Jenson Button has de-facto ‘number 1′ status at McLaren this year.
That is the view of F1 experts and former drivers Martin Brundle and Sir Jackie Stewart, despite team boss Martin Whitmarsh’s claim that Sergio Perez will enjoy full equality at the British team as he replaces Lewis Hamilton from 2013.
“That is the mentality in our team,” the McLaren chief told British broadcaster Sky. “They will have equal treatment. I think that competition in the team is good.”
But F1 legend and triple world champion Stewart said: “It’s not a question of equal footing this year.
“You’ve someone in Jenson who knows the business and who has been there, seen it and done it,” he is quoted by the Daily Express. “He has to see himself as number 1.”
Former McLaren driver turned top television commentator Brundle agrees: “With Lewis’ departure, Jenson takes the lead of the team.
“He can now concentrate on that role and I think he will grow into it,” he is quoted by Speed Week.
Sir Jackie Stewart has once again offered to become struggling Romain Grosjean’s coach.
Earlier this year, when Lotus’ French driver was first labelled a ‘crash king’ of the 2012 season, triple world champion Stewart offered to help the 26-year-old get to grips with the sport’s psychological pressures.
“I used to work with a coach and I don’t feel that I need one today,” Grosjean said in July.
But three months later, immediately after serving a one-race ban for causing the Spa start-line crash and a string of other incidents, Grosjean arrived in Singapore with Benoit Campargue, a Frenchman who also coaches Judo champion Teddy Riner. Even so, Grosjean is once again in the wrong spotlight, having been branded a “nutcase” by Mark Webber after yet another first-lap crash in Japan.
“I would love to help Romain, because I think he has enormous potential,” said Stewart, who already works with Lotus through the team’s owner Genii.
He told the BBC: “Any more accidents could jeopardise his chances of driving for Lotus next season, let alone the very best teams. When the time comes and he wants to do it, I will always be there for him because of my relationship with the team,” added Stewart.
Indeed, the situation is becoming dire for Grosjean, as figures up and down the paddock call on the FIA to impose more race bans on the ‘dangerous’ driver. Asked if the situation has endangered Grosjean’s career, boss Eric Boullier is quoted by the Daily Mail: “Not yet, but I expect to see an improvement.”
F1 legends Sir Jackie Stewart and David Coulthard have advised Lewis Hamilton to stay with McLaren beyond 2012. However 1996 world champion Damon Hill thinks it could be time for the British F1 driver to move on.
Celebrating his 100th race at Hockenheim this weekend, 2008 world champion Hamilton is reportedly considering leaving the famous British team that gave him his grand prix debut back in 2007.
“I see no need for him to move away from McLaren,” triple world champion Stewart told the Daily Mail. “I think it would be quite daft if he did. He knows they have got the resources,” added the 73-year-old Scot. “You have to have the basic ingredients and McLaren have all of them and know how to do it and they have got a very experienced group of people.”
Stewart also thinks Hamilton, 27, will find it hard to get “the sort of salary he enjoys” elsewhere.
Former McLaren driver Coulthard agrees with Stewart that McLaren is Hamilton’s best bet for 2013.
“McLaren are a special team, a massive team and you do not give up a race seat there lightly,” he wrote in his latest Telegraph column.
Coulthard said moving to Lotus would be a “huge punt” for Hamilton if he wants to win the world championship again.
“No, I would advise Lewis to stay right where he is, and I am sure he will,” added the Scot.
But former Williams title winner Hill said Hamilton might be right to think the grass could be greener elsewhere.
“I’m sure Lewis feels that his trajectory had him down for at least two world championships by now, if not three,” he told the Express newspaper.
But Hill conceded: “To try a move might be a risk for Lewis. But the counter argument is whether you can grow successfully within the same organisation.
“When you start off as a very young boy with an organisation, sometimes it’s difficult for that organisation to realise that the young boy is no longer a young boy, he’s a man, able to make his own decisions and go in his own direction.
“It can be a question of whether he gets that at McLaren.”
Stewart, meanwhile, said he thinks Michael Schumacher should finally call his 19-season F1 career a day after his Mercedes contract expires this year.
“He should have got it out of his system by now in my mind,” he said.
“I would like to see him maybe getting a victory this year and then retiring.”
F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone disagrees, arguing that he is “always happy” to see the iconic German on the grid.
Former Force India driver Adrian Sutil agrees: “If I was in his situation, I would probably go on too,” he said on German television Sky.
And Hans-Joachim Stuck, the German motor racing federation president, told Spox: “In my opinion, he is long overdue for a win.”
Romain Grosjean flashed his usual grin at Hockenheim as he jokingly dismissed F1 legend Sir Jackie Stewart’s offer.
After the Lotus driver was crowned in the media as one of F1’s ‘crash kings’ of 2012, 73-year-old triple world champion Stewart reportedly offered to coach and mentor him. Grosjean smiled that he is too busy for that.
“It’s very tight at the moment and I’ve a honeymoon to do,” said the recently-married Frenchman.
More seriously, he explained: “I used to work with a coach and I don’t feel that I need one today.”
Sir Jackie Stewart clearly believes Lewis Hamilton should accept McLaren’s offer.
It emerged in Monaco that the famous British team is offering the 2008 world champion a more than $150 million, new five-year contract, that would extend his McLaren tenure beyond a decade and his 33rd birthday. It would also make Hamilton, 27, F1’s highest paid driver. Reports, however, have suggested the Briton and his management are prepared to hold fire whilst key seats at Red Bull and Ferrari remain open.
“Without McLaren,” said triple world champion Stewart, “Lewis Hamilton would not exist, certainly in terms of where he is in his career. “And McLaren are one of the great teams in Formula One — not in the past, but now,” the famous Scot told the Daily Mail.
“They employ great engineers. They invest in winning.”
Stewart indicated that the Woking based team is a better option for Hamilton than Red Bull and Ferrari.
“Red Bull have a brilliant designer, Adrian Newey, but can they be any more certain of delivering a championship every year than McLaren can? They are the only alternative to McLaren. And I say that because you could not be sure what Ferrari will deliver.
“Even if they could build a winning car, he would have Fernando Alonso as his teammate — and he’s been there,” added Stewart.
A bit of rest and recuperation on the beaches of Sau Paulo might go some way towards erasing the memories of his Hungarian nightmare, but rest assure that Felipe Massa’s summer break will not be completely devoid of the odd sleepless night.
Nor will it be the same holiday that awaited him moments before the chequered flag dropped on proceedings at the Hungaroring a fortnight ago, when he was on course to take command of the world championship, only for an engine failure to intervene with three laps to go.
As his Ferrari V8 buckled in the Budapest heat in full view of Formula One’s elite, not to mention the world’s onlookers you couldn’t help but sense that this was one of those moments that you find yourself re-visiting as the title race nears its climax.
“The make it happen moment of the race maybe even of the entire Driver’s Championship was Felipe Massa’s engine failure,” triple world champion and RBS Ambassador Jackie Stewart affirmed.
“He’d made a great start and run a good race, and he was three laps away from winning the race,” the Scot added on RBSsport.com
The image of the Brazilian youngster making the long walk back through the empty pit-lane head hung low, his usual bounce and energy in absentia confirmed the significance of the events.
This was a crushing blow on three counts. First there was the win itself, a might-have-been victory made even sweeter by the fact that this was unquestionably McLaren territory.
Then there was the mathematical anguish at not taking the initiative in the world championship, the message-of-intent that never was, and, ironically, a real-terms points deficit to team-mate Kimi Raikkonen on a day when the Finn was outclassed.
But perhaps most importantly of all, after his disastrous outing at Silverstone and his public shaming at Hockenheim when he let Lewis Hamilton passed without a fight, this was a critic-silencing performance from Massa.
McLaren insist that Lewis Hamilton had the legs to pass the Brazilian had it not been for his puncture, but the way Massa was driving you would have fancied his chances at the final round of pit-stops.
Unfortunately for the Ferrari ace, in Formula One results matter. Motorsport’s premier series can be a fickle sport at times, and the harsh reality is that the impact of his performance was not as great as it would have been, had he climbed on to the top step of the podium.
And so it was that the Massa left for Formula One’s three-week siesta with wounds to lick, while his immediate rivals escaped their misfortune unscathed.
But he will take heart from the fact that Ferrari seem to be a match for McLaren on race pace, and while Kimi Raikkonen will come to the fore again, Massa demonstrated that he is every bit as quick as the Finn, which should crush speculation that he is to be replaced for 2009.
“He’ll put it behind him,” says Stewart. “Every top racing driver has been disappointed by a mechanical failure and one time or another.”
“But you just have to take it philosophically. Massa will be a bit upset for a day or so, but he knows that an F1 car is a mechanical device with around 5,000 components, and failures are not unknown.”
“You just have to say, “That was not a good day.” There’s no point screaming and shouting. F1 is a team effort, and the mechanics will be disappointed too – particularly the engine guys.”