Nov.11 (GMM/Inautonews.com) Two candidates have emerged as possible replacements for the surgery-bound Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus for the remaining two grands prix of the year.
If the ‘Quantum’ investment arrives at the Enstone based team, German driver Nico Hulkenberg is Lotus’ preferred choice to succeed Raikkonen permanently for 2014.
But given Raikkonen’s premature exit, does he have a chance to switch from Sauber a couple of races early?
“Not likely,” Hulkenberg’s manager Werner Heinz told Bild newspaper. “No one has talked with us about that.”
In reality, the hot favourite is Lotus’ reserve driver Davide Valsecchi, who since winning last year’s GP2 title has been waiting patiently for his chance.
However, the Italian was surprised when a correspondent for the Italian magazine Autosprint phoned him on Sunday.
“I don’t know anything,” said Valsecchi. “I haven’t heard anything from the team and I was not at the factory last week.
“Not even the people I talk to regularly at Enstone said anything,” he added.
Valsecchi said he will travel to Austin, as per his existing arrangements, on Tuesday.
“If something happens, I’m ready,” he insisted.
Meanwhile, as Ferrari held a farewell party for the departing Felipe Massa at Mugello at the weekend, the Brazilian warned Raikkonen to be fighting fit for his duel with Fernando Alonso next year.
“Kimi and Ferrari know each other very well already,” Massa is quoted by La Repubblica.
“But he is not very familiar with Fernando, so I think he should go in the gym and get ready,” he smiled.
“Fernando is a very strong driver, very strong. It will not be easy for him (Raikkonen),” added Massa.
The Auto Bild (Germany) and Italiaracing publications are reporting that Massa’s deal to move to Williams next year, to replace Pastor Maldonado, is now effectively done.
It is believed the deal will include the sponsorship of the Brazilian oil company Petrobras.
But Massa insisted: “I will go on as a driver, not to plug the holes in someone’s balance sheet.”