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NASCAR Formula 1

Pastor Maldonado Set to Open Driver Market Floodgate

Image courtesy of Williams F1 team

Pastor Maldonado is about to set the driver market into a frenzy if rumors that the Venezuelan’s deal with Lotus in 2014 is secure prove true.

While these talks are far in advance, they are not confirmed and there remains a possibility that, should Maldonado not feel secure in Lotus’ financial future, he could join Sauber in 2014. Maldonado is known to also be in advanced talks with that team about a potential partnership.

This means that the two other big name drivers without a ride next year, Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg, look set to join Force India next year. This would be at the expense of Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta. The former is also known to be in talks with Sauber, and his place at the Swiss team looks more likely than Maldonado’s while di Resta looks like a good bet to take his cousin Dario Franchitti‘s seat at Chip Ganassi in Indycar.

Sutil joining Sauber in 2014 would also be a boost for Esteban Gutierrez. The Mexican had a tough rookie season in 2013 but shone well in the latter half of the season with Q3 appearances and a commendable seventh place in Japan. Should Gutierrez stay on for another year it looks likely that Russian teenager, Sergey Sirotkin, whose father’s company is investing heavily in the Sauber team, will be a reserve driver for the team in 2014 — a much better option, it seems, than putting him in a race seat before he is ready.

Should these seats be filled in this manner, the only seats left on the grid are at Marussia and Caterham. Max Chilton looks set to remain at the former for a second season alongside Jules Bianchi, so the real fight will be over the two seats at Caterham. Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde have both done well this season, especially after the car proved extremely uncompetitive, even with Marussia, at the beginning of the season. Nevertheless, their seats are under threat from the likes of Heikki Kovalainen, GP2 front-runner Marcus Ericcsson, American Alexander Rossi and former Sauber reserve driver and 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 champion Robin Frijns. 

At least one of the seats looks likely to be filled by someone with hefty sponsorship, making Ericcsson the most likely candidate considering his backing from Sweden. The other seat is likely to be based purely on merit, in which case Caterham will have a tough choice to make. Obviously there are certain people (this writer being one of them) who would truly love to see Rossi take the seat at Caterham after an impressive rookie season in GP2.

Even though the season is over, the silly season is going strong. Stay tuned for developments over the next few days.