Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Paddock News from 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix
The Hungarian Grand Prix is on Sunday, and Formula One's annual "silly season" is in full swing.
Lewis Hamilton has dismissed suggestions his seat at Mercedes may be under threat. Team boss Toto Wolff—recovering from multiple broken bones after a bicycle crash—also spoke out in support of the Brit.
Adrian Sutil has also been defending his seat after speculation Giedo van der Garde could step up at Sauber.
Further down the pit lane, Alexander Rossi has bounced back quickly from his break with Caterham by signing on as Marussia's new reserve driver.
But Felipe Massa hasn't bounced back from his multiple shunts. He continues to fire off salvos at anyone he deems unworthy of sharing his race track and even had a pop at the stewards.
We've also had news regarding the 2015 calendar. Mexico is on, New Jersey is off and Azerbaijan won't arrive until 2016.
Read on for a full roundup of the news heading into the race weekend.
Felipe Massa Still Not Happy with Kevin Magnussen
Felipe Massa still blames Kevin Magnussen for the first-corner shunt which put him out of the German Grand Prix.
The stewards did not punish the young Dane, and it later emerged (official report, pdf) they only investigated Massa for the incident.
But the Williams driver, who was quoted by Sky Sports last month as saying he always admits when he has made a mistake, maintains it was Magnussen's fault.
Speaking to press before the Hungarian Grand Prix, Massa was asked if he still blamed the McLaren driver. He was quoted by Autosport as saying:
Yeah, I think he was a little bit too aggressive. There were two cars and he didn't even have the line to make the corner so quick because he was completely inside.
I was very cautious on that corner. I even backed off to let Valtteri to go in front. In my car it was impossible to know somebody was there. Impossible. I couldn't see. But he was behind, so...
How many races has he caused problems in the first lap? Anyway...
He went on to complain about the stewarding standards, saying improvements were needed.
Massa has been an outspoken critic of his fellow drivers this year. ESPN reported he called for Kamui Kobayashi to be banned for their first-corner crash in Australia (before it was known the Japanese had suffered a brake failure), and he had plenty of harsh words for Sergio Perez following their collision in Canada.
If the FIA really wants to spice up the show, maybe they could sit Massa between Perez and Magnussen at the next pre-race press conference.
Sebastian Vettel to Mercedes? Lewis Hamilton Says No
Rumours emerged on Wednesday that Mercedes were chasing Sebastian Vettel for 2016. German newspaper Sport Bild (h/t Autoweek for English reporting) claimed the team were aiming to pair the four-time world champion with Nico Rosberg.
Vettel's current contract expires at the end of next season, and after Red Bull's struggles in 2014 a move would not be out of the question.
But on Thursday at the Hungaroring, Lewis Hamilton responded to the rumours, telling press including Sky Sports:
I’m not worried about it.
Another German driver, I don’t know if that’s something Mercedes would like, but at the moment I’m here until the end of next year. So it’s not going to be any time soon. But that’s normal—Mercedes is the best and so everyone’s going to want to drive a Mercedes.
Hamilton also revealed talks about extending his current deal beyond the end of 2015 have not yet begun. However, earlier in the week Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said the team wanted to keep him in the long term.
He told Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung (h/t grandprix247.com), "We are already sitting together and negotiating with Lewis Hamilton. About a multi-year contract, even.”
Maybe they're just keeping their options open in case the Brit decides to go elsewhere.
Alexander Rossi Joins Marussia as Reserve Driver
Alexander Rossi has joined Marussia as their reserve driver for the rest of the 2014 season.
The American had previously held a similar role at Caterham, but he left the team following their takeover earlier in the month.
It marked the end of a three-year relationship with the team. As well as driving for Caterham's GP2 team since 2012, Rossi had taken part in four free practice sessions for the Leafield-based outfit.
His new role will involve similar opportunities before the end of 2014.
In a statement to the Marussia website, Rossi said:
Today is a good day and next step in my Formula One career. Since my initial discussions with the Marussia F1 Team management, I’ve felt right at home. I’m looking forward to working with the team in Hungary and building for the rest of the season. The timing of my affiliation with the team is perfect, especially beginning in Hungary before the summer break. My goal is Formula One, and I’m delighted to be immersed into the team as Official Reserve Driver, where I have the opportunity to prepare for this next step, with plans to drive in Free Practice One this season.
Adrian Sutil Insists His Sauber Seat Is Safe
Adrian Sutil has insisted he will not be leaving Sauber, despite rumours linking their reserve driver, Giedo van der Garde, with one of the team's race seats.
The Swiss team are without a point in 2014 and their financial situation is less than secure. Van der Garde could be a route to changing that.
He's married to the daughter of Marcel Boekhoorn, a Dutch billionaire with a substantial interest in clothing firm McGregor.
Earlier in the month, Grandprix.com reported on rumours van der Garde's personal sponsors, including McGregor, were offering a substantial amount for him to be bumped up into a race seat.
On Thursday, Sky Sports suggested the figure could be in the region of €15 million.
But when asked about the rumours at the Hungaroring, Sutil—who himself brings a hefty wedge of sponsor cash to the team—was dismissive. He told press including Sky Sports:
I think half of my career they said ‘Adrian is out’. I’m still here; it’s my 120th grand prix. Any more questions? I’ll be here for much longer so sorry, but you’ll have to live with my face.
This is not the truth. You can ask me—I’ll give you the right answer. It’s from some person out there which is bored or whatever.
Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn gave a similar response, saying:
I just learned today that apparently someone is talking about it—but definitely not myself or anyone at Sauber. We’ve announced our drivers with the functions they have and in the unlikely event—and we really hope anything doesn’t happen to our two race drivers—he would be the one to step in.
Only if something unexpected happened, then he would step in.
So unless a bill from an engine supplier or catering company counts as "something unexpected," Sutil should be safe for now.
Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez Excited for Mexico Grand Prix 2015
The Mexican Grand Prix will return to the F1 calendar in 2015, marking the end of a 23-year absence.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Bernie Ecclestone said (h/t NBC):
I’m happy to announce we’ve concluded an agreement to have a race in 2015. Don’t miss this race!
I feel it is the right for F1 and for Mexico and I’m sure it will be to the benefit of both for many years. I look forward to welcoming you all to this global event next year.
The venue will be the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City. The circuit is being renovated by (who else) Hermann Tilke, and the organisers released a video showing the planned alterations. As expected, Peraltada is the most notable casualty.
Instead of tackling the fearsome final corner, the drivers will thread their way through a fiddly section inside a baseball stadium.
Responding to news of the race, Sergio Perez told the official FIA pre-race press conference:
It's great, I'm so happy. Since I left my home at 13, 14 years I never raced in Mexico. I never raced in my home country. Now to go back after so many years and race actually in Formula One is great. They've been really pushing for so many years, since I came to Formula One four years ago. The spirit of the fans is massive back home. It's great for my country, for all the fans back home and I'm sure you all will be surprised at how good the event will be. I'm just very proud and excited.
Countryman Esteban Gutierrez added:
I have good feelings about it, because all these years that Mexico has been involved in Formula One with obviously first Checo getting to Formula One and now myself, we are two in Formula One and I think this is a great step to have a grand prix. It's really a dream come true for many of us. I had the chance to race once in Mexico City, back in 2008, when we did the world finals of Formula BMW. It was a great experience. I think it was an introduction to what it can be, obviously very, very small by comparison but now we will be able to going into the biggest thing in Mexico and to really share with our fans, with our supporters, to share with them physically the sport.
If they're still in F1 next year, Perez and Gutierrez will become the first Mexicans to drive in their home grand prix since Pedro Rodriguez in 1970. Pedro and his brother Ricardo are the hermanos (brothers) after whom the circuit is named.
Both were highly talented drivers who lost their lives on the race track—Ricardo at just 20, Pedro at 31.
New Jersey off but Azerbaijan Expected in 2016
The first Azerbaijan Grand Prix will take place in 2016.
It had at one stage been expected to make its debut next season, with Bernie Ecclestone telling The Independent in May, "Baku has been signed. It will start in 2015 and will replace Korea."
However, the F1 boss told Forbes this week it would not happen until the following year.
He also mentioned the proposed race around the streets of Port Imperial, New Jersey. The race is slowly turning into the F1 version of vaporware; it seems there's more chance of the RAF replacing the Red Arrows with a squadron of Gloucester Old Spots than there is of us seeing F1 in the Garden State any time soon.
But Ecclestone revealed it could join Azerbaijan on the 2016 calender. He told Forbes:
Somebody said to me the other day that New Jersey seem to have got their act together now and that they have got the money and are all in good shape. Whether or not that is true I don’t know. The soonest it could come on the calendar is 2016.
The saga continues.
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