Words by Tony Robertson (@TonyRob84).
Welcome back to Overtime Online’s very own F1 column Life In The Fast Lane.
It’s been a couple weeks since an actual column upload, but we’re back this week with a fair bit to go through.
Grand Prix galore:
Without getting too bogged down by stuff you will already probably already know from previous weeks, Lewis Hamilton both equalled and surpassed Michael Schumacher’s all time race wins record while also adding to the tally with another win at yesterday’s Imola Grand Prix, helping Mercedes to secure a seventh constructors title in a row.
While this was seen as a foregone conclusion even at the start of the season by many, including yours truly, the pace at which they have done it is quite astounding.
Sure having the best car and driver helps, but reliability issues have plagued the teams lower down the order with only Max Verstappen being anywhere near the two Mercedes drivers.
Other rivals such as Charles Leclerc, in a Ferrari that Niki Lauda would probably refer to as a ‘S***box’, has also looked respectable in recent weeks, dragging himself into the top five of the drivers standings while his teammate Sebastian Vettel, who will be going to Aston Martin next season, has has his worst year in F1 to date.
Musical chairs F1 style:
In addition, the other Red Bull driver Alex Albon has been woefully inconsistent this year. Securing his first ever podium at Mugello but also failing to score points in a number of races this year, whether being down to poor qualifying, losing control of his car, or just poor racedays which tend to happen when you start as poorly as Albon has a lot of the time this year, it is simply impossible to compete with the top teams.
As a result, Albon is very likely to lose his seat, with Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg, Mick Schumacher, Nikita Mazepin and Yuki Tsuonda all vying for a precious few seats for next year.
Meanwhile down as Haas, Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen have both confirmed that they will not be racing with the Haas team next year and hence the heavy rumours that rookies Schumacher and Mazepin will be taking over the reins there. However, Haas are a team with a shaky car at the moment so two rookies would be a very risky manoeuvre.
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 22, 2020
More experience drivers are available, with Perez, Hulkenberg and even Daniil Kvyat, who has not been confirmed as a driver for AlphaTauri for next season, all looking for seats.
Perez of course has the added bonus of bringing significant sponsorship with him, although after rumours that linked him to Williams were squashed by Team Principal Simon Roberts, the Mexican may fancy the vacant Red Bull seat.
Hulkenberg brings a ton of experience and has shown his capability when being called in as a super-sub for Perez at Racing Point this season, despite having very little practice with which to get accustomed to the car.Embed from Getty Images
Kvyat is another experienced driver but is probably the least capable of the three, although he does boast something which Hulkenberg does not – a podium finish.
Logic would dictate that the best way forward for Haas is to take a mix and in an ideal world the two drivers would probably be Perez and Schumacher, who leads the F2 driver standings. However, should Red Bull decide to take Perez on board to support Verstappen, Hulkenberg would be a very good option to take on board.
Despite this, the heaviest rumours are linking Schumacher and Mazepin with the seats, despite the Russian only being sixth in F2. Mazepin, in a similar fashion to Nicholas Latifi at Williams brings a lot of money with him, and while F1 is a strong meritocracy, money also holds strong sway especially for teams like Haas who don’t have the financial muscle.
Luckily with the new financial regulations this gap should be bridged over the next few years to hopefully lead to a more competitive field of play so the need for this should be reduced.