Before racing begins in Texas I take a look at five of the things you should be watching out for. From the rumours surrounding Kimi Raikkonen not racing the last two grand prix to controversy surrounding F1s unpaid drivers.
1. Raikkonen and Lotus
Kimi Raikkonen looks set to sit out of the final two grand prix of the season according to Finnish reports. They claim Raikkonen’s manager has revealed he will undergo surgery on a back injury this week. It is thought this is to ensure the best start to the 2014 season with Ferrari. The surgery would certainly leave him out of the final two Grand Prix in Austin and Brazil. It is thought the Finn has still not been paid by Lotus and despite the team saying they had sorted the problems between driver and themselves it seems all is still not well. But who will step in for Raikkonen if he cannot race? Third driver Davide Valsecchi, reserve driver Jerome D’Ambrosio or even potential driver for 2014 Nico Hulkenberg. Valsecchi is the most likely to get the nod.
2. Unpaid drivers
With Raikkonen going unpaid all season by Lotus a number of drivers have spoken out in support of the Finn. There are also rumours other drivers have not been paid – with one of them thought to be Sauber driver Nico Hulkenberg. Daniel Ricciardo described F1 as ‘not in the best shape’ amid the controversy. He said the situation had been discussed by the GPDA. He said he felt for the drivers who had not been paid and suggested something needed to be done. Talented drivers expect to be paid. The situation is closely linked to why F1 has pay drivers. It will always have them simply because it will always need them.
3. Alonso’s fitness
Questions are surrounding the fitness of Fernando Alonso following an incident in Abu Dhabi where he hit several high kerbs. The Spaniard underwent medical checks before being allowed to fly following the race. It is thought Ferrari may make a final decision on his fitness on Monday ahead of the race in Austin. If he were not able to race the team could draft in Jules Bianchi, who currently races for Marussia, and who is part of the Ferrari young driver scheme. Alonso is expected to pass the medical exam according to reports in Spain and Italy.
4. Quantum and Lotus
The deal between Lotus and Quantum was supposedly nearing completion at the last race in Abu Dhabi. Yet over a week on nothing has been announced. Quantum plans to buy a 35 per cent stake in the team through new shares issued by majority owner Genii. However the completion of the deal has not been announced and Lotus seem to be keeping coy over the deal. So who is dragging their heals – Quantum or Lotus? While no deal is finalised the 2014 driver market remains in limbo. Lotus is essentially the best seat available. Lotus and Quantum want Nico Hulkenberg – yet to secure him the deal needs to be finished. If not the seat is likely to go to Pastor Maldonado. Elsewhere Force India, Williams and Sauber wait to see the outcome before announcing their driver line-ups for next season.
5. Rossi’s Friday outing for Caterham
Alexander Rossi will get a outing in FP1 for Caterham this weekend. He has previously driven the Caterham twice in Free Practice – once in 2012 at the Spanish Grand Prix and again at in 2013 at the Canadian Grand Prix. The outing will give Rossi a chance to demonstrate his skills as he looks to secure a race seat in F1. It is not known who will drive for the team next year so this will be a good opportunity for the American to put in a good performance in front of a home crowd. While it may be more of a publicity stunt Rossi can certainly use it to his advantage.