Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Max Verstappen, Felipe Massa and More

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistNovember 14, 2016

Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Max Verstappen, Felipe Massa and More

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    Even before he made his Formula One debut in 2015, Max Verstappen was frequently compared to three-time world champion Ayrton Senna, widely regarded as the greatest driver who ever lived.

    The boy wonder has lived up to that billing over the last two seasons, pulling off a range of spectacular overtaking manoeuvres, taking on his more experienced rivals both on and off track and delivering almost logic-defying performances in wet conditions.

    And his recovery from 16th to third within a matter of laps in Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix has drawn comparisons with some of Senna's career-defining performances, including Monaco 1984 and Donington Park 1993.

    Verstappen's bravery gave the local crowd plenty to cheer on an afternoon when they waved goodbye to their home hero.

    In results terms, Felipe Massa's final appearance at Interlagos was nothing short of a disaster, effectively ending Williams' hopes of pipping Force India to fourth place in the constructors' championship.

    However, his demise led to the most emotional moments of the season as the entire pit lane congratulated Massa on a wonderful career.

    Fernando Alonso played a huge role in Massa's career, having partnered the Brazilian at Ferrari for four seasons between 2010 and 2013.

    Alonso has mocked the current state of Ferrari, arguing Sebastian Vettel is in an even worse position than the Spaniard was prior to his departure at the end of 2014.

    Meanwhile, Esteban Gutierrez has expressed his frustration after being dropped by Haas, while Felipe Nasr may be set to join the Manor team whose hearts he shattered with his ninth-place finish at Interlagos, which allowed Sauber to overtake their fellow backmarkers for 10th place in the championship.

    Here's our post-Brazilian GP roundup.

Red Bull Praise Max Verstappen for 'Amazing' Recovery in Brazilian GP

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    Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes Verstappen produced one of the best performances in F1 history by recovering to third place in the Brazilian GP.

    Verstappen excelled in the wet conditions at Interlagos, passing Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Rosberg with assured moves and surviving a high-speed spin on the pit straight, but his chances of landing a podium finish received a blow when Red Bull gambled on a switch to intermediate tyres.

    After switching back to extreme-wet rubber on Lap 54 of 71, Verstappen found himself in 16th place, but he recovered through the field to secure third place at the chequered flag.

    As reported by Motorsport.com's Charles Bradley, Horner is convinced Verstappen's recovery will rank among the all-time great drives in F1.

    He said:

    That was one of the best drives I've seen in F1 to be honest, his recovery was amazing. We gave it a go on the inters, it looked right at that crossover point.

    Daniel [Ricciardo] set a few purple sector times, it was the kind of call that could have won you the race, but in the end the rain increased and we gave them a huge amount to do.

    The way he drove the last 15 laps was incredible. From running in fourth or whatever, it was to give that up and to the back of the field, he said, 'I can’t get around the last sector on these tyres.'

    So from a safety point of view I said we put him on extremes and go for it. From the moment he set off on that restart, he wanted to get back into a podium position.

    He was using bits of tarmac, looking for the grip, he was weaving and bobbing behind the safety car. He was using all those karting lines, all that experience. He was absolutely fearless in pretty horrific conditions today.

    Per the same source, Verstappen's father, former grand prix driver Jos, admitted even he was surprised by the level of his son's performance, while three-time world champion Niki Lauda added: "I knew the guy is good, but he proved it again to everybody what he can do."

    As reported by Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble, Horner added Verstappen's drive was "right up there" with Senna's breakthrough performance in the 1984 Monaco GP and Michael Schumacher's masterful display at Spain 1996.

Felipe Massa Felt It Was Better to Have a Pit-Lane Sendoff in Brazilian GP

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    Massa has admitted it was better that his final Brazilian GP ended in retirement, giving him an opportunity to wave goodbye to his home crowd.

    After announcing his retirement from F1 at September's Italian GP, Massa made his final appearance at Interlagos—a circuit where he won in 2006 and 2008—on Sunday.

    In wet conditions, the Sao Paulo native crashed out of the race on the run toward the main straight on Lap 48.

    With a Brazilian flag draped over his shoulders, an emotional Massa then made his way back to the pits, with mechanics from Mercedes, Ferrari and Williams stepping out of their garages to give the 35-year-old a guard of honour before he was met by his family.

    Massa felt it was better to end his last Brazilian GP in that fashion rather than finishing outside the points, telling Sky Sports' television coverage of the race: 

    This is so special a place for me, but I think God knows what to do...I just mean stopping in the place [I did] was so special and so amazing the feeling from the people here in Brazil and from the people here in the paddock, everybody that I worked for, for a very long time in my career.

    So I just say thank you very much. It's a real honour and it's a real pleasure to be here, part of this world.

    It's difficult to explain the feeling. So special to see these guys in the middle of the race going out just to see me passing after such a big crash.

    I will never forget this day and all of these people, all of you guys, will be inside my heart definitely for all my life. ...

    I think it's a day that is impossible to forget. Just saying thank you for everybody in the crowd and in the grandstand that I really had a lot of support during this whole 15 years.

    And also, for all of the people that work here, in the middle of the race coming out to clap their hands for me is just a feeling that I will never forget. Such a special moment and I didn't deserve so much like that, to be honest!

    I was a little bit sad because I wanted to finish the race in the best way for them. Unfortunately I couldn't, but I think it was maybe better like that. For me, it was definitely very special.

    Per Autosport (h/t Eurosport), Massa acknowledged it was nevertheless "heartbreaking" to crash out of his final race at Interlagos, admitting the "very human" reaction left him unable to stop crying.

    Massa will be replaced by Canadian teenager Lance Stroll after his 250th and final F1 appearance in the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP.

Fernando Alonso Feels Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari Frustrations Worse Than His

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    Alonso believes Vettel's current situation at Ferrari is even worse than the predicament he found himself in with the team.

    Despite winning 11 races in his five seasons with the team, Alonso failed to win the world championship with Ferrari, losing the 2010 and 2012 titles by a matter of points to Vettel and Red Bull.

    When Alonso left Ferrari for McLaren-Honda at the end of 2014, Vettel was chosen as his replacement, with the German making an instant impression by claiming 13 podium finishes, including three victories in Malaysia, Hungary and Singapore.

    Vettel's successful first year led to chairman Sergio Marchionne suggesting he understood Ferrari more than the Spaniard ever did, per Autosport (h/t Eurosport), but the four-time world champion has failed to win a race in a difficult second season with the Prancing Horse.

    Alonso has suggested he cannot relate to Vettel's difficulties as he was fighting for the world championship for much of his time at Ferrari, telling Sky Sports F1:

    I didn't go through those frustrations to be honest.

    I was trying to fight hard for the championship. I was leading the championship in Abu Dhabi until the last race [in 2010], I was even leading the championship here until 10 laps to the end [in 2012].

    So I think the situation is a little bit worse now.

    Despite failing to win the world championship since 2006, Alonso insisted McLaren—without a grand prix win in four years—can challenge for the title under the new regulations in 2017.

    He told the same source how interpreting the new rules "a little bit better and quicker" will be key to their success, expressing his confidence that both McLaren's chassis and Honda's power unit will be capable of challenging for victories next season.

    Following the Brazilian GP, Alonso warned he will intentionally crash into Vettel when they next meet on track after the German pushed him off the track at Interlagos, per Motorsport.com's Pablo Elizalde.

Esteban Gutierrez Upset After Being Dropped by Haas for 2017

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    Gutierrez has admitted he has been left bemused by Haas' decision to drop him for 2017, suggesting the team have treated him unfairly.

    After spending last season as Ferrari's reserve driver, the Mexican returned to the grid with Haas at the beginning of 2016 but has generally struggled for the newcomers.

    While team-mate Romain Grosjean has scored 29 points, Gutierrez is among just three full-time drivers without a point to their name, with Haas confirming they will replace the Mexican with Kevin Magnussen at the end of this season.

    Gutierrez, who has frequently criticised the team throughout this season, believes his poor results are not a fair reflection of his performances in 2016, arguing he has been a victim of Haas' reliability problems this season.

    As reported by Motorsport.com's Elizalde and Oleg Karpov, when asked if he understood Haas' decision to drop him, the 25-year-old said:

    No, I don't. I think you know that the performance is there. There were a lot of situations that were not really under my control.

    At the end of the day I respect the decision because it's their team. It's what they want to do, but on the other hand it's not a fair way how they put it in general, because, as you know, at the start of the season it wasn't ideal.

    There were a lot of mechanical problems. As a new team there were a lot of things going, a lot of mistakes. There were some mistakes from my side as well, but it was more from the team.

    I don't think I was evaluated the right way. I respect it, but I don't necessarily agree with it. 

    Per the same source, Gutierrez revealed he is willing to remain in F1 next season but only if it "makes sense" in the long term, with only seats at the lowly Sauber and Manor teams available.

    He added he has a 70 per cent chance of being on the 2017 grid.

    Over the Brazilian GP weekend, F1 journalist Will Buxton tweeted an image of Gutierrez talking with team principal Monisha Kaltenborn in the Sauber hospitality unit, heightening speculation that he could return to the team with whom he started his F1 career in 2013.

Felipe Nasr in Contention to Join Manor for 2017?

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    Nasr is one of four drivers on Manor's shortlist for the 2017 season, it emerged over the Brazilian GP weekend.

    After an impressive debut season in 2015, when his two top-six finishes in Australia and Russia guided Sauber to eighth place in the constructors' championship, the Brazilian has struggled this season, having been restricted to just one points finish.

    Ahead of the Brazilian GP, Nasr admitted he would be willing to stay with Sauber—who will compete with year-old Ferrari engines in 2017—for a third season, per Autosport (h/t Eurosport), but his place at the team appears to have been plunged into doubt.

    According to the same source, the appointment of a new president at Banco do Brasil—Nasr's long-term sponsor—has slowed negotiations with Sauber. And with the Swiss outfit determined to finalise their driver lineup before the end of this season, Nasr may be forced to explore alternative options.

    A separate Autosport (h/t Eurosport) article has revealed Nasr is attracting interest from Manor, who are also considering Gutierrez, reserve driver Rio Haryanto and current race driver Pascal Wehrlein—who scored Manor's first point in more than two years in July's Austrian GP—for 2017.

    Although Nasr and his backers would reportedly prefer to remain with Sauber "for continuity and long-term prospects," they are open to a deal with Manor, who are searching for a replacement for Esteban Ocon following the Frenchman's move to Force India.

    The same source noted Haryanto is confident of returning to a race seat having been demoted to a reserve role at the halfway stage of 2016, with several Asian companies keen to support the Indonesian.

    Although Wehrlein's future is dependent on Mercedes, Manor are almost certain to retain the German, who expressed his disappointment after missing out on a promotion to Force India to fellow Mercedes protege Ocon, per Crash.net.