Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso and More
Another piece of Formula One's "silly season" jigsaw is set to fall into place, with Sergio Perez close to sealing a new deal to remain at Force India.
The Mexican has already represented three teams in his five seasons in F1 and recently seemed set to be on the move for 2016, with rumours linking the 25-year-old to Renault.
However, a member of the Force India hierarchy has confirmed a deal is close and could be announced in time for this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix.
Should Force India keep Perez, they will become the latest team to retain their driver lineup in what is fast becoming the most uneventful transfer market of recent times.
And Fernando Alonso hopes McLaren-Honda will also recognise the benefits of stability and continuity, with the two-time world champion backing the team to retain Jenson Button for 2016.
Meanwhile, Mark Webber has expressed his concern that the 2015 title battle is already over, with Nico Rosberg currently trailing Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton by 53 points.
The Australian, who slipped from a commanding position to finish third in the 2010 championship battle, knows a beaten man when he sees one, and he believes Rosberg will be unable to stop Hamilton from winning a third title.
Webber retired from F1 at the end of 2013 and timed his exit to perfection, with his former employers, Red Bull Racing, winning just three races since.
The four-time world champions' relationship with engine suppliers Renault has been terminally harmed by their fall from grace, forcing Red Bull to head down the customer route. But team principal Christian Horner sees no reason why their loss of works-team status will be an obstacle to success.
Closing this week's roundup are Manor Marussia, who have delayed the introduction of their new car until 2016 in a bid to make a substantial leap in performance and, perhaps, to find a new engine partner of their own.
Force India Set to Announce Sergio Perez Stay Ahead of Singapore GP
Force India are set to confirm Sergio Perez's contract extension ahead of this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix.
Since joining the team at the beginning of 2014 after a damaging spell at McLaren, the Mexican driver has repaired his reputation, securing Force India's first podium in five years at last season's Bahrain GP and recently nudging ahead of highly rated team-mate Nico Hulkenberg in the championship.
While Hulkenberg's future was secured with the news of a new two-year contract on the eve of the Italian GP, Perez's plans for 2016 were less certain, with F1 journalist Ted Kravitz telling Sky Sports' The F1 Show how the 25-year-old was being lined up for a move to the returning Renault outfit.
Perez, however, told BBC Sport of his happiness at Force India, and according to deputy team principal Bob Fernley, a new deal with the Silverstone-based team is imminent.
Fernley has claimed the negotiations between Perez and team owner Vijay Mallya have been delayed due to "commercial" complications—per James Allen on F1's Alex Kalinauckas, the driver provides around €10-12 million in sponsorship funds—but he expects the agreement to be finalised within the coming days.
He told Motorsport.com's Adam Cooper:
Vijay is finishing off the discussions with him, and I think by Singapore we should be clear to announce everything.
One deal is more complex, there are commercial issues involved, whereas the other is a driver contract. ...
We have two drivers that get on well within the team, they're pushing each other all the time. Both of them are excellent racers. I'm not sure that we could do better, that's the key.
I think that they are both very happy at Force India.
Obviously Nico had a choice, and he's made that choice, and I think it's the same thing probably with Checo. Nico was out of contract, Checo's is a renewal.
It is, of course, two years since Perez sat in the pre-race FIA press conference in Singapore and explained his contract renewal at McLaren was "pretty much" done, only to be dropped in favour of a rookie, Kevin Magnussen, at the end of 2013.
This time, though, it seems Perez—who since arriving in F1 in 2011 has not remained with a single team beyond two seasons—will have nothing to worry about.
Fernando Alonso Hopes McLaren-Honda Retain Jenson Button for 2016
Fernando Alonso has spoken in support of McLaren-Honda team-mate Jenson Button, urging the team to retain the British driver for 2016.
For the second "silly season" in succession, Button's Formula One future has been the subject of intense scrutiny, with the Telegraph's Daniel Johnson claiming McLaren's option to keep the 2009 world champion is set to expire at the end of September.
Kevin Magnussen, who was dropped to make way for Alonso at the end of 2014, and Stoffel Vandoorne, the GP2 championship leader, are both in contention to replace Button, who recently told Autosport's Glenn Freeman of his desire for his future to be resolved in the coming weeks.
Alonso currently leads Button by five points in the standings and both McLaren drivers—one of two all-champion pairings on the 2015 grid—have been evenly matched in a troubled year for the team, with Honda's V6 turbo power unit leaving the MP4-30 down on power and unreliable.
And Alonso, the two-time world champion, believes his relationship with the highly experienced Button, who made his grand prix debut in 2000, will have a positive effect on the team, telling Autosport's Lawrence Barretto and Ian Parkes:
Jenson has been quite good all season. We've been working together very closely to help the team.
The experience Jenson has, it (has) been very, very important for the upgrades we have brought to the car, in terms of the power unit and aerodynamics.
So if Jenson stays I think it's a good thing for the team.
If they decide they need to change something there will be some advantages and some disadvantages for the team, I guess.
The only thing I can say, the only thing I know for sure is working with Jenson has been very, very productive for the team and for myself, learning a lot of things.
Working with the other guys, I cannot tell much.
Ahead of his move from Ferrari to McLaren at the end of the last season, Alonso also encouraged McLaren to retain Button, telling BBC Sport's Andrew Benson how "people like him are good for our sport."
Mark Webber Fears Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg Title Battle Is Already over
Nico Rosberg will find it impossible to prevent Lewis Hamilton from securing his third title over the remaining seven races of 2015.
That is the opinion of former grand prix driver Mark Webber, who believes the German's chances of winning his maiden world championship are all but over following his retirement from the Italian Grand Prix.
Rosberg's engine failure in the latter stages at Monza, where Hamilton claimed his seventh win of the season, saw the British driver extend his points advantage from 28 to 53. Although there is still a maximum of 175 points to play for, Hamilton can now afford to retire from two races and still retain the lead of the drivers' standings.
Despite winning three races this year, Rosberg has been unable to challenge Hamilton on a regular basis in 2015 and missed the opportunity to take the championship lead in July's Hungarian GP, where a late collision with Daniel Ricciardo saw him drop from second to eighth on a day his team-mate could only finish sixth.
And Webber, who partnered Rosberg at Williams in 2006, fears Rosberg will be forced to settle for the runner-up spot for the second successive season, telling ESPN F1's Laurence Edmondson:
It's over, that's all over.
(Rosberg must) Win a lot, that would be awesome if he can do that. But Lewis is in a phenomenally confident window at the moment, so that's going to be hard.
Lewis will want to wrap it up and we don't have the double points in play in Abu Dhabi this year, so it's a big, big margin. Lewis could have the odd DNF in there, which can still happen and we saw Nico have one in Italy, but that would be what is required.
There might be some other tracks where Ferrari come into the game, so if the points are spread around a bit more that makes it even harder for Nico to pull back that gap.
Hamilton enjoyed his strongest run of form at this stage of the 2014 campaign, winning six of the final seven races to claim his second crown having trailed Rosberg by 29 points at one stage.
It will require a similar winning streak for Rosberg to topple his team-mate this time.
Red Bull's Christian Horner Adamant Customer Engine Deal Won't Prevent Success
Christian Horner, the Red Bull Racing team principal, believes a customer engine deal will not stop the four-time constructors' champions from re-emerging as a major force in Formula One.
As reported by Autosport's Dieter Rencken and Lawrence Barretto over the Italian Grand Prix weekend, Red Bull will end their nine-season relationship with Renault at the end of the current campaign, freeing the team to join forces with a different engine supplier for 2016.
Mercedes, who have won 26 of a possible 31 races since the start of the V6 turbo era in 2014, were the initial favourites to link up with Red Bull, but Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble claims Daimler, the German manufacturer's parent company, are unwilling to strengthen a direct competitor.
That has left Ferrari as Red Bull's only option to not only ensure they remain reasonably competitive, but to allow the team to take to the track next season, with Scuderia team boss Maurizio Arrivabene telling BBC Sport's Andrew Benson of his openness to supplying the Milton Keynes-based outfit.
The complexities of the modern-day power units means it is essential for teams to have a works engine deal—which is why McLaren reunited with Honda for 2015 and why Renault are set to return as a full-blown factory team next year—and it is telling that Mercedes and Ferrari are the only teams to win a race in 2015.
However, Horner insists Red Bull, who overcame their straight-line speed deficit to win three races with Daniel Ricciardo in 2014, can still fight for major honours even with customer engines, telling ESPN F1's Laurence Edmondson:
We won four world championships and 50 grands prix as a customer, so I don't see why not. I think it's just a different solution.
In order to achieve a championship or outright race-winning capability we need to have a significant step on the power unit. Obviously we need to make progress on the chassis and we are working very hard to do that, but we really need to close that gap down to our competitors.
Horner added that Renault's failure to quickly adapt to the engine regulations in contrast to Mercedes, who began research into the hybrid-engine technology years in advance of their introduction, is at the root of the French manufacturer's ongoing struggles.
Manor Marussia to Wait Until 2016 to Introduce New Car
Manor Marussia will delay the introduction of their new Formula One car until the 2016 season, with the team hoping to make a major step forward in performance.
After being rescued from administration on the eve of the 2015 campaign, Manor started the season with a modified 2014 car featuring an old-spec Ferrari power unit, leaving them several seconds off the pace.
As team principal John Booth told Autosport's Lawrence Barretto in April, the backmarkers originally hoped to run their 2015 in August, but Manor have persevered with their updated MR03.
And with a busy run of seven races between this weekend's Singapore GP and the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP on November 29, the team have now decided to wait until the beginning of next year to showcase their new car.
In a separate Autosport article, Graeme Lowdon, Manor's sporting director, told Barretto:
The plan we had at the start of the year envisaged making some major change to the chassis and power unit during the 2015 season.
But as we developed and recruited more people, it became less and less feasible to go down that route and more and more advantageous to keep developing the next chassis.
The rate of development of that chassis has been good and the optimum time to push that button was getting pushed back.
Everyone is confident that when next car comes along, it will be a major step forward.
I would imagine that is going to be next year. We're in (the) flyaways now and with the production time and everything else, doing it this year would be tough.
With an abnormally late start to the 2016 season—the traditional season opener in Australia will not take place until the beginning of April—the decision to spend more time developing their new car could allow Manor to make their biggest step in competitiveness since their arrival on the grid in 2010.
It will also give them extra time to finalise their engine plans, with Autosport's Dieter Rencken and Barretto recently claiming the team are in discussions over a switch to Mercedes power units for 2016, a deal that could lead to Pascal Wehrlein making his grand prix debut.