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Missing pieces in F1 jigsaw

2012-10-05 11:57

SUZUKA, Japan - The Formula 1 driver jigsaw puzzle is coming together but there are still some key pieces to be placed as the season enters the final straight and contracts for 2013 are firmed up.

The "haves" are the elite, household names like Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, with long-term and lucrative contracts tying them to big budget glamour teams like Mercedes and Ferrari.

MORE TO BE DONE

The "have nots" are still talking, still unsure of where they will end up.

Some know they are in demand and are relaxed, others fear being ousted by new faces who may perhaps have more substantial support behind them at a time when smaller teams are hungry for cash.

Champion Red Bull, with Germany's Sebastian Vettel and Australian Mark Webber, has its line-up all sorted, as do McLaren and Mercedes now that Hamilton has decided to switch from the former to the latter.

Hamilton will partner Germany's Nico Rosberg in 2013 while Mexican Sergio Perez moves from Sauber to join Jenson Button at McLaren.

Seven times champion Michael Schumacher will stride off into the sunset after the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix following his retirement announcement at Mercedes. Meanwhile Sauber have at least one vacancy to fill.

Those still to be confirmed include 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen, Brazilian Felipe Massa and Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado.

UNCERTAIN FUTURES

Raikkonen, third in the championship standings despite not having won a race yet this year, told reporters at Suzuka he still did not have a contract. The Finn remaining at Lotus looks a done deal, however.

Massa's position at Ferrari, constantly called into question, currently seems more secure, although nobody would be stunned if Ferrari dropped a driver who has not been on the podium since 2010.

Massa said: "Nothing at the moment but I'm pretty confident things will be okay.”

Williams has said it wants Spanish Grand Prix winner Maldonado, who also brings substantial funding from Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, to stay, but there has as yet been no announcement.

His Brazilian team mate Bruno Senna looks less secure, with the team's Finnish test driver Valteri Bottas looming increasingly large behind him.

Senna said: "Nothing has changed, we are just focusing on race by race. For me, the results are very important and even though we had some strong races in the last few the points haven't been quite strong enough.

"Scoring some big points will be enough I guess to prove to everybody that I should be around next year."

IMPORTANT PIECES

Japan's Kamui Kobayashi, Perez's team mate during the 2012 season, cannot rest easy at Sauber either, even if his departure would be a huge blow for Japanese fans as well as those who have come to enjoy his lively style.

Kobayashi said of his future: "I have no idea, we still have six races left to race and Suzuka for me is pretty important, so I just try to focus and think later."

Over at Force India, Germany's Nico Hulkenberg and Britain's Paul Di Resta are waiting to hear after doors closed on them at Mercedes and McLaren.

Both have been linked to a number of teams, including Ferrari.

Hulkenberg could be the next piece to fit into place, but he was refusing to give much away other than saying he did not know where he would be racing. He looked happy, however.

The German driver said: "There has been quite a lot of movement last week and lots of speculation out there, all I can say is that for my future nothing has been announced. So wait a bit more.

"There is talk with my current team, there is still a chance that I race here. But I think with the movement there has been last week, things happen. It all depends on stuff, doesn't it?"

Further back on the grid, there could also be moves at Caterham, Marussia and HRT.

Stay with Wheels24 for the Japanese F1 GP weekend

Reuters

Comments
  • cobus.fenwick - 2012-10-06 15:20

    So the sponsors do the package-deals!!!! It is not going to be good for the sport. The supporters are now going to change to sponsors-support and not drivers and cars. Money rules. It is ashame but true. In the future we might have an Este Lauder car, driven by a West Indian driver, with a 1600cc twin turbo Rotax engen/ elecric motor to become World Champion. So much for F1. Right man on the right time at the right spot would make you WC and not neccessarely abilities. Just a thought?

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