Pit Stop – Drivers transfer season – By Lewis Brearley

This week’s Formula One news was dominated by rumours and confirmations of drivers moving to and fro.

After weeks of inaction, the 2014 driver market is finally beginning to take some kind of shape.
Early in the week Williams announced what had been rumoured ever since Rob Smedley – Massa’s respected and trusted engineer – joined the team a couple of months ago when Ferrari confirmed Massa’s sacking. Massa therefore joins the highly rated rookie, Valtteri Bottas at the struggling Grove team.

Despite the many columns of criticism aimed at Massa over the past couple of years, he is a strong signing for a midfield team. He is one of the most experienced drivers on the grid, having made his debut back in 2002, is still very fast as his 9-8 qualifying record against Fernando Alonso proves, and attracts lots of exposure in the huge, F1 loving market of Brazil.

With Massa and hopefully some backing from Brazilian companies on board, combined with the addition of Pat Symonds as technical director, Williams may just be able to save themselves from their current dire predicament, having scored just one point all season.

The second driver move that took place this week was a little bit more unexpected. Sergio Perez confirmed that he had been sacked by McLaren after just one season at the team. Just a couple of days later McLaren confirmed that their promising young driver, Formula Renault 3.5 champion Kevin Magnussen, would take over as Jenson Button’s team mate.

After the Abu Dhabi grand prix, engineers within the team as well as people involved in the young driver programme, began to push for Magnussen to replace Perez. The team, in particular engineers working with Perez, are said to have low opinions of the Mexican’s work ethic and potential speed.

This leaves Perez as a late big name addition to the expansive pool of drivers looking for 2014 seats. At the age of just 23, Perez is still inexperienced and has admitted himself that his future prospects have just been hit very hard indeed.

The last driver to be a disappointment at McLaren was Heikki Kovalainen. He went on to race three more seasons at the Caterham team with a best place finish in all that time of 15th position. Perez and the backers of the Mexican grand prix will be hoping Perez has more F1 left in him than that.

The mooted race in Mexico City has faced rumours this week that it will delay its return to 2015 due to the construction required to bring the track up to acceptable standards. Whether it will happen at all if Mexico has no promising driver to get behind is unclear indeed.

The final story this week relates to the long running saga that is Kimi Raikkonen’s replacement at Lotus. With Kimi deciding to have back surgery now rather than compete in the final two grand prix the team had to move fast. Nico Hulkenberg, the team’s favourite potential driver, surprisingly turned down the opportunity to leave Sauber early leaving the team to replace a Finn with another Finn.

So Heikki Kovalainen returns to Formula One this weekend. Maybe his exploits will put him in the 2014 picture?

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