McLaren not talking to Nico Hulkenberg as weighty issue counts against tall drivers
Sergio Perez set to be retained for 2014 as F1 sizes up weighty issues
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 06/10/13 5:11am
While Jenson Button has signed a one-year contract extension, Perez's future with the Woking outfit remains in considerable doubt, with Whitmarsh making no secret of his desire to bring Fernando Alonso back to McLaren.
Nevertheless, the prospect of the team rehiring Alonso remains remote, with the Spaniard poised to stay at Ferrari - at least for next season. The reason why Hulkenberg is set to be overlooked, however, is altogether more disconcerting with the hugely-talented German seemingly out of the running to replace Perez purely on account of his 6ft frame.
Indeed, despite being generally regarded as one of the most talented drivers in the sport, there is a growing possibility that Hulkenberg will not find a seat anywhere on the grid next season with the small print of 2014's new regulations making big drivers a potential liability.
Although the minimum weight of next year's cars has been increased, it is thought that the extra 43kg will be gobbled up by the extra weight of the turbo and ERS systems. As a knock-on effect, tall drivers are set to be thinner than ever - and thin on the ground.
"We have to find a solution, but I doubt we will find one in the next few weeks or months," Whitmarsh admitted to Sky Sports News. "But sadly, the way it has worked out means the heavier drivers will be less attractive. It has happened by accident. We have raised the minimum weight but the new powertrains are heavier than people expected and now have a situation where heavier drivers could be a disadvantage."
Hence the widespread expectation that Perez will be retained despite his disappointing performances alongside Button this term, leaving Hulkenberg to look elsewhere for his leap forward on the grid.
"I expect things to work out with Sergio," confirmed Whitmarsh. "We're not talking to Nico. He's doing a good job and certainly deserves a competitive seat next year, but we're not talking to Nico at the moment."
Another driver fretting over F1's unanticipated weighty issue is Paul di Resta.
Just a year ago, the Scot was being linked with the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes. Twelve months later, it's far from certain that he will still be in F1 next season.
"It is a concern for a driver like me," the Scot told The Daily Telegraph.
"I am at the upper end, to the point where I am three or four kilos under what I would like to be to be healthy. I'm four kilos lighter than when I started in F1, and I was pretty much on the limit of what I thought I could get to then.
"I'd like to see the weight limit raised because it would make no difference to the smaller drivers. It's a little bit of an unfair advantage to be a smaller guy because not only can they move the weight in the car to the right place but they can keep themselves in a healthier state."
But according to Button, there is little prospect of the minimum weight being increased because of the sport's natural inclination towards self-interest.
"Some teams might not want to change the weight because they have light drivers and know they can make a light car and engine package," the 2009 World Champion said. "That might be us but we should all agree to be fair and raise the weights. I would love to be able to eat again.
"In the past three years, I have probably had four races where I have lost half-a-tenth or a tenth of a second because I have been overweight. It sounds small but in qualifying that could be a position or two and in the race it could be five or six seconds.
"It is a big deal and something that goes unnoticed."
In the meantime, the one big deal that can be all-but ruled out for next year is Alonso's return to McLaren.
"As far as I know, he's very firmly contracted for next year. It's an interesting piece of speculation, but probably not relevant to next year anyway," conceded Whitmarsh.
"There's no rush and, for the moment, I would rather Sergio concentrated on his own form. He's doing a good job, we enjoy having him in the team and, when it's all done, we will make the announcement."