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F1: Whitmarsh Not Denying Mounting Perez Exit Rumours Photo:
Mike Stevens | Nov, 13 2013 | 1 Comment

Martin Whitmarsh has not denied mounting speculation that Sergio Perez will be ousted by McLaren after Brazil's 2013 season finale.

Team sources are being cited by a growing number of news outlets as having revealed that Mexican Perez will be replaced by the McLaren-backed youngster and new Formula Renault 3.5 champion, Kevin Magnussen.

"Lots of people are being considered," team boss Whitmarsh, when asked about the rumours, said during the regular Vodafone teleconference on Monday.

Perez's chances of keeping his seat appeared to have risen after a strong result in India, but the 23 year-old then struggled in Abu Dhabi.

"He's done a pretty good job throughout the whole year," said Whitmarsh. "Abu Dhabi was difficult. It was not quite the result that we wanted and he wanted but difficult weekends happen.

"I think overall he's done a good job and we're still talking to him."

He acknowledged the media speculation about Magnussen, the son of former F1 driver Jan, but insisted that McLaren's decision is not yet made.

"The fact is at the moment we haven't confirmed our driver lineup, we haven't signed contracts with drivers, and we're still talking about that," said Whitmarsh.

The mounting rumours about the identity of Jenson Button's 2014 teammate, and Whitmarsh's vague comments, coincided with Perez admitting in Mexico that 2013 has been "the most disappointing season in my career".

"It's my third year in formula one and has been my most difficult year, the most disappointing season in my career," he is quoted by EFE news agency in Toluca, about 50 kilometres from Mexico City.

Perez added that the season was also "very frustrating" and "probably the worst season in history" for the successful McLaren team.

He said he has felt a "heavy responsibility" this year but argued that his contribution was limited "with a car that bad".



Williams hints Smedley to be next signing

Williams has admitted Rob Smedley could be the next big name to join the beleaguered British team.

As it announced that Felipe Massa is joining the team from Ferrari for 2014, deputy team boss Claire Williams said "a number of announcements" will also shortly follow.

We reported in September that Massa's well-known race engineer Rob Smedley - who has shared a close, almost fatherly relationship with the Brazilian driver - is linked with a move to Williams.

It is believed 39-year-old Briton Smedley has since signed a contract.

When asked about that speculation, Claire Williams told the BBC: "We have some great talent in Williams but we need to make sure we have all the talent we need to perform right at the top.

"So I'm hoping that before the end of the season or maybe slightly after we'll be making some more announcements in a similar vein to this one (Massa)."

It has been rumoured that, if Smedley does switch from Ferrari, he would not necessarily remain Massa's race engineer, but may take on a greater role of responsibility.

"If Rob Smedley was to join our team," Williams said, "it has to be on his terms, and he has to be given a role he wants to do and that may or may not be Felipe's race engineer.

"Felipe is grown-up enough to join a team without bringing his race engineer with him," she added.



McLaren backs away from title sponsor announcement

The heat of the 2014 'silly season' is now squarely on McLaren, amid rumours the British team has decided to replace Sergio Perez with rookie Kevin Magnussen.

From a commercial point of view, the shift of focus on the driver side would be interesting -- it was believed Mexican Perez's arrival at Woking would precede by a year his backer, Telmex, succeeding Vodafone as the title sponsor.

Indeed, an announcement of Vodafone's unnamed successor had already been scheduled by McLaren for December 2.

Coming a week after this month's Brazil season finale, many thought that date had been chosen so as not to interfere with the currently Telmex-backed Sauber's racing season.

But, suddenly, that date may no longer be relevant, according to McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh.

When asked about the December 2 announcement by reporters this week, he said: "There will be some new sponsors, but I think probably - and I don't know because I haven't talked to our PR function - there will be more of a fanfare at the car launch rather than an announcement on December 2."

McLaren's 2014 car will likely be revealed shortly before winter testing in January.

"My own view is that (by announcing on December 2) we would be taking away from what I hope will be an exciting car launch next year, but we will see," said Whitmarsh.



Injured Alonso to fight on in Austin

Fernando Alonso and Ferrari have ended the fevered speculation about the Spaniard's participation in this weekend's US grand prix.

Since Abu Dhabi, Alonso has been reportedly struggling with back pain as a result of his harsh impact over the kerbs in a duel with Jean-Eric Vergne.

It was rumoured Ferrari was lining up Jules Bianchi or Pedro de la Rosa as last-minute substitutes for the injured 'number 1'.

But Alonso told his millions of Twitter and Facebook fans late on Monday that he is getting on a plane bound for Texas.

"Packing the bag for Austin," he wrote from his home in Spain.

"(I have) some pain still, but eager and confident to help the team. I will try to give 100 per cent as always!"

Welcoming the news, Ferrari said in a report on its official website that anyone doubting Alonso's dedication to the Maranello based team "should think again".

The fabled Italian outfit confirmed Alonso had suffered a "compression injury" in Abu Dhabi, and will not be "in perfect shape" this weekend in Austin.

"I am pleased to see that Fernando is so keen to give it his all, even when he's not at his best," president Luca di Montezemolo is quoted as saying.

"It shows how attached he is to us and I am sure that his example will be a further boost for the whole team in its efforts to end this season in the best way possible."



Lopez admits frustration with Raikkonen surgery

Gerard Lopez, the head of Lotus' team owner Genii, might be among the cynics after news broke that Kimi Raikkonen will sit out the rest of the season.

The Finnish driver and his management say Raikkonen must undergo back surgery to end a run of worsening pain and ensure he is ready to return fighting fit for the start of his Ferrari return in 2014.

The cynics, however, might wonder if the timing of the surgery is related to Raikkonen's pay dispute with the financially-struggling Lotus outfit.

The timing is also interesting, given the fact Ferrari is locked in a battle with Lotus in the lucrative constructors' world championship with just two races to go.

"Primarily this is about Raikkonen's health, and I wish him a speedy recovery," Lopez told the German newspaper Die Welt.

"But the operation comes at a very unfortunate and unsuitable time for Lotus. And I also know what sport we are in," he added, in an obvious reference to the sceptics' doubts.

Lopez's frustration is perhaps understandable, given that despite Lotus having one of the very fastest cars on the grid, every headline is focused on the team's money problems.

"Again and again I read these negative headlines," he said, "while no one seems to care that we decided to save a company and about 500 employees.

"Of course we know that formula one is not a charitable organisation, but there are huge differences in how the teams are financially supported by formula one.

"It is not about the other (top) teams managing to get more investment, but the fact that they simply get more money," argued Lopez.

"And not because they are better, but because they are apparently more important. We begin our 100 metre race at the 200 metre point," he added, "and still we make it to the podium."


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