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Time to stop F1 Musical Chairs?

2012-09-26 08:32

MUSICAL CHAIRS: Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, Michael Schumacher - where will they be when the music stops?


LONDON, England - Are the months of media speculation about the F1 futures of Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa finally coming to a head with less change than expected?

When the music stops at least two - maybe all three! - will end up back in the seats they have now at McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari. Yes, even Schumacher...

Hamilton's future has been a topic of discussion since the start of the 2012 season but became a paddock obsession when ex-F1 team boss now TV pundit Eddie Jordan "revealed" in September 2012 that Hamilton was close to a deal with Mercedes.


The thinking was that seven-times champion Schumacher, now 43 and in the third year of an unspectacular comeback, would vacate his seat in favour of 27-year-old McLaren driver Hamilton. Immediately after the Italian GP at Monza, which Hamilton won without smiling too much afterwards, that still looked like a good bet but those reading the runes after Sunday's race in Singapore pointed at a more relaxed atmosphere at McLaren.

"I don't think Hamilton knows what he will do," F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone told ESPN website. "These last couple or three races he's been doing very well. Before that, why he was upset I don't know, but he was definitely going to move no matter what. He had made up his mind that he was going.

"Whether he has changed now a little bit I don't know."


British newspapers reported that McLaren had made an improved offer to the 2008 World champion, backed by the automakers since his early teens racing karts. Former McLaren driver Martin Brundle, who commentates for Britain's Sky Sports TV, and Jordan both said at the weekend they believed announcements were imminent.

Brundle told his Twitter followers at the weekend: 'Been told HAM contract should be sorted in few days. If so, music stops + there will be a huge rush to sit down. It's all unusually good fun.'

If Hamilton opts to stay with the team he knows best instead of linking up again with former karting team mate Nico Rosberg at Mercedes, the focus will turn to Schumacher - if the German hasn't pre-empted matters. The sport's most successful driver, with 91 wins but none for Mercedes, will be out-of-contract at the end of the 2012 season and has said there will be no comment from him until October - which could mean within a week.


Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn, an ally since his Ferrari days, has staunchly defended the German's form and continuing ability but Sunday's race triggered fresh concern about the quickness of his reactions when he slammed into the back of Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso. The incident earned Schumacher a 10-place grid penalty for the 2012 Japanese GP. It also led to online jokes about opticians' eyesight tests replacing pit boards.

Germany's Bild newspaper, always a staunch supporter in his glory years, suggested the hero was over the hill with a headline 'Sorry, Schumi. Are you too old for Formula 1?"

Whether Schumacher and Mercedes have come to the same conclusion remains to be seen but the signs are that if Hamilton turns down the offer then Schumacher, assuming he wants to stay, could still be the default option.


Rosberg told Reuters: "With Michael it works well. I'll be glad if he stays on. We also push the team together very well."

Massa will also be out-of-contract but the odds for him staying on at Ferrari for another year have moved in his favour after seeming remote. The Brazilian has not appeared on the podium since 2010 and no other Ferrari driver has suffered such a drought - 35 races without a top three finish - but Massa is a team player and has influential supporters. His championship-leading team mate Fernando Alonso who would be quite happy to continue with the Brazilian.

"He's had a difficult season and we need points for the Constructors' championship," the Spaniard told reporters in Singapore, "but if I look around I can't see possible replacements who are better than Felipe."

Read more on:    mercedes  |  ferrari  |  formula one  |  f1  |  schumacher  |  massa  |  hamilton  |  formula 1

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