Massa asked to delay retirement
Sky Sports say they have learnt that Felipe Massa could be set to return to Formula One less than a month after he retired from the sport. Massa is thought to be in talks with Williams about a one year deal to replace Valtteri Bottas.
The Finn is top of Mercedes list as the replacement for Nico Rosberg, who announced his sudden retirement from the sport earlier this month. Yesterday it was reported that Massa was in in ‘advanced talks’ with the team over a one year extension, after announcing his retirement in September.
Sky say a source close to Massa says the Brazilian was still undecided on his plans for 2017. But it is understood Williams have opened talks with Massa about rehiring him for 2017 to partner rookie Lance Stroll.
A return to the sport just weeks after his emotional farewell from F1, would be seen by many as remarkable. These are however, remarkable circumstances. Mercedes are now entering the third week of their search for his replacement, this has been hindered by contractual obligations of F1’s leading drivers.
Williams need for an experienced campaigner to partner Stroll during the 18-year-old’s rookie season is glaring. Mercedes are understood to have offered Williams a reduced terms for their power units as well as Pascal Wehrlein in exchange for Bottas.
But the 22-year-old has only experienced one season of F1 and Williams are understood to be fearful that a line-up of Wehrlein and Stroll would leave them vulnerable to a sharp fall in the Constructors’ Championship.
Mercedes are expected now to make an announcement in early January.
Perez nearly left Force India
Sergio Perez says that he nearly left Force India when negotiations took a bad turn, before deciding to remain with the team next season. The Mexican was expected to move to Renault as discussions regarding commercial agreements between Perez’s backers and Force India dragged on.
But after months of negotiation it was announced that he would be staying with the team next season, alongside Esteban Ocon who is replacing Renault bound Nico Hulkenberg. He told Autosport “it came to a position where I really thought about [leaving]. At one time, the negotiations were not going so smoothly with Force India.”
“My target was stay for another year but in this business you never know. Until you sign and announce it, anything can happen and I had that experience before.” The Mexican added that there was also interest from other teams, which boosted his confidence.
“There was a lot of interest from at least three or four teams out there, so that was really nice. But the best future for me is staying here.” He added. Perez joined the team from McLaren after a difficult season that he subsequently admitted damaged his reputation.
He said that experience “definitely” helped him decide to stay at Force India, adding: “I don’t want to get that decision wrong again so this is the safest option for me.
“Fernando is faster than you” turning point for Massa
Rob Smedley says that the famous order he gave Felipe Massa at the 2010 German Grand Prix, was a “turning point” in Massa’s career.
Smedley who followed Massa to Williams when he left Ferrari, told Massa in that race “Fernando is faster than you”, to ask him to let the Spaniard through breaking the rules. Massa went on to allow Fernando Alonso past, which was a team order which broke the rules of the sport.
Smedley says that the Brazilian was hurt by the decision. In an interview with Motorsport.com, Smedley revealed that Massa had a tough time at Ferrari after that, having seen where the Italian team’s focus was.
“I think he found it difficult from that on. Difficult because it was kind of a turning point, and understanding where the team’s focus was. You know, rightly or wrongly… I’m not saying that the team’s focus on Fernando was correct or incorrect. I’m not going to comment on that.”
Smedley said it was difficult for Massa to come back from that and said hisd reluctant order caused him trouble with Ferrari. He thinks that it could have been handled differently because they looked equal in terms of race pace.
He added “We had an agreed strategy going into the race. We knew how it was going to play out. And, yeah, it did not quite play out like that… And I think he just found it very confusing in the race. You know he is in that situation, he is racing, he is leading the race.”
He added that he couldn’t understand why the call was made and found the change in approach difficult to accept. But in the end says it was problably the right thing to do.
“When the rules are on the table and the rules are clear, it’s fine, you know… But if the rules change midway through the game and you don’t know that the rules have changed and another group of people do know that the rules changed, I think people find that difficult to deal with.”
No transitional year for Sauber – Kaltenborn
Sauber’s Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn, is insistent that next season will not be a transitional year following there development program being hampered by a lack of funding earlier this year.
It was a difficult start to 2016 for the Swiss team, with sponsors being forced to help the team pay its staff and the departure on the eve of the Australian Grand Prix. This prompted questions over the future of the team. The team had the updates ready, but couldn’t put them into production.
But in July, new investors were found which prompted the Swiss team to focus on recruiting more staff including recruiting Audi’s Jorg Zander. Despite the woes this year, Kaltenborn is not expecting anything other than progress next term. She told Autosport “It’s not a transition year. We have a vision and that’s set up for the next coming years. Whatever we want to achieve in the first year, we will do.”
“The target is clearly to make a big step ahead, to be back in the midfield and take it from there. Next year is a very crucial year.” Kaltenborn said the team has had enough and its time they got on with the business.
Felipe Nasr’s points in Brazil were crucial for the team as it moved them above Manor in the constructors, earning them around £33.6 million (based on 2015). Speaking about sponsorship she says there has to be more “and there will be because there are more people who are actually interested.
“They are seeing that there is a change here, this is a big change we are getting people in and they are thinking, ‘why don’t we hop on and be part of it?’”
Aims of a good step forward
Renault bosses say they are looking to make “a good step forward” next season after their investment in their Enstone base. Renault this season have been about rebuilding the team as they begin to look to the future.
Team Principal Fred Vasseur said “The change of regulations could mean quite a shake-up in the order of relative competitiveness, plus the fruits of our expansion will be ramping up. We made an early start to developing next year’s car with this in mind.”
He added the team should see a good step forward in 2017, but they needed to be realistic in their expectations for next season. Renault have admitted they won’t leapfrog into the midfield.
Managing director Cyril Abiteboul says there UK base has increased by 20% over the last year. Last week they announced two new appointments as part of their extension to the main factory building at Enstone, to house the expansion of almost every department, would begin soon.
On the engine side, performance and reliability had been improved notably, with Red Bull winning two races in 2016 with the French manufacturer’s rebranded units.
“Next year promises a fantastic show. The cars will be faster and more aggressive looking. The tyres will be wide. The action will be tremendously exciting. We certainly expect to be in the thick of it from the very beginning,” said Vasseur.