McLaren on Wednesday shed little further light on one of the last major talking points of the 2014 'silly season' -- the British team's drivers for next year.
On the face of it, the Woking based squad is heading towards simply re-signing Jenson Button and Sergio Perez.
But it emerged recently that McLaren let the 'options' on the duo's existing contracts expire, which triggered speculation alternatives like Felipe Massa or even Fernando Alonso might be considered.
Until now, McLaren has been reluctant to comment, but Button said on Wednesday that he and McLaren will be "racing together in 2014".
Indeed, it is believed a sticking point in the talks is 2015, and McLaren wanting certainty for the start of the Honda era, whilst Button might prefer to keep his options open.
Jonathan Neale, McLaren's managing director, did little to quell the speculation on Wednesday when he admitted "this is that time of year when everybody is talking to everybody".
But he also said during a Vodafone teleconference that McLaren is getting closer to an announcement about drivers in 2014.
"It would be wrong for me to speculate but we will get to it pretty soon," added Neale.
He also hinted that heading into 2014 with one driver pairing, and then changing tack for 2015, would not be a major problem.
"More than anything else what you really want is talent and high performance," said Neale.
"We've shown in the past that we weren't afraid to make the changes that we felt that we needed to in the team, whether it was inside the organisation or in the driver lineup, in order to get the job done."
Another priority for McLaren is advancing the careers of its development drivers Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne, who while placed in different teams in the Formula Renault 3.5 series, are fighting it out for title spoils.
"I'm sorry I can't be specific," said Neale, "but we would expect both those two in formula one in the not-too-distant future."
Button, McLaren 'will be together' in 2014
As the class of 2014 shapes up towards the end of a frantic 'silly season', McLaren is still yet to announce its driver lineup for next year.
Boss Martin Whitmarsh has indicated Jenson Button and Sergio Perez will be staying put, but at the same time rumours have linked drivers including Ferrari refugee Felipe Massa with the Woking based team.
A McLaren spokesman told us this week: "We don't comment on media speculation with regard to rumoured driver movements."
Lead driver and 2009 world champion Button has not played a leading role in the 2014 silly-season, but rumours tentatively connected him with both Red Bull and Ferrari prior to those teams announcing their actual lineups for next year.
And until very recently, it was reported McLaren was yet to take up the 'option' on the 33-year-old's contract.
Asked about his contractual situation on Wednesday, Button told the British broadcaster Sky: "It's not an issue for either party.
"So just concentrating on racing and we'll be racing together in 2014."
Webber hails new talent amid 'pay driver' trend
Mark Webber has backed the appointment of Daniel Ricciardo as his Red Bull successor as a win against the trend of 'pay drivers' in F1.
"Daniel deserves the job, which is the most important thing," he said.
Webber, who arrived on the grid in 2002 with the struggling Minardi team, cannot hide his frustration with the growing influence of 'pay drivers'.
"It has become normal to see a driver getting a seat not because of his talent, but because he's paying," the plain-speaking Australian is quoted by Brazil's Totalrace.
"I don't think that's very good for F1."
Webber said one exception has been the debut at Marussia of the strongly Ferrari-linked Jules Bianchi, who has been able to express his talent despite the lack of competitiveness of his car.
"It's not easy when you have a slow car -- I've been in that situation with Minardi," said the 37-year-old, who at the end of a career spanning more than 200 races and 9 wins, is departing for Le Mans sports cars in 2014.
"I think he (Bianchi) has done a good job and deserves a chance with a top team in the future."
Another example, said Webber, is the promising Williams newcomer Valtteri Bottas.
His teammate in 2013 has been Pastor Maldonado, who although the winner of last year's Spanish grand prix, clearly falls into Webber's 'pay driver' category.
"Bottas has not had an easy time at Williams," said Webber.
"He did a great qualifying in Canada when I think he is basically alone in the team, because while Pastor has experience, I don't think Bottas can learn a great deal from him," he added.
Hamilton happy to sit out F1 'silly season'
Lewis Hamilton has admitted not featuring in this year's driver 'silly season' has been a weight off his shoulders.
A year ago, the 2008 world champion was a leading player in F1's high-stakes game of annual musical chairs, as he weighed up between staying at McLaren or moving to another team.
Now happily at Mercedes and on a three-year contract, the Briton said he has every intention of staying with the German team for that entire period and "hopefully even longer".
Hamilton also admitted he has enjoyed being a mere spectator, as the 'silly season' played out instead with Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and others in the main roles.
"Last year, I tried my best to avoid it, but of course it was hard to deal with all the questions and the fact that I didn't know what I was going to do," he is quoted by Brazil's Totalrace.
"It was taking my energy away from me, but it's not like that anymore. It's a great feeling to be in this position," said Hamilton.
"The difference is like night and day."
Ferrari close to shifting focus to 2014
Ferrari is on the cusp of tipping the balance of its resources away from the 2013 championship battle.
Although second only to title leader Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso's deficit to the top Red Bull is a full 53 points with just seven races to go.
And with Red Bull now constantly wielding a pace advantage over the other cars, Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali admitted the time is nearing when the Maranello team will sensibly shift its main focus to the huge challenge of 2014.
"After the result of the Singapore grand prix," he is quoted by Brazil's Totalrace, "we will make an assessment about what to do.
"We need to be realistic and see how we can improve for the races that follow.
"So if the difference to the leaders continues to be large, it is pointless to think that a tenth of a second can be enough to recover," added Domenicali.
"We will make a choice after Singapore, but always working not to lose too much ground because we want to fight at least for second place in the constructors' championship."
So although close to conceding defeat in yet another title campaign, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo insisted that does not mean Domenicali's job is in doubt.
"Over the past three years, we have lost two world titles at the last race and it was not his fault," Montezemolo told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Leaving Ferrari 'the best move' for Massa
Leaving Ferrari could be the best thing for Felipe Massa.
That is the opinion of a growing number of figures, after the Italian team decided to replace the long-serving Brazilian with Kimi Raikkonen for 2014.
"Our relationship with Felipe was clear," Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport this week.
"He needed results, as we do. He got them, but not with consistency.
"He did some beautiful races but could not repeat them.
"Last year, we missed his points in the constructors' championship. The change will do him good," added Montezemolo.
Having not won a drivers' title since 2007 with Raikkonen, Ferrari's decision to pair the Finn with 'number 1' Fernando Alonso for the next couple of campaigns is a clear sign of intent.
But according to Massa's friend, countryman and former rival Luciano Burti, leaving Ferrari could also be the best thing for the 32-year-old.
"If he (Massa) had continued at Ferrari, he would have stayed with the same beat as now, which is not ideal," said the former Jaguar and Prost driver.
"So if he gets a relatively good car for next season - which is not easy because there is only Lotus - it will be the best thing for him.
"I believe it would be a fresh start for him," Burti told Brazil's Totalrace.
It seems that even the Massa camp has a similar view.
Massa has already said that, for the balance of his Ferrari career, he will be fighting for his own interests, not those of the team or Fernando Alonso.
His manager, Nicolas Todt, said constantly having to serve a teammate "destroys the instincts of a driver".
"We want to stay in formula one," Todt told O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper. "But he has to be at a team where he has freedom.
"Then, I think that we would see the same Felipe who in 2008 lost the title by one point to a driver on the level of Lewis Hamilton," he added.
Red Bull 'getting better' over years - Vettel
Sebastian Vettel has admitted Red Bull is getting better as a team as it accrues more experience and titles.
Together with the German, the Milton-Keynes based outfit has collected every drivers' and constructors' title on offer since 2010.
"The team has got better and better over the years," reigning triple world champion Vettel told the Austrian magazine Sportwoche.
"There are less mistakes now, and more confidence."
The 26-year-old appears to be cruising to yet another championship in 2013, but he is not counting his chickens just yet.
"The first half of the season was very good, and the start of the second half has been even better," Vettel admitted.
"But we can see that the smallest things make a big difference -- ten degrees up or down and everything looks different.
"We need to stay focused, but it does seem that in any conditions we can always be in the top five," said Vettel.
Some have begun to compare 2014 with Vettel's dominance of 2011, when wins and the title seemed to come easy to the German.
"When people talk about 2011," said Vettel, "they say it was so dominant and easy. But I don't like the word dominant, and it is never easy."
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