Paddock cynics wondered aloud on Sunday when Sergio Perez was caught chatting with Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali. With Felipe Massa seemingly struggling this season, is Perez being lined up to replace the Brazilian driver at Ferrari in the near future?
“I only congratulated him, as a team they did a great job,” Perez insisted. “My full commitment is with my team, with the Sauber team. Obviously it’s only rumours but no, I will stay with Sauber for the whole season.”
But not everyone in F1 believes that, including McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh.
“I imagine he has put a bit of pressure on Mr Massa,” he is quoted as saying by the Telegraph, after watching Perez sensationally finish second in his Ferrari-powered Sauber behind Fernando Alonso. “I don’t know what the odds are on him switching teams before China, but there must be consideration.”
Alonso, however, is not expecting to have a new teammate any time soon.
“At the moment, as Sergio said, he is concentrated on Sauber,” said the Spaniard, acknowledging however the Mexican’s “big talent”. “At the moment with Felipe we are a very strong team, a very united team.”
It is the big talking point in F1 circles at present, but Brazilian Massa insists he is not worried.
“I’m happy for him (Perez) and his team, but (my) worry? Zero,” he is quoted by Brazil’s Globo. “I never worry about whether a good performance of someone else could be a problem for me or not.”
And boss Domenicali, admitting that Perez “confirmed his great talent” in Malaysia, backed his current driver.
“This is a particularly difficult time for him (Massa) because he cannot get the most out of a car that objectively is very difficult to drive,” said the Italian.
“So we need to be close to him, which is how it should be in a team that is close together,” he insisted.
But things always change quickly in formula one. Former Toro Rosso Jaime Alguersuari was asked by AS newspaper if he thinks Ferrari should replace Massa.
“I should not answer that because I am a friend of Massa and also with Checo.”
However, he added: “Vettel is better than Webber and Fernando is better than Felipe. Each team has to make its decisions and I will not do it for them.”
Peter Sauber has a solid contract with Perez for 2012, but even he is expecting to see the Mexican move on.
“At some point we will lose him to another team,” the Swiss told Blick newspaper.
Domenicali continued: “Sergio drove a good race. But at this difficult time we must stand with Felipe.
“He took a step in the right direction in qualifying here and he needs to regain his confidence.”
If Perez does move to Ferrari, a seat will open up at Sauber.
Force India refugee Adrian Sutil hopes he is at the front of the queue.
“All I can say is: I’m ready, I’m very motivated and training hard and want to be back in formula one as quickly as possible,” he told German television Sky.