JUNE 15, 2006
The driver market as of now
The re-signing of Giancarlo Fisichella means that, in theory at least, one fewer of the top seats in F1 will be available next year. One cannot assume that the second Renault seat is in the hands of Heikki Kovalainen unless one can see his contract because it is entirely possible that the Renault deal guarantees him a ride in F1, but not necessarily with the Renault team.
Having said that it is unlikely that Kovalainen's manager Flavio Briatore would have signed such a contract which would allow the Renault team - run by Briatore - to screw him. Thus one must assume that Kovalainen is at Renault alongside Fisichella and that Renault is simply going for the cheap option as Fisichella and Kovalainen is a great deal less expensive than Fisichella and Alonso - and wildly cheaper than either Kimi Raikkonen or Michael Schumacher.
If the decision has been made to go into 2007 with Fisichella and Kovalainen, one must ask whether Briatore is going to be confident enough to sign a new contract of his own with the team. Briatore does not want to be head of a losing team in 2007 because he knows that in that situation he would, quite likely, be the scapegoat. Renault has been very clear that it wants results but aslo has made it clear that it is not willing to pay for them.
The complex relationship between Briatore and Renault makes analysing decisions very difficult because it is never really clear whether Briatore is working for the team or for himself. In most situations he can do both but when it comes to driver dealings things are a great deal more complicated.
If one assumes that Renault has decided on Fisichella and Kovalainen, this means that the team will not have a seat available for either Kimi Raikkonen or Michael Schumacher. The two men will thus either be team mates at Ferrari (which seems unlikely) or Raikkonen will stay where he is as team mate to Fernando Alonso. The only other possibility is that Michael will retire and Raikkonen will move to Ferrari. The first option means that McLaren will not have space for Lewis Hamilton in 2007 although one can assume that he will be a test driver. The second option seems rather unlikely as Schumacher continues to seem keen to win races.
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