2010 was a bit of miserable year for Felipe Massa, who started the year with many people questioning whether he would ever be the same driver again after that horrific accident at the Hungarian grand Prix in 2009. Massa insisted that he would not be affected by his on-track performances did not support this statement, as his new team- mate Fernando Alonso blew him away. In all honesty, Massa had been made to look worse than what he actually was in the first half of the season thanks to some dreadful bad luck. Massa’s form had been gradually improving to a point where he was leading the German grand prix. Unfortunately for Massa, the team decided that Alonso stood a better chance of the championship and order him to move aside. This appears to destroy his relationship with the team, and his performances gradually dropped off. This naturally led to many people suggesting that his time at Ferrari was nearing its conclusion, with rumours even suggesting he would be kicked out prior to the start of the 2011 season. This doesn’t look likely, but it could well be his last season in the Scarlett team. A number of drivers have been mentioned as possible candidates for the seat, and their chances are rated here:
Robert Kubica Robert Kubica is rated as one of the best in the business by many of the sports experts, including Lewis Hamilton. He made his debut in 2006 as replacement for Jacques Villeneuve at BMW Sauber, and immediately proved himself to be far quicker than the 1997 world champion. This resulted in his first podium finish at the Italian grand prix. This proved to be very emotional for the Polish star, who spent much of his childhood living in Italy. Against the odds, Robert Kubica battled against Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa in 2008. Kubica was livid when the team diverted attention from his 2008 title charge half way through the season to divert attention to their 2009 car, which turned out to be a disaster. This severely affected Kubica’s relationship the team and he left for Renault for 2010, where he proved to be a revelation to the team, leading them strongly to three podium finishes and only failing to get into the top ten qualifying shoot out once in 19 races. This brought him to the attention of Ferrari who is believed to have discussed the possibility of him joining them for 2011, before he eventually decided to stay at Renault for another season. Kubica is good friends with Fernando Alonso, but it is unlikely that Alonso will be happy about having the revered Kubica as a team-mate given what happened the last time he competed in the same team as a potential champion.
Sebastian Vettel Sebastian Vettel became the youngest ever Formula One world champion in 2010 at Red Bull. Like Kubica, Vettel made his first big impact on the sport at the Italian grand prix with a stunning victory in the wet for Toro Rosso in 2008. This earned him promotion a promotion to the parent Red Bull team in 2009 where he challenged Jenson Button strongly for the championship with four wins. Vettel’s 2010 season was littered with mistakes but he improved dramatically towards the end of the season to take the title from Fernando Alonso in the final race. However, throughout this campaign Vettel’s speed was never in doubt as he took a
remarkable 10 pole positions. This brought him to the attention of Ferrari President Luca Di Montezemolo, who is alleged to have said “Sebastian is fast, intelligent and young…he will drive a red car sooner or later.” However, Mercedes is also believed to have desires on the young German driver with plans allegedly in place to have Vettel replace Schumacher in the Mercedes team when his contract expires at the end of 2012. It should also be noted that the fast, young German would be another unpopular choice with Alonso.
Jules Bianchi The Frenchman was recently signed up to the Ferrari driver academy, a scheme devised to find the next big star for the Scuderia. Bianchi had impressed the team with his performances in F3 Euroseries by winning the title in 2009, and followed this up by becoming GP2 rookie of the year in 2010 courtesy of 3rd place in the championship. He will continue to race in GP2 next year where he will be attempting to take the title with the Lotus ART team. He will supplement this with his new position as the Ferrari F1 test driver, taking over from the experienced race winner Giancarlo Fisichella showing how much the team rate him. However, it is unlikely that they would want to put a rookie in their team in 2012 but he might be a popular choice with Alonso given his lack of experience.
Nico Hulkenberg Young German Nico Hulkenberg made his F1 debut for Williams this year on the back of a successful GP2 campaign in 2009. His first race was a disaster, as was much of the first half of his season. However, this is to be expected of a rookie in a era with very little testing available. The second half of the year was a complete contrast with great drivers in Hungary and Monza, as well as a stunning pole position in the wet at the Brazilian grand prix where he finished over a second ahead of nearest challenger Vettel. This proved that the ability is definitely there and the fact that he was dropped by Williams for 2011 is more a reflection of the British team’s lack of funds rather than Hulkenberg’s inability behind the wheel. Ferrari did attempt to sign Hulkenberg up to step in for the injured Massa halfway through 2009, but the German wisely choose to see out the year in GP2. Certainly has a lot of potential for the future.
Nigel Mansell The 1992 world champion has become a prominent figure of late with his appearances in the Moneysupermarket car insurance commercials and acting as an F1 steward at a number of race meetings. Mansell also admitted that he still felt he would be capable of be a strong challenger behind the wheel of a race car and set about proving this by entering the world famous Le Mans 24 hours race. However, Nigel is now 56 and proved he might not be the best choice with an accident in the early stages of the race. This caused a concussion which allegedly affected Nigel for a number of weeks, something which perhaps wouldn’t of been so
bad with a younger man.