News emerged on Sunday that Kimi Raikkonen would be ending the 2013 season prematurely, in order to carry out surgery on a back issue that nearly sidelined him at Singapore. It comes just 1 week after threatening to walk away from the season over a financial dispute, and will have left Eric Boullier with quite the headache having believed the pay issue was sorted. As far as Kimi Raikkonen sees it, the season has been over for a while with Sebastian Vettel dominating the later half of the season and comfortably sealing his 4th World Championship. Lotus are however still locked in a scrap with Mercedes and Ferrari for the runner up spot, which would see a great financial reward for the team if they were able to perform well in the United States and Brazil. Lotus are currently 26 points adrift of Ferrari in third and a further 11 points behind Mercedes, and were therefore relying on their star driver to score big in the final 2 races, along with current team mate Romain Grosjean.
Although the news will have been a disappointment for Eric Boullier, Raikkonen's absence for 2 Grand Prix will be music to Davide Valsecchi ears as he looks to stand in for the Finnish driver. The circumstance may not be what he was hoping for, but the 2 races could go a long way to securing work for the Italian in 2014. Having won the GP2 Championship in 2012 he has spent this season solely as the development and reserve driver for the Lotus team, but recent rumours have suggested that he is not in the running for a 2014 full time drive with the team.
The problem with the link is twofold, starting with the fact that Lotus have performed well in 2013 and so have drivers of high calibre looking to take the vacant seat. The current favourite to do so is Nico Hulkenberg, who has not only impressed throughout his entire career, but especially of late with his results far exceeding the expected limit of his Sauber. Compared with Valsecchi, he is a known quantity within the Formula 1 paddock and a safer assurance of decent performances consistently. The current stumbling block with the deal however has until recently been financial, and this is the second issue with selecting Valsecchi over someone who can bring sponsorship into the team. The available driver that would be likely to do so is Pastor Maldonado, again a known figure for the team and although not of the quality to match Hulkenberg, the financial injection that he brings is phenomenal.
I do hope that Valsecchi gets the opportunity to show what he is worth in a front running team, especially after being so loyal to them throughout the year. Without the financial boost that other drivers bring, Valsecchi must be given the chance to show that he has the talent to be on the grid next year. He has won the direct feeder Championship into Formula 1, and so there are not many options in lower formula left if no deal is secured now. He may look to Formula Renault 3.5 or another season as a development driver, but these 2 races will ultimately be where he either impresses the teams he has no doubt already begun talks with, or fades away to join the list of drivers who should have been given more time within Formula 1.