When you think of the long term, why would a team like Ferrari want to keep their driver line-up as it is when they haven’t won a championship since 2007? It’s all well saying they’ve finished second and third and what not, but for a team like Ferrari that’s almost not good enough. At the moment, they are racing for the sake of it, not to win championships, and in a way they are becoming the F1 equivalent to Arsenal FC. All talk but no trophies.
So lets say for now, Ferrari do retain Felipe, which is a likely result because Stefano Domenicali insists that he is the favourite choice. Where would that leave the likes of Hulkenberg, Bianchi, Di Resta and Raikkonen?
Bianchi would probably stay with Marussia for perhaps another year, Raikkonen would stay at Lotus (providing Ricciardo does go to Red Bull) but what about Hulkenberg and Di Resta? Both have been linked with Ferrari and Lotus but if those seats aren’t up for grabs where will they go? Di Resta could stay with Force India but Hulkenberg isn’t likely to stay at Sauber, so could that see his F1 dream over?
Now lets say, Felipe and Ferrari part ways.
As previously mentioned, Di Resta, Hulkenberg, Raikkonen and Bianchi all have something extra give. But do Ferrari want a strong team-mate duo like the Mercedes team, or do they want someone to act as a support driver? If so, I would have thought that would rule Raikkonen out. The possibility of having Raikkonen and Alonso as team-mates could lead to great things, but it’d only work if the status was even, much like Rosberg and Hamilton at Mercedes. However, if Lotus start to improve, or at least show signs of improvement, Raikkonen will have no reasons to leave apart from a substantial pay cheque.
Nico Hulkenberg is probably the best option, in my opinion, to take over that seat. He has a talent that’s going to waste, and his choice of cars hasn’t been rewarding. Arguably, he would have been better off at Force India this season, but I have a feeling the move to Sauber was his route to Ferrari. Last year, both Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi were linked with the team who both ultimately went on to do different things, but realistically, Hulkenberg is the perfect man to sit alongside Alonso. My only worry though, is like Raikkonen, he would be best driving with split status, because after all what if Hulkenberg starts to out perform Alonso?
If what they really want is a support driver, cue Paul Di Resta. He is a consistent performer and is certainly deserving of a more competitive seat. In fact, after talking with several Ferrari fans (perhaps Alonso fans), they would prefer to have Di Resta as apposed to any of the other drivers previously mentioned because of his consistent abilities. Alonso and Di Resta would then be a very strong team, and could challenge the likes of Red Bull and Mercedes for the constructors title.
Bianchi is just in his rookie season, you have to remember that. A push to get him in a middle field team would be very beneficial to whoever signs the Frenchman, but I think his move to Ferrari will come as soon as Fernando hangs up his gloves. Staying at Marussia for another year would give Jules more experience, and then his move to Sauber or elsewhere could be within reach.
Ferrari haven’t got the best development scheme either. Davide Rigon tested for the team at the young drivers test at Silverstone, and has previously raced in many a series since 2003, but he’s failed to get the attention he needs to be promoted to that all important seat. If he were to get the call however, he would be the first Italian race driver since 2009 when Giancarlo Fisichella drove for both Force India and the Scuderia.
What Ferrari do have though, is a young rising star in the shape of Raffaele Marciello, who is currently dominating the European Formula 3 championships. It’s early days for the Italian, but could he be the next Fernando Alonso?