Friday, 28 September 2012

Silly Season

Those of you who follow F1 regularly are probably aware of the time of the year termed 'Silly Season'. For those of you not aware, this is the part of the F1 calendar when drivers start switching teams, and it's probably one of the harder times to keep up with the F1 news. We're well within this timespan now, and speculation has been rife as to who is moving to which team.

The only team immune from speculation this year has been Red Bull. Aside from a few stories about Vettel signing a pre-contract for Ferrari for 2014, Red Bull have avoided the limelight as both of their drivers are staying for next season. However, the other teams in the paddock have been under the spotlight much more.

Ferrari and McLaren have been the biggest names up for debate. It's thought that Felipe Massa will not be staying with Ferrari, owing to his loss of form over the past few years. I can't help but think that this is somewhat harsh, as recently Massa has been performing very well, and seems to slowly be regaining the form that he lost after his accident in Hungary a few years ago. A recent interview with Fernando Alonso however suggested that Massa would be staying, and that Alonso was happy with Massa in the team. If Massa were to leave Ferrari, then his replacement would likely have to be happy with playing second fiddle to Alonso.

McLaren have perhaps seen the most hype about their 2013 driver line up. A while ago rumours were abound that Hamilton would be leaving the team to join Mercedes. A lot of people (me included) were sceptical about this however, as the performance of the Mercedes has always seemed to be far worse than that of McLaren, and so a move to this team would be a step down for Hamilton. Indeed, it seemed that the only attraction for this move would be the salary, with Mercedes reportedly offering Hamilton a much bigger salary than McLaren. Now, this decision would speak volumes about Hamilton's involvement in racing - if he went to Mercedes then it seemed that money, rather than racing, would be the motivation.

The shock indeed came this morning when it was confirmed that Hamilton would move to Mercedes, leaving the McLaren team that had so far had exclusive access to the driver. I have to admit that this was a shock to me, and it suggests that either Hamilton himself or his management prefer the size of a bank balance to chances to race. Of course, not many people know about the inner workings of the team, and so there's every likelihood that Mercedes have an ace up their sleeve and will have a competitive car for 2013. However, in terms of winning world championships (which we have to assume that all 24 of those drivers are after), moving from McLaren to Mercedes seems a bit of a mad move. Time will tell on this front.

Of course, all teams need a second driver, and it was interesting to see who would move to McLaren as Hamilton's replacement. A few big names were apparently up for grabs, including Massa and Schumacher, however McLaren surprised everyone by taking on Sergio Perez. Perez has shown great form in 2012, and so you have to think that a move to such a big team would be a great opportunity for him. For a while it was thought that Ferrari would be taking Perez as a replacement for Massa, but now you have to think that they've missed out on an opportunity in this young driver.

So, with the big move completed, we can now wait and see how the biggest (and most expensive) game of musical chairs will end. There are still questions over Massa's seat at Ferrari, and what will happen to Schumacher. There are several GP2 drivers who have also shown great promise, and it would be great to see new faces in the F1 paddock. As with everything in F1 though, there will still be rumours and speculation right up until the last place is filled, and all we can do is wait and see how Silly Season pans out.