By far the highest profile ride still available for the 2013 Formula One season is that of Kimi Raikkonen’s teammate at the Lotus Renault team. It seems to be down to three candidates (that we know of), last years driver Romain Grosjean, GP2 Champion Davide Valsecchi, and former HRT, Renault & Williams driver Bruno Senna.
So who do you pick?
2012 showed the good points and the bad points of Romain Grosjean. On his good day he is mightly quick. On his bad days he can be a liability. Everyone remembers his bad days, notably his first lap incidents like the one in Spa which caused him to serve a one-race ban. Towards the end of the year he had calmed down his first laps, hopefully realising that you cannot win a race on the first lap but you can lose it.
The Frenchman also showed flashes of brilliance during 2012. His efforts in Bahrain, Canada, Valencia & Hungary showed he knows how to drive a F1 car. He was unlucky in Valencia when his alternator failed, but showed he could overtake the best drivers in the world safely. His three podium finishes were well earned. But has his crashes caused his F1 career to come to an abrupt end, or will Lotus give him another year, another chance?
A driver that will hope they don’t give him another shot is Bruno Senna. He has lost his drive at Williams to Finnish former GP3 champion Valtteri Bottas, so is on the look out for another seat. However there are question marks over Bruno.
The Brazilian score points in more races than 2012 teammate Pastor Maldonado, but how many stand out races can you name that Bruno had? Whereas Pastor won from pole position in Spain and did well in other races, Senna at no point was challenging for a win or even podiums. He didn’t qualify well either, indicating a lack of raw pace compared to Maldonado. I feel stepping up to the Lotus drive might be too much for him, and if he does, I feel Kimi will destroy him and his career.
The third candidate is reigning GP2 Champion, Davide Valsecchi. The Italian did very well to win the championship, winning a few races including dominating the Bahrain races, (3 out of 4). He also did the young drivers test in Abu Dhabi with the team, so they know how he drives.
However, he is inexperienced in a race environment in F1, and coming straight in to a top team could be too much too soon. Is he a better option than Senna or indeed Grosjean? I don’t think so.
So do Lotus go for Grosjean, potentially a race winner, but with a bit of a wild streak in him; do they go for Senna, someone who hasn’t proved they’ve got raw pace to get near the front; or do they go for Valsecchi, an unproven rookie in F1. Thats the dilemma facing Lotus.
In my opinion, they’d be better sticking with Grosjean.