Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Montezemolo quite Ferrari

    Future 'good' after long Dennis talks – Button

  • Massa admits career in peril 'several times'
  • Kobayashi could race Caterham again in Singapore
  • Schumacher stopped Ferrari move – Montoya
  • GP2 leader Palmer in 'struggle' for F1 debut
  • 'Luck' helped Hamilton win in Monza – Rosberg
  • Montezemolo announces Ferrari exit
  • Santander's chairman Emilio Botin dies

Future 'good' after long Dennis talks – Button
(GMM) The signs are growing stronger that Jenson Button will secure at least one more year at McLaren.

The British team's quest for a star champion like Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso to spearhead the new Honda era beginning in 2015 has been an open paddock secret.

But the latest reports suggest McLaren-Honda may now instead try to impress with a solid first season next year and try again to lure a top name for 2016.

McLaren protege and rookie Kevin Magnussen appears almost assured of a second season.

The Dane's wheel-to-wheel driving was penalized by the stewards not only at Spa but again at Monza, but team boss Eric Boullier says Magnussen, 21, should not be deterred.

"I think he needs to keep building up his confidence by doing what he's doing," the Frenchman told reporters this week.

"It's clear that he's stepping up," Boullier added. "He might be punching above his weight because he doesn't have the car to be fast enough for a better result.

"Obviously his self-confidence is growing massively and that's good for his racecraft which is only going to get better and better."

Button's prospects going forward have been much more clouded, but the 34-year-old – the second-oldest and most experienced driver on the grid – now appears headed for a 2015 extension.

The Daily Mail quotes him as revealing he spent "a lot of time" with McLaren supremo Ron Dennis over the Italian grand prix weekend.

"Forgetting the driver situation with Kevin and myself," said Button, "it was good to talk about the future of the team, the direction it is going and how it is performing.

"It was all interesting and encouraging, which comes on the back of the last couple of races in particular which have been good in terms of atmosphere within the team."

On paper, however, Button's seat is still technically unsecured beyond 2014.

Lotus' dissatisfied Romain Grosjean at Monza admitted that Ferrari and McLaren were at the top of his list of dream alternatives for the future.

His current boss Gerard Lopez admitted it is possible the Frenchman will leave.

"One (driver) – Pastor (Maldonado) – has already been confirmed" for 2015, he told F1's official website.

"And Romain has in his contract — it is no secret that he could step out of the contract given the bad results, but I am pretty sure we will stay with what we have," Lopez added.

Massa admits career in peril 'several times'
(GMM) Felipe Massa has admitted his motor racing career almost collapsed several times.

The latest was this year, as teammate Valtteri Bottas was dominating amid speculation Williams could take on Massa's heavily sponsored countryman Felipe Nasr for 2015.

But just as his new deal for next year was announced, Massa scored a timely and hugely popular first podium of the season in Italy — in front of the 'Tifosi' still fond of the little Brazilian after eight years at Ferrari.

"To be honest," Massa told Brazil's Globo this week, "I have always faced difficult times in my career.

"Not just now, not just in Ferrari, but throughout my career — from the days of Formula Chevrolet in Brazil.

"I was close to ending my career several times, but always managed to overcome and move on."

But even 33-year-old Massa acknowledges that the man-of-the-moment at Williams is Finn Bottas, who last week he anointed a world champion of the future.

Pat Symonds, Williams' technical boss who has worked with many great champions, fully agrees.

"I am completely convinced that he is a future world champion," the Briton told Finland's Turun Sanomat, "and I want to make sure he does it with us at Williams.

"I have been with two young guys, Fernando (Alonso) and Valtteri, as they started their careers and then developed. And I see a lot of similarities.

"But I think Valtteri as a total package has the potential to be even better than Fernando," Symonds added.

25-year-old Bottas' potential was reportedly spotted elsewhere in pitlane this year, including at McLaren who have been looking to freshen its driver lineup.

But Bottas insists staying at "Williams was definitely always the priority".

"We have improved so much since last year and now it seems that the direction is correct.

"I believe we will be even better next season and that this is the best place for me at the moment," he said.

Kobayashi could race Caterham again in Singapore
(GMM) Kamui Kobayashi could return to the wheel of his Caterham next weekend in Singapore.

At Monza, while the Japanese was drafted back in for the Italian grand prix, it was obvious that Caterham chiefs were looking ahead for a Singapore debut for Spaniard Roberto Merhi.

Merhi was not granted a full F1 super license for Monza, so instead he drove Kobayashi's car in Friday practice but fell well short of the FIA's required 300kms.

After the Monza race, where he performed strongly, Kobayashi told Japanese media that he intends to prepare as normal for Singapore.

Indeed, he said he would fly to the Asian city-state next Wednesday and await Caterham's decision — just as he did when he was first stepped down at Spa.

"Monza is quite a unique track," Kobayashi said after Monza, "so let's see how we get on at other circuits."

Other reports from Japan suggest Andrea Caldarelli could be a candidate to race for Caterham at Suzuka.

The 24-year-old Italian was in the news recently when he was called up to race in the premier Japanese open-wheel series Super Formula when Andre Lotterer got his Caterham opportunity at Spa.

It is rumored Caldarelli, who has tested F1 cars for Toyota and Ferrari, has the backing of Caterham's newly installed boss Manfredi Ravetto and strong ties within Japan.

Schumacher stopped Ferrari move – Montoya
(GMM) Juan Pablo Montoya says F1 legend Michael Schumacher blocked his potential move to Ferrari a decade ago.

The Colombian, now 38 and having switched to Indycars at the end of a long stint in Nascar, was back in the formula one paddock last weekend at Monza.

It was a rare visit to a grand prix for Montoya, but he said he has nothing against the sport he left suddenly in 2006.

"I have seen so many friends here," he is quoted by Italy's Autosprint as having said at Monza. "It's not like when I had to work," Montoya smiled.

He was also asked about rumors that, when his F1 career transitioned from Williams to McLaren in the middle of last decade, he also toyed with a switch to Ferrari.

"It was never possible," Montoya explained. "Michael Schumacher was there and he hated me.

"But I'm really sorry about how he is now — I just hope he continues to recover."

Montoya said he doesn't have a strong opinion about today's F1 compared to the V10 monsters he drove to 7 grand prix wins between 2001 and 2006.

"They still seem difficult to drive, challenging," he said. "They're slower, but that's because of the tires."

GP2 leader Palmer in 'struggle' for F1 debut
(GMM) GP2 is steadily losing its reputation as the main feeder series to formula one.

In 2011, champion Romain Grosjean used the GP2 title as his springboard to returning to the grid after the false-start of his initial Renault career.

But the next season, Davide Valsecchi won the title but subsequently progressed no further in F1 than a test seat with Lotus.

2013 was even worse — Swiss Fabio Leimer won the title but, as reigning champion, has only raced sports cars this year.

And this year, the GP2 championship leader is Jolyon Palmer, a 23-year-old Briton whose father is the well-known former F1 driver, commentator and British circuit owner Jonathan.

But Jonathan concedes that his son may fail to step up to F1 next year due to a lack of sponsorship.

"It is a struggle," he told the Times. "We are talking to quite a few people but it is going to be hard to make the step up unless we can get a package together."

'Luck' helped Hamilton win in Monza – Rosberg
(GMM) "Luck" helped Lewis Hamilton to win Sunday's Italian grand prix.

That is the view of his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, even if the championship leader didn't initially want his arch title nemesis to hear it.

At Monza, with the controversy surrounding their Spa crash still raging and Rosberg having been internally punished, the German made two mistakes whilst leading in Italy that allowed Hamilton to pass and go on to win.

Combined with an oddly smiling boss Toto Wolff in the pits, it triggered the conspiracy theory that Rosberg made the 'mistakes' on purpose to right the wrongs and hand some points back to Hamilton.

Wolff has called the theorists "paranoid" and denied that Rosberg's mysterious penalty involved handing back an ill-gotten win to Hamilton.

"It definitely wasn't any kind of punishment that affects the sporting side," the Austrian told Kleine Zeitung newspaper.

Still, not everyone is convinced.

Safety car driver Bernd Maylander admitted what Rosberg did on Sunday was "not normal".

"They were braking there at 360kph," he told Austrian Servus TV, "so you can easily make a mistake and go into the emergency exit.

"But two mistakes in the same place? It's not normal," Maylander admitted.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, an outside shot to take on the warring Rosberg and Hamilton for the title, agrees.

"It is definitely one of the hardest braking zones throughout the season," said the Australian.

"We have very little downforce as well so it's really difficult. Then you add the pressure from Lewis Hamilton in the heat of battle, a mistake can happen.

"One mistake, for sure it's actually pretty normal. The fact that it happened twice, I found interesting," Ricciardo smiled.

Arguably, the Mercedes duo's off-track battle is even more interesting than their wheel-to-wheel encounters.

On Friday, during a tense pre-weekend press conference at Monza involving Hamilton, Rosberg admitted that the psychological war "Of course in sport plays a part".

Hamilton has been obviously playing that game recently, but Rosberg's combative skills have been arguably more covertly deployed in 2014.

After the Monza 'mistake' and Hamilton's win, Rosberg switched into Italian to discuss the pivotal moment of the race with Mercedes' electronics chief Evan Short — who is Canadian.

Commentators speculated that Rosberg chose to speak in Italian not only to Short but also Brazilian Felipe Massa in order to exclude the exclusively English-speaking Hamilton.

Germany's Bild newspaper has revealed that Rosberg, whose conversation was clearly audible on television, said to Short: "He (Hamilton) was so damn lucky — how is that even possible?"

Montezemolo announces Ferrari exit
(GMM) Luca di Montezemolo has ended the intense speculation about his future by announcing his departure as Ferrari's long-time president.

In a media statement on Wednesday, the 67-year-old said it is the "end of an era" for Ferrari ahead of the floatation of the Fiat-Chrysler group in New York.

"This will open up a new and different phase which I feel should be spearheaded by the CEO of the group," said Montezemolo, referring to Sergio Marchionne.

"Ferrari is the most wonderful company in the world," he added. "It has been a great privilege and honor to have been its leader."

Santander's chairman Emilio Botin dies
(GMM) Emilio Botin, a man well-known within the F1 paddock, has died.

The 79-year-old was chief of Europe's biggest bank Santander, a major Ferrari sponsor and closely aligned with Fernando Alonso.

"Ferrari will always remember him as one of its most enthusiastic fans and it is thanks to him that we enjoyed such great support from Santander," said departing Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo on Wednesday.

Santander was also a McLaren backer since 2007, when Spaniard Alonso drove for the team, and Ron Dennis on Wednesday said he was "shocked and saddened".

"He adored motor racing," said the British team's supremo. "The world has lost a great man."

A Santander spokesman said Botin died in Madrid on Tuesday night. The BBC said he had a heart attack.

The Financial Times said Botin's daughter Ana Patricia, already in charge of Santander's UK arm, is tipped to succeed him.

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