De La Rosa rumours intensify

The web if full of gossip this week that the former BMW team, now back in the safe hands of Peter Sauber, is set to announce that current third driver at Mclaren, Pedro De La Rosa is to be their driver for the 2010 season alongside Kamui Kobyashi.

This seems an odd choice for me, Pedro has been out of F1 for 3 full years, in fact his last race was back in 2006 when he deputised for the sacked Juan Pablo Montoya at Mclaren

Despite competing in some 72 races the Spaniard’s best result is 2nd place behind Jenson Button in the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix and has competed in just 9 races in 7 seasons.

He is by no means a ‘spring chicken’ and there are no indications in his previous form that he has the speed to lead the team towards top-level results, so why are the team interested in Pedro?

Firstly Pedro’s experience at Mclaren where he has spent the last 7 years as its official test driver, from which he would have gathered plenty of experience on how a top-level team operate – vital for Sauber.  He is also a mature head in that he has a strong presence on the GPDA and could be seen as a safe pair of hands on the track and not put added pressure on the team by crashing.

It is this experience and safe profile that I believe Sauber are attracted to in order to balance out the raw and potentially erratic nature displayed by the exciting prospect that is Kamui Kobyashi.

Hold on a minute though, Nick Heidfeld the driver previously employed by BMW and before then by Peter Sauber himself, is in limbo at the moment looking for a drive. He already fits all those criteria I previously mentioned but is able to boast continued experience of racing which De La Rosa cannot hold a torch to.

So what does this mean? Is Peter Sauber finally drawing the curtain on the nearly man Heidfeld? Are the team that has recently been saved tight on budget and unable to afford Heidfeld – This seems unlikely has one expects that Nick wouldn’t have been on superstar money, which leaves the only other possible option in that Nick is about to join Renault to complete his partnership with Robert Kubica.

With the car launches eminent and the first test under 3 weeks away it would be a worry for Sauber to have to rely upon Kobayashi who has zero experience in developing a car.

It will be interesting to see how this develops over the next week or so.

Renault name new boss but no news on second driver

Renault F1 have announced the full time replacement for Flavio Briatore as team principle.  Eric Boullier will assume responsibility of getting the team which has been dogged with scandal and dreadful results for the past 3 years, back to the front of the grid.

Boullier comes from his ties with Gravity Management who now owns a large stake in the F1 team having purchased it off of the French Manufacturer in December 2009.  Bob Bell will continue on the technical side.

Speculation will now turn to the drivers of the team for the new season.  Robert Kubica who signed for the team late last year has officially declared his intention to drive for the team despite the Manufacturer taking a less directive roll.  This will be good news for the team as it really needed to hold on to its star driver having lost Alonso to Ferrari.  The second driver is yet to be announced.

With Schumacher now taking the final seat a Mercedes for 2010 the Renault seat looks to be the best seat remaining on the market and drivers will be keen to try and get themselves in at Renault.  There are quite a few good drivers on the market, most noticeably old boys such as Nick Heidfeld and Giancarlo Fisichella.  But it remains to be seen if the team have the confidence to stick with youth by going with Roman Grosjean or another GP2 driver.  Results will be important for the team especially in building credibility and attracting sponsorship after losing its major partners on the back of the Crash-Gate scandal.

I think they should go with Fisichella, he knows the team and is clearly still fast despite what the F60 did to him in the final races of last year.  Heidfeld to me is just a journeyman and without winning a race, one wonders if he ever will stand on the top step of the podium.

With the first testing a month away the team has a couple of weeks to make this decision.

Flavio Briatore’s life time F1 ban overturned

Disgraced former Renault F1 boss Flavio Briatore has had the FIA life time ban overturned today by French courts.  Briatore was given the life time ban by the FIA at the back end of 2009 after the widely publicised F1 Crash-Gate controvisy.  Flavio argued that the ban the FIA has imposed upon him was far to harsh and was influenced by the then FIA president Max Mosley, who seemingly was acting out his own personal vendetta towards Briatore.

This is bad news for F1 and the FIA. Firstly the negativity that surrounded the Crash-Gate story will be brought back to the headlines, promoting the sport in a dismal light again, and secondly new FIA president Jean Todd has his first significant issue to tackle.  The F1 community and worlds press will be interested to see if the new broom in Jean Todt can act decisively against Briatore or if the same old murky waters still flow through the FIA towers.

Ultimately though the question begs if anyone in F1 would want to be associated with Briatore having been made scapegoat for the deliberate accident caused at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix involving Nelson Piquet Jr and Pat Symonds.  Piquet Jr is finding it incredibly tough re-establishing his name and credibility and one wonders if Flavio despite the ruling today will find his attempts to get back in to F1 futile.