That Seat At McLaren

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For the purposes of this discussion, assume that Lewis Hamilton has signed a lucrative new contract at Mercedes-Benz and swaps silver-and-red with silver-and-turquoise for 2013. That means he is not a discussion point; he has gone.

With Hamilton having left, who should McLaren look to fill that second seat alongside Jenson Button for 2013. Should they go for some young driver who is looking for a big break, should they go with a solid old hand or should they ensure that their choice doesn't threaten Button's title tilt?

Is their decision affected by who gets the Ferrari second seat, and who is likely to be brought in with reasonable pay demands? What would you do in this hypothetical situation?
I don't know what Raikkonens situation is at Lotus, I believe he can get out If he wants.

If that is the case I would say he is the number 1 driver they should target, save Monaco and Canada he has been sublime all year. That said I can't see him fitting well into "Tooned".

The second driver I would have McLaren target is Perez, I know he is supposed to be a Ferrari "student" or whatever the term is, but I'm unsure about If he is tied to them contactually. If he is not then with 2 seasons under his belt and looking better all the time I would say get Perez into partner Button. Also having both drivers supposedly have the same driving style must make the car development route a lot easier for the designers.

The 3rd driver I would have McLaren go for if neither of the above accept is Nico Hulkenburg who is looking better and better.

Failing that they could go down the money route and get Karthikeyan.
What a story it would be if they gave Red Bull a massive compensation package and sat Vettel in the spare McLaren. There is only a year left on his contract... although supposedly he has something sorted with Ferrari. The same would go for Webber.

With no regard for current contracts etc., I think the only drivers currently with a race seat that they would consider, in this order of preference, are:
1) Vettel
2) Raikkonen
3) Rosberg
4) Perez
5) Webber
6) Hulkenberg
7) Di Resta
8) Kobayashi
9) Kovalainen
10) Grosjean
11) Maldonado
12) Massa

The drivers I've put in bold are the more realistic options, in my opinion. Also, please don't shoot me for putting Grosjean and Maldonado at the bottom of that list. Both have got in to too many crashes but have shown pace. Apart from these you have guys in the McLaren system like Paffett.

EDIT: Maybe Massa.... maybe. I'll stick him 9th 12th.
I think they'd go for Hulkenberg. Their policy is to have the 2 best available drivers in their cars and in my opinion he'd be the best available driver to McLaren. The only other drivers who I think they'd consider who would be availible to join McLaren are Raikkonen, Perez and Di Resta.

I don't think Raikkonen would want to return to McLaren, he's happy at the less corporate Lotus, they've shown they are a competitive team and he'll be much more comfortable in the car next season having been part of the development process.
Perez would be good for McLaren, but I think Perez is going to stay with Sauber until a seat opens up at Ferrari whenever that may be.
Di Resta's also a good option, but I just think Hulkenberg would be a better fit at McLaren. Also, with Di Resta signing with Button's management company I really can't see him having his contract negotiated by his teammate, it's pretty difficult for teammates to have a true friendship in F1 and an employee/employer business relationship seems an even worse idea.
Not sure quite where you were going with Massa though.

Well, he is a multiple race winner and near world champion. He's been destroyed by the combination of Alonso and his injury, but given parity at McLaren who knows? I did stick him near the bottom... maybe it was a mad moment.
I can't argue too much with @sushifiesta's list, although I think di Resta would be higher up on mine, certainly above Hulkenberg and probably Rosberg too (but below Perez). I'd have Kobayashi on too, albeit lower down than his team-mate. I can't think of anyone in the junior series who could justify elevation to such a good seat at this moment.
I'd have Kobayashi on

Done! I was in two minds about him, but given I stuck Massa and Maldonado on it... I haven't given him the honour of being bold though. Talking of Massa, I've demoted him to the bottom.

As for Di Resta, personally I think they'd rather have Raikkonen, Rosberg or Perez in their car. As for the comparison between him and Hulkenberg, you'd probably get a different answer from me each day, they may as well be equal 6th. There's been a couple of signs recently that Hulkenberg may be edging ahead slightly, that's the only reason I put him 6th and Di Resta 7th.
I'd want to see him do a season with one of the bottom teams first though to see If he is as good as he was.
Personally I'd want to see him in GP2 for a season rather than taking up a seat that he can't properly fill. Regardless, I'll be astonished if he does actually get back into F1, sad to say.
I wonder if having a German driver in the seat may be a consideration with McLarens change of status with Mercedes due next year. Promoting a German driver into the seat would be good press given the fact if we assume Hamilton joins Mercedes he wil be pushing a German out of that team.

For me, Rosberg or Hulkenberg would be good choices. Kimi would be unlikely in my view. I guess the most likely though, is almost certainly Di Resta, as a Brit but with strong links with Merc.
I would go for a driver who is already at Mclaren ,who would follow the path that Paul Di Resta has made into F1, and choose Gary Paffett.
If it were my team and my decision I would put Massa in the seat, he could bring Smeaders with him to keep him happy and he knows how to play No 2..

And for sure I like Massa..
Well I think Kimi Raikkonen really should be number one of the available drivers on their list. But since he rejected back in 2009 due to press commitments and more freedom compared to last time he was there, I'm not sure they'll approach him again, especially after he stated that he's been the happiest at Lotus out of all the teams he's been with so far.

Then probably the two Force India drivers, I think Hulkenberg has more potential than Di Resta has done well to comeback after being way behind di Resta in the first half of the season.

Rosberg has got a contract until 2014 I think with Mercedes.

Perez probably has a Ferrari clause.

I think Kobayashi would do well at McLaren for some reason.

Then there's Buemi...and Algasauras.
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