Formula 1's Latest Rumours & Gossip: Lotus Deal Imminent, Sauber Seat War & More
A Grand Prix always throws up a story or two in the Formula One paddock and last weekend was no different.
Pastor Maldonado's sabotage claim after the Williams driver's qualifying woes was as strong as it got, but there are some interesting stories circulating at the start of a new week.
With one round remaining and 2014 fast approaching, drivers without a contract for next year are getting desperate to confirm their future.
It's not just drivers who are eager to finalise deals, either.
However, you'll have to read on to find out more about that.
Lotus, Sauber or Force India for Hulk?
Despite another starring drive for Sauber, Nico Hulkenberg's future remains clouded.
Sixth at Austin will not likely spark any progress in the German's long-running contract saga.
Lotus remains his sole remaining option for a (likely) seat that will enable him to fight for the victories his talent deserves.
However, he is also in the frame for past and current employers Force India and Sauber respectively.
Britain’s Sky claimed on Sunday that Monisha Kaltenborn wants the German to stay at Sauber in 2014. “That’s good news, isn’t it?” Hulkenberg smiled after hearing about his options on Sunday, after finishing the US Grand Prix in a strong sixth place. “All I can do is keep delivering on the track.”
Remaining with them, though, might be subject to something else…
Perez and Gutierrez for Sauber?
There might be an all-Mexican line-up at Sauber next year.
The team was disappointed to see Sergio Perez head out the exit door 12 months ago, but his fling with McLaren is over and he is now looking for another drive.
Could an alliance with compatriot Esteban Gutierrez be on the cards?
Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin has not been confirmed as racing next year, despite the apparent impatience of his backers.
"Mexican power!" Gutierrez was noted as saying by motorsport.com, presumably at the pre-race Formula One Team's Association Fans Forum. Perez agreed: "I think it would be good. Why not?"
The website continued by claiming Kaltenborn was quoted by the AS newspaper as saying: "We had a good relationship, and good memories of his years here. But there are other drivers who could be on the team."
It ends by claiming: "The money is there to run both of them (at Sauber), and even to buy the team," in quotes attributed to "an unnamed Mexican" by AS correspondent Manuel Franco.
What About Lotus?
Lotus' future has been up in the air for what seems like an eternity now.
The long-rumoured investment from Quantum remains unconfirmed and that is delaying the team's driver choice.
Nico Hulkenberg is favourite if the deal comes off, PDVSA-backed Pastor Maldonado if it doesn't.
Of course, Sergio Perez is also in the frame, especially as McLaren appears to be touting his talent to other teams, Lotus included.
However, using Sky Sports F1 as his forum, Quantum frontman Mansoor Ijaz says the deal will be completed imminently.
We're still very much going to join them. We have done, as I have said before, from our part, what we need to make sure that the assets in our portfolio were released. We live in a world where the banking compliance frameworks and the way in which international transfers work are quite complicated. We're not talking about moving small sums of money from one place to the other. Any time you have Middle East investors involved in a transaction where the monies are coming directly from the Middle East not outside already the complications can be quite significant and the compliance process can take some time, but we're very close to the end now, I'm pretty sure that we'll get it done this week.
Lotus team principal Eric Boullier added: "I'm confident it's going to go through. Mansoor has been working hard and everything that has been done in the last months or so we have had no reason to doubt about it. It is just a question of timing."
Vettel Worth Two Drivers?
According to Helmut Marko, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel is better than the combined talents of Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
Well, he does have more points than the two combined.
The German wrapped up his eighth straight win at Austin and is poised to match Alberto Ascari's all-time consecutive victory streak if he triumphs in Brazil.
"I always hear Mercedes say they have the best driver pairing in Formula One," Marko reportedly told Bild am Sonntag newspaper (according to motorsport.com).
"Vettel alone is better than Rosberg and Hamilton together. This is a fact."
Ricciardo 'Can Match Vettel'
Such glowing praise of Vettel might be daunting for his 2014 teammate Daniel Ricciardo, but it actually reflects well on him.
While Marko was busy singing the German's praises, Toro Rosso chief Franz Tost was doing the same for Ricciardo.
The Australian will replace Mark Webber in the second Red Bull next year after two years with Toro Rosso and a brief stint with HRT.
According to Planet-F1.com, he believes his driver can match Vettel when they go toe-to-toe next season.
Daniel is a highly skilled driver who has quite some experience under his belt now so I am convinced that he can do a really good job alongside Sebastian.
Of course, next year much will depend on how good the car is - but why should Red Bull not come up with a competitive car in 2104? If they don't it would completely run against their history.
I expect that next year we will see Sebastian and Daniel making up the front row of the grid. I think when necessary Daniel can be pretty aggressive - especially in qualifying - and I am sure he can continue with that level of performance and will be able to match Sebastian's times.