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Felipe Massa: “I will not trust him anymore…”

Felipe Massa has made it clear that he is still upset with Sergio Perez after their controversial last lap crash in Montreal.

Massa insists that Perez was totally at fault for the clash, which will be examined by the stewards tomorrow, at the request of Force India (see separate story).

“The rules says when somebody moves the car behind and put the front wing on the side of your rear tyres you cannot move any more,” said Massa. “So he didn’t follow that. I will not change my opinion. What I just said, this is the rule. And it’s coming from the FIA. And if you know the history, most of the time it’s always the young drivers, especially him, who cause these problems, cause these accidents, which is dangerous.

“If I made a mistake I will be the first one to say I made a mistake, I’m sorry, like I always did when I made a mistake. But people don’t think in the same way. So I’m sorry for him, and I hope he learns, otherwise he will pay more penalties in the future.”

Asked what he would do next time he tries to pass Perez Massa said: “I will think twice. I [have to] believe that he will not move his car. And you cannot believe, when somebody is paying so many penalties, and causing so many problems, you cannot believe. I will not trust him any more, definitely, in the car.”

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Perez ready to pounce if Mercedes stumbles?

Sergio Perez could be a dark horse in Bahrain on Sunday, and he might be the man ready to take advantage should Mercedes hit any problems.

The Mexican qualified fifth, and gained a place from the Ricciardo penalty. While Valtteri Bottas is ahead on the grid, Force India looked particularly strong over race runs. In Malaysia Nico Hulkenberg was able to finish fifth having made only two stops, proving that the car is good on tyres.

“I don’t think we can beat them by any strategy or anything,” he said of Mercedes when asked by this writer. “So the only chance is that they have a problem, and then we can dream with a victory. Our target is to get a podium, and be in a good position.

“I want to get a clean start and hopefully get Bottas off the line, and then just manage our race, our degradation, and do whatever we have to do for the race.

“It’s close between a two-stop and a three-stop, and it will be a race where it will be interesting to see how much degradation is a factor, and how well we can manage it.”

Peerz says the key so far this weekend has been avoiding trouble: “We got a rhythm on Friday. It’s the first weekend when we could really do good work without any problems. I’m confident for the race, and I think we can have a good one.”

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Perez finally confirmed at Force India

Sergio Perez has finally been officially confirmed as Nico Hulkenberg’s new team mate at Force India.

The Mexican began talking to the team soon after he was dropped by McLaren, whose boss Martin Whitmarsh also tried to persuade the Silverstone outfit to take his departing driver.

His longtime mentor Carlos Slim personally intervened to help Perez land the drive.

“He brings a healthy mix of youth and experience, and I’ve been very impressed with his recent performances,” said Dr Vijay Mallya. “He already has several podium finishes to his name and being chosen by McLaren last year was a clear indication that he is a driver to watch for the future. We also recognise Sergio’s incredible talent and we are proud to have him in our team. He clearly has great speed and plenty of fire in his belly. Our job is to make sure he settles in quickly by creating the right atmosphere so that he can realise his potential. By pairing Sergio alongside Nico, we enter the new season with an extremely competitive line-up, which will go toward helping us achieve our goals for the new season.”

“Coming here was always my first choice and I’m really happy everything has now been confirmed,” said Perez. “I want to say thank you to Vijay and the whole team for giving me the opportunity. This is a young team with a lot of determination and they’ve produced competitive cars for the last few years. It’s all change for next season with the new regulations, but I already have a good feeling about 2014. My plan now is to visit the factory and get to know everyone in the team.”

The news means that Adrian Sutil, who had an ongoing contract with Force India, is currently without a drive. However he remains close to Sauber, with whom he has been in close contact for some weeks.

Meanwhile Paul Di Resta has known for some months that he has been out of a job.

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Martin Whitmarsh Q&A: Button/Alonso a “manageable” line-up

An otherwise low-key Friday in Singapore was enlivened by excitement over the apparent possibility of Fernando Alonso returning to McLaren, the team he left at the end of the turbulent 2007 season.

Martin Whitmarsh insists that there has been no contact with the Spaniard and his camp, but the team boss is happy to confirm that he would love to have him back, and that the door is open. Mischievously he suggests that the Alonso/Raikkonen partnership at Ferrari will not last long, and there is more than a hint that, even if Fernando is not available for 2014, he just might be in 2015, when Honda joins the party.

Quite what the end game is remains to be seen, but apart from creating waves at Ferrari what this little saga does is tell the world that McLaren is as yet unconvinced by Sergio Perez, hired amid much fanfare last year. It also potentially creates a vacancy for another driver who might not be as committed elsewhere as Alonso. I asked Whitmarsh for his thoughts…

Q: Can you clarify the team’s position on Fernando Alonso?

“I was asked yesterday if we would like to sign him, and the answer is I’d love to have that challenge, and I’d love to have that opportunity. We’ll see what happens. At the moment I’m sure he’s under contract with Ferrari, and we’ll see what happens in the longer term, whether he wants to come back or doesn’t. At the moment I’m sure he’s focussed on doing the best job he can for his team. I think it’s one of those stories that has built today. Perhaps there is not much else happening here! I think any team principal if you asked them, ‘Would you like Fernando Alonso in your team?,’ the answer has got to be ‘Yes,’ if they’re sane. I don’t think he’s available right now, but if he ever becomes available, then we’ll see.”

Q: In the last few races you’ve always said we’ve got two great drivers and we’re going to keep them. All of a sudden there seems to be some doubt about Sergio…

“Our two drivers have done a great job in a very difficult year, and I expect we’ll have the same driver line-up next year, that’s my expectation. But we haven’t announced it yet, it’s not all done, and we’ll see what happens.”

Q: Why have you not announced it?

“I think we’ll see, there are other things going on at the moment… We’ll see what happens.”

Q: You said today that he hasn’t beaten Jenson as often as you wanted. That’s the first time we’ve heard any criticism from you.

“It’s an observation. He’s a young driver who wants to make his mark in F1. Jenson is a great benchmark. It’s not easy to beat him, but that’s what you’ve got to set out to try and do. I think he’s disappointed, I’ve had that conversation with him. But we’ll see. Maybe this weekend he can show that he can really do a good job.”

Q: You say there are a lot of other things going on – a cynical view would be that Mexican sponsorship might be related to the delay over his deal.

“No, it’s not a commercial issue at all. I think we want to make sure we’ve got the best driver line-up and everything’s straightforward. There’s no great urgency either. The most likely outcome is no change. But we’ll see.”

Q: You’ve said that you want to respect Ferrari’s position, but in this business it’s every man for himself, and you’ve taken drivers from other teams before.

“I’ve taken drivers in the past if there was a chink, but as far as I know, there’s not one yet!”

Q: Is 2015 slightly more realistic?

“I’ll turn that around. Kimi and Alonso is a dream team at its birth. But does it stay that way for long? I don’t know. You make that judgement yourself, but I think that’s quite an interesting one.”

Q: You could equally say Jenson and Fernando, two World Champions… What makes you think that is more manageable?

“I think it is. I think Jenson is an extraordinary team player.”

Q: It’s as simple as that?

“I think so. Both those drivers, I know them, I’ve seen them in a team, and I also know Jenson, so I do believe that’s a manageable one. But again I don’t have to speculate upon it at the moment. We expect to have the same driver line-up in all probability that we’ve got this year. I’m happy with that, but I’m not rushing into it right now.”

Q: You’ve made it clear that with Honda you’ve got more financial clout in the market. How much of a push from them is there to get two superstars?

“I think they want the two best drivers they can possibly get in the world. We do have more horsepower with them in that sense…”

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Sam Michael: “I don’t want to predict anything…”

McLaren sporting director Sam Michael says that the Hungarian GP indicated that the team is making progress – and adds that the race could have been better had the team been able run its preferred strategy.

Jenson Button finished seventh after running ahead of top three qualifiers Sebastian Vettel and Romain Grosjean before his late first stop, while Sergio Perez overcame a bad first lap to take ninth. Both men started on the prime tyre and stopped only twice.

“It was good, but I think it could have been a lot stronger if we’d been able to run our strategy and run a three-stop, Michael told this writer. “We couldn’t run a three-stop because of traffic, whereas some of the front guys could. They just happened to sneak into the right windows to do the lap times.

“If we’d tried to do it, we would have dropped into traffic, and we wouldn’t have been able to pursue it. We stuck to a two-stop, but I think as the heat went up it looked like it would have been better to do three, because we would have had to save the tyres a lot less – we had to do a lot of tyre saving.

“So, positive signs, but seventh and ninth is still not where we need to be. We’re doing the right things, but we’re not there yet, there’s still a long way to go. We want to be back at the front soon.”

Jenson Button has made it clear that he’s optimistic about Spa, and Michael agrees.

“You can run your own strategy, because you can overtake easily. As soon as you get to tracks where you can overtake you can then just run to optimum performance, and you get a better picture of where you are then.

“I think there are signs that it will be more positive in the upcoming races, but I don’t want to predict anything. We’re not where we need to be. We’ll just keep our heads down and wait until we’re back up there.”

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Sam Michael: “We were strong enough to race for points…”

Sam Michael says that McLaren showed a much improved performance at Silverstone – despite the team failing to score points for the second race in succession.

Both cars were well placed before the final safety car, but after the resumption Sergio Perez retired following a Pirelli failure, while Jenson Button slipped down to 13th on worn tyres.

“With the safety car at the end we were looking good for sixth and seventh there probably for a while,” said Michael when asked by this writer. “I think we would have struggled to keep Lewis behind us, because he was strong and in a good position. But we looked like we could have had a good go at Sutil and Ricciardo at that point, so we should have been around the sixth and seventh mark with both cars.

“It was different to Montreal. I know there were a couple of positions there that we gained because of the cars that had stopped, but even so, we were strong enough to race for points today, which was better than we were in Montreal.

“We struggled with warming tyres up on the restarts, both safety car restarts we really struggled to get it going again. But that’s our problem, really.”

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