Ferrari's 2016 drivers


There are two conflicting theories relating to Ferrari’s 2016 driver line-up from those close to the driver market. Perhaps significantly, neither includes Kimi Räikkönen.

There is an element that insists the deal that will see Valtteri Bottas transfer from Williams to the Scuderia is all but done and that all they are discussing now is the size of the fee required to buy Williams’ remaining single-year option on its driver. An offer has been rejected, but this is just the opening parry between one party to which money is no object and another that needs to boost its income.

The other element believes that the hard line Williams is taking with Bottas has led the Scuderia to pursue Daniel Ricciardo instead. The Australian is contracted – said to be on water tight terms – to Red Bull until the end of 2018. So his contract will presumably be even more expensive to buy out.

But with Dietrich Mateschitz openly talking about the possibility of pulling out of F1, coming to an arrangement to place its leading driver elsewhere might be preferable to having to pay him compensation. Even if Red Bull should stay in F1, the openly-discussed possibility of Ferrari supplying the team with engines in the future could further grease the wheels of any negotiation about Ricciardo.

From the archive: Daniel Ricciardo arrives at Red Bull (2014)

The first element insists the Ricciardo negotiations are merely a negotiating ploy to soften Williams’ stance re Bottas.

In the meantime, Sebastian Vettel has come out in public support of Räikkönen, saying his preference would be that he is retained, while offering up some considered insights about getting Kimi’s struggles into their correct perspective. “I had four phenomenal years and one year where a lot of things happened,” he says. “This is why these things are not so important if you know who you are. I think Kimi knows who he is.”

The most puzzling thing about these negotiations however is why Ferrari is considering spending millions on already contracted drivers when there are at least two directly comparable who are contractually free at the end of this year: Romain Grosjean and Nico Hülkenberg. We understand that the former is not even on the Scuderia’s shortlist. Hülkenberg is at least being considered – but only as a fall back. Either one of those two as Vettel’s team-mate would be a truly fascinating prospect.

But the fact that Ferrari is discussing paying to get other drivers out of their current contracts suggests that it has already made its mind up about whether or not to take up its one year option on Räikkönen.

From the archive: What will Kimi’s return mean to Ferrari? (2013)

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