Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Maldonado's Best Decision, Massa and More

Oliver HardenFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2014

Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Maldonado's Best Decision, Massa and More

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    The months became weeks, and now the weeks have become days.

    The 2014 Formula One season is almost upon us and, in the lead-up to the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, drivers and team members alike have been eager to share their thoughts as the green light for F1 at the Albert Park circuit approaches.

    In this week’s roundup, we have Pastor Maldonado, utterly delirious with his decision to sacrifice post-race Martinis; we have a member of the newly rebranded “WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING” hierarchy commenting on the impact of Felipe Massa; we have an Australian pretending to be fond of Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button discusses his state of mind after a difficult winter and outlines his expectations for the season ahead.

    That season, finally, is within touching distance.

Pastor Maldonado Overjoyed with Lotus Move Despite Concerns

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    Despite Lotus’ dreadful form in pre-season testing, new signing Pastor Maldonado has referred to his move from Williams for 2014 as the “best decision ever.”

    The Venezuelan’s new employers, the only team to miss the opening test in Jerez, completed only 800 miles in pre-season while Williams, the team Maldonado accused of tampering with his car at last year’s United States Grand Prix, completed in excess of 3,000 miles.

    Maldonado, though, remains convinced that he made the correct choice in signing for Lotus even if the team are likely to be among the backmarkers at the Australian Grand Prix—a race that the team won convincingly with Kimi Raikkonen in 2013.

    He told Ben Anderson of AUTOSPORT:

    In my opinion it's the best decision ever. I saw the car first in the windtunnel and it was fantastic.

    It's completely a different car, the most interesting car in the paddock, the most beautiful car, aggressive. I think they've done a really good job in terms of design.

    Using the rules and looking at the small particulars of the car, the design looks impressive and we hope to have a good car during the season.

    I don't know if (my move from Williams to Lotus) is good or worse for the results, we need to race first.

    The season is long, we will see.

    Maldonado’s comments, at a time when Williams appear to have rediscovered their momentum, suggest that the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix winner departed Grove for more than performance-related reasons.  

Williams Also Overjoyed with Maldonado Move as Felipe Massa Is Praised

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    Felipe Massa, Pastor Maldonado’s replacement at Williams, has been praised as “superb” by chief technical officer Pat Symonds.

    The 32-year-old Brazilian, formerly of Ferrari, has impressed the team with his consistency, feedback, enthusiasm and pace since arriving at Williams and set the fastest time of pre-season testing on the penultimate day in Bahrain.

    With Williams in with a chance of victory at the season-opening race in Melbourne, Symonds—who has worked with Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso, world champions and former team-mates of Massa—has been eager to praise Massa, telling AUTOSPORT’s Edd Straw:

    He is superb.

    I didn't know exactly what to expect because I didn't know him particularly well before he joined Williams, but he is great.

    He is very quick, which we knew and he provides good concise feedback without any airs and graces, it's just “this is what's happening”.

    He's a fabulous team player and such a charming person. He was there every day we were testing, even when he wasn't driving, as was Valtteri (Bottas, Massa’s Williams teammate).

    They are both working hard and wanting to push things forward. Felipe is just part of the regeneration of the team believing in itself again.

    I noticed that when we first spoke to him, that he was hungry.

    He has got unfinished business and he will thoroughly enjoy trying to finish some of that off.

    Something tells us that Williams might be even happier with Maldonado’s move to Lotus than Maldonado himself…

Daniel Ricciardo Expects Good Relationship with Sebastian Vettel

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    Ahead of his home race in Melbourne, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo has been discussing his relationship with Sebastian Vettel.

    The Australian, who replaced countryman Mark Webber at the four-time championship-winning outfit, has acknowledged that onlookers will expect him to eventually come to blows with Vettel, who was embroiled in several high-profile incidents with Webber stretching back to the German’s rookie season in 2007.

    Former Toro Rosso driver Ricciardo, however, expects to have a professional relationship with Vettel, and has been quoted by ESPN F1 as telling AAP:

    I guess they're trying to find something with it.

    A lot people are probably waiting for the day that we have an incident on track and get into a fist-fight or something. But at the moment all I can say is there's no issues. I respect him as a competitor.

    Naturally, if I am competitive, I'm sure we're not going to be the closest mates because he's not going to like that and I'm not going to like getting my arse kicked if he's going to be doing that.

    We'll see. I don't expect it to get out of hand. It'll just be competitive and professional.

Ricciardo Relaxed Ahead of Home Race as Australia's Only Star

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    As well as discussing his relationship with Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo has revealed his expectations for his home race at Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit and his 2014 season in general.

    In an exclusive column for Australia’s Herald Sun newspaper, the Red Bull driver explained the added pressure of being the only Australian representative on the grid following Mark Webber’s retirement at the end of 2013, writing:

    Some people call it pressure but I call it excitement and motivation — it’s all positive. You just have to use that feeling, as well as the adrenalin to get through the weekend.

    To be honest, while it’s great being at a home grand prix, when you’re in the car, helmet on, everything gets shut out and you focus on the race. You try not to dwell on pressure and expectation and just go with the flow.

    In terms of my goals for the season, I would love to be on that podium — I am yet to do that in F1 so that’s the first target and then I have to push myself to challenge Seb.

    On the whole I can’t wait for this season to get started. I love my job and I am living my dream driving in F1. I’ve wanted to do this as a career since I was a little tacker so I still have to pinch myself sometimes!

    I definitely want to be a champion one day and while I still have a bit of a way to go for that, I’m ready for the hard work.

Jenson Button Unafraid of F1 After Testing Winter

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    After we recently speculated that 2014 could be Jenson Button’s last in F1, the 2009 world champion has revealed that he has adopted a different perspective after enduring a difficult winter.

    Button, who lost his father John in January, told Daniel Johnson of The Telegraph that he will approach the 2014 season—his 15th in F1—with a more relaxed attitude, stating:  

    There is nothing I am afraid of in F1 at all. The last couple of months have put everything into perspective.

    I am going to go racing because I love it and if I am good enough this year I will be racing in Formula One next year. If I don’t do a good enough job I won’t be racing, whichever way it takes me there is nothing that scares me—which is a good position to be in because I am so excited to get out there.

    Button, who also spoke of his healthy relationship with new McLaren team-mate Kevin Magnussen, his third different team-mate in three years, discussed his excitement ahead of the new season, adding:

    I am excited about the coming season. From a drivers point of view F1 cars they are not as much fun as they were six years ago, but you learn to adapt and you are still racing against the best drivers in the world.

    I don’t think a Red Bull will be on the front row, which is a positive thing for the sport. It’s sad to say we think like that but it’s the case. They’ve been too dominant.

    It’s going to be exciting for the sport to see a smaller team, Williams, fighting it out at the front people will love that. And you will see different teams coming to the top at different races.

    I don’t think it’s going to be a bad year. I think it’s going to be an exciting year for the fans and without them we are not going to go racing.