Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa and More
With his third world championship in the bag, and his place in the history of Formula One assured, Lewis Hamilton's attention will soon turn to his legacy.
The 2016 season will be the British driver's 10th in the pinnacle of motorsport and Hamilton, having achieved his lifelong ambition of matching Ayrton Senna's title tally, has revealed how he plans to approach the remaining years of his F1 career.
Hamilton has explained that when the time comes to walk away, he will not cling on to F1 and would be willing to stand aside to benefit young, emerging drivers, even setting a potential date for his eventual retirement.
At the age of 30, however, Hamilton is not yet at the stage where he should seriously consider retirement, but the same cannot be said for 34-year-old Felipe Massa.
Massa has recovered his reputation since his arrival at Williams, but the Brazilian, who missed out on the 2008 world title by a single point, has admitted the 2016 campaign could be his last in F1.
Until recently, it seemed 2015 would be Red Bull Racing's final season in F1 as the four-time world champions were left to scramble for a 2016 engine deal.
Red Bull finally appear to have found a solution, safeguarding their short-term future, but that has not stopped Ferrari from again offering their support to the Milton Keynes-based team.
Meanwhile, Force India are finally set to benefit from the support of a major manufacturer in 2016, with Aston Martin set to join forces with the modest, Silverstone-based team.
But despite the anticipation surrounding such a deal, which would lead to a complete change of identity, Force India deputy team boss Bob Fernley has insisted that no agreement is imminent.
Closing this week's roundup is former McLaren and Ferrari driver Stefan Johansson, who has been left disappointed by the friendly rivalry between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in 2015, claiming modern drivers lack the old-fashioned ruthlessness of many F1 legends.
Lewis Hamilton Plans to Retire from Formula 1 at 37
Lewis Hamilton has explained how he plans to approach the remaining years of his Formula One career, revealing for the first time that he expects to retire at the age of 37.
The 30-year-old is currently enjoying the most successful period of his grand prix career, winning 21 races since the beginning of 2014 and claiming his third world championship—his second in succession—at October's United States GP.
His achievements, particularly over the last two years, have seen him rank alongside the greatest drivers in the sport's history, with Hamilton currently third on the all-time list of race winners—behind only Alain Prost, the four-time world champion, and seven-time title winner Michael Schumacher—having claimed 43 victories.
But he is aware that all good things must come to an end and intends avoiding the fall from grace endured by Schumacher, whose passion for F1 ultimately proved to be his downfall.
After retiring at his peak at the end of 2006, Schumacher returned with Mercedes in 2010 but was unable to recapture his previous glory before being replaced by Hamilton at the end of 2012.
And Hamilton—who made his F1 debut as a 22-year-old in 2007, benefiting from Juan Pablo Montoya's surprise switch to NASCAR during the 2006 season—is mindful of the need to time his exit to perfection, telling Sky Sports' James Galloway:
When I think about what year I would probably end up stopping, it'd be about 37 maybe.
I remember watching Michael. He'd won everything and dominated everyone by a million miles and he kept going and going because he loved it.
But I'm conscious that there's only 20 of us, 20 seats, and knowing just how it went when I got to Formula 1...Montoya pretty much got fired, he left, there was a seat available and that was one more opportunity for another youngster to come in.
I want to enjoy my period of time because I think I've earned it here, but I don't want to overstay my welcome because I know that every year that I stay there's one young kid who may have had a chance to come through, but because I stayed his chance may have been missed.
So at one point I'm going to be conscious of that.
Hamilton, who signed a new three-year contract with Mercedes in May, will celebrate his 31st birthday in January and will reach the magic number of 37 at the beginning of 2022, by which point he will have competed in 15 seasons.
And the Stevenage-born driver told the same source that he is currently "trying to build a foundation" for life after F1, citing Niki Lauda, Keke Rosberg—father of Nico, his Mercedes team-mate and title rival—and Eddie Irvine as examples of drivers who have thrived outside of motorsport.
Felipe Massa May Retire at the End of 2016
While Hamilton can enjoy a few more years at the top before contemplating the end, retirement is already on the horizon for a number of drivers.
And Felipe Massa, one of four members of the current grid to make over 200 grand prix appearances, has hinted that next season could be his last in Formula One.
After joining Williams from Ferrari at the beginning of 2014, Massa has experienced something of a resurgence, claiming a total of five podium finishes and regularly challenging team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who is widely regarded as a potential world champion.
Massa's performances, in fact, led to Rob Smedley, his long-term ally, telling Autosport's Lawrence Barretto that the Brazilian is getting "better and better," claiming that Massa is driving "as good" as he did in 2008, when he came within a point of beating Hamilton to the title.
The 2016 campaign will be Massa's 14th at the top level, and the 34-year-old, without a grand prix victory since 2008, believes his form will decide whether he will remain on the grid in 2017.
Ahead of his home race at Interlagos, where he has won on two previous occasions, Massa told UOL Esporte (h/t ESPN F1):
Next year will be the last of my contract, so I think that will be the most important season to understand if I continue or not. If I have the chance to be with a competitive team, I will. Otherwise, I stop.
I'll be in F1 if I have a team like Williams, with whom I am very happy and they are also happy to have me. When you love working and feel loved, that is what gives [you] motivation to continue.
I do not think I will be afraid to stop, I think I'll be fine; I know that everyone will have to stop at some point. But I do not think that time has come yet.
With drivers of the calibre of Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Rosberg, Max Verstappen, Felipe Nasr, Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg—among others—all potentially available, next season's transfer market promises to be the most hectic in some time.
And it is possible that Massa, in an era of exciting, youthful talent, could be dismissed as yesterday's man.
Ferrari Still Open to Red Bull Alliance
Sergio Marchionne, the Ferrari chairman, has claimed the Prancing Horse are still willing to join forces with Red Bull Racing, but he has reiterated any partnership will not include a customer-engine deal.
In June, per Alan Baldwin of Reuters, Marchionne said Ferrari would be open to helping the four-time world champions "find their way again," implying an agreement to supply Red Bull with V6 turbo power units was on the horizon.
When Red Bull took steps to sever their relationship with engine partner Renault, however, Ferrari reneged on the deal, with Auto Motor und Sport (h/t Sky Sports) reporting that the Italian manufacturer were only willing to supply Scuderia Toro Rosso, Red Bull's B-team.
That cast Red Bull's F1 future in major doubt, but while the Milton Keynes-based team are edging closer to a new engine deal—F1 journalist Mark Hughes has claimed Red Bull "will be using Mario Illien-modified Renault-based engines in 2016"—Ferrari remain open to aiding Red Bull.
Marchionne has suggested that while the Red Bull cars will not be using the same engines as Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari could offer the team the technical support and expertise to build and develop their own V6 powertrains, telling Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble:
The possibility of collaborating with Red Bull regarding the development of the power unit is still a valid option, I continue to re-affirm that.
But it will not be in the context of Ferrari providing Red Bull with an equivalent engine to the one used by Ferrari in the races.
The company is available to provide engineering and production services for an engine in a separate project for Red Bull, where Ferrari can commit to provide all its best in terms of engineering and give the chance to Red Bull and other manufacturers to have these engines.
But they cannot be the same Ferrari engines that race on our cars.
With their relationship with Renault set to continue in 2016, Red Bull will finally use the French manufacturer's upgraded power unit at this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix, as reported by Noble in a separate Motorsport.com article, having decided against running the engine in the United States and Mexico.
It is, however, unclear whether both Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat will run the new-spec PU, which is thought to be worth 0.2 seconds per lap.
Force India's Aston Martin Deal Not Yet Done, Warns Bob Fernley
Bob Fernley, Force India's deputy team principal, has insisted the team's proposed partnership with Aston Martin is yet to be completed, despite the excitement surrounding the deal.
Over the Mexican Grand Prix weekend, Autosport's Dieter Rencken and Lawrence Barretto reported that Force India were "closing on a deal" to be rebranded as Aston Martin Racing in 2016, bringing the sports car manufacturer back to F1 after an extended absence.
In addition to a name change, it was reported, the team would also adopt a blue-and-gold colour scheme as a result of a sponsorship agreement with Johnnie Walker, which according to Motorsport.com's Pablo Elizalde will end its partnership with McLaren at the end of 2015.
Although Force India owner Vijay Mallya told Reuters' Alan Baldwin that there is "excitement on both sides," he claimed the deal "still has to go through due process before we agree and shake hands on a concept," adding that the two parties "have not exchanged anything in terms of an outline or draft contracts."
And Fernley has shared Mallya's sense of caution, stressing that an agreement is not imminent.
He told F1i's Chris Medland: "Two things: One is I think it’s a shareholder issue and is a discussion [that is ongoing] with Vijay. And secondly it is still a little way off.
"It’s got to be credit to the team that they are attracting such a great brand as Aston, even if it is just for discussions."
According to F1 journalist Joe Saward, the "limited cash" available to Aston Martin—which is part-owned by Mercedes, Force India's engine supplier—means the manufacturer can only hope for "a relatively small technical partnership with an F1 team," suggesting the deal may not be quite as glamorous as it seems.
Stefan Johansson Fears Modern F1 Drivers Lack Ruthlessness
Stefan Johansson, the former grand prix driver, has bemoaned the lack of aggression shown by modern-day Formula One drivers, claiming the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg do not operate with the ruthlessness of the all-time greats.
Throughout 2014, Hamilton and Rosberg were embroiled in a tense, season-long battle for the championship, with a number of incidents—Rosberg's off-track excursion in Monaco qualifying, their collision at the Belgian GP—straining the relationship between the boyhood friends and testing the Mercedes management.
Perhaps as a result of Hamilton's dominance, however—the British driver secured his third world title with three rounds to spare—the drivers have only occasionally come to blows in 2015.
And Johansson, who started 79 races between 1983 and 1991, fears today's competitors lack the ruthlessness shown by drivers such as Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, and Nelson Piquet, who, according to BBC Sport's Andrew Benson, once referred to Nigel Mansell as "an uneducated blockhead with a stupid and ugly wife."
In 2014, there was certainly a lot more hate on display between Nico and Lewis. This year it’s all sort of been a bit polite with both guys saying the other did "a great job."
When you’re that close to a teammate in terms of competitiveness and you can’t beat him any other way you’ve got to figure out something that will tip the balance. You have to try to undermine their confidence or get them off balance psychologically somehow.
That’s what Nelson did so effectively. He was ruthless, not only with Mansell but with Senna as well, calling him all sorts of things. He didn’t care. He’d do whatever it took unsettle his rivals mentally. It sort of worked and it definitely got under their skin.
To be a great driver you need ego and relentless drive. That’s why you don’t quite have the epic battles today that F1 used to have. Mansell, Senna, Prost, Piquet, Lauda, Schumacher—they were brutal, every one of them, ego-maniacs of epic proportions in their own different ways. You have to be like that to be at the top level. That’s missing today. You don’t feel it. Alonso seems to me the only one left from that era where you resort to anything to win.
While Johansson may be left disappointed with the current nature of the Hamilton-Rosberg rivalry, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has told the Silver Arrows' official website that the friction between the pair is "great for the sport, great for the team and great for the drivers themselves."