October 1 2014 Latest news:
Michael Bailey, Formula One correspondent
Thursday, October 18, 2012
The summer break was upon us – and you assumed while F1 drivers were taking a moment or refreshing themselves before a renewed bid for 2012 glory, Felipe Massa was busy working out what post-Ferrari life would mean for him.
• GW – Also-rans: The teams outside F1’s big six look to have held on to their say in how the sport is run, ahead of the new concorde agreement being sorted for 2013 onwards.
• BW – Kamui Kobayashi: From joy to despair, the Japanese Sauber man may be without a seat for 2013 – a path his opening corner shunt in Korea won’t have helped alter.
Much like the fact no possible scenario exists where Fernando Alonso is told to let through his Maranello team-mate – as was proven in Korea – it also seemed no amount of hard work or improvement would keep Massa with the team.
Yet, having been expected to hammer out a deal this week to drive for the iconic Italian outfit again next season, the news duly dropped Tuesday afternoon – Massa will serve an eighth term of Ferrari service in 2013.
Even upon leaving Korea, the fact a continued stay for Massa was no longer greeted by sniggers and apologies said a lot about the Brazilian’s character.
While the former Sauber man has been a consistent points finisher in his Maranello career – even after his horrendous accident in 2009 – it has been the gap to his Spanish team-mate that has caused him all the problems.
"It’d be wrong to impose team orders while Mark still mathematically has a chance of winning"
And it is a gap that has almost disappeared over the last two races. That is what did the trick and convinced Ferrari owner Luca di Montezemolo over Massa remaining Alonso’s able deputy.
The news also sees Ferrari join Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes in completing their 2013 driver line-up.
In fact, vacancies for seats on next year’s grid are now few and far between – especially good ones.
Sauber remain the focal point following Sergio Perez’s switch to McLaren – Nico Hulkenberg looks set to fill that particular void, and so leave one behind at Force India.
Who fills what from there is likely to run until the constructors’ championship order is decided for the season – and with it, team budgets.
As for those with a Norfolk connection, Lotus expect to have Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen ready to go again – although nothing is set in stone.
And Caterham will have a big winter ahead – probably with a few tough questions being asked.
Heikki Kovalainen may well fancy a drive with either Sauber or Force India next season if the chance arises – especially given he is out of contract after this season.
On the other side of the garage Vitaly Petrov’s seat could go either way, with Bruno Senna and Charles Pic suggested as possible new 2013 arrivals.
And don’t discount regular regular Norfolk visitor Giedo van der Garde either – Caterham’s Dutch reserve driver this season is well backed, even if his GP2 campaign never quite caught fire as he’d have hoped. So as always, it’s a merry-go-round – even if some new faces may get a go come next spring.
And whatever happens between now and the final race of 2012 at Interlagos, the prospect of next year is already whetting the appetite.
• There was a cracking question headed Lewis Hamilton’s way after Sunday’s Korean Grand Prix – one he answered maturely and adequately on his part.
But one, when he got home, he may have found himself asking again out loud and genuinely wondering about its answer.
McLaren’s season really hasn’t been good enough. The grid’s quickest car simply hasn’t been reliable enough to prove it.
Otherwise the odd dodgy weekend and flawed circuit set-up would have been ridden out.
Yet, while Lewis remains a Woking man for the rest of the season, he would only be human if he looked a few metres down the paddock to Mercedes and what awaits him next season.
Does that worry him? For the cameras, he is only focused on one thing. It was the only answer he was ever going to give.
But if for some strange reason Lewis was hoping to be equally as competitive in 2013 as this season, he is going to have to think again and get his head around that – and quickly too.
With few technical tweaks between this season and next, drastic changes in the grid’s running order are unlikely – only a stronger gaze on how the likes of Hamilton and Perez deal with their new surroundings.
These remaining four races are not going to be easy for Lewis.
Some in Korea picked up on him cutting an isolated figure: be it late for press gatherings or just less interaction with his McLaren colleagues.
It even smacks of the unusual when Lewis rules out his drivers’ title chances, while pundits and the like say he still has a hope – albeit slim.
Maybe that’s why Lewis isn’t really worried about the state of Mercedes at the moment. To Lewis, the fact it isn’t McLaren is probably the best thing going for it.