Perez was Mercedes’ ‘plan B’ after Hamilton

Sergio Perez was another candidate to oust Michael Schumacher at Mercedes, a German magazine claimed on Monday.

Auto Motor und Sport said it means the great seven time world champion was therefore only the third choice to line up alongside Nico Rosberg in 2013, after Lewis Hamilton and Mexican Perez. Ultimately, Mercedes secured its number one choice Hamilton, leaving McLaren to sign Mexican Perez to succeed him — and Schumacher out in the cold.

Prior to signing Hamilton, “the Silver Arrows bosses had stretched out their feelers to the Mexican (Perez),” journalist Michael Schmidt claimed. It remains a fact, however, that Schumacher could have definitely kept his seat if, early in the summer, he exercised an active and unilateral ‘option’ for 2013.

“Why play poker until October when the best time to extend the contract had already come?” Schmidt wondered rhetorically. “Had he signed after qualifying in Monte Carlo, Hamilton would never have been a topic.”

A Mercedes insider is quoted as saying: “Michael’s stalling until October forced Mercedes to think about alternatives.” But other issues were also at play, including Ross Brawn, Norbert Haug and Niki Lauda’s task in convincing the paymasters in Stuttgart to sign a new Concorde Agreement and keep the three-pointed star in Formula One.

Correspondent Schmidt said the task was easier when pitching the contemporary star Hamilton or the “fresh blood” of 22-year-old rising sensation Perez, rather than “the 43-year-old veteran”.

So Hamilton will join Rosberg in Mercedes’ 2013 garage, but only after his final title tilt with his boyhood marque McLaren is done and dusted. It could be an awkward last six races in one shade of silver, but McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh insists he is not worried.

“Lewis has assured me that at the moment he is a McLaren driver and he’s focused on winning,” he told the BBC. “He will be professional, the team will be professional around him and we will be seeing if we can do the best job we can.”


Ferrari has not re-signed Massa yet

A Ferrari spokesman has dismissed reports Felipe Massa is now definitely staying for an eighth consecutive season in 2013.

“Not true,” the spokesman told Spanish sports newspaper Marca, responding to the rumours. “Felipe has not signed anything yet,” he insisted.

Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport thinks Force India drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta are still candidates to switch to Ferrari next year. Switzerland’s Blick newspaper, however, said German Hulkenberg is more likely to move to Ferrari-powered Sauber.

What is definite is that the Perez/Schumacher situation has stirred up the ‘silly season’ nest. If Hulkenberg moves to Sauber or Ferrari, for example, Jules Bianchi could be promoted from Force India’s reserve seat. But the Ferrari-linked Frenchman Bianchi was obviously hoping Force India’s Paul di Resta or Hulkenberg – not Perez – would go to McLaren.

“I don’t know what to say,” he told Autosprint. “I’m not so sure there will be any change at Force India.”

Also still in the ‘silly season’ pot are Adrian Sutil, Heikki Kovalainen — and Michael Schumacher.

“A little mouse whispered in my ear that Schumacher could go back to Ferrari,” former Ferrari driver Patrick Tambay told RMC Sport. “It is perhaps just the dream of some tifosi, but why not?”


Prost, Jordan think Sauber move possible for Schumacher

With the news that Lewis Hamilton has signed a new deal with Mercedes, the rumour-mill has kicked in to gear over the future of Michael Schumacher.

Alain Prost does not believe that Schumacher will retire.

“I was not particularly positive when he returned (in 2010),” Prost said. “I don’t quite understand why. Maybe he’s going to Sauber now?” the quadruple world champion told RMC Sport, after testing a modern Red Bull F1 car at the Renault World Series event at Paul Ricard.

“It’s a very personal choice,” continued Prost, who ended his career with a fourth drivers’ championship in 1993. “I can understand that he is passionate and wants to continue driving, and it’s very difficult to judge from the outside. Everyone should live their life as they wish.

“I can understand his position. But at some point, you have to decide it’s enough.”

Asked what Schumacher’s biggest contribution to F1 is these days, Prost answered: “Passion in its purest form. It’s pretty amazing to see someone at that level.

“He drives for pleasure, on the bikes, go-karts … it’s to his credit.”

Eddie Jordan, who gave Schumacher his first F1 seat in 1991, thinks Sauber could be a good option for Schumacher.

“I think it could make sense,” he told Welt newspaper, “because the situation there is completely different. I imagine he would have the chance to live out his passion with a competitive car but also in a small racing team, with a much more intimate atmosphere than a global group like Mercedes.

“It could be just right for him,” added Jordan.


Manager: Schumacher is not short of opportunities

Michael Schumacher’s manager has answered speculation about the seven time world champion’s future by saying “Anything is possible”.

Replaced at Mercedes by Lewis Hamilton for 2013, 43-year-old Schumacher is now seriously linked with a switch to Sauber. Schumacher’s current manager is Sabine Kehm, who has been spotted recently in conversation with the Swiss team’s chiefs Peter Sauber and Monisha Kaltenborn.

But Schumacher’s well-known former manager, Willi Weber, said that if he was still in charge, “I would get in a car immediately and go and talk to Luca (di Montezemolo) at Maranello.”

Insiders, however, think a return to Ferrari for Schumacher is not credible, and even Kaltenborn has doubts about the Hinwil link, even though Sauber needs to replace the McLaren-bound Sergio Perez.

“Of course, these are lovely thoughts, and of course we have to think about getting a seven time world champion when there’s one on the market,” she told Bild newspaper. “But Michael has only ever been with large manufacturer teams that you really cannot compare to us.”

Manager Kehm insisted: “Michael is not short of opportunities. It’s just that at the moment it is far too early to talk about anything specific.”

Niki Lauda was an architect of Schumacher’s succession by Lewis Hamilton, because while he thinks the great German is still good enough for F1, “I doubt he can always be competing against Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton anymore”, he told FAZ newspaper.

Kaltenborn said the issue of Perez’s successor is not likely to be settled before Suzuka. She wished Perez well for his big McLaren move, but did express some frustration.

“We have to be an attractive platform for the drivers,” said Sauber chief executive Kaltenborn. “It’s the only way to stop us developing drivers and then losing them to the competition. We have made the first step this season,” she explained, referring to the Swiss team’s stellar 2012.


Rosberg: Contract ensures equal status with Hamilton

Nico Rosberg insists he is not worried about playing second fiddle to Lewis Hamilton. The pair, who have known each other and even raced as teammates since their boyhood karting days, will each be driving one of Mercedes’ F1 cars in 2013.

German Rosberg has managed to dominate Michael Schumacher since the seven time world champion’s 2010 comeback, but the 27-year-old might be forgiven for feeling more nervous about the similarly-aged Hamilton’s arrival. But when asked if he is worried he will be Hamilton’s ‘number 2′, Rosberg insisted: “Absolutely not.

“I know the situation. Although Lewis will be a challenge and I gladly accept it. He is one of the best drivers of the moment, but I do believe that I can measure up,” the 2012 shanghai winner told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Since the Hamilton announcement, Mercedes chiefs Ross Brawn and Norbert Haug have insisted that the high-profile 2008 world champion will not be Mercedes’ ‘number 1’.

“Yes, that’s good. And it’s in my contract that I always have the same opportunities as my teammate, no matter who it is,” Rosberg answered.

But at McLaren in 2007, Hamilton clashed spectacularly with his short-term teammate Fernando Alonso. Is Rosberg worried that might happen again, this time at Mercedes?

“I think we’re both smart enough to avoid that,” he smiled.

Finally, Rosberg said he does not ‘feel sorry’ for Michael Schumacher, who has been pushed out.

“No,” the German laughed. “He was not sure whether he wanted to continue or not, but Mercedes had to make a choice — and anyway Michael has said himself that he is not unhappy.”


Perez now managed by Adrian Fernandez

2013 McLaren driver Sergio Perez is being managed by former Indycar driver and fellow Mexican Adrian Fernandez.

McLaren, who have signed current Sauber driver Perez to replace Lewis Hamilton, confirmed the 22-year-old’s professional link to Fernandez, 47. Fernandez – an owner of racing teams as well – has also been backed through his career by Perez’s sponsor Telmex, but Fernandez denied Perez is still a “pay driver”.

“He is not bringing money to the (McLaren) team,” he insisted.

Switzerland’s Blick newspaper estimated Perez’s new three-year contract to be worth EUR 10 million.

“I have been a successful driver and a successful team owner and now, with this, I hope I can be a successful manager and do a fantastic job for Sergio,” added Fernandez.


Lauda admits convincing Hamilton to quit McLaren

Niki Lauda has admitted he played a role in convincing Lewis Hamilton to quit McLaren and join Mercedes. The triple world champion, who is set to become the non-executive chairman of the Brackley based team, also confirmed he “helped” Mercedes with its Concorde Agreement negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone.

But the biggest news is that the Austrian legend was instrumental in getting long-term McLaren protege and Briton Hamilton to turn away from his boyhood employer.

“I was impressed with his approach to things, very pragmatic, no emotions whatsoever,” Lauda told BBC radio of his talks with Hamilton.

The former McLaren and Ferrari driver said he told Hamilton that taking Mercedes to success was a challenge he should not ignore.

“And think of it the other way round, if Schumacher couldn’t get the Mercedes team running up front for three years and you (Hamilton) next year are doing much better it makes a huge impact on your personality and people will rate you much higher,” Lauda recalled of his conversations with Hamilton. “In the end it convinced him that the challenge is what he wants to do.”

Naturally, there are some who believe Hamilton was also attracted to Mercedes for mainly financial reasons.

“The money discussion I was not really involved in,” said Lauda. “The offer was very close to the one of McLaren.”

Ultimately, Hamilton’s move has divided opinions in F1. Some think the 27-year-old is unwise to trade a surely competitive car for a Mercedes gamble, but 1996 world champion Damon Hill thinks the move was inevitable.

“Lewis has been like a caged bird at McLaren,” he told the Daily Mail. “He’d been managed to within an inch of his life. You can have a bellyful of becoming a performing seal.”

Niki Lauda said he will remain an expert pundit for German television.


Ecclestone: Budget cap is workable

Bernie Ecclestone insists a budget cap for F1 teams is “workable”.

That is despite the fact that when the idea was proposed by former FIA president a few years ago, the teams banded together and threatened to quit the sport. But F1 chief executive Ecclestone has now told the Sunday Express newspaper that working to an imposed maximum budget is “the direction people are going in. It is workable”.

His comments are in contrast to those he made earlier in the year when he told Auto Motor und Sport, “It (the Budget Cap) wouldn’t work. You can’t stop people from spending the money they have. They will always find a way to get around whatever you try to do to control it. Instead, the technical rules should be written so that it is not possible to just use money to make a faster car.”