June 27th, 2013 (F1plus/E. Black).- It is no secret that Bernie Ecclestone has been indicted in the Gribkowski bribery scandal and faces possible jail time. This itself could be hugely detrimental to the sport in many ways, especially if the 82-year-old Brit is convicted and sentenced to be behind bars.
It has been rumored that Jean Todt may be looking to Giorgio Ascanelli to replace F1 race director Charlie Whiting. As we understand it, Whiting currently has not signed a new contract with the FIA extending his current agreement. All of this came about during the ‘Testgate’ affair and some media outlets were speculating that Whiting could be the scapegoat for allowing the test. With all this being said however, the possibility is always there.
We spoke with Alan Van Der Merwe in Canada and he too hasn't yet had his contract renewed yet. We've already seen Dr. Gary Hartstein replaced, which saddened us greatly. If you chat with Dr. H for just a few moments, you realize how nice of a guy he is. He was handpicked by Prof. Sid Watkins and perhaps some of us cling to his memory through the good doctor.
Let's move away the administration side and slide into the driver's seat for a moment. With today's announcement that Mark Webber will be retiring from Formula One, there is obviously a vacancy at Red Bull that needs to be filled.
Rumors have been tossed about for weeks if not months that Kimi is set to fill Mark's seat. We have one source that swears the deal is done however it is not clear whether Kimi will be at Red Bull in 2014 to replace Webber or if it’s for 2016 to replace Vettel.
Here is where things get interesting. Alonso has a contract ending the end of 2016 with Ferrari. Felipe Massa is currently safe for 2014 but his future in Maranello is still foggy. If the Brazilian is let go at the end of next season, he may find work somewhere else on the grid if he can bring sponsorship money with him.
Vettel is said to be Alonso's successor but could theoretically move to the team at the end of 2015, which would open the door for Kimi in Red Bull in 2016 as a clear number one driver.
None of us can really see Kimi as a number two driver and Red Bull clearly favors Vettel although the team's public line is that both drivers are free to race each other. That still leaves Ferrari with an empty seat for 2015 if Massa is not re-signed, but the above scenario would play out perfectly if he is re-signed for a one-year extension after the 2014 season.
So what of Webber's seat in 2014 if Kimi is not occupying it? Speculation in the media and paddock, for that matter, is that Daniel Ricciardo could be promoted, although Jean Eric Vergne has done a good job lately of raising some eyebrows. Either of the two would be a great fit as Vettel's supporting cast. Who then might move into the vacant seat at Scuderia Toro Rosso?
If Kimi were to move from Lotus, who would then replace him? I personally would love to see Davide Valsecchi in at Lotus. The GP2 champion is testing with Lotus this weekend at Silverstone. Romain Grosjean is said to be on a three-race contract with the Enstone team so it is always a possibility that the young Italian driver might well replace Grosjean if Kimi stays.
A little birdie also told us of driver changes possible at Williams and Sauber. There is a slight possibility that Pastor Maldonado may be switching to the Swiss outfit next season, in a driver swap deal with Williams (perhaps) although it is uncertain who would be swinging the other way.
Let us not discount the rumor about Heikki Kovalainen coming back with Caterham, which would then push one more driver out into the open market. Neither Charles Pic nor Giedo Van Der Garde have scored any points this season. Pic has the best finish (14th) out of the two drivers and one less retirement thus far.
It's amazing what happens in F1 when one seat becomes available. Even if nothing changes at the top, meaning Bernie and Charlie, the landscape on the grid is certainly going to look different in the next couple of years.