It’s not so long ago that September was the month for driver moves, with many an announcement coming around the time of the annual visit to Spa-Francorchamps or Monza.
Nowadays, it seems the teams can afford to leave things later than that. So much so that there are still four unconfirmed seats for 2014: one apiece at Sauber and Marussia, and both places at Caterham.
So who’s gone where – and who’s going places in 2014?
Actually we can go back to September to find the biggest mover of all. In that month it was announced that Kimi Raikkonen will return to Ferrari, for whom he won the World Championship in his first season in the scarlet cars back in 2007.
The question is, can Kimi help shake Ferrari out of their second-best groove? He was their last World Champion, and the Scuderia, without a Constructors’ title since 2008, has been stuck in second place for the last two seasons after being fourth, third and third again.
“I don’t see the reason why it wouldn’t work,” said Raikkonen when questioned on his move – and the potential for tension in his relations with new teammate Fernando Alonso – at the 2013 race in Singapore.
“We are all old enough to know what we are doing and for sure the team is working for the right things to make sure. If there is something, I’m sure we can talk it through – it’s not like we are 20-year-old guys any more.”
Actually they are going to be 33 (Alonso) and 35 by the end of their first season together, making them the most mature as well as probably the most formidable pairing on the grid.
Champions Red Bull Racing, of course, have lost one Australian in the shape of Mark Webber and replaced him with another in the very different form of Dan Ricciardo. On the face of it Dan has hard yards ahead, alongside a teammate with four straight world titles, to say nothing of nine straight Grand Prix victories, to his credit.
As Webber eventually found, it’s very much a team that revolves around the driver with the #1 on his car. All Dan can do is watch, learn… and refuse to be daunted by the prospect of being next to a quadruple World Champion who is only two years older than he is.
After Raikkonen, the next-biggest name on the move is Felipe Massa. The 32-year-old Brazilian is going the opposite way: out of Ferrari and down the grid to Williams, scorers of just five points in the season just ended.
Can Massa, a winner 11 times in his 191 starts, bring some of the lustre back to a team back-sliding almost as quickly as compatriots Tyrrell did a couple of decades ago?
Massa is banking on 2014’s radical shake-up on the rules front to make his contribution doubly important. “Since my early days in motor racing I don’t remember seeing so many new rules in a single season,” he said on announcing his switch, “and I’m fully prepared to work with everyone at Grove to make sure we find the right direction.”
That would also be a welcome development at Woking, where McLaren endured a nightmare in 2013. Part of the price was paid by Sergio Perez, replaced by rookie Kevin Magnussen and now in a new home of his own at Force India.
In fact at this stage Dr. Vijay Mallya is the only team boss to have made a double driver change for 2014, having already brought Nico Hulkenberg back to the team. Many fans will see this as one of the most attractive pairings on the new-look grid as Force India tries to make that difficult step out of the relative anonymity of midfield.
Filling the vacant seat left by Raikkonen at Lotus is Pastor Maldonado. Whether the Venezuelan can come anywhere close to filling the gap left by the Finn remains a moot point, which should leave the highly-gifted Romain Grosjean free to build on the remarkable development he showed with the team throughout 2013.
On the newcomer front, joining Magnussen is GP3 title-winner Daniil Kvyat. After ending his season in style in Abu Dhabi, the Russian teenager was quick to dismiss concerns over his lack of readiness for the big step up.
“You know, GP3 is a really good place to be for young drivers,” he insisted. “We race at the same tracks as Formula One, in the same conditions all the time and also, the tyres are really similar. I think it’s a better preparation than what people think. I’m really looking forward to the next step.”
Movers and shakers? Have you noticed the name that’s conspicuous by its absence?
That’s right: Mercedes. Neither Lewis Hamilton nor Nico Rosberg has moved, meaning this is the only team with 100% driver continuity in the much-changed F1 landscape that lies ahead. Are they shaken by Ross Brawn’s departure? We shall see – but there are many who would see the Silver Arrows as prime candidates to shake Red Bull’s domination of the current Grand Prix scene.