Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Simona De Silvestro, Double Points and More
Fans around the world are rejoicing as the summer break draws to a close. Formula One returns next Sunday for the Belgian Grand Prix, ending a four-week drought which has seen zero on-track action.
Off the track, it has been a different story. The fight for Sauber's two 2015 seats is hotting up nicely, with Simona de Silvestro and Felipe Nasr among those sniffing around at Hinwil.
Over the border in Austria, another son of a 1990s driver has taken a step closer to joining Kevin Magnussen in F1. Max Verstappen, son of Jos, has signed with the Red Bull Junior Team after an excellent start to his single-seater career.
Elsewhere, Vijay Mallya has expressed his distaste for the double points system he agreed to implement, while Luca di Montezemolo says Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen are going nowhere.
Read on for a full roundup of the week's top stories.
Simona De Silvestro and Felipe Nasr Eye 2015 Sauber Seat
Simona de Silvestro believes she is now ready to make the step up to F1.
The former IndyCar racer signed up as an affiliated driver with the Swiss team earlier this year. She was aiming high, with hopes of moving up to a race seat in 2015.
She has already done one test for the team in April, completing 112 laps of the Italian Fiorano circuit in a two-year-old Sauber C31.
Could she be driving a C34 next year?
Speaking to F1 Racing magazine (h/t ESPN), de Silvestro said:
I feel that now is the time. I wouldn't have made this jump if it didn't feel right or it wasn't a good opportunity. That's why it felt normal to go to Fiorano, I didn't feel super crazy nervous.
For me, it's been really important to focus on the racing part, because at the end of the day that's what people are going to judge you on, whether you're a boy or a girl. The most important thing is that when we put on our helmets, we are all the same. We are racing drivers and we try to do the best job that we can in a race car. That's always been my aim.
But she may have some competition. Felipe Nasr is also eyeing a drive at the Swiss team.
The Brazilian is currently employed by Williams as their official test and reserve driver and lies second in the 2014 GP2 championship with three wins. After three years in the series, he's looking at stepping up to an F1 race seat in 2015.
Nasr told Brazil's Sportv (h/t Autoweek):
Conversations have begun already. My management is looking around. Force India is difficult, but I think Sauber is possible.
It's hard to get a place at Williams because the two drivers have done a good job and the team will not want to change that. I will keep up with all of the teams and see what happens.
Despite his apparent talent and good track record, any deal would be dependent on Nasr's primary sponsor, Banco do Brasil, making a substantial contribution.
Vijay Mallya Adds His Voice to Double Points Opposition
Vijay Mallya is the latest F1 figure to come out in opposition to the controversial double points system.
They will be awarded at the final race of the year, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The thinking behind it was that it would make things "more exciting" by keeping the title race alive for longer.
A number of drivers have also spoken out against it. Sebastian Vettel was among the first to air his views, telling Sport Bild (h/t BBC), "This is absurd and punishes those who have worked hard for a whole season. Drivers, fans and experts are horrified."
More recently, a man whose title chances may be affected—Nico Rosberg—called it "artificial" in a column for the Daily Mail.
Now Mallya has joined in. The Force India team principal told Autosport:
There are still eight races to go, and the last one [for] double points. Even if we go away from Brazil in third or fourth position and say 'wow! What a season!' everything could come to naught in Abu Dhabi.
Once again I don't understand the logic of this.
Which raises the question—why did he, Montezemolo, Wolff and all the other team bosses agree to it in the first place?
Luca Di Montezemolo and Jules Bianchi Dismiss Ferrari Rumours
Luca di Montezemolo and Jules Bianchi have joined forces to dismiss rumours over the future of Ferrari drivers Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.
Per Sky Sports, Alonso is wanted by a number of rival teams and Ferrari are desperate to tie him down.
However, it won't be cheap for the Scuderia. Multiple outlets including Italian magazine Autosprint and Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t motorsport.com) have reported that Alonso wants his salary increased to almost $50 million a year to stay with the team until 2019.
And following a string of unimpressive displays, Raikkonen's future is also being questioned.
We are lucky to have two great champions, who are working with the whole team to get back to being competitive again. Of course, as is the case every summer, there is unfounded gossip about alleged problems with senseless rumours bandied about, such as the ones relating to Alonso’s contract or those of drivers’ salaries. We know that the summer heat always produces silly stories.
Ferrari Driver Academy member Bianchi, whose performances at Marussia over the last two seasons have pushed him into contention for a call-up to the big leagues, also says he expects Alonso and Raikkonen to stay put.
Speaking to crash.net, he said:
They have a contract with both drivers for next year and I don't think they will change that. What I need to do is keep focusing on my job with Marussia and do the best job that I can.
This one's unlikely to go away, though. Expect more rumours, counter-rumours and dismissals over the coming months.
Max Verstappen Joins Red Bull Junior Team
Max Verstappen has become the Red Bull Junior Team's newest recruit.
The name may sound familiar, and so it should—he's the son of former F1 driver Jos Verstappen. Still only 16, his displays in F3 this season—his first out of karts—drew interest from a number of teams. Autosport reported earlier in the month that discussions with Mercedes and Red Bull were taking place.
His capture was announced this week on the Red Bull website, a statement saying:
We are very pleased to announce that Max Verstappen has accepted our invitation to join the Red Bull Junior Team. This is effective immediately and the 16-year-old Dutchman will continue his FIA Formula Three European Championship campaign at the Nurburgring this weekend as a Red Bull Junior in the Van Amersfoort Racing team and additionally will compete at the Macau Grand Prix in November.
The Red Bull Junior Team is arguably the most successful young driver program of recent years. Its long list of graduates to F1 include Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne, Daniil Kvyat, Sebastien Buemi and Christian Klien.
But as former Red Bull juniors Antonio Felix da Costa, Lewis Williamson and Robert Wickens (among many others) will testify, it's not a free pass to the top.
Verstappen looks like he could be the real deal and has got a great opportunity—but will have to prove himself all over again.
Eric Boullier Hints at a Line-Up Change for McLaren
Eric Boullier's quest to return McLaren to the front of the grid continued over the summer break.
The Woking-based team have not won a race since Jenson Button's triumph at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix. The current run of 30 races is their longest win-less streak since 1996.
Now, Boullier has revealed he isn't afraid to get tough with employees he feels are not operating to their full potential.
Speaking to Autosport, he said:
It's the same people that have won many, many races in the world championship. It's about why they can't work together and why they can't reach the target.
It's more about the culture and bringing back the right leadership, the right management and putting the right processes in place. It will take time and it may bruise some egos, but there will be some changes in the team because we have to close the book and start a new one.
He went on to say that by the end of the year, "95 percent" of the necessary changes would have been made.
Perhaps a new driver or two will be involved.
Last week, Boullier dropped the strongest hint yet that one or more of the team's current drivers may get the boot at the end of the year, telling Autosport that McLaren may soon need to "refresh" their driver line-up.