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The Silly Season

As usual, this time of year is filled with more rumors of driver changes than you can shake a stick at. Michael Schumacher seems fairly definite for Ferrari next year but the other two hot properties of the moment, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, are still suggested as wild cards. Renault is reported as trying everything to persuade Alonso from his McLaren contract for 2007 and Raikkonen could be with Ferrari or Renault or even stay with McLaren.

Such is the fuss surrounding these three that it’s easy to forget that there are other good drivers available in F1. Jacques Villeneuve made a very good point when he spoke out against the present fashion for throwing new wonder boys into a top F1 seat without them serving an “apprenticeship” in a minor team first. Even the great Ayrton Senna did his time with Toleman.

It will be surprising if Renault and McLaren take the risk of putting Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton into their second cars, in spite of all the rumors. Far more likely is that one of the smaller teams will take them on.

Which suddenly increases the stock of the older drivers. Jacques himself must be a good buy, considering his experience and continued motivation. And David Coulthard becomes the bargain of the year, being experienced, reliable and quick enough to win grand prix. Had Montoya continued, he too would be an excellent choice for any team.

Coulthard

David Coulthard

There are other drivers too that are capable of doing a good job. Webber, Barrichello and Button still have tremendous potential if given a decent chance. And Scott Speed would be an obvious pick if you fancied a minor gamble that could pay off handsomely. He is showing good pace and has the added benefit of bringing American interest with him.

What we tend to forget very quickly is that a solid and honest second driver is always an asset to an F1 team. And it is not always a good idea to have two stars driving your cars; remember how Senna and Prost used to collide occasionally and steal points from each other. Second drivers care about the team, stars care only about winning.

So I don’t see a Schumacher/Raikkonen combination at Ferrari as the dream ticket. It would be interesting, of course, and settle a few arguments about who really is the best, but the team would suffer from the inevitable prima dona squabbles. Far better for the sport would be for the three hot shoes to be in separate teams.

I suspect that, when the dust of the silly season settles, there will be few new faces in F1 and even fewer surprises. Raikkonen will be at Renault, Alonso at McLaren and Schumacher at Ferrari as always. In the second seats will be reliable and proven drivers and any newcomers will be with Toro Rosso, Red Bull, MF1 and Super Aguri. Honda and BMW Sauber might experiment with one car but will keep a wise old head in the other.

It’s the way things usually pan out and it makes perfect sense to me.

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