is,” says his mentor, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff. That sounds disaffected. Such moves could quickly upset everything on the seemingly orderly transfer market.
Mick Schumacher with the English Haas team? There would be less hype
At Alfa Romeo everything seemed to be clear: Team boss Frederic Vasseur would like the endurance record holder Kimi Räikkönen, just turned 41, to hang on for another year. Second place, currently occupied by the more average Italian Antonio Giovinazzi, 26, could go to a Ferrari junior. So far, Mick Schumacher has been the favorite – father Michael once received the finishing touches for a career in Switzerland. Mick Schumacher would also like to be seen by the Haas team based in England, where he could perhaps develop with a little more calm. In any case, the German press agency has just put the Formula 2 title favorite on the “pole position for the cockpit search”.
Theoretically, other jobs are also free: The Red Bull racing team is dissatisfied with how much the Thai Alex Albon, 24, falls away from the super talent Max Verstappen. And in the sister team Alpha Tauri, the job of the Russian Daniil Kwjat, 26, is shaking again. Yuki Tsunoda, a 20-year-old Japanese, who can still dispute Mick Schumacher’s title in Formula 2, could get that. It comes from the in-house Red Bull youth development team.
Should Alex Albon actually have to give way, the noble reservist of the industry would suddenly be a serious candidate: Nico Hülkenberg, 33, who has already jumped in three times this season at the Racing-Point racing team. The man from Emmerich is considered a good vehicle developer and strong racer. Depending on the outcome of the Ferrari plans or the financial intrigues, it is also interesting for Haas or Alfa Romeo in terms of performance. Or in the event that Raikkonen suddenly no longer feels like it. In his birthday interview, the Finn once again emphasized: “Formula 1 has never been the most important thing in my life …”
Talent or money, the age-old question of conscience in Formula 1, takes on a whole new meaning in the Corona emergency season. It thus trumps the actual conflict between the team bosses, which is: ambition or experience. Of course, they would prefer to have everything at once.