Nationality played against di Resta for McLaren seat

Fellow Scot David Coulthard thinks Paul di Resta could still be a contender for a top seat in 2012.

Coulthard, the former long-time McLaren driver, believes his former team “looked at” Force India’s di Resta as a possible replacement for the departing Lewis Hamilton. But even though McLaren made much of their all-British driver pairing of Hamilton alongside Jenson Button since 2010, Coulthard thinks di Resta’s nationality actually played against him.

“My feeling is they (McLaren) had shaken the British tree as much as they could sponsor-wise and Perez, quite apart from his undoubted ability behind a wheel, offered something different in that respect,” he wrote in a column for the Telegraph.

Coulthard is probably referring to rumours Sergio Perez – Hamilton’s actual 2013 successor – could eventually bring his backer Telmex and other Mexican pesos to McLaren to replace wavering title sponsor Vodafone. McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh confirmed di Resta was considered for the seat.

“I know Paul very well and the true answer is that I rate him but it would probably have been continuing a little bit too much with the British theme to have gone that route,” he said.

But what about Ferrari? Even though Felipe Massa seems set for another season in red, Coulthard thinks di Resta is still a contender.

“Why not?” he said. “I’m biased but I feel Paul is the obvious choice.”


Whitmarsh: Perez no longer a pay driver

Sergio Perez is no longer a “pay driver”, McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh insists.

Mexican Perez, also backed by Ferrari, started his F1 career by bringing millions in Carlos Slim-linked Telmex dollars to Sauber. But he is now moving to McLaren, amid speculation Telmex might eventually replace the grandee British team’s title sponsor Vodafone.

The Telegraph, however, quotes Whitmarsh as insisting there are no “side deals” to McLaren’s Perez contract.

“I did have a conversation with Carlos Slim yesterday but we have made an offer to Sergio, we are paying him well and there are no side deals,” he said. “I’m not saying that ultimately there won’t be other fresh partners coming forward because of it but that wasn’t the motivating force,” insisted Whitmarsh.

He is quoted by Sky Sports F1 HD channel: “He (Perez) is not a pay driver, he is being paid a lot of money. Sponsorship was not a factor, we picked Sergio because he is the most exciting young talent in formula one.

“Do I believe there will be some exciting commercial opportunities in the future? Yes. Have we looked at them yet? No.”


Brawn: May be months before Schumacher decides on F1 future

Ross Brawn has revealed that it might be months before Michael Schumacher decides on his future in F1.

Lewis Hamilton will be replacing the German driver in 2013 and Schumacher’s future is yet to be decided – although the F1 rumour mill has him tipped to end up at Sauber or within a team management role at Mercedes.

“I think Michael’s going to take a few months to think about things and reflect on things, to decide what to do in the future,” Brawn told Reuters Television. “There are opportunities within the team, within Mercedes for Michael to stay involved in some capacity or other, and he’s particularly interested in developing high performance cars, that sort of thing,” said Brawn.


Ecclestone pushing to get rid of V6 engines?

Bernie Ecclestone is determined to scrap F1’s engine regulation change for 2014.

The F1 chief executive recently visited Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters, where he heard the tamer sounds of the incoming turbo V6 engine.

“Even (Ferrari president) Luca di Montezemolo said it sounded terrible and didn’t like it,” Ecclestone told the Hindustan Times.

The 81-year-old Briton tipped FIA president Jean Todt to “get rid of it”.

“I think Luca is also saying we should suspend it for two or three years. I think it is sensible to get rid of it and stick with what we have got,” added Ecclestone.


Massa: There is a good chance I’ll stay with Ferrari

With the 2013 grid now coming together, Felipe Massa said on Friday he has a good chance to stay at Ferrari.

After McLaren and Mercedes announced their driver lineups for next year, Brazilian Massa was asked about the latest speculation that he is heading for a new Ferrari contract. It follows Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo telling Autosprint that he will make the final decision in “two or three days”.

“But I have to say that Felipe has driven very well lately,” he said.

Massa is confident.

“There is a good chance that I will stay at Ferrari,” he told Italy’s Sky Sport 24. “Are my chances good? I certainly think so. I am rather confident in that respect.

“I think a decision will be reached within a short matter of time,” added Massa.


Hamilton to Mercedes: more questions than answers

This morning it was finally confirmed that Lewis Hamilton would move to Mercedes-Benz AMG, leaving the McLaren stable which has nurtured him since a young age. The motivation for the move is thought to be multi-faceted, but include Hamilton’s concerns over salary and sponsorship, both personal and team. The Anglo-German team will pay Hamilton a similar amount to what he has been paid in recent years by McLaren, but will leave scope for the Englishman to shape his own brand image.

On a purely sporting level, however, the motivation for the switch is unclear – and many questions have been raised. Wnat kinds of guarantees – if any – has Hamilton been given about Mercedes, particularly with regard to its continued presence in the sport and its performance levels? On the latter point one might hazard there could be a performance clause in the contract, perhaps specifying that the team will be in a position to challenge for the championship in 2014. These kinds of promises – if indeed they have been made – are rarely kept, because the premise is false. They simply cannot promise that, because it is impossible to envisage a car’s speed relative to its as yet non-existent rivals.

Like McLaren, for instance. What makes Hamilton think that Brackley’s prospects are better than Woking’s? While both teams (in shape if not in name) are relatively recent championship winners, car performance is notoriously fickle and difficult to predict one year to the next. Hamilton may have had some justification in looking elsewhere when the MP4-26 started to lag in the mid-early season, but since, McLaren’s famed ability to develop a car mid-season has brought it right back to the front. Mercedes, despite fanfare in the off season, have won once. They do not look like winning again at the moment. But worse: will the decision also have harmed Hamilton’s prospects for this year’s championship? Martin Brundle on Twitter opines that Hamilton will have to be ‘excommunicated’ from any developments, which probably won’t help. Even if the championship is a long shot, the Englishman is still in it – this year. He may look back with a great deal of regret.

And then there’s what Hamilton will find even if he does get a quick car. Nico Rosberg is a race-winner; he has consistently had the bragging rights over one of the greatest drivers ever (who perhaps isn’t that much worse than he used to be). Will Hamilton be undisputed number one? Might Rosberg’s working relationship with the team not confer an advantage, especially in the short term? Might the team then resent the newcomer if he demands favouritism but is initially slower?

Many wags hold that Hamilton’s only weakness is his temperament. One imagines a nasty situation where nothing goes right for him on track, with a lack of competitiveness and a string of retirements all he has to boast from a year at Mercedes, and his motivation saps completely. Of course, all the smiles and celebrations at the moments gleam with new-marriage optimism, but until some of these questions are answered, Hamilton is entitled to look forward with some trepidation.

Schumacher might not return to retirement

Michael Schumacher may not be returning to retirement.

Much like in 2006, when Ferrari replaced him with Kimi Raikkonen, the seven time world champion has now been elbowed out at Mercedes to make room for Lewis Hamilton. Some expect the 43-year-old to now return to retirement, or take up a job offer on Mercedes’ management side.

But Schumacher has also been linked with Sauber, whose Sergio Perez will move to McLaren next year to replace Hamilton. Schumacher’s manager Sabine Kehm was spotted in conversation with Sauber chiefs Peter Sauber and Monisha Kaltenborn recently.

“I don’t want to give him (Schumacher) advice, as I sure he will consider his future carefully and calmly. We will see what he decides,” said Niki Lauda.

The fact Lauda is not simply wishing Schumacher well for his retirement is significant, as the Austrian legend is set to join Mercedes as non-executive chairman.

“I don’t know the details,” the triple world champion told SID news agency, “but generally I don’t think he is too old for Formula One. His comeback was surely not as good as he imagined, but in those three years he never had a really fast and reliable car.”

Swiss commentator Marc Surer, meanwhile, said it is fairly obvious that the loss of the Mercedes seat was “not voluntary” for Schumacher, as the great German has insisted for weeks that he will only announce his intentions in October.

Surer told German Sky television: “I can imagine that one team or another will be very interested in him (for 2013). The problem could be the price.”


Hamilton signs three year deal with Mercedes

Mercedes have finally ended the ‘Lewis Hamilton saga’ by announcing that the Brit has signed a three-year deal with the team.

The media statement also confirmed that Mercedes has signed the new 2013-2020 Concorde Agreement, that Hamilton is replacing Michael Schumacher, and that Niki Lauda is set to join as non-executive chairman. 27-year-old Briton Hamilton’s teammate next year will be Nico Rosberg.

“It is now time for me to take on a fresh challenge and I am very excited to begin a new chapter,” he said Hamilton, who has raced for McLaren since entering F1 in 2007.

Mercedes’ media statement did not say if seven time world champion Schumacher, who has been linked with a move to team management or perhaps even Sauber, is returning to retirement.

“I have had three nice years with the team which unfortunately did not go as well as we all would have wanted on the sporting side,” said the great German. “I will now concentrate on the next races.”

McLaren have also confirmed that Sergio Perez will be racing with them for the 2013 season.


Perez joins McLaren

McLaren has pre-empted the announcement about Lewis Hamilton’s switch to Mercedes by confirming that Sergio Perez is joining the famous British team for 2013 and beyond.

McLaren said 22-year-old Mexican Perez, the cream of Ferrari’s driver development ‘academy’ and a Sauber driver in 2011 and 2012, has inked a “multi-year” deal to be Jenson Button’s teammate. Perez had been linked with Felipe Massa’s Ferrari cockpit for 2013, but Luca di Montezemolo recently said he is not yet experienced enough for the Maranello marque.

On his McLaren move, Perez is quoted as saying in a media statement: “I’m under no illusion that it is indeed a very big step, as it would be for any driver, but I’m ready for it.”

Team boss Martin Whitmarsh said McLaren wishes Hamilton “well for the future”, ahead of Mercedes’ highly anticipated announcement of its 2013 driver lineup.

Perez has until now been backed by Carlos Slim and Mexican telcom Telmex, but in its statement McLaren made a point of quoting title sponsor Vodafone’s chief executive Morten Lundal.

Lundal said: “On behalf of all at Vodafone, I’d like to say how pleased we are that Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has signed Sergio to a multi-year deal.”

And Perez added: “I’d like to thank Carlos Slim Jr, who has helped me since I was 14 years old, without whom I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’ll do everything in my power to deliver with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes the results that he and I have been working so hard and so long to achieve together.”


Pic ‘not afraid’ of becoming next Marussia refugee

Charles Pic insists he is “not afraid” about following his Marussia predecessors through F1’s exit.

Before the well-backed Frenchman made his debut this year, the team ran Jerome d’Ambrosio (2011) and Lucas di Grassi (2010, as Virgin) as the experienced German Timo Glock’s teammate. Belgian d’Ambrosio left to become Lotus’ reserve driver after one season, while Brazilian di Grassi subsequently spent time as a Pirelli test driver but is now moving to touring cars.

“I’m not afraid about (experiencing) a scenario like that of Lucas di Grassi and Jerome d’Ambrosio,” 22-year-old Pic said in an interview with the Dutch magazine Formule 1. “All I can do is work as hard as possible and do my best. I’ll wait and see what happens at the end of the year.”

According to strong paddock speculation, Pic is tipped to take the solid funding of his family’s business – leading European transport company Groupe Charles Andre – to Caterham in 2013.
His likely successor is the similarly well-funded British GP2 driver Max Chilton, whose father is the vice-chairman of the major insurance multinational Aon. But Pic is not ruling out staying at Marussia.

“Compared to some other teams it is obviously smaller, but I’m getting to develop very well and it’s nice to work on growing up together,” he said.